Chi­na back­ers help bankroll a $100M mega-round as an in­flu­en­tial an­ti­body en­gi­neer read­ies tri­als

Dave Chiswell

Kymab turned to some mar­quee names in the UK and the US for the mon­ey need­ed to es­tab­lish the com­pa­ny as a high-pro­file play­er in the world of an­ti­body cus­tomiza­tion over the past 6 years. But now the game plan for the next three years will be un­der­writ­ten by an ex­pand­ed syn­di­cate that in­cludes two new play­ers based in Chi­na, ex­tend­ing its net­work of back­ers in­to a glob­al loop.

The biotech has un­veiled a whop­ping $100 mil­lion round led by ORI Health­care Fund — found­ed by Si­mone (Hong Fang) Song, the for­mer chief of Gold­man Sachs’ Health­care Fund in Chi­na —  and the man­u­fac­tur­er Shen­zhen He­palink Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Com­pa­ny.

To hear vet­er­an biotech ex­ec and Kymab CEO Dave Chiswell tell it, this was all part of a care­ful­ly con­struct­ed ef­fort to es­tab­lish new ties in what is fast be­com­ing a key glob­al hub in the bio­phar­ma world.

The Cam­bridge, UK-based biotech has been steadi­ly build­ing its syn­di­cate since the Well­come Trust kicked things off with the $30 mil­lion Se­ries A round for the Sanger In­sti­tute spin­out back in 2010. The Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion stepped in with Neil Wood­ford’s two funds and Ma­lin Corp. in 2015 with a $90 mil­lion Se­ries B. This lat­est fund­ing brings their to­tal to a re­mark­able $220 mil­lion.

The goal at this stage: “Build a prop­er pipeline,” says Chiswell, who co-found­ed Cam­bridge An­ti­body Tech­nol­o­gy, an an­chor play­er to the UK biotech in­dus­try which was ac­quired by As­traZeneca. Chiswell had been ex­ec­u­tive chair­man at Kymab be­fore he added the CEO ti­tle in ear­ly 2015.

The com­pa­ny is built on the work of Al­lan Bradley, one of the world’s lead­ing genome en­gi­neers who did some pi­o­neer­ing work at Sanger on a new mouse mod­el — which de­buted as the Ky­mouse — that could be used to gen­er­ate new and bet­ter hu­man an­ti­bod­ies. Bradley had been a Howard Hugh­es Med­ical In­ves­ti­ga­tor and Bay­lor pro­fes­sor be­fore tak­ing the lead role at Sanger. He’s now the chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer at Kymab, where im­muno-on­col­o­gy, hema­tol­ogy and in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions are big fo­cus­es.

Kymab’s lead pro­gram now is fo­cused on OX40L, a T-cell ac­ti­va­tor in­volved in in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases. It is ex­pect­ed to be in the clin­ic in ear­ly 2017, says the CEO, who’s plan­ning to have 5 in­de­pen­dent prod­ucts in the clin­ic by 2019. Kymab in­ves­ti­ga­tors will be pre­sent­ing pre­clin­i­cal da­ta at ASH on graft-vs-host dis­ease, which Chiswell thinks very high­ly of.

Kymab now has a sub­stan­tial staff of 120, which should con­tin­ue to grow, though on­ly slow­ly. And with enough cash in re­serves to get in­to 2019, Chiswell con­cedes that the next fund­ing step for the biotech may well be an IPO — though on­ly time will tell.

“It’s very ear­ly,” he notes, “but we may look like a pub­lic com­pa­ny in 2019, or 2020.” Get­ting there re­quired an ex­pan­sion of a syn­di­cate with deep roots around the world.

“Kymab al­ways saw that Chi­na was a big op­por­tu­ni­ty,” Chiswell tells me, “but we didn’t know how best to re­al­ize it.” So they took some time, work­ing with con­sul­tants and do­ing their home­work on the coun­try and its biotech in­ter­ests and in­vestors. “It’s been quite a long courtship with Chi­na.”

Their rep­u­ta­tion in the an­ti­body field has helped, along with a col­lab­o­ra­tion with MD An­der­son in Hous­ton.

“Speed and qual­i­ty helps,” says the CEO. “In the end, it’s your choice of an­ti­bod­ies. We think we have the best way of mak­ing the best an­ti­bod­ies.” And with­in a year they can have new an­ti­bod­ies test­ed in mice and in man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Now, they have the mon­ey to es­tab­lish proof-of-con­cept da­ta on their own in­ter­nal pipeline.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.