Cel­gene hands over $101M in cash to launch a re­search col­lab­o­ra­tion with pro­tein play­er Vi­vid­ion

Diego Mi­ralles

A year af­ter Vi­vid­ion Ther­a­peu­tics de­buted with a $50 mil­lion launch round and a plat­form tech cen­tered on drug­ging a whole slate of un­drug­gable pro­teins, the San Diego-based biotech has picked up its first big bio­phar­ma col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cel­gene.

Cel­gene is pay­ing a hefty $101 mil­lion up­front in a fee plus eq­ui­ty deal to see how Vi­vid­ion’s R&D en­gine can work for them in on­col­o­gy, in­flam­ma­tion and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion — a nascent field for them.

Cel­gene has been knocked around re­peat­ed­ly in re­cent months, watch­ing mon­gersen go down in flames, ex­as­per­at­ing an­a­lysts with weak num­bers and then be­ing em­bar­rassed by an FDA refuse-to-file for its all-im­por­tant ozan­i­mod ap­pli­ca­tion. But the com­pa­ny, which just paid $9 bil­lion to buy Juno, still has one of the busiest BD teams scour­ing the biotech field for new deals. And once again, they’re not afraid to pay an un­usu­al­ly large amount of cash to get a dis­cov­ery deal start­ed with a com­pa­ny that is not yet in the clin­ic.

Why is that?

“We can drug the en­tire pro­teome in its na­tive state,” Vi­vid­ion CEO Diego Mi­ralles tells me, “and that is the trans­for­ma­tion­al po­ten­tial of Vi­vid­ion.”

The plat­form tech­nol­o­gy, he adds, of­fers a view of the “re­al life of a cell that gives you a very dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed and unique in­sight in­to how those pro­teins are be­hav­ing and how they are vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing drugged.”

One as­pect of that are in­sights in­to “pro­tein degra­da­tion around pro­teins that to­day are un­touch­able.”

Mi­ralles — a J&J vet who es­tab­lished the John­son & John­son In­no­va­tion Cen­ters and JLABS — joined the com­pa­ny last fall in a process that saw Cel­gene vet Tom Daniel trade the hands-on ex­ec­u­tive chair­man’s role for the chair­man’s ti­tle. And se­r­i­al biotech en­tre­pre­neur Rich Hey­man, who knows a thing or two about pro­tein degra­da­tion, stepped in to sit on the board.

Ben Cra­vatt

Mi­ralles cred­its sci­en­tif­ic founder Ben Cra­vatt — based in Scripps — with the ear­ly talks that ini­tial­ly at­tract­ed Cel­gene’s at­ten­tion. At Cra­vatt’s Scripps lab re­searchers used frag­ment lig­ands at­tached to a class of chap­er­one mol­e­cules that re­acts with cys­teine amino-acids on pro­teins, lock­ing the lig­ands to the pro­teins with co­va­lent bonds.

Not so un­usu­al­ly there are things that Mi­ralles ei­ther can’t or won’t say about the deal and their own re­search plans.

The split be­tween an up­front fee and eq­ui­ty in the Cel­gene deal? Can’t say.

What kind of tar­gets are they go­ing af­ter here? Can’t say.

Time­line for get­ting pro­grams in­to the clin­ic? Won’t say.

On the oth­er hand the com­pa­ny now has a grow­ing staff of 45 and an in­ter­est in pur­su­ing part­ner­ships like this to lever­age its reach.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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So what hap­pened with No­var­tis' gene ther­a­py group? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.

Vicente Anido (University of West Virginia via YouTube)

Aerie fires CEO af­ter lead pro­gram flop, com­ments about pri­ma­ry end­points be­ing 'not re­quired'

Aerie Pharmaceuticals CEO Vicente Anido has left the company less than a week after trying to chart a Phase III study in the wake of a serious Phase IIb flop.

Anido’s last day at Aerie was Friday, the biotech announced in a news release Tuesday morning, and Benjamin McGraw is taking his place in an interim role. The now former CEO was terminated without cause, according to an SEC filing.

The board has started looking for a full-time chief to take his place.

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When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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