Senthil Sundaram, Terns CEO

Eli Lil­ly's transpa­cif­ic bo­som bud­dy Terns bags late-round fund­ing to dri­ve NASH hope­fuls through the clin­ic

In a hot mar­ket mar­ket for NASH, hav­ing big-name back­ers can help shine a spot­light on start­up play­ers look­ing to make a mark. That was cer­tain­ly the case for Terns Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and part­ner Eli Lil­ly, which pro­vid­ed seed fund­ing and li­censed three NASH can­di­dates to the ba­by biotech back in 2018.

Now, with two of those can­di­dates in the clin­ic, Terns has bagged new fund­ing to help speed to­ward the fin­ish line.

Af­ter scor­ing $120 mil­lion in two ear­ly rounds, Terns raised an $87 mil­lion Se­ries C fund­ing round with Deer­field Man­age­ment lead­ing along­side Or­biMed Ad­vi­sors, Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures, Vi­vo Cap­i­tal, Sam­sara Cap­i­tal, Su­vret­ta Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and sev­er­al oth­ers. Lil­ly al­so jumped aboard with a strate­gic eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment.

Terns, co-found­ed by No­var­tis vet­er­an Wei­dong Zhong, is fun­nel­ing the mon­ey in­to three of its NASH pro­grams, one of which — TERN-101 — is ex­pect­ed to pro­duce topline Phase IIa da­ta in the sec­ond half of 2021, and an­oth­er of which — TERN-501 — is head­ed for the clin­ic.

In 2018, Zhong told End­points that the idea for the com­pa­ny was to part­ner a Cal­i­for­nia-based dis­cov­ery team with a small de­vel­op­ment group in Chi­na to ef­fi­cient­ly de­vel­op new drugs pri­mar­i­ly for the Chi­nese mar­ket. Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures sunk in $30 mil­lion to get it go­ing, a move which came about a year af­ter Lil­ly closed its Shang­hai R&D base.

On Wednes­day, af­ter press time, a spokesper­son said Terns has since shift­ed its strat­e­gy, fo­cus­ing more on build­ing a head­quar­ters and de­vel­op­ment team in Cal­i­for­nia. While Terns con­tin­ues to “have an eye on ad­di­tion­al glob­al mar­kets,” their cur­rent fo­cus is on the US, where clin­i­cal tri­als for their three lead pro­grams will oc­cur, the spokesper­son said.

Wei­dong Zhong

“In 2021, we ex­pect to have three promis­ing clin­i­cal-stage ther­a­peu­tic can­di­dates with mean­ing­ful near-term mile­stones,” Terns CEO Senthil Sun­daram said in a state­ment.

TERN-101, the fur­thest along, is a liv­er-di­rect­ed non-bile acid far­ne­soid X re­cep­tor (FXR) ag­o­nist. It’s be­ing test­ed on 96 pa­tients in a Phase IIa study, dubbed LIFT. While Terns faces com­pe­ti­tion from oth­er NASH play­ers like In­ter­cept and Ab­b­Vie, which snagged an FXR ag­o­nist in the Al­ler­gan buy­out, the com­pa­ny thinks its can­di­date’s safe­ty pro­file is where it will stand out. In four Phase I tri­als, none of 119 sub­jects in the treat­ment arm re­port­ed pru­ri­tus, and their serum lipid pro­files were sim­i­lar to those in the place­bo arm at all dos­es, ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny’s web­site.

TERN-201, a vas­cu­lar ad­he­sion pro­tein (VAP)-1) in­hibitor, is ex­pect­ed to en­ter a Phase Ib tri­al in the first half of 2021, with a topline da­ta read­out an­tic­i­pat­ed in the first half of 2022. And TERN-501, a thy­roid hor­mone re­cep­tor (THR) be­ta ag­o­nist, is en­ter­ing a Phase I tri­al in the first half of 2021 with topline da­ta com­ing in the sec­ond half of 2021.

Terns, named af­ter the small, tough wa­ter bird, closed an $80 mil­lion Se­ries B in Oc­to­ber 2018 led by Vi­vo Cap­i­tal and Or­biMed. Zhong, who spent some time work­ing in liv­er dis­eases at Gilead, told End­points in 2018 that he liked the idea of go­ing back to the liv­er and bring­ing in on­col­o­gy as a way to dis­tin­guish the start­up in Chi­na.

MedTech clinical trials require a unique regulatory and study design approach and so engaging a highly experienced CRO to ensure compliance and accurate data across all stages is critical to development milestones.

In­no­v­a­tive MedTech De­mands Spe­cial­ist Clin­i­cal Tri­al Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs and De­sign

Avance Clinical is the Australian CRO for international biotechs providing world-class clinical research services with FDA-accepted data across all phases. With Avance Clinical, biotech companies can leverage Australia’s supportive clinical trials environment which includes no IND requirement plus a 43.5% Government incentive rebate on clinical spend. The CRO has been delivering clinical drug development services for international biotechs for FDA and EMA regulatory approval for the past 24 years. The company has been recognized for the past two consecutive years with the prestigious Frost & Sullivan CRO Best Practices Award and a finalist in Informa Pharma’s Best CRO award for 2022.

Tony Coles, Cerevel CEO

Cerev­el takes the pub­lic of­fer­ing route, with a twist — rais­ing big mon­ey thanks to ri­val da­ta

As public biotechs seek to climb out of the bear market, a popular strategy to raise cash has been through public offerings on the heels of positive data. But one proposed raise Wednesday appeared to take advantage not of a company’s own data, but those from a competitor.

Cerevel Therapeutics plans to raise $250 million in a public offering and another $250 million in debt, the biotech announced Wednesday afternoon, even though it did not report any news on its pipeline. However, the move comes days after rival Karuna Therapeutics touted positive Phase III data in schizophrenia, a field where Cerevel is pursuing a similar program.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 147,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Who are the women blaz­ing trails in bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' 2022 spe­cial re­port

Over the past three years, Endpoints News has spotlighted 60 women who have blazed trails and supercharged R&D across the biopharma world. And judging from the response we’ve received, to both our special reports and live events, telling their stories — including any obstacles they may have had to overcome — has inspired our readers in many different ways.

But change takes time, and the fact remains that women are still underrepresented at the upper ranks of the drug-making world.

Bernat Olle, Vedanta Biosciences CEO

Cit­ing 'chal­leng­ing eco­nom­ic en­vi­ron­ment,' PhI­II-ready mi­cro­bio­me biotech lays off 20% of staffers

The market downturn isn’t just sweeping up public biotechs.

Vedanta Biosciences, a developer of oral drugs derived from the human microbiome, is laying off about 20% of its staff — an unfortunately common occurrence these days. But CEO Bernat Olle took the unusual step of sharing the decision on LinkedIn and offering to connect the employees being let go with any company that’s hiring in their areas.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 147,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Hervé Affagard, MaaT Pharma CEO

One year in­to clin­i­cal hold, FDA has more ques­tions about 'pooled' mi­cro­bio­me ther­a­py

The FDA is still wary about a trial testing a microbiome therapy in patients with steroid-resistant acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD).

A year after MaaT Pharma’s IND application in the US was first met with a clinical hold, the French biotech said the agency is maintaining the hold. The crux of the matter, MaaT suggested, has to do with the way it puts together its drug candidate, which is administered as an enema (i.e. an injection of fluid into the bowel).

Up­dat­ed: Amid mas­sive re­struc­tur­ing, Bio­gen looks to re­duce phys­i­cal pres­ence in Boston

Biogen is putting a sizable chunk of office and research space in Kendall Square and Weston, MA up for sublease, marking another big change as the biotech grapples with the aftershock of a disastrous and controversial rollout for its Alzheimer’s drug.

The subbleases are “part of Biogen’s overall implementation of the ‘Future of Work,’ which is allowing us to optimize our footprint and reduce the amount of space we occupy, taking into consideration new elements such as the hybrid work model,” Biogen spokesperson Ashleigh Koss wrote in a statement to Endpoints News, adding that the company has had subleases across several buildings for years.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 147,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pfiz­er launch­es re­bate pro­gram for rare dis­ease pa­tients who have to stop tak­ing Panzy­ga

Pfizer is launching its second-ever rebate program, this time for Panzyga, its treatment for a rare neurological disease of the peripheral nerves.

The program began last month, according to STAT which first reported the news, and offers a refund of out-of-pocket costs for patients who must discontinue their course before the fifth treatment for “clinical reasons.”

Panzyga was approved back in 2018 to treat primary immunodeficiency (PI) in patients two years and older and chronic immune thrombocytopenia (cITP) in adults. It has since picked up an indication in chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), a condition that’s characterized by weakness of the arms or legs, tingling or numbness, and a loss of deep tendon reflexes, according to the NIH.

Horizon's back-to-school campaign for children with cystinosis includes an all about me poster as part of a care package box.

Hori­zon read­ies kids and fam­i­lies for back to school with week­long ac­tiv­i­ties around rare dis­ease cysti­nosis

Going back to school is usually a bumpy readjustment from summer freedom for all kids, but especially for kids with chronic health conditions. Horizon Therapeutics is hoping to help smooth the way for some who have the rare disease cystinosis. Cystinosis is a genetic disease that causes the amino acid cystine to build up in different tissues and organs.

The “Gear Up” for school campaign is running all week with different online and at-home events and activities for families and children with cystinosis. Each family who signed up receives a care package mailed to their home including an activity coloring book “Michael’s Show-and-Tell.” The book tells Michael’s story about living with cystinosis while offering kids matching, coloring and finding object games along with information.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 147,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Alessandro Maselli, Catalent CEO

Catal­ent ac­quires North Car­oli­na CD­MO for $475M, boost­ing oral solids work

As Catalent has been expanding its reach in the US this year, as well as recently completing a C-suite shuffle, the company announced last night that it has acquired the CDMO Metrics Contract Services for $475 million from Mayne Pharma Group.

The acquisition will increase Catalent’s capabilities in oral solid formulation development, manufacturing and packaging as well as expand its capacity to handle more highly potent compounds.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 147,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.