Daiichi Sankyo adds $484M pact to its ongoing Zymeworks collaboration; Surface spins out of Imprimis with $20M raise

Ali Tehrani

→ After working with Zymeworks as a partner over the past two years, Daiichi Sankyo has come back for more, paying $18 million upfront and promising $466.7 million more for licenses to develop two more assets. Vancouver-based Zymeworks has scored a number of partnership deals with big players — think Celgene and J&J — with Azymetric, its platform tech which transforms monospecific antibodies into bispecific antibodies.

Daiichi and Zymeworks’ collaboration dates back to 2016, in which Zymeworks gave away rights to one therapeutic in exchange for milestone payments and a license to Daiichi’s own immuno-oncology antibodies. The Japanese drugmaker kept the terms, as well as subsequent development, to themselves, though it did announce the achievement of a “research milestone” in 2017, triggering a $1 million payment.

“Expanding our relationship with a leading global pharmaceutical partner like Daiichi Sankyo is extremely satisfying as it underscores the power, versatility, and attractiveness of our technology platforms,” said Zymeworks CEO Ali Tehrani in a statement. “Having already used our platforms to discover one bispecific antibody, Daiichi Sankyo now has increased access to our technology to create additional therapeutic candidates. We are pleased to be working with a healthcare pioneer with a proven track record of over 100 years of innovation leading to major breakthroughs in patient care.”

→ Out to carve into Allergan’s Restasis franchise, San Diego-based Surface Pharmaceuticals has officially spun out of Imprimis Pharma with $20 million in Series A funding. Flying L Partners, an investor specializing in ophthalmic innovations, purchased all the stock in the private placing. According to its principal William Link: “There are an estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from some form of Dry Eye Disease, but only approximately 4 million prescriptions were dispensed in 2017, leaving a large unmet need in the market.” And Surface will go after several targets, with plans to advance clinical development and seek FDA approval for three drug candidates for up to five indications. Meanwhile, its colleagues at Imprimis will be contending with a lawsuit from Allergan, which alleged last year that Imprimis was unlawfully manufacturing and selling unapproved drugs. Imprimis — claiming that its drugs will be cheaper and less painful to use than Allergan’s — dismissed it as a desperate attempt to block them from entering the market.

→ DNA sequencing giant Illumina has acquired one of San Diego’s most popular startups, Edico Genome, for $100 million. Edico Genome started out as a chip maker, selling a processor called Dragen that could quicken the analysis of genomic information. The product combined software and hardware designed to analyze the massive workloads associated with DNA sequencing. Since its founding in 2013, Edico Genome had inked tech partnerships with Dell, Intel, Amazon Web Services, and others to develop cloud-based services for analyzing and storing genomic data. Having found success in research labs, Edico announced plans earlier this year to move into the clinical space. “Our acquisition of Edico Genome is a big step toward realizing the vision of reducing sequencing data acquisition and analysis to a push-button, standardized process,” said Susan Tousi, SVP of product development at Illumina, in a statement. “We expect to build on the solid foundation of Dragen to deliver a more streamlined and integrated sample to answer experience for our customers.”

→ A spinout from the innovation arm of University of Birmingham launched Tuesday, tackling rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with new research on a synthetic peptide it’s calling PEPITEM. That stands for Peptide Inhibitor of Trans-Endothelial Migration, which the company, called Viatem, says can prevent RA in animal models and restore regulation of white blood cell migration in human tissues. PEPITEM is a 14 amino acid peptide — a mediator in the adiponectin pathway, which controls the recruitment of immune cells to inflamed tissue. According to Jonathan Watkins, head of IP at University of Birmingham Enterprise, it was the foundational nature of the science that first attracted the attention of the University’s technology transfer and commercialization teams. “It is extremely rare that a completely new regulatory pathway is discovered, and that it is possible to modulate it through an identified target.”

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