Charles River Labs forks over $380M cash for cell therapy player; Axsome soars on PhIII depression readout
→ Cell therapy R&D is hot, and Charles River Labs $CRL knows it. The CRO is paying $380 million to acquire HemaCare, a company that provides material and services for companies developing off-the-shelf and personalized cell therapies. Charles River says it’s developing a turnkey service for cell therapy developers and manufacturers.
“Cell and gene therapies are important new modalities, with an estimated 10 to 20 new product approvals per year within five years,” notes Charles River CEO James Foster.
→ At the beginning of the year, Axsome Therapeutics rolled out positive data from a mid-stage study testing its lead CNS drug for patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), causing their stock $AXSM to leap. Today, the company is celebrating another win, as AXS-05 met the primary endpoint in their Phase III GEMINI study. The drug “rapidly and significantly improved symptoms of depression” compared to placebo at Week 6 — meaning reductions from baseline of 16.6 points for AXS-05 and 11.9 for placebo, based on the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS).
→ Immuneering, which has spent over a decade helping its partners (including Teva and J&J) understand how their existing drugs tend to work using gene expression data — has moved into the arena of drug development with $17 million in backing from investors. The Cambridge, MA-based company’s lead experimental drug is being developed for cancer cachexia.
The industry often looks at drugs as a bullet, something that’s taking out one very precise target, noted co-founder and chief Ben Zeskind in an interview with Endpoints News. “And we actually, through studying all these drugs, we have come to view the most successful medicine kind of differently — not so much as bullets, but more as signal inducers…and actually, we think the best metaphor is the noise-canceling headset.”
→ Last October Alexion Pharmaceuticals, shopping for targets to fatten its pipeline, forked over $22 million upfront to co-develop two preclinical RNAi therapies owned by Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, the company is now dishing out an additional $20 million ($10 million each) to kick off discovery efforts against two more targets within the complement pathway.