Ex-Den­dreon chief Mitch Gold steers his way back to the pub­lic mar­kets, look­ing to jump­start a new clin­i­cal pro­gram

Mitch Gold is com­ing back to the helm of a pub­lic biotech com­pa­ny.

The for­mer Den­dreon CEO — and cur­rent ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist — who was forced out of that com­pa­ny as Provenge slow­ly de­railed, is get­ting back in­to the pub­lic eye with con­sid­er­ably less fan­fare this time around.

Af­ter Ni­valis’ drug failed in a dis­as­trous at­tempt to come up with an add-on to Ver­tex’s cys­tic fi­bro­sis com­bo, about the on­ly thing left af­ter the in­evitable slash and burn on staff and costs was a vir­tu­al­ly emp­ty pub­lic shell.

Mitch Gold

Ni­valis had man­aged to catch one of the last waves in the old IPO boom in cash­ing in on in­vestors’ in­ter­est in biotech. But by the time the mar­ket closed to­day the mar­ket cap had shrunk down to a mere $41.3 mil­lion. And now Gold’s Alpine Im­mune Sys­tem is tak­ing that over in a re­verse merg­er that will scoot it out in­to the pub­lic mar­ket.

One of the big ideas at Alpine is to of­fer cus­tom en­gi­neer­ing work for the cell ther­a­pies now in the pipeline. Kite, crosstown Seat­tle biotech Juno and oth­ers have been adapt­ing T cells in­to can­cer weapons. And Alpine’s top sci­en­tists — Ryan Swan­son and Michael Ko­r­nack­er, who both left Am­gen af­ter the big biotech opt­ed to shut­ter its Seat­tle cam­pus — have come up with some new tech that they be­lieve can make CAR-Ts and TCRs bet­ter equipped to hunt down and de­stroy can­cer cells.

The com­pa­ny has al­so been work­ing on pro­teins that can ei­ther amp up or tamp down on an im­mune re­sponse, and Alpine is plan­ning to get start­ed in the clin­ic with a Phase I study for a dual ICOS/CD28 an­tag­o­nist en­gi­neered for use in au­toim­mune and in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases in the sec­ond half of 2018.

To get the deal done, Fra­zier Health­care Part­ners, Gold’s Alpine BioVen­tures, and Or­biMed Ad­vi­sors will in­vest a com­bined ad­di­tion­al $17 mil­lion in­to Alpine Im­mune Sci­ences. The cash Alpine Im­mune brings to the ta­ble, com­bined with the $44 mil­lion that Ni­valis has left, will give the com­pa­ny $90 mil­lion in cash. And Ni­valis share­hold­ers will hang on to 26% of the merged op­er­a­tions.

Long­time biotech ob­servers will re­mem­ber — or can’t for­get — that Den­dreon was once one of the high fly­ers in the in­dus­try. Af­ter the FDA fi­nal­ly got around to ap­prov­ing Provenge, though, new ther­a­pies were lin­ing up to claim the bulk of the mar­ket it aimed for. But Gold made out well, cash­ing in $29 mil­lion in stock on the ap­proval news and stock spike.

“This merg­er pro­vides a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty to ac­cel­er­ate the de­vel­op­ment of our nov­el im­munother­a­py plat­form fo­cused on both in­flam­ma­tion and im­muno-on­col­o­gy,” said Gold in a state­ment. “We look for­ward to build­ing on our ear­ly suc­cess by tak­ing mul­ti­ple nov­el pro­grams in­to the clin­ic to help pa­tients with sig­nif­i­cant med­ical needs.”

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

As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

David Meline (file photo)

Mod­er­na’s new CFO took a cut in salary to jump to the mR­NA rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But then there’s the rest of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age

David Meline took a little off the top of his salary when he jumped from the CFO post at giant Amgen to become the numbers czar at the upstart vaccines revolutionary Moderna. But the SEC filing that goes with a major hire also illustrates how it puts him in line for a fortune — provided the biotech player makes good as a promising game changer.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the base salary: $600,000. Or the up-to 50% annual cash bonus — an industry standard — that comes with it. True, the 62-year-old earned $999,000 at Amgen in 2019, but it’s the stock options that really count in the current market bliss for all things biopharma. And there Meline did well.

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Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Michael Gladstone, partner at Atlas Venture

At­las rais­es new $400M fund amid spree of VC rais­es. Here’s what they’ll spend it on

You can add another few hundred million to the now Montana-sized reservoir of cash biotech VCs have raised since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

Atlas Venture, the prominent Kendall Square incubator, has raised $400 million for its twelfth biotech fund, their first in 3 years. After a string of mammoth new raises from other major VCs in April and May, the total pot now stands between $5 billion and $6 billion, depending on how you slice it.

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