Clarus spear­heads a big, $150M raise so Galera can flip the PhI­II card on its new drug to treat ra­di­a­tion ef­fects

Any­one look­ing for sol­id ev­i­dence of the kind of im­pact the new, flush fund­ing en­vi­ron­ment — along with a more ac­com­mo­dat­ing FDA — is hav­ing on biotech need look no fur­ther than Galera Ther­a­peu­tics this morn­ing.

Mel Sorensen

Armed with pos­i­tive Phase IIb da­ta for a new can­cer-re­lat­ed ther­a­py, the small, 18-per­son crew at Galera has pieced to­geth­er a whop­ping $150 mil­lion raise; $70 mil­lion in an am­bi­tious Se­ries C with an $80 mil­lion roy­al­ty deal com­ing from one of its biggest back­ers. And CEO Mel Sorensen says that com­bo gives the com­pa­ny all the mon­ey it needs to get through a piv­otal study in the next cou­ple of years that could put them on the thresh­old of a mar­ket­ing de­ci­sion from the FDA.

“This fund­ing al­lows us to get all the way through the process,” Sorensen tells me, “to turn over the Phase III card.”

The “beach­head” in­di­ca­tion for Malvern, PA-based Galera is se­vere oral mu­cosi­tis, a com­mon side ef­fect in pa­tients with head and neck can­cer. Their drug, GC4419, tar­gets the tox­ic ef­fect of ra­di­a­tion ther­a­py as su­per­ox­ide swift­ly builds up in pa­tients, af­flict­ing the sen­si­tive tis­sue in their mouths.

The FDA has helped con­sid­er­ably, giv­ing Galera a break­through drug des­ig­na­tion and get­ting the CEO’s thumbs up for help­ing with the tri­al de­sign and keep­ing things on a rel­a­tive­ly tight sched­ule. Sorensen ex­pects to get the piv­otal Phase III un­der­way in the up­com­ing quar­ter, and he adds that it will like­ly take ap­prox­i­mate­ly 18 to 24 months to com­plete once they are un­der­way.

Em­mett Cun­ning­ham

At one point not long ago, the idea of a small biotech com­pa­ny tack­ling Phase III with­out at least a ma­jor part­ner would have ter­ri­fied most in­vestors. But times have changed, and the lev­el of cash flow­ing through the in­dus­try in the last 2 years has reached an un­prece­dent­ed depth. In Galera’s case, that means push­ing through Phase III while al­so lay­ing the foun­da­tion for a com­mer­cial­iza­tion ef­fort that could re­quire 50 peo­ple. Along the way, Galera will al­so study new in­di­ca­tions for their drug to see how they can build the fran­chise. 

Pre­sum­ably, an IPO has been on the ta­ble, es­pe­cial­ly as the cur­rent wave of biotechs go­ing pub­lic is dom­i­nat­ed by pre­clin­i­cal com­pa­nies with­out any­thing like a Phase IIb da­ta set. Sorensen, though, sim­ply says the com­pa­ny is keep­ing all op­tions on the ta­ble, pre­fer­ring to fo­cus now on the big step ahead.

In this case, Clarus not on­ly led the round, the firm al­so sup­plied the roy­al­ty cash through an­oth­er spe­cial­ized fund it runs. 

Clarus is jump­ing in along­side oth­er new in­vestors: Adage Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, Nan Fung Life Sci­ences, RA Cap­i­tal, Rock Springs Cap­i­tal and Tekla Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment LLC. Ex­ist­ing in­vestors Cor­re­la­tion Ven­tures, Galera An­gels, New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates, No­var­tis Ven­ture Fund, No­vo Ven­tures and Sofinno­va Ven­tures al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed. And Clarus’ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Em­mett Cun­ning­ham is jump­ing on the board.

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

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Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

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Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.

Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

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Saurabh Saha at Endpoints News' #BIO19

On the heels of $250M launch, Centes­sa barges ahead with an IPO to fu­el its 10-in-1 Medicxi pipeline

Francesco De Rubertis made no secret of IPO plans for Centessa, his 10-in-1 legacy play. Barely two months later, the S-1 is in.

The hot-off-the-press filing depicts the same grand vision that the longtime VC touted when he did the rounds in February: Take the asset-centric mindset that he’s been preaching at Medicxi over the years, and roll up a bunch of biotech upstarts, with unrelated risk profiles, into 1 pharma company that can carry on the development at scale.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­a­tors to NIH: Do more to pro­tect US bio­med­ical re­search from for­eign in­flu­ence

Although Thursday’s Senate health committee hearing was focused on how foreign countries and adversaries might be trying to steal or negatively influence biomedical research in the US, the only country mentioned by the senators and expert witnesses was China.

Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made clear in her opening remarks that the US cannot “let the few instances of bad actors” overshadow the hard work of the many immigrant researchers in the US, many of which have won Nobel prizes for their work. But she also said, “There is more the NIH can be doing here.”

Steffen Schuster, ITM CEO

Ra­dio­phar­ma re­mains hot as Ger­many's ITM rais­es $109M to ad­vance neu­roen­docrine can­cer pro­gram

The world of radiopharmaceuticals has been heating up over the last few years, and Thursday saw another company focused on the field pull in a new nine-figure raise.

Germany’s ITM, or Isotopen Technologien München, scored a $109 million round of loan financing to push forward its precision oncology pipeline and fund late-stage development for its lead program. As part of the agreement, the loan will convert to shares in the event of future financial or corporate transactions, ITM said.