Fa­heem Has­nain ups cash haul to $330M for a fledg­ling biotech that is mov­ing ‘at light speed’

Just six months ago, Fa­heem Has­nain rolled out his lat­est biotech ven­ture with a $100 mil­lion mega-round for seed mon­ey. To­day, he’s adding $230 mil­lion more for Gos­samer Bio from a glob­al syn­di­cate of heavy­weight in­vestors that is bet­ting big that the ex-Re­cep­tos chief and his team can birth a ma­jor new com­pa­ny vir­tu­al­ly overnight by biotech stan­dards, with a pipeline that al­ready in­cludes 4 drugs, more ther­a­pies com­ing and an em­ploy­ee ros­ter slat­ed to hit 100 by the end of this year.

And yes, there’s an IPO out there some­where along the way, he says, when the stars align.

“We just start­ed in Jan­u­ary,” Has­nain told me over the week­end, “and we’ve been go­ing at light speed.”

Sheila Gu­jrathi

Start­ing with a hand­ful of key play­ers from his Re­cep­tos days, Has­nain’s Gos­samer has al­ready grown to 60 staffers, he adds, with plans to leap to about 100 by the end of the year. Next year he ex­pects the pipeline to swell to 5 to 6 mid-stage pro­grams, each en­sconced in its own sub­sidiary to al­low for one-on-one deal­mak­ing dis­cus­sions, as they might arise.

Has­nain has one of the most im­pres­sive re­sumes in biotech, hav­ing sold Re­cep­tos and its star drug ozan­i­mod — still a block­buster con­tender at Cel­gene, though one held up by a sna­fu with the NDA — for $7.2 bil­lion. And he has one of the best con­nect­ed syn­di­cates in the book ready to back his com­pa­ny-cre­ation plan. 

Chi­na’s in­flu­en­tial Hill­house Cap­i­tal led the round, with help from the Abu Dhabi In­vest­ment Au­thor­i­ty, In­vus, The Bau­post Group and Po­laris Part­ners. Gos­samer Bio’s ex­ist­ing in­vestors, Arch Ven­ture Part­ners and Omega Funds, stepped back up, with Arch’s Bob Nelsen demon­strat­ing once again his ap­petite for go­ing big, fast with oth­er in­vestors who have the same ap­proach.

This is not your typ­i­cal start­up. 

Has­nain joins a se­lect group of play­ers like Arie Bellde­grun or some of the new Chi­na ex­ecs who are by­pass­ing the slow and me­thod­i­cal art of com­pa­ny cre­ation around 1 or 2 key drugs. Backed with hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars, they are look­ing for vir­tu­al overnight suc­cess in cre­at­ing in­flu­en­tial de­vel­op­ment ef­forts. And giv­en the fail­ure rate in drug de­vel­op­ment, they face a daunt­ing task with tough odds.

Bob Nelsen

It’s a new world for high­ly suc­cess­ful teams, though, adding Chi­nese in­vestors to syn­di­cates and go­ing big ear­ly. I asked Has­nain if he could have done some­thing like this 5 years ago.

“Five years ago was when we took Re­cep­tos pub­lic,” says Has­nain. “We were in the ear­ly wave of go­ing pub­lic. So sen­ti­ment is one (dif­fer­ence). Sen­ti­ment is def­i­nite­ly much more op­ti­mistic to­day.”

In­deed it is.

Has­nain is step­ping up to the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man’s spot with the B round, while his long­time col­league Sheila Gu­jrathi takes the CEO’s job. His job now is to do the broad strate­gic think­ing, while al­low­ing Gu­jrathi to move up and open a new chap­ter in her ca­reer.

It’s time, he says.

The two of them have been play­ing the lead role in snap­ping up new drugs for the pipeline. 

“I can’t dis­close all the tar­gets,” says Has­nain, who wants to re­tain some cov­er for the pipeline for a few months longer. “We do have 3 clin­i­cal-stage pro­grams in the com­pa­ny and one pre­clin­i­cal.”

One of those deals is pub­lic. Has­nain and his team in-li­censed a drug called KB-4924 (now GB004) from Aer­pio Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. They paid $20 mil­lion in cash and put $400 mil­lion on the ta­ble in mile­stones for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al hy­pox­ia-in­ducible fac­tor-1 al­pha (HIF-1 al­pha) sta­bi­liz­er in de­vel­op­ment for IBD.

A few days ago Gos­samer bagged an­oth­er drug for a “large au­toim­mune in­di­ca­tion,” which is en­ter­ing Phase II with “some sub­stan­tial val­i­da­tion around the tar­get” which he thinks gives it the kind of pipeline-in-a-prod­uct po­ten­tial he saw in ozan­i­mod. That one is stay­ing un­der wraps for now.

Has­nain’s plans for this com­pa­ny stretch well past the first $330 mil­lion in. He’s al­ready talk­ing about fil­ing an IPO when the time is right.

“Go­ing pub­lic is def­i­nite­ly in our sights,” he says.


Fa­heem Has­nain. GOS­SAMER BIO

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

No­vavax snags Ben Machielse for CMC and pro­motes a trio of staffers; Mar­ty Du­vall lands an­oth­er CEO post at On­copep­tides

Novavax has been making waves recently by securing a $384 million commitment from CEPI to cover R&D and manufacturing for its Covid-19 vaccine while also spending $167 million on a 150,000 square-foot facility. The Maryland biotech continues to shore up its leadership team as well, bringing in Ben Machielse as their EVP of CMC just a couple weeks after nabbing AstraZeneca vet Filip Dubrovsky as their new CMO. Machielse was president and CEO of Vtesse from 2014-17, and before that, he also spent more than 11 years at MedImmune and was EVP of operations for the back half of his tenure.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Dan Gold, MEI Pharma CEO

De­vel­op­ment part­ners at MEI, Helsinn dump a high-risk PhI­II AML study af­ter con­clud­ing it would fail sur­vival goal

Four years after Switzerland’s Helsinn put $25 million of cash on the table for an upfront and near-term milestone to take MEI Pharma’s drug pracinostat into a long-running Phase III trial for acute myeloid leukemia, the partners are walking away from a clinical pileup.

The drug — an HDAC inhibitor — failed to pass muster during a futility analysis, as researchers concluded that pracinostat combined with azacitidine wasn’t going to outperform the control group in the pivotal.

Douglas Love, Annexon CEO (Annexon)

IPO bound? A Bay Area biotech grabs a mega-round on the road to a piv­otal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion pro­gram

South San Francisco-based Annexon has added $100 million to its cash reserves, along with a new roster of marquee investors backing their play on the classical complement pathway involved in neurodegeneration. And that may well fit the profile for an IPO — though right now everything seems to be working on that score.

Eighteen months after Bain and their syndicate partners put up $75 million to fuel clinical work, Annexon is back at the trough. And this time they’re adding Redmile Group for the lead role, with supporting investments from these new arrivals: BlackRock, Deerfield Management Company, Eventide Asset Management, Farallon Capital Management, Janus Henderson Investors and Logos Capital.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

No­var­tis los­es biosim­i­lar ap­peal as court up­holds a 31-year mo­nop­oly by Am­gen's En­brel

A new court ruling has strengthened Amgen’s grip on the IP estate around Enbrel, keeping biosimilars of the autoimmune and inflammatory drug at bay until 2029.

Novartis, the patent challenger, isn’t throwing in the towel yet. In a statement noting the failed appeal, its generics division Sandoz noted its reviewing options, “including potential appeal to US Supreme Court.”

It’s been almost four years since the FDA approved Erelzi, Sandoz’s copycat version of Enbrel. While sales of the Pfizer-partnered drug in the US — the market Amgen is in charge of — have dipped slightly during that time, it remains a solid megablockbuster with 2019 revenue slightly above $5 billion.

Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.