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.”

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Mer­ck scraps Covid-19 vac­cine pro­grams af­ter they fail to mea­sure up on ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er ma­jor set­back in the glob­al fight

After turning up late to the vaccine development game in the global fight against Covid-19, Merck is now making a quick exit.

The pharma giant is reporting this morning that it’s decided to drop development of 2 vaccines — V590 and V591 — after taking a look at Phase I data that simply don’t measure up to either the natural immune response seen in people exposed to the virus or the vaccines already on or near the market.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Matt Gline (L) and Vivek Ramaswamy

Scoop: Vivek Ra­maswamy is hand­ing the CEO job to a top lieu­tenant at Roivant — but he’s not ex­act­ly leav­ing the biotech scene

Over the past 7 years since founding Roivant, Vivek Ramaswamy has been a constant blur of biotech building motion.

He launched his first biotech with an Alzheimer’s drug he picked up cheap, and watched the experiment implode in one of the highest profile pivotal disasters seen in the last decade. But it didn’t slow the 30-something exec down; if anything, he hit the accelerator. Ramaswamy blazed global paths and went on to raise billions to spur the creation of a large lineup of little Vants promising big things at a fast pace. He sold off a section of the Vant brigade to Sumitomo Dainippon for $3 billion. And more recently the relentless dealmaker has been building a computational discovery arm to add an AI-driven approach to kicking up new programs and companies, supplementing the in-licensing drive while pursuing advances that have created more than 700 jobs at Roivant, with $2 billion in reserves.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Ron Cooper, Albireo CEO

Al­bireo just ad­vanced down to the 10-yard line at the FDA. And Ron Coop­er’s team is get­ting prepped for the next big play

When Albireo Pharma’s board $ALBO moved to bring in Ron Cooper as the CEO more than 5 years ago, the development-stage company went with an experienced commercial player who had a big-time position on his resume after running Bristol Myers’ commercial ops in Europe.

Now, after successfully navigating a pivotal study, putting them in a foot race with a rival toward an FDA OK, Cooper is getting a boost from regulators on the last drive back to an arena he understands completely.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Hal Barron, GSK via YouTube

What does $29B buy you in Big Phar­ma? In Glax­o­SmithK­line’s case, a whole lot of un­com­fort­able ques­tions about the pipeline

Talk about your bad timing.

A little over a week ago, GSK R&D chief Hal Barron marked his third anniversary at the research helm by taking a turn at the virtual podium during JP Morgan to make the case that he and his team had built a valuable late-stage pipeline capable of churning out more than 10 blockbusters in the next 5 years.

And then, just days later, one of the cancer drugs he bet big on as a top prospect — bintrafusp, partnered with Merck KGaA — failed its first pivotal test in non-small cell lung cancer.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Can strug­gling Iterum turn the cor­ner to an an­tibi­ot­ic suc­cess sto­ry? They will know in six months

More than five years after Corey Fishman and Michael Dunne dusted sulopenem off Pfizer’s shelves — the second castoff antibiotic they’ve brought out of the pharma giant — and founded Iterum Therapeutics around that single drug, they have lined up a quick shot at approval with priority review from the FDA.

The decision, six months from now, will mark a make-or-break moment for a struggling biotech that has just enough cash to keep the lights on until the third quarter.

Bahija Jallal, Immunocore

Buried in Im­muno­core's IPO fil­ings? A kick­back scheme from a now for­mer em­ploy­ee

Immunocore spent much of 2019 dealing with the fallout of the Neil Woodford scandal, as the former star investor’s fall crashed the biotech’s valuation out of unicorn range. Now it turns out that the company spent 2020 dealing with another internal scandal.

The longtime UK biotech darling disclosed in their IPO filing last week that they had fallen victim to an alleged kickback scheme involving one of their employees. After a whistleblower came forward, they said in their F-1, they spent the summer and spring investigating, finding fraud on the part of an employee and two outside vendors.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na dou­bles down on Covid-19 with new boost­er tri­als; Aus­tralia plans do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of As­traZeneca vac­cine amid dis­tri­b­u­tion lag

As Merck bows out of the global race to develop vaccines for Covid-19, Moderna is doubling down to make sure they can quell new variants that have recently emerged and quickly spread.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech put out word on Monday that in vivo studies indicate their mRNA vaccine works well enough against two strains first detected in the UK and South Africa. But with a six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers observed against the latter strain, the company is launching a new study of a booster version to make sure it can do the job.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Jean-Christophe-Hyvert, Lonza

Lon­za look­ing to build on 'd­if­fer­en­ti­at­ed ad­van­tage' in Covid-19, CD­MO mar­ket­place in 2021

It’s not new for Lonza, the Swiss CDMO nearing its quasquicentennial anniversary, to be in the upper echelon of the biotech manufacturing industry.

But 2020 — as it was for many CDMOs — was a special year even by Lonza’s standards. The company inked a deal to produce 1 billion worldwide doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and tapped pharma vet Pierre-Alain Ruffieux to lead its operations, moves which have allowed Lonza to make a myriad of other deals that will continue to ramp up its global production capacity.