Eye­ing an IPO, ADC Ther­a­peu­tics fu­els piv­otal can­cer tri­als with a $200M mega-round backed by As­traZeneca

Just days af­ter Gilead and its new sub­sidiary Kite won a ground­break­ing FDA ap­proval for their CAR-T ther­a­py Yescar­ta for B-cell lym­phomas, Lau­sanne, Switzer­land-based ADC Ther­a­peu­tics is rolling out a jaw-drop­ping $200 mil­lion mega-round to gam­ble — in part — on a next-gen an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate that the back­ers feel can com­pete just fine with the per­son­al­ized cell ther­a­py.

The lat­est round brings ADC’s to­tal ven­ture take to $455 mil­lion, po­si­tion­ing them for a pair of Phase II stud­ies that po­ten­tial­ly could put them in line for an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval — par­tic­u­lar­ly if they come close to match­ing the orig­i­nal proof-of-con­cept da­ta that was post­ed last June.

Chris Mar­tin was one of the orig­i­nal board mem­bers at ADC back in 2011 when the biotech was launched. Al­most ex­act­ly three years ago he helped arrange the sale of the UK’s Spirogen — where he was CEO — to As­traZeneca in a $440 mil­lion deal, which the phar­ma gi­ant paired with a $20 mil­lion in­vest­ment in ADC. As­traZeneca matched that in­vest­ment with an un­spec­i­fied li­cens­ing deal with ADC which is in the clin­ic. Au­ven Ther­a­peu­tics — found­ed by Stephen Evans-Freke and Pe­ter Corr in Lau­sanne — fund­ed both com­pa­nies and Mar­tin be­came the CEO at ADC two years ago.

Chris Mar­tin

Au­ven Ther­a­peu­tics al­so joined the ex­pand­ed syn­di­cate on this round, along­side Red­mile, the Wild fam­i­ly of­fice and As­traZeneca, among oth­er un­named in­vestors.

But ADC and Spirogen didn’t just share a com­mon fi­nan­cial pedi­gree, they al­so share a tech­nol­o­gy: pyrroloben­zo­di­azepine-based war­heads which the re­searchers be­lieve are or­ders of mag­ni­tude bet­ter than the first gen­er­a­tion of an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates that were steered to the mar­ket by Seat­tle Ge­net­ics and oth­ers. These drugs use an an­ti­body to steer their way to can­cer cells and then drop a tox­ic pay­load where they are in­tend­ed to do the most good.

Last sum­mer, ADC backed up its new-wave boast by rolling out an ear­ly snap­shot of Phase I hu­man da­ta from its two lead ther­a­pies — AD­CT-301 and AD­CT-402.

Their 402 pro­gram tar­gets CD19, a fa­vorite in the CAR-T crowd. And re­searchers un­der CMO Jay Fein­gold, a for­mer VP of can­cer re­search at Wyeth, reg­is­tered a 57% over­all re­sponse rate, with an im­pres­sive 43% com­plete re­sponse tal­ly in drug-re­sis­tant cas­es of dif­fuse large B-cell lym­phomas. Their drug 301 came in with a 38% over­all re­sponse rate in a small group of re­frac­to­ry Hodgkin’s lym­phoma pa­tients.

Mar­tin, in his own un­der­stat­ed way, tells me: “We were en­cour­aged by that.”

ADC has been grow­ing as the cash con­tin­ues to roll in. Now 66 staffers, Mar­tin ex­pects to have a pay­roll of 70 by year’s end. On­ly 14 of those jobs are ac­tu­al­ly in Lau­sanne, the rest are scat­tered around the biotech world. The pre­clin­i­cal work is done in Lon­don, clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in New Jer­sey and man­u­fac­tur­ing is in San Fran­cis­co, where they’ve been work­ing with Stem­cen­trx, now a sub­sidiary of Ab­b­Vie.

Both of these mid-stage stud­ies are ex­pect­ed to get start­ed in the first half of next year, with 402 out front with a Q1 launch. Mar­tin ex­pects pa­tient re­cruit­ment to take about 6 months, with da­ta by the end of 2018 or ear­ly 2019, when they can re­view about fil­ing with the reg­u­la­to­ry agen­cies. Mar­tin isn’t promis­ing ex­act­ly when that will be, but fil­ing on Phase II in can­cer is now stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure in the on­col­o­gy world.

“At the mo­ment,” he says, “our over­all guid­ing prin­ci­ple is to get ef­fec­tive drugs in­to pa­tients that need it as quick­ly as pos­si­ble.”

While Yescar­ta has been post­ing im­pres­sive out­comes ahead of 402, Mar­tin doesn’t feel like they’ve been beat­en to the punch on DL­B­CL. Quite the con­trary. With a drug that can be de­liv­ered straight to pa­tients, pre­sum­ably at a low­er cost and sim­i­lar ef­fi­ca­cy, with a much safer side ef­fect pro­file, he feels the lit­tle biotech can com­pete with Gilead and its glob­al mar­ket­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.

By next year, ADC will al­so have six ther­a­pies in the clin­ic — with two more lin­ing up INDs — open­ing up some more part­ner­ing prospects.

In the mean­time, Mar­tin is al­so qui­et­ly con­fi­dent that the com­pa­ny will be in a good po­si­tion to IPO, when the time is right. At this point, with a pri­vate syn­di­cate ready to come up with the biggest Eu­ro­pean biotech round in some three years, he says an IPO would have just proven to be a ma­jor dis­trac­tion. Un­til the right time, he says, ADC re­mains “IPO ready,” with au­dit­ed fi­nan­cials and a prospec­tus it’s keep­ing up to date as they pro­ceed.

UP­DAT­ED: Chica­go biotech ar­gues blue­bird, Third Rock 'killed' its ri­val, pi­o­neer­ing tha­lassemia gene ther­a­py in law­suit

Blue­bird bio $BLUE chief Nick Leschly court­ed con­tro­ver­sy last week when he re­vealed the com­pa­ny’s be­ta tha­lassemia treat­ment will car­ry a jaw-drop­ping $1.8 mil­lion price tag over a 5-year pe­ri­od in Eu­rope — mak­ing it the plan­et’s sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py be­hind No­var­tis’ $NVS fresh­ly ap­proved spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy ther­a­py, Zol­gens­ma, at $2.1 mil­lion. A Chica­go biotech, mean­while, has been fum­ing at the side­lines. In a law­suit filed ear­li­er this month, Er­rant Gene Ther­a­peu­tics al­leged that blue­bird and ven­ture cap­i­tal group Third Rock un­law­ful­ly prised a vi­ral vec­tor, de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter (MSK), from its grasp, and thwart­ed the de­vel­op­ment of its sem­i­nal gene ther­a­py.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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Arc­turus ex­pands col­lab­o­ra­tion, adding $30M cash; Ku­ra shoots for $100M raise

→  Rare dis­ease play­er Ul­tragenyx $RARE is ex­pand­ing its al­liance with Arc­turus $ARCT, pay­ing $24 mil­lion for eq­ui­ty and an­oth­er $6 mil­lion in an up­front as the two part­ners ex­pand their col­lab­o­ra­tion to in­clude up to 12 tar­gets. “This ex­pand­ed col­lab­o­ra­tion fur­ther so­lid­i­fies our mR­NA plat­form by adding ad­di­tion­al tar­gets and ex­pand­ing our abil­i­ty to po­ten­tial­ly treat more dis­eases,” said Emil Kakkis, the CEO at Ul­tragenyx. “We are pleased with the progress of our on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion. Our most ad­vanced mR­NA pro­gram, UX053 for the treat­ment of Glyco­gen Stor­age Dis­ease Type III, is ex­pect­ed to move in­to the clin­ic next year, and we look for­ward to fur­ther build­ing up­on the ini­tial suc­cess of this part­ner­ship.”

Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford braces po­lit­i­cal storm as UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors scru­ti­nize fund sus­pen­sion

The shock of Neil Wood­ford’s de­ci­sion to block with­drawals for his flag­ship fund is still rip­pling through the rest of his port­fo­lio — and be­yond. Un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors are now tak­ing a hard look while in­vestors con­tin­ue to flee.

In a re­sponse let­ter to an MP, the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty re­vealed that it’s opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing months of en­gage­ment with Link Fund So­lu­tions, which tech­ni­cal­ly del­e­gat­ed Wood­ford’s firm to man­age its funds.

Dave Barrett, Brian Chee, Amir Nashat, Amy Schulman. Polaris

Bob Langer's first port of call — Po­laris Part­ners — maps $400M for ninth fund

Health and tech ven­ture group Po­laris Part­ners, which counts Alec­tor, Al­ny­lam and Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine as part of its port­fo­lio, is set­ting up its ninth fund, rough­ly two years af­ter it closed Po­laris VI­II with $435 mil­lion in the bank, sur­pass­ing its tar­get by $35 mil­lion.

The Boston-based firm, in an SEC fil­ing, said it in­tends to raise $400 mil­lion for the fund. Po­laris — which rou­tine­ly backs com­pa­nies mold­ed out of the work done in the lab of pro­lif­ic sci­en­tist Bob Langer of MIT  — typ­i­cal­ly in­vests ear­ly, and sticks around till com­pa­nies are in the green. Like its peers at Flag­ship and Third Rock, Po­laris is all about cham­pi­oning the lo­cal biotech scene with a steady flow of start­up cash.

John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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Partners Innovation Fund

David de Graaf now has his $28.5M launch round in place, build­ing a coen­zyme A plat­form in his lat­est start­up

Long­time biotech ex­ec David de Graaf has the cash he needs to set up the pre­clin­i­cal foun­da­tion for his coen­zyme A me­tab­o­lism com­pa­ny Comet. A few high-pro­file in­vestors joined the ven­ture syn­di­cate to sup­ply Comet with $28.5 mil­lion in launch mon­ey — enough to get it two years in­to the plat­form-build­ing game, with­in knock­ing dis­tance of the clin­ic.

Canaan jumped in along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestor Sofinno­va Part­ners to co-lead the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tion by ex­ist­ing in­vestor INKEF Cap­i­tal and new in­vestor BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal.

Gilead baits new al­liance with $45M up­front, div­ing in­to the busy pro­tein degra­da­tion field

Gilead is jump­ing on board the pro­tein degra­da­tion band­wag­on. And they’re turn­ing to a low-pro­file Third Rock start­up for the ex­per­tise. But if you were look­ing for a trans­for­ma­tion­al deal to kick up fresh en­thu­si­asm for Gilead, you’ll have to re­main pa­tient.

This one will have a long way to go be­fore they get in­to the clin­ic.

The big biotech said Wednes­day morn­ing that it is pay­ing $45 mil­lion up­front and re­serv­ing a whop­ping $2.3 bil­lion in biotech bucks if San Fran­cis­co-based Nurix can point the way to new can­cer ther­a­pies, as well as drugs for oth­er, un­spec­i­fied dis­eases.

A new num­ber 1 drug? Keytru­da tapped to top the 10 biggest block­busters on the world stage by 2024

Analysts may be fretting about Keytruda’s longterm prospects as a host of rival therapies elbow their way to the market. But the folks at Evaluate Pharma are confident that last year’s $7 billion earner is headed for glory, tapping it to beat out the current #1 therapy Humira as AbbVie watches that franchise swoon over the next 5 years.

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