Cel­gene scoops up fresh­man au­toim­mune start­up Delinia in $775M buy­out

Four months ago, At­las Ven­ture part­ner Saurabh Sa­ha set up shop at the new­born Delinia with a pre­clin­i­cal au­toim­mune drug, $35 mil­lion in start­up cash and a skele­ton crew. To­day, Cel­gene says it struck a deal to buy the start­up for $300 mil­lion up front and up to $475 mil­lion in mile­stones, adding a new drug for its au­toim­mune and in­flam­ma­tion pipeline.

Cel­gene is get­ting a pre­clin­i­cal lead pro­gram in the deal, which cen­ters pri­mar­i­ly on DEL106, as well as re­lat­ed sec­ond gen­er­a­tion pro­grams. DEL106 is an IL-2 mutein Fc fu­sion pro­tein de­signed to up­reg­u­late reg­u­la­to­ry T cells (Tregs), im­mune cells that are crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing nat­ur­al self-tol­er­ance — and avoid­ing au­toim­mune dis­eases.

There’s a long list of dis­eases trig­gered when the bal­ance of Tregs and T ef­fec­tor cells is dis­rupt­ed and the im­mune sys­tem starts to at­tack healthy tis­sue. By ex­pand­ing Tregs, amp­ing up ac­tiv­i­ty, Sa­ha set out be­liev­ing that Delinia’s drug can re­store im­mune tol­er­ance and home­osta­sis, stop­ping dis­eases like lu­pus, Type 1 dis­eases and fi­brot­ic dis­eases like scle­ro­der­ma.

The deal clear­ly comes with a big cash pay­out to At­las — which has nev­er been re­luc­tant to take a good mul­ti­ple for ear­ly-stage as­sets like this — as well as Sofinno­va Part­ners, the Paris-based VC group that co-led the round. And there’s al­so plen­ty of up­side left if the tech works as hoped. For Cel­gene, it’s yet an­oth­er ac­qui­si­tion for a deal team that has been strik­ing a broad range of pacts over the years.

In a blog post this morn­ing, At­las’ Bruce Booth wrote:

Over the past decade, Cel­gene has built an im­pres­sive I&I port­fo­lio of both in­ter­nal­ly-dis­cov­ered and ex­ter­nal­ly-sourced pro­grams. Ote­zla (apremi­last) is their flag­ship I&I med­i­cine to­day (fastest pso­ri­a­sis drug to hit $1B in sales from launch) and was dis­cov­ered at Cel­gene; be­hind it are sev­er­al ad­di­tion­al home­grown pro­grams ear­li­er in de­vel­op­ment (e.g., im­munomod­u­la­tor CC-220 and an­ti-fi­brot­ic CC-90001). Cel­gene’s I&I pipeline al­so has sev­er­al high pro­file ex­ter­nal­ly-sourced ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing mon­gersen/GED-0301 (via a li­cense with No­gra Phar­ma) and ozan­i­mod (via ac­qui­si­tion of Re­cep­tos). They’ve al­so been at the fore­front of chang­ing the au­toim­mune treat­ment par­a­digm, such as with the re­cent deal with Anokion on tol­er­ance in­duc­tion. The Delinia pro­grams fit nice­ly in­to this grow­ing port­fo­lio, and com­ple­ment sev­er­al of these I&I ap­proach­es – which was a big dri­ver for Cel­gene’s over­all in­ter­est in the sto­ry.

Delinia ex­ecs Sa­ha and Jeff Tong, chair­man, told me in a fol­low-up in­ter­view that the ear­ly buy­out came up as they be­gan to strike up in­tro­duc­to­ry con­tacts aimed at es­tab­lish­ing some longterm talks with key play­ers in the field. Their sto­ry of a new tech­nol­o­gy that could have a pro­found im­pact on au­toim­mune dis­eases — even though it was still pre­clin­i­cal — at­tract­ed keen at­ten­tion from sev­er­al play­ers, in­clud­ing an un­ex­pect­ed in­bound call from one com­pa­ny that helped get the bid­ding go­ing for far more than what At­las had in­vest­ed in seed and ear­ly A cash.

“It was not a for­mal auc­tion,” Tong tells me, “but there was a very com­pet­i­tive lev­el of in­ter­est.”

Not yet de­cid­ed is what hap­pens with the Delinia team. Sa­ha says those dis­cus­sions are con­tin­u­ing with Cel­gene.

Co-founder and the new chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer at Delinia, Jef­frey Greve, is cred­it­ed with much of the dis­cov­ery work for their cy­tokine. Com­pa­ny co-founder Michael Rosen­blum is the as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy at the UCSF School of Med­i­cine.

“Delinia is at the fore­front of ad­vanc­ing new ap­proach­es to treat­ing pa­tients with se­vere and de­bil­i­tat­ing au­toim­mune dis­eases,” said Ru­pert Vessey, FR­CP DPhil, Pres­i­dent of Re­search and Ear­ly De­vel­op­ment for Cel­gene Cor­po­ra­tion. “We look for­ward to pro­gress­ing DEL106 in­to the clin­ic next year.”

Sanofi brings in 4 new ex­ec­u­tives in con­tin­ued shake-up, as vac­cines and con­sumer health chief head out the door

In the middle of Sanofi’s multi-pronged race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, David Loew, the head of their sprawling vaccines unit, is leaving – part of the final flurry of moves in the French giant’ months-long corporate shuffle that will give them new-look leadership under new CEO Paul Hudson.

The company also said today that Alan Main, the head of their consumer healthcare unit, is out, and they named 4 executives to fill new or newly vacated positions, 3 of whom come from both outside both Sanofi and from Pharma.

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As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Head­ed to PhII: Al­lo­gene CEO David Chang com­pletes a pos­i­tive ear­ly snap­shot of their off-the-shelf CAR-T pi­o­neer

Allogene CEO David Chang has completed the upbeat first portrait of the biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T contender ALLO-501 at virtual ASCO today, keeping all eyes on a drug that will now try to go on to replace the first-wave personalized pioneers he helped create.

The overall response rate outlined in Allogene’s abstract for treatment-resistant patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma slipped a little from the leadup, but if you narrow the patient profile to treatment-naïve patients — removing the 3 who had previous CAR-T therapy who didn’t respond, leaving 16 — the ORR lands at 75% with a 44% complete response rate. And 9 of the 12 responders remained in response at the data cutoff, offering a glimpse on durability that still has a long way to go before it can be completely nailed down.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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No­var­tis jumps in­to Covid-19 vac­cine hunt, as Big Phar­ma and big biotech com­mit to bil­lions of dos­es

After spending most of the pandemic on the sidelines, Novartis is offering its aid in the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

AveXis, the Swiss pharma’s gene therapy subsidiary, has agreed to manufacture the vaccine being developed by Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. The biotech will begin manufacturing this month, while the vaccine undergoes further preclinical testing. They’ve agreed to provide the vaccine for free for clinical trials beginning in the second half of 2020, but have not disclosed financials for after.

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