Tien Lee, Aardvark Therapeutics CEO

Emerg­ing from stealth mode, Aard­vark rounds up enough cash to put its lead drug through Prad­er-Willi PhII

When Aard­vark Ther­a­peu­tics CEO Tien Lee start­ed his work on the biotech’s lead can­di­date, ap­petite sup­pres­sion was the goal for the small mol­e­cule.  Soon af­ter, his team start­ed to see added ben­e­fits with low­er blood glu­cose lev­els and an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry ac­tiv­i­ty. On the tail end of that, the com­pa­ny has emerged from stealth mode and an­nounced to­day that they’ve raised enough cash in the B round to cov­er mid-stage de­vel­op­ment work.

San Diego-based Aard­vark has se­cured $29 mil­lion in Se­ries B fi­nanc­ing. The mon­ey will be used to com­plete three Phase II tri­als of its lead com­pound ARD-101, a small mol­e­cule bit­ter taste re­cep­tor pan-ag­o­nist.  The funds will al­so be used to ad­vance ad­di­tion­al for­mu­la­tions for the can­di­date.

The fundrais­ing was led by Sor­ren­to Ther­a­peu­tics and fea­tured par­tic­i­pa­tion from Vick­ers Ven­ture Part­ners, Pre­mier Part­ners, BNH In­vest­ment, and Ko­rea Omega. The Foun­da­tion for Prad­er-Willi Re­search par­tic­i­pat­ed as well, which is key be­cause a Phase II tri­al in pa­tients with Prad­er-Willi Syn­drome is set to kick off lat­er this year. PWS is a ge­net­ic dis­or­der that leads pa­tients to be­come con­stant­ly hun­gry. That can of­ten lead to obe­si­ty and type 2 di­a­betes.

“I think we’re re­al­ly on to some­thing,” Lee said in a call with End­points News Wednes­day. “There are a few com­pa­nies that have looked in­to this space be­fore but no one has re­al­ly delved in and tried to ex­ploit this gut-brain path­way us­ing bit­ter taste re­cep­tors.”

ARD-101 has shown pos­i­tive ef­fects against obe­si­ty, hy­per­pha­gia, di­a­betes, hy­per­lipi­demia and in­flam­ma­tion in an­i­mal mod­els so far.

The drug uti­lizes bit­ter taste re­cep­tors, which Lee says are not on­ly in the mouth, but all over the body, and act as na­ture’s way of pro­tect­ing you against tox­ins. Over 99% of the drug is re­tained in the gut, which nor­mal­ly could be a bad thing for small mol­e­cules, but in this case, it ac­ti­vates en­teroen­docrine cells in the gut. When giv­en through an IV, the can­di­date doesn’t work the same, Lee said.

Aard­vark raised $10 mil­lion dur­ing its Se­ries A fundrais­ing two years ago, and that mon­ey was used to bring the can­di­date to in-hu­man tri­als. While the $29 mil­lion will more than cov­er the com­ple­tion of three Phase II tri­al, there is a lot more op­por­tu­ni­ty on the hori­zon, Lee said. The in­tent is to de­vel­op be­yond PWS in the long term, but for now it’s fo­cused on tak­ing a shot at an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for the ge­net­ic dis­ease — a goal that has elud­ed oth­ers.

“The main qual­i­ty of life im­pair­ment for Prad­er-Willi Syn­drome is an un­abat­ed ap­petite, says the CEO. “These kids, if giv­en un­re­strict­ed food ac­cess, they eat to the point of stom­ach rup­ture some­times. We have a lot of di­a­betes and obe­si­ty re­lat­ed com­pli­ca­tions in young adult­hood, and the fact that we’re hit­ting a va­ri­ety of hor­mones, we think we’re able to shut down ap­petite in a very unique way. We’ll see. Bi­ol­o­gy is hard and we’re not mak­ing any promis­es, but we’re def­i­nite­ly very hope­ful that we can see a dif­fer­ence for these kids.”

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

Alex­ion puts €65M for­ward to strength­en its po­si­tion on the Emer­ald Isle

Ireland has been on a roll in 2022, with several large pharma companies announcing multimillion-euro projects. Now AstraZeneca’s rare disease outfit Alexion is looking to get in on the action.

Alexion on Friday announced a €65 million ($68.8 million) investment in new and enhanced capabilities across two sites in the country, including at College Park in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown and the Monksland Industrial Park in the central Irish town of Athlone, according to the Industrial Development Agency of Ireland.

Members of the G7 from left to right: Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden and G7 na­tions of­fer funds for vac­cine and med­ical prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing project in Sene­gal

Amidst recently broader vaccine manufacturing initiatives from the EU and European companies, the G7 summit in the mountains of Bavaria has brought about some positive news for closing vaccine and medical product manufacturing gaps around the globe.

According to a statement from the White House, the G7 leaders have formally launched the partnership for global infrastructure, PGII. The effort will aim to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars to deliver infrastructure projects in several sectors including the medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing space.

State bat­tles over mifepri­s­tone ac­cess could tie the FDA to any post-Roe cross­roads

As more than a dozen states are now readying so-called “trigger” laws to kick into effect immediate abortion bans following the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, these laws, in the works for more than a decade in some states, will likely kick off even more legal battles as states seek to restrict the use of prescription drug-based abortions.

Since Friday’s SCOTUS opinion to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, reproductive rights lawyers at Planned Parenthood and other organizations have already challenged these trigger laws in Utah and Louisiana. According to the Guttmacher Institute, other states with trigger laws that could take effect include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Deborah Dunsire, Lundbeck CEO

Af­ter a 5-year re­peat PhI­II so­journ, Lund­beck and Ot­su­ka say they're fi­nal­ly ready to pur­sue OK to use Rex­ul­ti against Alzheimer's ag­i­ta­tion

Five years after Lundbeck and their longtime collaborators at Otsuka turned up a mixed set of Phase III data for Rexulti as a treatment for Alzheimer’s dementia-related agitation, they’ve come through with a new pivotal trial success they believe will finally put them on the road to an approval at the FDA. And if they’re right, some analysts believe they’re a short step away from adding more than $500 million in annual sales for the drug, already approved in depression and schizophrenia.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

A Mer­ck part­ner is sucked in­to the fi­nan­cial quag­mire as key lender calls in a note

Another biotech standing on shaky financial legs has fallen victim to the bears.

Merck partner 4D Pharma has reported that a key lender, Oxford Finance, shoved the UK company into administration after calling in a $14 million loan they couldn’t immediately make good on. Trading in their stock was halted with a market cap that had fallen to a mere £30 million.

“Despite the very difficult prevailing market conditions,” 4D reported on Friday, the biotech had been making progress on finding some new financing and turned to Oxford with an alternative late on Thursday and then again Friday morning.

Fed­er­al judge de­nies Bris­tol My­er­s' at­tempt to avoid Cel­gene share­hold­er law­suit

Some Celgene shareholders aren’t happy with how Bristol Myers Squibb’s takeover went down.

On Friday, a New York federal judge ruled that they have a case against the pharma giant, denying a request to dismiss allegations that it purposely slow-rolled Breyanzi’s approval to avoid paying out $6.4 billion in contingent value rights (CVR).

When Bristol Myers put down $74 billion to scoop up Celgene back in 2019, liso-cel — the CAR-T lymphoma treatment now marketed as Breyanzi — was supposedly one of the centerpieces of the deal. After going back and forth on negotiations for about six months, BMS put $6.4 billion into a CVR agreement that required an FDA approval for Zeposia, Breyanzi and Abecma, each by an established date.

Chris Anzalone, Arrowhead CEO

Take­da, Ar­row­head spot­light da­ta from small tri­al show­ing RNAi works in a rare liv­er con­di­tion

Almost two years after Takeda wagered $300 million cash to partner with Arrowhead on an RNAi therapy for a rare disease, the companies are spelling out Phase II data that they believe put them one step closer to their big dreams.

In a small, open label study involving only 16 patients who had liver disease associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), Arrowhead’s candidate — fazirsiran, previously ARO-AAT — spurred substantial reductions in accumulated mutant AAT protein in the liver, a hallmark of the condition. Investigators also tracked improvements in symptoms, with seven out of 12 who received the high, 200 mg dose seeing regression of liver fibrosis.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

No stranger to gene ther­a­py woes, Astel­las runs in­to an­oth­er safe­ty-re­lat­ed clin­i­cal hold

Astellas Pharma, which has been at the forefront of uncovering the risks associated with gene therapies delivered by adeno-associated viruses, must take another safety alarm head-on.

The FDA has slapped a clinical hold on Astellas’ Phase I/II trial of a gene therapy candidate for late-onset Pompe disease, after investigators flagged a serious case of peripheral sensory neuropathy.

It marks the latest in a streak of setbacks Astellas has encountered since making a splashy entry into the gene therapy space with its $3 billion buyout of Audentes. But the lead program, AT132 for the treatment of X-linked myotubular myopathy (XLMTM), had to be halted more than once after a total of four patients died in the trial — and the scientific community still doesn’t have all the answers of what caused the deaths.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.