Clene Nanomed­i­cine, re­search­ing the use of gold atoms to slow ALS pro­gres­sion, nets $42.5M Se­ries D

A bio­phar­ma that us­es gold to de­vel­op treat­ments for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases just got a lit­tle bit rich­er.

Rob Ether­ing­ton

Clene Nanomed­i­cine pulled in $42.5 mil­lion in a Se­ries D fi­nanc­ing round Wednes­day, mon­ey which will go to­ward ad­vanc­ing its lead pro­gram through a Phase III plat­form tri­al in ALS and sup­port Phase II tri­als in MS, Parkin­son’s dis­ease and ALS. CEO Rob Ether­ing­ton said that by the end of 2021, Clene will know whether or not the can­di­date, called CNM-Au8, will prove ef­fec­tive.

“It will take us to the end of all these clin­i­cal end­points,” Ether­ing­ton told End­points News. “The ex­cit­ing thing for us is that one as­set could po­ten­tial­ly be in­di­cat­ed to im­prove neu­ro­log­i­cal func­tion in MS, as well as ALS, and [though] Parkin­son’s is the slow­er pro­gram, this mon­ey is go­ing to help us launch more com­plete­ly that pro­gram.”

CNM-Au8 is a liq­uid sus­pen­sion of gold nanocrys­tals that cat­alyze in­tra­cel­lu­lar bi­o­log­i­cal re­ac­tions. Such cat­alyza­tion can lead to im­prove­ment in nerve cell sur­vival, func­tion, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Chem­i­cal­ly, the “clean sur­faces” of the nanocrys­tals help nor­mal­ize ATP pro­duc­tion in cells, which is lack­ing in se­ri­ous neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases like ALS, CMO Robert Glanz­man said.

“We’re pro­vid­ing bioen­er­gy sup­port to cells,” Glanz­man said. “There’s a rea­son why we tend to get neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases as we get old­er, and that is be­cause as we age, there’s a lin­ear loss of bioen­er­getic ca­pac­i­ty with­in neu­rons … and what we’re do­ing is ac­tu­al­ly pro­vid­ing these neu­rons and oth­er cells with free en­er­gy, es­sen­tial­ly.”

In terms of vis­i­ble symp­toms, Glanz­man added that pa­tients tak­ing CNM-Au8 will see bet­ter strength, mus­cle mass and be able to speak, breathe and swal­low more eas­i­ly over a longer pe­ri­od of time.

Clene’s Phase III study comes as it was se­lect­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the first-ever plat­form tri­al for ALS, which en­rolled its first pa­tients ear­li­er this month. The tri­al com­pares three sep­a­rate treat­ments for the dis­ease, with UCB’s zilu­coplan and Bio­haven’s verdiper­stat join­ing CNM-Au8 at Har­vard-backed Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal in test­ing 480 to­tal pa­tients.

Though de­layed from a March start due to the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, the plat­form tri­al aims to ex­pe­dite the de­vel­op­ment of ther­a­pies for a dis­ease that ad­vances rapid­ly and that has few ef­fec­tive treat­ment op­tions. On­ly rilu­zole, al­so known as Ri­lutek and OK’ed in 1995, shows any mea­sur­able ef­fect on ALS pa­tients, Ether­ing­ton said.

“Rilu­zole, which func­tion­al­ly is re­al­ly the on­ly drug that most peo­ple with ALS use, was orig­i­nal­ly ap­proved to de­lay the need for tra­cheostomies to en­cour­age breath­ing for an ex­tra cou­ple months,” Ether­ing­ton said. “But it has a very mod­est ef­fect gen­er­al­ly. It is the stan­dard of care, how­ev­er, be­cause it’s the on­ly re­al­ly marked­ly rel­e­vant drug that’s been ap­proved for ALS in this coun­try. There’s a few oth­ers but most of them do very lit­tle.”

Clene has two oth­er pro­grams in the pipeline, though nei­ther have reached the clin­ic just yet. The first is a top­i­cal gel con­tain­ing sil­ver and zinc ions, with re­searchers look­ing at burn treat­ment, ac­cel­er­at­ed wound-heal­ing and as an an­ti-in­fec­tive. There’s al­so a gold-plat­inum ther­a­peu­tic be­ing stud­ied for use in on­col­o­gy, which is still in the ini­tial in vit­ro stage.

The bot­tom line for Clene though is that find­ing a treat­ment op­tion for the ex­treme­ly dif­fi­cult ALS in­di­ca­tion be­comes clos­er to re­al­i­ty, with a po­ten­tial­ly huge im­pact on the field.

“The way you and I move and can grasp things and can talk, all this fine mo­tor move­ment we take for grant­ed,” Ether­ing­ton said. “An ALS pa­tient los­es these and this is ex­act­ly what we are study­ing.”

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Tom Barnes (Orna)

The mR­NA era is here. MPM be­lieves the fu­ture be­longs to oR­NA — and Big Phar­ma wants a seat at the ta­ble

If the ultra-fast clinical development of Covid-19 vaccines opened the world’s eyes to the promises of messenger RNA, the subsequent delays in supply offered a crash course on the ultra-complex process of producing them. Even before the formulation and fill-finish steps, mRNA is the precious end product from an arduous journey involving enzyme-aided transcription, modification and purification.

For Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Gilead’s Kite and Astellas, it’s time to rethink the way therapeutic RNA is engineered.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Glax­o­SmithK­line re­thinks strat­e­gy for Covid-19 an­ti­body — not the Vir ones — af­ter tri­al flop. Is there hope in high-risk pa­tients?

In the search for a better Covid-19 therapeutic, GlaxoSmithKline and Vir have partnered up on two antibodies they hope have a chance. GSK is also testing its own in-house antibody, and early results may have shut the door on its widespread use.

A combination of GSK’s monoclonal antibody otilimab plus standard of care couldn’t best standard of care alone in preventing death and respiratory failure in hospitalized Covid-19 patients after 28 days, according to data from the Phase IIa OSCAR study unveiled Thursday.

Michael Rome (Foresite)

In search of 'house­hold health­care brands of the fu­ture,' Fore­site Cap­i­tal rais­es $969M to sa­ti­ate a tech-heavy ap­petite

Back in April 2018, just before Foresite Capital unveiled its $668 million Fund IV and a strategy to focus on tech-driven life science bets, one of its portfolio companies quietly made an announcement.

Fount Therapeutics, a drug discovery outfit backed by Foresite and Eshelman Ventures, had raised $22 million in Series A cash to hatch several fledgling spinouts. “The first ‘NewCo,’ Kinnate, will be focused on developing precision oncology treatments,” read a press release.

S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.