Dicer­na and Boehringer part­ner on RNAi treat­ment for NASH

Phar­ma gi­ant Boehringer In­gel­heim In­ter­na­tion­al is part­ner­ing with Dicer­na Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $DR­NA on a re­search and li­cens­ing deal to ad­vance treat­ments for chron­ic liv­er dis­eases.

Dicer­na gets $10 mil­lion in an up­front pay­ment, and could re­ceive up to an ad­di­tion­al $191 mil­lion in po­ten­tial mile­stone pay­ments and R&D re­im­burse­ments.

Clive Wood

The duo will ini­tial­ly fo­cus on non­al­co­holic steato­hep­ati­tis (NASH), al­so known as non­al­co­holic fat­ty liv­er dis­ease, which has been a bea­con for a slew of bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies out to con­quer a fast-grow­ing ail­ment.

Dicer­na is de­vel­op­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al RNA in­ter­fer­ence (RNAi) ther­a­peu­tics that could po­ten­tial­ly treat NASH. Dicer­na hopes its RNAi tech­nol­o­gy, called GalXC, can in­hib­it the ex­pres­sion of dis­ease-caus­ing genes by de­stroy­ing the mes­sen­ger RNAs of those genes.

The deal of­fers an en­dorse­ment of Dicer­na’s plat­form tech, which has come un­der a fierce at­tack from their big ri­vals at the RNAi biotech Al­ny­lam. Al­ny­lam al­leged that Dicer­na il­lic­it­ly gained trade se­crets from some Sir­na sci­en­tists it hired as Mer­ck was shop­ping the com­pa­ny to Al­ny­lam. Dicer­na, though, re­cent­ly fired back in fed­er­al court, claim­ing that the law­suit was noth­ing but a sham aimed at ic­ing part­ner­ships just like the one an­nounced to­day.

Paul Mat­teis at Leerink liked what he was see­ing here:

We view this as ear­ly val­i­da­tion for DR­NA’s GalXC plat­form, which will see their first drug, DCR-PHXC (pri­ma­ry hy­per­ox­aluria), in the clin­ic ear­ly next year. As DR­NA is in an on­go­ing lit­i­ga­tion with AL­NY (MP) over al­le­ga­tions of mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing trade se­crets, it’s cer­tain­ly en­cour­ag­ing that they were still able to pre­cip­i­tate a part­ner­ship. Re­call that the courts have ac­cept­ed DR­NA’s counter claims and that a ju­ry tri­al is slat­ed for April of next year.

Boehringer, un­de­terred by the le­gal spar­ring, said Dicer­na’s pro­gram is a good match for its car­diometa­bol­ic pipeline.

“Our re­search team is dili­gent­ly work­ing to dis­cov­er ef­fec­tive new ther­a­pies for NASH and oth­er chron­ic liv­er dis­eases, which is a pri­or­i­ty area for us,” said Clive Wood, cor­po­rate se­nior vice pres­i­dent of dis­cov­ery re­search at Boehringer In­gel­heim, in a state­ment. “This part­ner­ship com­ple­ments our ex­ist­ing re­search ef­forts and ex­per­tise and of­fers dis­tinct ad­van­tages in de­vel­op­ing ex­cit­ing new ther­a­py op­tions.”

Boehringer has a port­fo­lio of mar­ket­ed drugs for car­diometa­bol­ic dis­ease, in­clud­ing prod­ucts for throm­boem­bol­ic dis­ease, type 2 di­a­betes, and hy­per­ten­sion.

In ad­di­tion to the po­ten­tial $191 mil­lion in ex­tra pay­ments, Dicer­na is el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive roy­al­ties stag­gered up to dou­ble dig­its on world­wide net sales.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Ken Frazier, AP Images

Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Len Schleifer (left) and George Yancopoulos, Regeneron (Vimeo)

Eyes on he­mo­phil­ia prize, Re­gen­eron adds a $100M wa­ger on joint de­vel­op­ment cam­paign with In­tel­lia

When George Yancopoulos first signed up Intellia to be its CRISPR/Cas9 partner on gene editing projects 4 years ago, the upstart smartly ramped up its IPO at the same time. Today, Regeneron $REGN is coming back in, adding $100 million in an upfront fee and equity to significantly boot up a whole roster of new development projects.

And they’re highlighting some clinical hemophilia research plans in the process.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

With an FDA OK for the use of filgotinib in rheumatoid arthritis expected to drop any day now, Gilead has recruited a new leader from academia to lead its foray into inflammatory diseases.

Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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Bris­tol My­ers Squib­b's just-launched MS drug Zeposia makes the cut in key ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis tri­al

In March, Zeposia became the third oral S1P modulator to secure US approval for multiple sclerosis. Now, the drug has succeeded in a key ulcerative colitis study.

The immunomodulator, akin to others in its class, controls lymphocyte trafficking by limiting the white blood cells to the lymphatic system, in the lymph nodes, and thwarting their ability to jam up lymph nodes — precluding their ability to penetrate the bloodstream and the central nervous system.

Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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