Con­stel­la­tion joins the mega-round club with $100M raise and plans to pur­sue can­cer stud­ies

Af­ter keep­ing a fair­ly low pro­file for the past few years, Con­stel­la­tion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is step­ping in­to the spot­light this morn­ing, join­ing the megaround club in biotech with a broad­ened syn­di­cate of crossover in­vestors that fits the pro­file for com­pa­nies groom­ing them­selves for an IPO.

Adding in a $48 mil­lion round the com­pa­ny brought in at the end of 2016 — but didn’t spot­light — along with a $100 mil­lion round to­day, CEO Ji­gar Raythatha tells me that the com­pa­ny has now raised a to­tal of $280 mil­lion since launch­ing 10 years ago. And the sto­ry the com­pa­ny is telling now cen­ters con­sid­er­ably on a pair of ear­ly-stage can­cer stud­ies.

The biotech start­ed a Phase Ib/II study of CPI-1205, an EZH2 in­hibitor com­bined with Yer­voy, that they hope will high­light their po­ten­tial in epi­ge­net­ics, di­al­ing down gene ex­pres­sion in can­cer path­ways to en­hance im­muno-on­col­o­gy drugs that have be­come all the rage these days.  The same drug is al­so in an ear­ly study to see if it can boost the ef­fec­tive­ness of Zyti­ga and Xtan­di in prostate can­cer. And their BET drug is look­ing for proof-of-con­cept da­ta for myelofi­bro­sis.

Kei­th Dionne

Raythatha stepped in to take the helm of the Third Rock start­up a year ago af­ter a stint on the BD side of things at Jounce. He took the place of Kei­th Dionne, who went to Third Rock as an en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence in­cu­bat­ing new biotechs not long af­ter Genen­tech dropped a buy­out op­tion.

The new CEO says there are no “firm plans” for go­ing pub­lic, some­thing that the pre­vi­ous team dis­cussed sev­er­al years ago, but the syn­di­cate that has now pumped in $100 mil­lion for the 10-year-old com­pa­ny brings along the kind of fi­nan­cial mus­cle need­ed to boost a com­pa­ny up to the pub­lic stage.

New in­vestors in­clude Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, Deer­field Man­age­ment, Fi­deli­ty Man­age­ment and Re­search Com­pa­ny, Hill­house Cap­i­tal, NS In­vest­ment, Or­biMed, Sirona Cap­i­tal, and Ven­rock Health­care Part­ners. Cur­rent in­vestors: The Col­umn Group, Third Rock Ven­tures, Ven­rock, SROne, Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia In­vest­ment Of­fice, Top­spin Part­ners, and Cas­din Cap­i­tal.

Pol­ish­ing their I/O cre­den­tials al­so fits the pic­ture of a biotech look­ing to go pub­lic. And Con­stel­la­tion has been a long time mak­ing clin­i­cal plans.

“As you em­bark on var­i­ous busi­ness ven­tures there are twists and turns, and cer­tain­ly we’ve had out share,” the CEO tells me. When he came on board in ear­ly 2017, he adds, there was some need to think through the biotech’s strate­gic po­si­tion­ing, and re­or­ga­nize the team run­ning the com­pa­ny. Now he says he has plen­ty of time to think through things like an IPO.

What kind of an op­er­at­ing run­way does $100 mil­lion get you these days?

Raythatha isn’t say­ing. 

A decade in at Con­stel­la­tion, you still just get a peek at what’s go­ing on be­hind the big cur­tain.

For­bion spot­lights late-stage plays, carves out new €250M growth fund

Having staked its rep on picking out a mix of biotech investment opportunities across the “build,” “enable,” “growth” continuum, Forbion is launching its first fund dedicated to late-stage opportunities.

Forbion Growth Opportunities Fund’s first close brought in €185 million ($208 million). Existing investors Pantheon, KfW Capital and the European Investment Fund came on board, joined by new backers Eli Lilly, Horizon Therapeutics, Belgian Growth Fund and New Waves Investments.

Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

OWS shifts spot­light to drugs to fight Covid-19, hand­ing Re­gen­eron $450M to be­gin large scale man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US

The US government is on a spending spree. And after committing billions to vaccines defense operations are now doling out more of the big bucks through Operation Warp Speed to back a rapid flip of a drug into the market to stop Covid-19 from ravaging patients — possibly inside of 2 months.

The beneficiary this morning is Regeneron, the big biotech engaged in a frenzied race to develop an antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2 that just started a late-stage program to prove its worth in fighting the virus. BARDA and the Department of Defense are awarding Regeneron a $450 million contract to cover bulk delivery of the cocktail starting as early as late summer, with money added for fill/finish and storage activities.

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The home run count: The $100M+ mega-round boom in biotech in­spired a $6.7B feed­ing fren­zy — so far this year

Over the last 6 months there’s been a blizzard of money piling up drifts of the green stuff through the biotech landscape. And the forecast calls for more cash windfalls ahead.

Even as a global pandemic has killed more than half a million people, blighted economies and divided nations over the proper response, it’s also helped ignite an unprecedented burst of big-time investing. And not just in Covid-19 deals, as we’ve looked at before.

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Atul Deshpande, Harbour BioMed chief strategy officer & head, US operations (Harbour BioMed)

An­oth­er biotech IPO set-up? Multi­na­tion­al biotech leaps from round to round, scoop­ing up cash at a blis­ter­ing pace

A short four months after announcing a $75 million haul in Series B+ fundraising, the multinational biotech Harbour BioMed pulled in another round of investments and eclipsed the nine-digit mark in the process.

Harbour completed its Series C financing, the company announced Thursday morning, raising $102.8 million and bringing its total investment sum to over $300 million since its founding in late 2016. The biotech plans to use the money to transition early-stage candidates from the discovery phase, fund candidates already in the clinic, and prep late-stage candidates for commercialization.

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Mer­ck ex­pands scope of Zymeworks an­ti­body al­liance, adding close to $900M in mile­stones

Nearly a decade after first partnering with Merck, Vancouver-based biotech Zymeworks has expanded its collaboration with the pharma giant once again.

Zymeworks re-upped with Merck in a new licensing agreement, granting the New Jersey pharma giant the right to develop up to 3 additional multispecific antibody candidates. In exchange, the biotech will receive an undisclosed upfront payment — Merck is always loath to discuss cash terms — and nearly $900 million in combined regulatory ($411 million) and commercial ($480 million) milestones.

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UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen shares spike as ex­ecs com­plete a de­layed pitch for their con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer's drug — the next move be­longs to the FDA

Biogen is stepping out onto the high wire today, reporting that the team working on the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab has now completed their submission to the FDA. And they want the agency to bless it with a priority review that would cut the agency’s decision-making time to a mere 6 months.

The news drove a 10% spike in Biogen’s stock $BIIB ahead of the bell.

Part of that spike can be attributed to a relief rally. Biogen execs rattled backers and a host of analysts earlier in the year when they unexpectedly delayed their filing to the third quarter. That delay provoked all manner of speculation after CEO Michel Vounatsos and R&D chief Al Sandrock failed to persuade influential observers that the pandemic and other factors had slowed the timeline for filing. Actually making the pitch at least satisfies skeptics that the FDA was not likely pushing back as Biogen was pushing in. From the start, Biogen execs claimed that they were doing everything in cooperation with the FDA, saying that regulators had signaled their interest in reviewing the submission.

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Ed Engleman (Stanford Blood Center)

Stan­ford star on­col­o­gy sci­en­tist Ed En­gle­man helped cre­ate the im­munother­a­py field. Now he wants to shake up neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion R&D

Over the last generation of drug R&D, Ed Engleman has been a standout scientist.

The Stanford professor co-founded Dendreon and provided the scientific insights needed to develop Provenge into a pioneering — though not particularly marketable — immunotherapy. He’s spurred a slate of startups, assisted by his well-connected perch as a co-founder of Vivo Capital, and took the dendritic cell story into its next chapter at a startup called Bolt.

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Nello Mainolfi (Kymera via YouTube)

Out to re­vive R&D, a resur­gent Sanofi pays $150M cash to part­ner up with a pi­o­neer­ing pro­tein degra­da­tion play­er

Frank Nestle was appointed Sanofi’s global head of immunology and inflammation research therapeutic area just days before dupilumab, the blockbuster-to-be IL-4 antibody, would be accepted for priority review. After four years of consolidating immunology expertise from multiple corners of the Sanofi family and recruiting new talents to build the discovery engine, he’s set eyes on a Phase I-ready program that he believes can grow into a Dupixent-sized franchise.

Covid-19 roundup: CDC de­bat­ing who should get first avail­able vac­cines; EU in Gilead talks af­ter US gob­bled first remde­sivir dos­es

The federal government has now spent billions of dollars accelerating the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, and yet they’ve remained hush-hush on who, precisely, would actually get inoculated once the first doses are approved and available. Internally, though, they have been debating it.

The CDC and an advisory committee of outside health experts have been working since April to devise a ranking system that would determine who receives a vaccine and when, The New York Times reported. The question of who is first in line for inoculation is important because no matter how many doses developers can make or how quickly they can make them, doses will still come out in batches; 300 million inoculations will not appear overnight.

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