Mark Frohlich, Indapta Therapeutics CEO

Cell ther­a­py pi­o­neer Mark Frohlich takes the helm at tiny In­dap­ta as a suite of big-name back­ers jump aboard

Off-the-shelf cell ther­a­py has be­come a red-hot field of in­vest­ment in re­cent years as the first rounds of hu­man da­ta start rolling out. Now, cell ther­a­py start­up In­dap­ta Ther­a­peu­tics is bring­ing in the big guns to dri­ve its pipeline for­ward — in­clud­ing one of the field’s most es­teemed names.

Guy DiP­ier­ro

San Fran­cis­co-based In­dap­ta has ap­point­ed Mark Frohlich, who pre­vi­ous­ly ran port­fo­lio strat­e­gy at Juno and be­fore that the clin­ic shop at Den­dreon, as its newest CEO, re­plac­ing found­ing helms­man Guy DiP­ier­ro, who will step in­to the role of chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer.

Frohlich brings with him a star-stud­ded ré­sumé, with his hands hav­ing touched both Breyanzi, the Juno-orig­i­nat­ed CAR-T that even­tu­al­ly found its way in­to Bris­tol My­ers Squibb’s hands, as well as Provenge, which his clin­ic team ush­ered through at Den­dreon.

With In­dap­ta, Frohlich will be charged with a plat­form based on off-the-shelf “G-NK” cells, an even rar­er form of the adap­tive im­mune cells the com­pa­ny ar­gues is more po­tent than your run-of-the-mill NK cells. Off-the-shelf, or al­lo­gene­ic, cell ther­a­pies plat­forms like this have earned an im­mense amount of in­ter­est in re­cent years as an an­ti­dote to the la­bo­ri­ous and cost-in­ten­sive process of craft­ing ther­a­pies from a pa­tient’s own cells.

In­dap­ta’s case is no dif­fer­ent. In con­cert with Frohlich’s ap­point­ment, In­dap­ta an­nounced Thurs­day a $50 mil­lion Se­ries A round to tur­bocharge its pre­clin­i­cal work with a who’s who of in­vestors on board: RA Cap­i­tal, Ver­tex Ven­tures, Leaps by Bay­er, the Myelo­ma In­vest­ment Fund and Lon­za.

Ronald Martell

Those big-name back­ers will al­so add their ex­per­tise to In­dap­ta’s board with RA prin­ci­pal Lau­ra Stop­pel, Ver­tex Ven­tures man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Lori Hu and Fabio Puc­ci, se­nior di­rec­tor of ven­ture in­vest­ments health at Leaps by Bay­er, all join­ing.

“Mark is per­fect­ly suit­ed to lead In­dap­ta as we move our unique G-NK cell ther­a­py clos­er to clin­i­cal tri­als in pa­tients with mul­ti­ple myelo­ma and lym­phoma,” In­dap­ta co-founder Ronald Martell said in a state­ment. “His bio­phar­ma man­age­ment pedi­gree, suc­cess­ful drug de­vel­op­ment track record and sci­en­tif­ic acu­men, to­geth­er with our Se­ries A fi­nanc­ing from such an ex­pe­ri­enced syn­di­cate of in­vestors, will ac­cel­er­ate our abil­i­ty to bring this in­no­v­a­tive ther­a­py to pa­tients.”

Frohlich, for his part, had this to say about his ap­point­ment:

I joined In­dap­ta be­cause I be­lieve its NK cell plat­form is tru­ly dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed and its pre­clin­i­cal da­ta is par­tic­u­lar­ly com­pelling. I’m ex­cit­ed to bring this off-the-shelf cell ther­a­py to the clin­ic, where we have the po­ten­tial to demon­strate it can ben­e­fit pa­tients with­out the tox­i­c­i­ties as­so­ci­at­ed with cur­rent­ly ap­proved cell ther­a­pies. I look for­ward to ap­ply­ing every­thing I’ve learned over the past two decades to de­vel­op this nov­el ther­a­py.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee lobs more bi­par­ti­san pres­sure on­to PBMs

Congress is honing in on how it wants to overhaul the rules of the road for pharmacy benefit managers, with a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday serving as the latest example of the Hill’s readiness to make changes to how pharma middlemen operate.

While pledging to ensure patients and pharmacies “don’t get a raw deal,” Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) laid out the beginning of what looks like a major bipartisan effort — moves the PBM industry is likely to challenge vigorously.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Nicklas Westerholm, Egetis Therapeutics CEO

Ac­qui­si­tion talks on­go­ing for Swedish rare dis­ease biotech Egetis, shares up al­most 40%

Shares of the Sweden-based rare disease biotech Egetis Therapeutics skyrocketed on Thursday afternoon as the company said it’s engaged in “ongoing discussion” with external parties regarding a “potential acquisition.”

Egetis confirmed rumors with a statement on Thursday while noting that there is no certainty that a takeover offer will be made.

Nonetheless, the possibility of an acquisition has shot up Egetis’ share price. By the afternoon on Thursday, its stock price was {$EGTX.ST} up over 38%. An Egetis spokesperson told Endpoints News in an email that it has no further comments.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Lu­pus drug de­vel­op­ment mar­ket heat­ing up, while FDA links with ad­vo­ca­cy group to fur­ther ac­cel­er­ate re­search

The long-underserved systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) market is suddenly buzzing with treatment possibilities. Less than two years after AstraZeneca’s approval for Saphnelo — the first new SLE drug in a decade and joining just one other approved in GSK’s Benlysta – the pipeline of potential drugs numbers in the dozens.

Although most are very early stage — Spherix Global Insights estimates five in Phase II/III — the pharma R&D enthusiasm is catching on among doctors, patients and advocacy groups. On Wednesday, the Lupus Research Alliance and the FDA formed a novel private-public partnership called Lupus Accelerating Breakthroughs Consortium (Lupus ABC) to help advance lupus clinical trial success.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

CSL CEO Paul McKenzie (L) and CMO Bill Mezzanotte

Q&A: New­ly-mint­ed CSL chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul McKen­zie and chief med­ical of­fi­cer Bill Mez­zan­otte

Paul McKenzie took over as CEO of Australian pharma giant CSL this month, following in the footsteps of long-time CSL vet Paul Perreault.

With an eye on mRNA, and quickly commercializing its new, $3.5 million-per-shot gene therapy for hemophilia B, McKenzie and chief medical officer Bill Mezzanotte answered some questions from Endpoints News this afternoon about where McKenzie is going to take the company and what advances may be coming to market from CSL’s pipeline. Below is a lightly edited transcript.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Mod­er­na so­lid­i­fies deal with Kenya to build mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

The mRNA player Moderna is further cementing its presence on the African continent.

Moderna announced on Thursday that it has finalized an agreement with Kenya’s government to partner up and bring an mRNA manufacturing facility to the east African nation. The new facility aims to manufacture up to 500 million doses of vaccines annually. Moderna also said the new facility will have the ability to spike its production capabilities to respond to public health emergencies on the continent or globally.

Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Alec­tor cuts 11% of work­force as it dou­bles down on late-stage neu­ro pro­grams part­nered with GSK, Ab­b­Vie

A month after revealing plans to concentrate on its late-stage immuno-neurology pipeline, Alector is trimming its headcount by 11%.

The layoffs will impact around 30 employees across the organization, the company disclosed in an SEC filing, adding that the plan will “better align the company’s resources” with the new strategy. With $712.9 million in cash, cash equivalents and investments as of the end of 2022, Alector believes the reserves will now get it through 2025.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.