Doug Williams ups the ante at Co­di­ak Bio to $168.5M in a dri­ve to first hu­man study

When Doug Williams ex­it­ed his role as R&D chief at Bio­gen a cou­ple of years ago to run his own start­up, he made the leap based on the promise that some of the ven­ture play­ers in biotech were buy­ing in­to a whole new ap­proach to com­pa­ny cre­ation.

Shoe­string bud­gets were be­ing re­placed with com­pa­ny launch plans that dwarfed the old VC mod­el. And a tra­di­tion­al fo­cus on one or two as­sets shift­ed to a com­mit­ment to pricey pipeline con­struc­tion.

“For me,” Williams tells me, “part of what was the rea­son to coax me out of a pret­ty good day job at Bio­gen was not on­ly the in­ter­est around tech­nol­o­gy ma­tur­ing to where it looked like a plat­form tech­nol­o­gy, but hav­ing suf­fi­cient funds to keep your head down to make it work, with­out a need to im­me­di­ate­ly raise small tranch­es.”

Says Williams: “It is the new mod­el.”

That “new mod­el” in ven­ture in­vest­ing just de­liv­ered a $76.5 mil­lion round for Co­di­ak Bio­Sciences, bring­ing Williams’ to­tal raise to $168.5 mil­lion in two years.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the syn­di­cate be­hind Co­di­ak in­cludes Arch and Flag­ship, which have been seed­ing a grow­ing slate of these en­ter­prise class up­starts. In this case, Williams is now bankrolled in­to 2020 as he moves his first pro­gram to an IND in about a year as he starts to bring his head up in a high-stakes move to the clin­ic.

The plat­form that Williams and his staff of 48 are build­ing — a struc­ture de­signed to de­liv­er mul­ti­ple ther­a­peu­tics for it­self and the in­dus­try part­ners that he wants to bring on board now — fo­cus­es on the sci­en­tif­ic un­der­stand­ing the com­pa­ny’s in­tel­lec­tu­al founders formed of the way the hu­man body re­lies on ex­o­somes as a kind of cel­lu­lar freight ser­vice, car­ry­ing pay­loads of nu­cle­ic acids, pro­teins, small mol­e­cules and more through the var­i­ous road­blocks your body us­es to check the spread of threat­en­ing sub­stances.

By hi­jack­ing the sys­tem, Co­di­ak is look­ing to cre­ate a whole new way to drug the cur­rent­ly un­drug­gable. And their first ef­fort will be to jump on board these nanopar­ti­cles with an siR­NA tar­get­ing KRAS that has shown promise in a va­ri­ety of mod­els for pan­cre­at­ic can­cer.

Not long af­ter the com­pa­ny launch, Williams brought in Jan Löt­vall from Göte­borg Uni­ver­si­ty as chief sci­en­tist. It was Löt­vall who did some of the pi­o­neer­ing lab work — along with re­search at MD An­der­son — that demon­strat­ed a decade ago how ex­o­somes could trans­fer nu­cle­ic acids be­tween cells.

“It got peo­ple to re­think how they might be use­ful to de­liv­er com­plex pay­loads,” says Williams, who was one of the first in a group of Bio­gen ex­ecs like CEO George Scan­gos (Vir) and Steve Holtz­man (Deci­bel) to jump ship and head back in­to the biotech are­na to start their own com­pa­nies.

Now he has the mon­ey to see if it can work in hu­mans the way the sci­ence sug­gests it can. In ad­di­tion to Flag­ship and Arch, the syn­di­cate be­hind Co­di­ak in­cludes Fi­deli­ty Man­age­ment and Re­search Com­pa­ny, the Alas­ka Per­ma­nent Fund and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, with new in­vestors in­clud­ing Qatar In­vest­ment Au­thor­i­ty, Box­er Cap­i­tal of the Tavi­s­tock Group, Sirona Cap­i­tal, EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, and Cas­din Cap­i­tal.

Sanofi brings in 4 new ex­ec­u­tives in con­tin­ued shake-up, as vac­cines and con­sumer health chief head out the door

In the middle of Sanofi’s multi-pronged race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, David Loew, the head of their sprawling vaccines unit, is leaving – part of the final flurry of moves in the French giant’ months-long corporate shuffle that will give them new-look leadership under new CEO Paul Hudson.

The company also said today that Alan Main, the head of their consumer healthcare unit, is out, and they named 4 executives to fill new or newly vacated positions, 3 of whom come from both outside both Sanofi and from Pharma.

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Head­ed to PhII: Al­lo­gene CEO David Chang com­pletes a pos­i­tive ear­ly snap­shot of their off-the-shelf CAR-T pi­o­neer

Allogene CEO David Chang has completed the upbeat first portrait of the biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T contender ALLO-501 at virtual ASCO today, keeping all eyes on a drug that will now try to go on to replace the first-wave personalized pioneers he helped create.

The overall response rate outlined in Allogene’s abstract for treatment-resistant patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma slipped a little from the leadup, but if you narrow the patient profile to treatment-naïve patients — removing the 3 who had previous CAR-T therapy who didn’t respond, leaving 16 — the ORR lands at 75% with a 44% complete response rate. And 9 of the 12 responders remained in response at the data cutoff, offering a glimpse on durability that still has a long way to go before it can be completely nailed down.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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Stymied by the pan­dem­ic, Im­munomedic­s' new CEO bows out, tak­ing a mil­lion bucks plus perks as he heads out the vir­tu­al ex­it

Just a little more than a month since taking over as the latest CEO to helm Immunomedics, $IMMU Harout Semerjian is exiting the company after being confronted by “logistical” obstacles thrown up by the pandemic that made it impossible for him to move from London to carry out the job. And he’s getting a little over a million dollars in cash plus perks to grease the skids on the way out.

Word of the changeup arrived right after the market closed Wednesday.

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