Deal hun­gry So­sei Hep­tares brings Roche's Genen­tech on board as a part­ner

Japan’s So­sei Hep­tares is stack­ing up key part­ners. On Tues­day, the Tokyo-based com­pa­ny said it had joined forces with Roche’s Genen­tech to de­vel­op med­i­cines that mod­u­late G pro­tein-cou­pled re­cep­tors (GPCR), an en­trenched class of in­te­gral cell mem­brane pro­teins found in cells and tis­sues across the body.

Shinichi Tamu­ra So­sei Hep­tares

The GPCR fam­i­ly in­cludes re­cep­tors that are re­spon­si­ble for the recog­ni­tion of light, taste, odors, hor­mones, pain and neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, among oth­er things — mak­ing it a pop­u­lar tar­get for drug de­vel­op­ment. About a third of ex­ist­ing med­i­cines tar­get GPCR — but about 224 of the rough­ly 400 re­cep­tors are still un­ex­plored, So­sei said.

Sci­en­tists have found chal­leng­ing map­ping the struc­ture of GPCRs when they are iso­lat­ed from the cell mem­brane has proved dif­fi­cult as they are typ­i­cal­ly un­sta­ble in iso­la­tion. The com­pa­ny — which re­in­stat­ed founder Shinichi Tamu­ra as CEO to re­place GSK vet­er­an Pe­ter Bains at the helm late last year — is armed with tech­nol­o­gy that is en­gi­neered to ex­tri­cate the GPCR struc­ture from cell mem­branes while re­tain­ing its orig­i­nal three-di­men­sion­al in­tegri­ty, en­abling the gen­er­a­tion of “small mol­e­cules, pep­tides and ther­a­peu­tic an­ti­bod­ies tar­get­ing chal­leng­ing or pre­vi­ous­ly un­drug­gable GPCRs.”

Pe­ter Bains

The promise of So­sei’s tech­nol­o­gy has lured a num­ber of il­lus­tri­ous part­ners with deep pock­ets — this fund­ing helps fu­el the com­pa­ny’s in­ter­nal pipeline.

So­sei, which ac­quired UK-based Hep­tares’ GPCR plat­form in a $400 mil­lion deal back in 2015, has a Phase II pro­gram for the symp­to­matic treat­ment of Alzheimer’s dis­ease with Al­ler­gan $AGN, and a slate of im­muno-on­col­o­gy drugs in the pipeline with As­traZeneca $AZN. It al­so counts No­var­tis, Pfiz­er, Dai­ichi-Sankyo, Pep­tiDream, Kymab and Mor­phoSys as its part­ners.

Un­der the new deal, Genen­tech has nom­i­nat­ed mul­ti­ple GPCR tar­gets. Mal­colm Weir, So­sei Hep­tares’ chief R&D of­fi­cer, said he was not at lib­er­ty to dis­close the tar­gets, but of­fered that they are broad­ly de­signed to ad­dress “dis­ease ar­eas of high un­met need,” in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

Mal­colm Weir So­sei Hep­tares

Weir said the com­pa­ny is look­ing to do more deals. “We were found­ed in 2007, and twelve years lat­er we’re do­ing big­ger and bet­ter deals. Fun­da­men­tal­ly, the plat­form con­tin­ues to evolve…we’ve adopt­ed Cryo-elec­tron mi­croscopy re­cent­ly.”

Cryo-elec­tron mi­croscopy is a tech­nique de­signed to dis­cern three-di­men­sion­al in­for­ma­tion about pro­tein struc­tures at the mol­e­c­u­lar lev­el — it was pi­o­neered by Hep­tares founder Richard Hen­der­son who won the No­bel Prize in Chem­istry 2017 for his work. Hen­der­son, along with Weir, Fiona Mar­shall and Chris Tate found­ed Hep­tares.

Un­der the Genen­tech deal, So­sei Hep­tares is el­i­gi­ble to get $26 mil­lion in up­front and near-term pay­ments, in ad­di­tion to fu­ture mile­stone pay­ments that may ex­ceed $1 bil­lion, as well as po­ten­tial roy­al­ties.

So­cial im­age: Tokyo, Shut­ter­stock

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks at the Rose Garden, May 26, 2020 (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Eli Lil­ly lines up a block­buster deal for Covid-19 an­ti­body, right af­ter it failed a NI­AID tri­al

Two days after Eli Lilly conceded that its antibody bamlanivimab was a flop in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, the US government is preparing to make it a blockbuster.

The pharma giant reported early Wednesday that it struck a deal to supply the feds with 300,000 vials of the drug at a cost of $375 million — once it gets an EUA stamp from the FDA. And once that 2-month supply deal is done, the government has an option on another 650,000 doses on the same terms — which could potentially add another $812 million.

Jude Samulski, Marianne De Backer

Bay­er buys a biotech ‘race horse’ with a $4B deal — $2B in cash — aimed at go­ing big in­to gene ther­a­py

In the latest sign that Big Pharma wants a leading place in the push to develop a new generation of cell and gene therapies, Bayer is stepping up today with a $2 billion cash deal to buy out one of the fast-moving pioneers in the field, while adding up to $2 billion more in milestones if the new pharma subsidiary can deliver the goods.

As part of a continuing series of deals engineered by Bayer BD chief Marianne De Backer, the pharma player has snapped up Asklepios, more commonly referred to in more casual fashion as AskBio. And they are paying top dollar for a Research Triangle Park-based company that raised $225 million a little more than a year ago to back the brainchild of Jude Samulski, the gene therapy pioneer out of the University of North Carolina Gene Therapy Center.

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Patrick Soon-Shiong at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jan. 13, 2020 (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers, dissed by some ex­perts, biotech show­man Patrick Soon-Sh­iong fi­nal­ly gets his Covid-19 vac­cine ready for a tri­al. But can it live up to the hype?

In January, when dozens of scientists rushed to start making a vaccine for the then-novel coronavirus, they were joined by an unlikely compatriot: Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor most famous for making big, controversial promises on cancer research.

Soon-Shiong had spent the last 4 years on his “Cancer Moonshot,” but part of his project meant buying a small Seattle biotech that specialized in making common-cold vectors, called adenoviruses, to train the immune system. The billionaire had been using those vectors for oncology, but the company had also developed vaccine candidates for H1N1, Lassa fever and other viruses. When the outbreak began, he pivoted.

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No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan signs off on a $231M deal to try some­thing new in the R&D fight against SARS-CoV-2

Patrick Amstutz was baptized by pandemic fire early on.

He and colleagues attended the notorious Cowen conference in early March that included some of the top Biogen execs who helped trigger a superspreader event in Boston. Heading back to his post as CEO of Molecular Partners in Switzerland, the outbreak was sweeping through Italy, triggering near panic in some quarters and creeping into the voices of people he knew, including one friend on the Italian side of the country.

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En­her­tu picks up an­oth­er win for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi Sankyo, join­ing the pri­or­i­ty re­view lane for gas­tric can­cer

Five months after Enhertu received twin breakthrough therapy designations, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo are one step closer to nabbing another approval for their potential blockbuster drug.

The companies announced Wednesday morning that their billion-dollar antibody-drug conjugate has received priority review for HER2 positive metastatic gastric cancer. Already approved in the US for third-line metastatic breast cancer patients that are HER2 positive, Enhertu’s gastric cancer PDUFA date is scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.

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The White House and many Americans have pinned their hopes for defeating the Covid-19 pandemic on a vaccine being developed at “warp speed.” But some scientific experts warn they’re all expecting too much, too soon.

“Everyone thinks COVID-19 will go away with a vaccine,” said William Haseltine, chair and president of Access Health International, a foundation that advocates for affordable care.

Cedric Francois, Apellis CEO (Optum via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: So­bi bets $250M cash, about $1B in mile­stones for rights to a C3 ther­a­py be­ing pushed through 5 piv­otal tri­als

A couple years after licensing Novimmune’s emapalumab and turning around a quick FDA OK, Stockholm-based Sobi is betting up to $1.2 billion for rights to another rare disease drug.

The company is shelling out $250 million upfront and adding up to $915 million in milestones for rights to develop and commercialize Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ drug pegcetacoplan outside the US. Together, the companies will see the systemic C3 therapy through five registrational trials in hematology, nephrology and neurology.

Kevin Conroy (Exact Sciences)

UP­DAT­ED: A month af­ter Il­lu­mi­na's big Grail buy­out, Ex­act Sci­ences scoops up liq­uid biop­sy ri­val Thrive for a rel­a­tive bar­gain

Illumina is going to have a lot of work to do to prove Grail was worth those $8 billion.

Today, Exact Sciences announced that it will acquire Thrive, Grail’s chief rival among the early cancer detection startups, for a sizeable but relatively moderate $2.15 billion. The yawning gap in part reflects the vast differences in capital that have been invested to date in each company.  But both have gone toe-to-toe over the last year and a half, with Grail having published data in over 50 cancers but Thrive recently beating them to a key test for liquid biopsy companies.

Christian Rommel (via Roche)

Bay­er fol­lows R&D deal spree by raid­ing Roche's can­cer group for its new re­search chief

The day after Bayer signed off on a $4 billion deal designed to put the company among the leaders in gene therapy development, the pharma giant has recruited a new chief for its R&D division. And they opted for an expert in the cancer field.

Christian Rommel, Roche’s head of discovery and early-stage oncology development, has been tapped to take over the job. Joerg Moeller, who got the top research post after early- and late-stage development roles were combined 2 years ago, is hitting the exit “to pursue other career opportunities.”

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