Chas­ing Bio­gen, the Pli­ant crew banks a $62M round to fu­el their shot at fi­bro­sis tar­gets

South San Fran­cis­co-based Pli­ant Ther­a­peu­tics has just closed a $62 mil­lion round to take their id­io­path­ic pul­monary fi­bro­sis drug to the clin­ic — the first of many fi­brot­ic dis­ease-tar­get­ing drugs it hopes will come out of its dis­cov­ery en­gine.

The Se­ries B puts Pli­ant in a po­si­tion to progress to­ward clin­i­cal proof of con­cept for its lead small mol­e­cule drug, which is a dual in­hibitor of the αvβ1 and αvβ6 in­te­grins. As a fam­i­ly of trans­mem­brane re­cep­tors that usu­al­ly me­di­ate cell ad­he­sion, in­te­grins — as sci­en­tif­ic co-founder Dean Shep­pard has shown in his work at UCSF — are a key dri­ver in fi­bro­sis across dif­fer­ent or­gans.

Dean Shep­pard

That ap­proach is ev­i­dent in the com­pa­ny’s choice of in­di­ca­tions to tack­le first. Their lead drug, which doesn’t yet have a name, will be test­ed for id­io­path­ic pul­monary fi­bro­sis (IPF) and pri­ma­ry scle­ros­ing cholan­gi­tis (PSC). Both are rare dis­eases, but IPF af­fects the lung while PSC is found in the liv­er’s bile ducts.

CEO Bernard Coulie is quick to ad­mit that Pli­ant is run­ning af­ter a cou­ple of lead play­ers in the field. He es­ti­mates that they are 18 months be­hind Bio­gen, which has a mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body against αvβ6 mov­ing in­to Phase IIb for IPF.

“They are the first […] but we are sec­ond and we are not that far be­hind,” he tells me. “So I think that’s a re­al­ly good po­si­tion to be at.”

It al­so helps that their ther­a­py is a small mol­e­cule that binds to not one but two tar­gets.

Kevin Raidy

Be­sides, Coulie adds, not every­thing has to be a com­pe­ti­tion. In the hot field of NASH, he sees Pli­ant play­ing a role in de­vel­op­ing part of a com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py that com­ple­ments lipid-low­er­ing drugs.

To be clear, giv­en that even their ear­li­est clin­i­cal pro­grams won’t start un­til 2019, Pli­ant still has a ways to go be­fore they could nail a clin­ic-ready treat­ment for NASH or any of the oth­er fi­brot­ic dis­eases — from re­nal fi­bro­sis to Duchenne mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy — they be­lieve they can tack­le. But Coulie takes con­fi­dence in the drug dis­cov­ery en­gine their team has built, us­ing fresh tis­sues tak­en from fi­bro­sis pa­tients to in­form tar­get se­lec­tion and bio­mark­er char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Per the com­pa­ny’s own es­ti­mates, this “de-risked” plat­form can gen­er­at­ed one to two drug can­di­dates every year. As it works on an ex­pand­ing port­fo­lio, its staff is ex­pect­ed to grow from 35 to 50 by the end of this year.

Cowen Health­care In­vest­ments, which led the round, was con­vinced — as were new in­vestors Even­tide As­set Man­age­ment, Schroder Ad­veq, Men­lo Ven­tures, SCubed Cap­i­tal, and Agent Cap­i­tal, among oth­ers.

“The unique bi­o­log­i­cal in­sights Pli­ant Ther­a­peu­tics has un­cov­ered about the role of in­te­grins as key dri­vers of fi­bro­sis will fu­el the dis­cov­ery of nov­el ther­a­peu­tics that have the po­ten­tial to ad­dress a range of fi­brot­ic dis­eases,” said Cowen’s man­ag­ing part­ner Kevin Raidy, who’s join­ing the board as part of the deal.

Im­age: Bernard Coulie. PLI­ANT

Op­ti­miz­ing Cell and Gene Ther­a­py De­vel­op­ment and Pro­duc­tion: How Tech­nol­o­gy Providers Like Corn­ing Life Sci­ences are Spurring In­no­va­tion

Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

Amid mon­key­pox fears, biotechs spring to ac­tion; Mod­er­na’s CFO trou­ble; Cuts, cuts every­where; Craft­ing the right pro­teins; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

It’s always a bittersweet moment saying goodbye, but as Josh Sullivan goes off to new adventures we are grateful for the way he’s built up the Endpoints Manufacturing section — which the rest of the team will now carry forward. If you’re not already, this may be a good time to sign up for your weekly dose of drug manufacturing news. Thank you for reading and wish you a restful weekend.

Bay­er sounds re­treat from a $670 mil­lion CAR-T pact in the wake of a pa­tient death

Two months after Atara Biotherapeutics hit the hold button on its lead CAR-T 2.0 therapy following a patient death, putting the company under the watchful eye of the FDA, its Big Pharma partners at Bayer are bowing out of a $670 million global alliance. And the move is forcing a revamp of Atara’s pipeline plans, even as research execs vow to continue work on the two drugs allied with Bayer 18 months ago, which delivered a $60 million cash upfront.

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Rob Etherington, Clene CEO

Mary­land of­fers loan to Clene de­spite ALS tri­al bumps

Even after Utah-based Clene failed to hit its primary endpoints for its ALS drug last year, the state of Maryland is putting its money at least behind Clene’s manufacturing facility.

The Maryland Board of Public Works has finalized a $3 million, 60-month loan facility with Clene Nanomedicine. The loan was provided by the state’s Neighborhood BusinessWorks program within the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Sanofi and Re­gen­eron clear the fin­ish line in an in­flam­ma­to­ry esoph­a­gus dis­ease, leav­ing Take­da in the dust

With atopic dermatitis rivals breathing down Dupixent’s neck, Sanofi and Regeneron on Friday secured a first win in new territory in what Sanofi’s head of immunology and inflammation Naimish Patel called the fastest approval he’s ever seen.

The FDA approved Dupixent on Friday to treat patients 12 years and older with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an inflammatory condition that causes swelling and scarring of the esophagus. The approval came just a couple months after regulators granted Dupixent priority review, and months ahead of its PDUFA date on Aug. 3.

Fu­ji­film con­tin­ues its biotech build­ing spree with new fa­cil­i­ty in Chi­na

A Japanese conglomerate is making a big play in China with the opening of a new facility, as it continues to expand.

Fujifilm Irvine Scientific has opened its new Innovation and Collaboration Center in Suzhou New District, China, an area in Jiangsu province specifically designated for technological and industrial development.

According to Fujifilm, the 12,000-square-foot site will be responsible for the company’s cell culture media optimization, analysis and design services. Cell culture media itself often requires customization of formulas and protocols to achieve the desired quantity and quality of therapeutic desired. Fujifilm Irvine Scientific is offering these services from its headquarters in California and Japan to its customers globally, as well as in China now.

Daisy Robinton, Oviva Therapeutics co-founder and CEO

A new spin­out wades in­to ovar­i­an ag­ing, armed with a seed round and ex­per­i­men­tal drugs from Mass Gen­er­al

There aren’t many biotechs emphasizing women’s health, but a new spinout is trying to change that.

Oviva Therapeutics, a pipeline company of New York-based Cambrian Biopharma, emerged from stealth earlier this week to dive into the idea of extending women’s “healthspans,” or what it says is the part of a person’s life spent in generally good health, with a specific focus on ovaries. The emergence comes both with a seed financing worth $11.5 million from Cambrian, and an in-licensing agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital for a trio of patents.

Castle Creek Biosciences chair Jeff Aronin

Scoop: Af­ter pulling IPO am­bi­tions last De­cem­ber, Jeff Aron­in's Cas­tle Creek turns to pri­vate back­ers

Jeff Aronin’s cell and gene therapy biotech Castle Creek Biosciences has raised $112 million in equity, Endpoints News has learned.

The Exton, PA, biotech secured the financing from 54 investors, according to an SEC filing dated May 2. The late-stage startup had last year considered a $100 million Nasdaq debut, but in a sign of the bear market that has plagued hundreds of newly minted public biotechs, Castle Creek pulled those ambitions in the last few weeks of 2021.

Try­ing to shake up the Parkin­son's par­a­digm, Ab­b­Vie sub­mits NDA for con­tin­u­ous, 24-hour in­fu­sion ther­a­py

AbbVie is approaching the FDA with a new therapy to potentially treat Parkinson’s disease, using prodrugs of two medications commonly used for the condition.

The Big Pharma submitted its NDA for ABBV-951, a solution of levodopa and carbidopa prodrugs being evaluated in advanced Parkinson’s patients who don’t respond well to oral therapy, AbbVie announced Friday morning. Researchers are hoping a positive Phase III study that reads out in late October will help move things along quickly at the agency.