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PACT Phar­ma bags $75M for neoanti­gen TCR work, man­u­fac­tur­ing; Bay­er grabs ex­per­i­men­tal con­tra­cep­tive from Daré

→ With a new president and chief technical officer in place, next-gen T cell therapy player PACT Pharma has $75 million in fresh financing to expand the scope of its nascent clinical programs and open its own manufacturing facility in South San Francisco. By isolating specific neoantigen receptors in patients that appear to be driving an immune response, PACT promises to tackle some of the toughest solid tumors previously impenetrable to cell therapies. Vida Ventures, which has close ties to prominent cell therapy biotechs such as Kite and Allogene, led the Series C round. CTO Tim Moore, who jumped from Kite last October, will supervise efforts to automate some production and analytics process “to reduce cycle time and manufacturing costs.”

23andMe finds a buy­er for its IL-36 bis­pe­cif­ic in Almi­rall; Neu­ro­crine, Idor­sia re­vise epilep­sy drug deal

→ The first fruits of 23andMe’s efforts to generate new drugs off the insights it gained from a massive amount of genetic data are taking shape, and Almirall is signing up to ripen one of them. The Spanish dermatology drugmaker has licensed a bispecific antibody that blocks three cytokines in the IL-36 cytokine family, which are tied to skin conditions such as psoriasis and lupus, in addition to other inflammatory ailments such as ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease.

Schrödinger adds an­oth­er Big Phar­ma part­ner; Grey Wolf bags $3.3M to 'il­lu­mi­nate' tu­mors

→ Schrödinger has added yet another large pharma company to its list of partners. The New York-based biotech signed a €10 million ($11 million) deal to improve Bayer’s drug discovery efforts. As with their existing collaborations with AstraZeneca and Sanofi, Schrödinger will use their machine learning-based molecular design technology to screen billions of compounds to identify and optimize drug targets. The news comes as Schrödinger aims to develop its own clinical programs with three cancer targets, hiring translational veterans from Merck and Eisai to do so.

Xen­cor, Ve­rastem ink new deals; Scynex­is' lead drug scores again

→ Xencor has inked a deal with Gilead Sciences. Gilead will have access to Xencor’s Xtend extended half-life and Cytotoxic XmAb Fc technologies for developing and commercializing GS-9722 — currently in Phase I clinical development — and up to three additional anti-HIV antibodies.

→ Verastem Oncology has partnered up with Chugai Pharmaceuticals to obtain worldwide development and commercialization rights to Chugai’s RAF/MEK inhibitor CH5126766 (CKI27) — currently under development for the treatment of KRAS mutant solid tumors.

Rhythm CEO Kei­th Gottes­di­ener hits the ex­it; Take­da sets up an AI dis­cov­ery pro­gram at MIT

→ Rhythm Pharmaceuticals $RYTM CEO Keith Gottesdiener is planning to stay at the helm until the biotech completes its new drug application, and then head out. He says it’s the right time to hand over the reins and the company plans to organize a search for his replacement. His last task should be done by the end of Q1. “For the more than eight years that I have been CEO, it has been an honor to lead the talented Rhythm team, and I am immensely proud of our work to advance setmelanotide and bolster the understanding of rare genetic disorders of obesity,” said Gottesdiener in a statement.

Phath­om Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals snatch­es up an­oth­er Cel­gene ex­ec; True North bets $74M for a stake in Bio­con Bi­o­log­ics

→ Ahead of the potential commercialization of vonoprazan, gastrointestinal disease-focused Phathom Pharmaceuticals has brought on another former Celgene exec. Last month the company welcomed Terrie Curran to the CEO role, and now, Phathom has tapped Martin Gilligan as CCO. Gilligan most recently served as corporate vice president, global marketing and market access for Celgene’s inflammation and immunology franchise and is hailed for helping guide the launch and growth of Otezla up through its $13.5 billion sale to Amgen. His previous stints include roles at Pharmacia, J&J and Merck.

Bank­rupt uBio­me sells off patents, da­ta for $7M; J&J buys op­tions on Pul­ma­trix's lung can­cer drugs

→ In the final chapter of disgraced gut testing player uBiome’s story, Psomagen has acquired all its key assets in a fire sale, including 246 microbiome patents, anonymized data, nearly 300,000 samples and equipment from uBiome’s lab in San Francisco. Psomagen is the Rockville, MD-based unit of Korean sequencing company Macrogen. For an idea of just how low the once high-flying startup has sunk since the FBI launched an investigation over its business practices, here’s the kick: “The acquisition price is USD 7.05 million, corresponding to 1% of uBiome’s estimated corporate value.”

Pfiz­er inks a back-end­ed $250M deal for skin-tar­get­ed JAK, pays $25M to set up the next leg of their he­mo­phil­ia A R&D jour­ney — while Bio­Marin jock­eys for first OK

→ Pfizer wants to find out a lot more about Theravance’s approach to developing specially targeted JAK inhibitors. The pharma giant is paying $10 million upfront and promising up to $240 million more to get licensing rights to the biotech’s program for an anti-inflammatory JAK aimed at skin. Michael Vincent, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer for Inflammation & Immunology, noted: “Topical JAK inhibitors that can be rapidly metabolized have potential to reach more patients with mild-to-moderate skin conditions, for whom treatment is currently limited.”

Bio­gen hands over $45M cash to li­cense a tau project for Alzheimer's; No­var­tis launch­es a lot­tery for free dose of the world's prici­est drug

→ Biogen isn’t done gambling on Alzheimer’s. The big biotech is paying Ionis $45 million upfront to license their antisense program for IONIS-MAPTRx, an effort focused on shutting down production of tau, one of two toxic proteins often found in the brains of patients. Ionis also has another $155 million in milestones to shoot for in the deal.

→ Novartis has drawn up a plan to give away 100 doses of Zolgensma — the world’s most expensive therapy at $2.1 million — for free. The program is designed for infants with spinal muscular atrophy in countries where the medicine is pending approval. Beginning in January, an independent commission organized by its subsidiary AveXis will conduct bi-weekly draws of eligible babies under the age of 2. “AveXis’ intention is for this to be a long-term commitment,” a Novartis spokesman told Reuters.  Despite being tainted by an ethics scandal and hampered by payer resistance, the gene therapy has earned $175 million in sales since gaining approval in May.

Boehringer dumps its $250M NASH drug; Bavar­i­an Nordic sells PRV for $95M; GBT inks deal with Sy­ros, gets $150M loan

→ Four years after Boehringer handed out a $250 million deal to get a NASH drug from Pharmaxis, they’re sweeping it out of the pipeline. The German pharma company noted today that the drug posed a threat of drug interactions, scuttling its aspirations for the program. BI 1467335 joins a long — and growing — list of failures in the NASH field, where drug developers have been trying to field a therapy that can bend the needle on a disease that afflicts millions of people worldwide.