Dana-Far­ber’s Lau­rie Glim­ch­er helps launch a NYC biotech up­start with some key in­sights on im­muno-on­col­o­gy tech

Years be­fore Lau­rie Glim­ch­er left her job as dean at Weill Cor­nell Med­ical Col­lege and took the top job at Dana-Far­ber, the sci­en­tist was in the lab prob­ing the way in which cer­tain con­di­tions caused un­fold­ed pro­teins to clut­ter en­do­plas­mic retic­u­lum (ER) path­ways — study­ing the ways that played out in the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment.

The ER stress that sparked in turn trig­gered var­i­ous sur­vival mech­a­nisms — in par­tic­u­lar the tu­mor-pro­mot­ing IRE1α path­way — that could help these tu­mors adapt to a num­ber of threats.

“The ER stress path­way is de­signed to help cells sur­vive in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment,” Glim­ch­er tells me, the kind of hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment that fre­quent­ly be­sets tu­mors. But there was more to come. One of the for­mer post­docs in her lab, Juan Cu­bil­los-Ruiz, found that an­oth­er way they pro­mot­ed tu­mor sur­vival was by di­rect­ly tamp­ing down on the im­mune cells dis­patched for an at­tack — coun­ter­ing the im­mune re­sponse that has be­come a cen­tral fea­ture in new can­cer fight­ing com­bos.

They’ve been work­ing on a small mol­e­cule IRE1α in­hibitor with some sci­en­tif­ic proof of prin­ci­ple ev­i­dence to back them up.

“What is a lit­tle more sur­pris­ing is that we could not on­ly in­crease the death of tu­mors,” says Glim­ch­er, but al­so block a process that dis­abled im­mune cells, which “in­creased their abil­i­ty to kill off cells.”

That pa­per pub­lished in Cell in 2015, she said, “turned the field on its head.”

Michael Aber­man

Their work pro­vid­ed the sci­en­tif­ic foun­da­tion for a new im­muno-on­col­o­gy start­up fos­tered by Ver­sant Ven­tures in 2016. And now their biotech, Quen­tis Ther­a­peu­tics, is de­but­ing with a $48 mil­lion A round with plans to get in­to the clin­ic next year.

Michael Aber­man, who left his job as se­nior strate­gist for Re­gen­eron last fall to run the com­pa­ny, says Quen­tis now has 4 full time staffers, in­clud­ing him­self, and a few part-timers to help out. But that is about to change, with enough mon­ey in the launch round to staff up to 20 to 30 em­ploy­ees for the pre­clin­i­cal stretch ahead.

In the process, they are kick­ing off yet an­oth­er Big Ap­ple up­start that at­tract­ed sup­port from a large syn­di­cate that in­cludes New York Ven­tures, which is back­ing lo­cal star­tups in an ef­fort to gen­er­ate a crit­i­cal mass of life sci­ence com­pa­nies in New York. Ver­sant and Po­laris co-led the round. The rest of the in­ter­na­tion­al group al­so in­cludes LS Po­laris In­no­va­tion Fund, Ab­b­Vie Ven­tures, Tai­ho Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, Yonghua Cap­i­tal and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments.

It’s that com­bi­na­tion of glob­al cash and sci­en­tif­ic tal­ent that New York is re­ly­ing on to spur a host of new biotech star­tups with the hope that one day they can ri­val a ma­jor hub like Cam­bridge/Boston.

Glim­ch­er, mean­while, has al­so been play­ing a qui­et but promi­nent role at Lon­don-based Glax­o­SmithK­line, where she re­cent­ly joined the board to help ad­vise on its sci­en­tif­ic fo­cus at a time GSK is div­ing deep in­to new can­cer ther­a­pies and grow­ing the on­col­o­gy pipeline.

When you can start to re­pro­gram the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment, she says, you have the po­ten­tial to sub­stan­tial­ly broad­en the im­pact of new ther­a­pies, reach­ing far big­ger num­bers of pa­tients.

“Won­der­ful as im­muno-on­col­o­gy has been,” says Glim­ch­er, “we’re still treat­ing a mi­nor­i­ty of pa­tients. We’re re­al­ly at the tip of the ice­berg here.”

Star­tups like Quen­tis are go­ing deep­er.

Dave Barrett, Brian Chee, Amir Nashat, Amy Schulman. Polaris

Bob Langer's first port of call — Po­laris Part­ners — maps $400M for ninth fund

Health and tech ven­ture group Po­laris Part­ners, which counts Alec­tor, Al­ny­lam and Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine as part of its port­fo­lio, is set­ting up its ninth fund, rough­ly two years af­ter it closed Po­laris VI­II with $435 mil­lion in the bank, sur­pass­ing its tar­get by $35 mil­lion.

The Boston-based firm, in an SEC fil­ing, said it in­tends to raise $400 mil­lion for the fund. Po­laris — which rou­tine­ly backs com­pa­nies mold­ed out of the work done in the lab of pro­lif­ic sci­en­tist Bob Langer of MIT  — typ­i­cal­ly in­vests ear­ly, and sticks around till com­pa­nies are in the green. Like its peers at Flag­ship and Third Rock, Po­laris is all about cham­pi­oning the lo­cal biotech scene with a steady flow of start­up cash.

John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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Partners Innovation Fund

David de Graaf now has his $28.5M launch round in place, build­ing a coen­zyme A plat­form in his lat­est start­up

Long­time biotech ex­ec David de Graaf has the cash he needs to set up the pre­clin­i­cal foun­da­tion for his coen­zyme A me­tab­o­lism com­pa­ny Comet. A few high-pro­file in­vestors joined the ven­ture syn­di­cate to sup­ply Comet with $28.5 mil­lion in launch mon­ey — enough to get it two years in­to the plat­form-build­ing game, with­in knock­ing dis­tance of the clin­ic.

Canaan jumped in along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestor Sofinno­va Part­ners to co-lead the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tion by ex­ist­ing in­vestor INKEF Cap­i­tal and new in­vestor BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal.

In­vestor day prep at Mer­ck in­cludes a new strat­e­gy to pick up the pace on M&A — re­port

Mer­ck’s re­cent deals to buy up two bolt-on biotechs — Ti­los and Pelo­ton — weren’t an aber­ra­tion. In­stead, both ac­qui­si­tions mark a new strat­e­gy to beef up its dom­i­nant can­cer drug op­er­a­tions cen­tered on Keytru­da while look­ing to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns that too many of its eggs are in the one I/O bas­ket for their PD-1 pro­gram. And Mer­ck is go­ing af­ter more small- and mid-sized buy­outs to calm those fears.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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Right back at you, Pfiz­er: BeiGene and a Pfiz­er spin­out launch a new­co to de­vel­op a MEK/BRAF in­hibitor that could ri­val $11.4B com­bo

A day af­ter Pfiz­er bought Ar­ray and its ap­proved can­cer com­bo, BeiGene and Pfiz­er spin­out Spring­Works have part­nered in launch­ing a new biotech that has an eye on the very same mar­ket the phar­ma gi­ant just paid bil­lions for. And they’re plan­ning on us­ing an ex-Pfiz­er drug to do it.

In a nut­shell, Chi­na’s BeiGene is toss­ing in a pre­clin­i­cal BRAF in­hibitor — BGB-3245, which cov­ers both V600 and non-V600 BRAF mu­ta­tions — for a big stake in a new, joint­ly con­trolled biotech called Map­Kure with Bain-backed Spring­Works.

Step­ping on Roche's toes, Mer­ck cuts in­to SCLC niche with third-line Keytru­da OK

In the in­creas­ing­ly crowd­ed check­point race, small cell lung can­cer has been a rare area where Roche, a sec­ond run­ner-up, has a lead over the en­trenched lead­ers Mer­ck and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb. But Mer­ck is fi­nal­ly mak­ing some head­way in that di­rec­tion with the lat­est ap­proval for its PD-1 star.

The lat­est green light en­dors­es Keytru­da in the third-line treat­ment of metasta­t­ic SCLC, where it would be giv­en to pa­tients whose dis­ease ei­ther don’t re­spond to or re­lapse af­ter chemother­a­py, which would have fol­lowed at least one pri­or line of ther­a­py.

Sanofi aligns it­self with Google to stream­line drug de­vel­op­ment

Tech­nol­o­gy is bleed­ing in­to health­care, and big phar­ma is rid­ing the wave. Sanofi $SNY ap­point­ed its first chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer this Feb­ru­ary, fol­low­ing the foot­steps of its peers. By May, the French drug­mak­er and some of its big phar­ma com­pa­tri­ots joined forces with Google par­ent Al­pha­bet’s Ver­i­ly unit to aug­ment clin­i­cal tri­al re­search. On Tues­day, the Parisian com­pa­ny tied up with Google to ac­cess its cloud com­put­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech to spur the de­vel­op­ment of new ther­a­pies.

Af­ter watch­ing its share price soar on a Bloomberg re­port and heat­ed ru­mors, Bio­haven stock takes a bil­lion-dol­lar bath

Back in April, Biohaven Pharmaceutical became one hot biotech stock $BHVN based on a report in Bloomberg that some “potential bidders” had been kicking the tires at the biotech, which has a lead drug for migraines. Then the rumor mill really started to smoke when execs canceled a presentation at an investor conference a little more than a week ago.

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