Eli Lil­ly's Covid-19 part­ner Ab­Cellera pays $90M for some very spe­cial mice as Pe­ter Thiel jumps on the board and IPO ru­mors heat up

Ab­Cellera Bi­o­log­ics is step­ping on­to Re­gen­eron’s turf, putting down $90 mil­lion in cash to buy out Tri­an­ni and its hu­man­ized mouse tech­nol­o­gy for de­vel­op­ing an­ti­bod­ies.

The 7-year-old biotech out of British Co­lum­bia is af­ter the Tri­an­ni Mouse: a ge­net­i­cal­ly en­gi­neered ro­dent that can gen­er­ate ful­ly hu­man mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies. It’s al­so scoop­ing up sev­er­al “next-gen­er­a­tion” mice un­der de­vel­op­ment. The move comes as Ab­Cellera preps one of the biggest IPOs in an al­ready record-break­ing year for pub­lic de­buts, un­named sources told Bloomberg. 

On Thurs­day, bil­lion­aire in­vestor Pe­ter Thiel joined the com­pa­ny’s board of di­rec­tors. CEO Carl Hansen said Thiel, who co-found­ed Pay­Pal and made the first out­side in­vest­ment in Face­book, “brings deep ex­pe­ri­ence in scal­ing glob­al tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies.”

Carl Hansen

“Tri­an­ni marks our fourth and largest strate­gic tech­nol­o­gy ad­di­tion to date,” Hansen said in a state­ment. “With its tech­nol­o­gy and team, Tri­an­ni am­pli­fies our ca­pa­bil­i­ty to gen­er­ate hu­man an­ti­bod­ies and pro­vides a strong foun­da­tion for de­vel­op­ing in­creas­ing­ly pow­er­ful trans­genic mouse tech­nolo­gies.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Bloomberg re­port, Ab­Cellera’s S-1 is like­ly to come in the next few days, and the of­fer­ing could val­ue the com­pa­ny at sev­er­al bil­lion dol­lars. Just last week, the biotech’s Covid-19 an­ti­body treat­ment it de­vel­oped with Eli Lil­ly got the FDA OK for emer­gency use.

“Tri­an­ni adds a key pil­lar to our plat­form, which now in­cludes ge­net­i­cal­ly en­gi­neered ro­dents, mi­croflu­idic sin­gle-cell screen­ing, reper­toire se­quenc­ing, AI-pow­ered com­pu­ta­tion, and bis­pe­cif­ic pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing,” Hansen said.

The deal comes with four mice un­der de­vel­op­ment. There’s the Heavy-Chain On­ly (HCO) Mouse, which is de­signed to ex­press small­er, sin­gle-do­main an­ti­bod­ies to go where con­ven­tion­al IgG mol­e­cules can’t; the All-Epi­tope Mouse, which Ab­Cellera says pro­duces an im­mune re­sponse against tar­gets like GPCRs and ion chan­nels; the DD mouse, which has long CDR3 loops de­signed to ac­cess “hid­den” or re­cessed bind­ing sites; and the Eazysort Mouse, cre­at­ed to help fo­cus ef­forts on high-val­ue an­ti­bod­ies.

Re­gen­eron has worked for decades on its own trans­geni­cal­ly hu­man­ized mice, which can be used to make an­ti­bod­ies for a range of dis­eases, from Ebo­la to col­orec­tal can­cer. The mice, which are en­gi­neered to have hu­man-like im­mune sys­tems, are ex­posed to a tar­get pro­tein which in­duces an an­ti­body re­sponse. The com­pa­ny is de­vel­op­ing its Covid-19 treat­ment on the same plat­form, which Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tout­ed as a “mir­a­cle” af­ter re­ceiv­ing it back in Oc­to­ber.

The drug mak­er is very pro­tec­tive of its tech­nol­o­gy, which is bro­ken down in­to sev­er­al brand­ed com­po­nents it calls the Ve­locisuite. In 2014, Re­gen­eron sued two Pfiz­er-backed en­ti­ties for patent in­fringe­ment. And this year, it lost part of a years-long le­gal bat­tle against Cam­bridge-based biotech Kymab, which it said in­fringed on patents it filed in 2012 around ways of ge­net­i­cal­ly mod­i­fy­ing a mouse.

Claim­ing the Ky­mouse was an “ob­vi­ous” ex­ten­sion of its own work, Re­gen­eron filed suits in the US, UK, Japan and Aus­tralia. In April, the US Patent Tri­al and Ap­peal Board (PT­AB) re­ject­ed Re­gen­eron’s re­quest to in­val­i­date 4 Kymab patents, and in June they re­ject­ed a 5th one.

So­cial: Ab­Cellera.com

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

With ad­u­canum­ab caught on a cliff, Bio­gen’s Michel Vounatsos bets bil­lions on an­oth­er high-risk neu­ro play

With its FDA pitch on the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab hanging perilously close to disaster, Biogen is rolling the dice on a $3.1 billion deal that brings in commercial rights to one of the other spotlight neuro drugs in late-stage development — after it already failed its first Phase III.

The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Scoop: Google’s GV spear­heads the Spot­light syn­di­cate — back­ing an up­start biotech aimed at ‘de­moc­ra­tiz­ing’ gene edit­ing

CRISPR had no sooner started to shake the very foundations of drug development before its limitations began to loom large. Gene editing could change the world — if only you could get around the hurdles that threatened to trip up every program.

So it’s only natural to see CRISPR 2.0 taking shape before the pioneers can get the lead therapies through development. And who better than Google’s GV venture arm to take the lead spot in a small syndicate backing some scientists with their own unique twist on a solution?

Sev­er­al weeks af­ter get­ting hit with an RTF, Y-mAbs lands ap­proval for its oth­er neu­rob­las­toma can­di­date

Nearly two months after handing Y-mAbs a refusal to file letter for one of its main neuroblastoma candidates, the FDA gave the biotech an accelerated OK for the other — but with a box warning.

Y-mAbs, which flew mostly under the radar until a few years ago, snagged approval for naxitamab-gqgk as a second-line treatment in combination with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Patients older than 1 year old can take the drug for relapsed or refractory high-risk neuroblastoma in the bone or bone marrow. The good news cushioned last month’s blow, sending the company’s stock $YMAB — which sank more than 18% upon news of the RTF — up 10.15% as of Monday morning.

FDA gives Rhythm the green light for set­melan­otide, a drug aimed at re­duc­ing obe­si­ty in cer­tain ge­net­ic dis­or­ders

A little over a year after completing successful pivotal trials, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals $RYTM has its first drug approval on its hands.

The Boston-based biotech announced Friday that the FDA gave setmelanotide the thumbs-up for three rare genetic disorders that result in obesity in patients six and older. It’s the agency’s first such approval, Rhythm said, with the indicated deficiencies being the POMC, PCSK1 and LEPR genes. Rhythm will market the drug as Imcivree, and plans to have it on the shelves in the first quarter of 2021.

Pascal Soriot (Getty)

As­traZeneca CEO So­ri­ot plans new study to test that con­tro­ver­sial 90% ef­fi­ca­cy fig­ure, wait­ing for US da­ta be­fore go­ing to FDA

Pascal Soriot spent the long Thanksgiving weekend digging AstraZeneca out of a hole, promising to put an end to the questions around its interim Phase III vaccine data by conducting a new study while going to regulators with a large part of what it already has.

AstraZeneca and its partners at Oxford had initially touted high-level results from two studies conducted in the UK and Brazil as positive. But the enthusiasm was soon shadowed by confusion as observers probed into how the highest, 90% efficacy was seen in a dosing regimen given to a small group of volunteers due to an error. Among a larger cohort given the intended shots, the vaccine was only 62% effective, a rate that would’ve been respectable had Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna not posted efficacy rates of 94%, 95% for their mRNA candidates. And many weren’t sure what to make of the average 70% number that AstraZeneca ran in headlines.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Robert Clarke (Kinaset)

Ki­naset launch­es with $40M and a JAK in­hibitor from Vec­tura's old pipeline

Kinaset Therapeutics is joining the search for a better severe asthma treatment, picking up where Vectura left off when it decided to clear house last year.

UK-based Vectura — which took a big hit when its most advanced candidate flopped in a Phase III asthma trial back in 2018 — recently shifted to a CDMO model, offloading all of its R&D programs. Robert Clarke, who’s worked on inhalable therapeutics for 21-plus years, had close contacts at the company and took a look at what they were offering. After doing some research, he was attracted by VR475, a pan-JAK inhibitor.

Stephané Bancel (Endpoints at JPM20)

Mod­er­na cal­i­brates fi­nal Covid-19 vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy at 94.1% — and to­day it's gun­ning for the EUA

Nearly a year ago, as the coronavirus emerged in China, the NIH and four major companies bet on an unproven genetic technology as the best tool for developing a vaccine to stem the outbreak. Today, a second such vaccine is heading to the FDA.

Moderna said Monday that they will request an emergency use authorization from the FDA after a final analysis showed their mRNA vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19. The data confirm the results from an interim analysis and matches efficacy Pfizer and BioNTech showed in a Phase III study, setting the biotech up to potentially nab one of the first two Covid-19 vaccine OKs.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

The ad­u­canum­ab co­nun­drum: The PhI­II failed a clear reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dard, but no one is cer­tain what that means any­more at the FDA

Eighteen days ago, virtually all of the outside experts on an FDA adcomm got together to mug the agency’s Billy Dunn and the Biogen team when they presented their upbeat assessment on aducanumab. But here we are, more than 2 weeks later, and the ongoing debate over that Alzheimer’s drug’s fate continues unabated.

Instead of simply ruling out any chance of an approval, the logical conclusion based on what we heard during that session, a series of questionable approvals that preceded the controversy over the agency’s recent EUA decisions has come back to haunt the FDA, where the power of precedent is leaving an opening some experts believe can still be exploited by the big biotech.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.