Fi­deli­ty, Val­or pool $71.8M for Jeff Aron­in's plan to re­for­mu­late a gener­ic for but­ter­fly skin dis­ease at Cas­tle Creek Phar­ma


Jeff Aronin is back.

To be sure, Aronin didn’t ex­act­ly go away. The for­mer Marathon Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals CEO mere­ly sold off a con­tro­ver­sial drug, shut­tered his em­bat­tled com­pa­ny, and ducked from the scan­dal (we’ll ex­plain). But he held on as chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Paragon Bio­sciences, which has con­tin­ued in­cu­bat­ing rare dis­ease ven­tures like Marathon.

For the first time since last May, though, Aronin is now ready to hus­tle an­oth­er re­pur­posed or­phan drug through the reg­u­la­to­ry process — with $71.8 mil­lion he just raised.

The drug, di­ac­ere­in, is a IL-1β in­hibitor used in a num­ber of coun­tries to treat joint swelling or pain, al­though its use has been re­strict­ed in the EU due to the risks of di­ar­rhea and liv­er prob­lems. It is not ap­proved in the US.

Michael Der­by

Cas­tle Creek Phar­ma, a der­ma­tol­ogy-fo­cused biotech in Paragon’s port­fo­lio of six, wants to turn this gener­ic com­pound — usu­al­ly tak­en oral­ly — in­to a top­i­cal oint­ment for the treat­ment of epi­der­mol­y­sis bul­losa sim­plex, a sub­type of the al­ready rare ge­net­ic con­di­tion known as “but­ter­fly skin.”

The com­pa­ny is go­ing to con­tin­ue a Phase II/III study with the mon­ey Paragon just raised from old sup­port­er Fi­deli­ty Man­age­ment & Re­search Com­pa­ny and new in­vestor Val­or Eq­ui­ty Part­ner on its be­half, hav­ing ob­tained the FDA’s rare pe­di­atric dis­ease des­ig­na­tion a few months ago.

Sound fa­mil­iar? It should.

Es­sen­tial­ly, Marathon ran on the same mod­el — buy­ing an old gener­ic steroid avail­able for decades in coun­tries like Cana­da and the UK along with the old da­ta pack­age, then gain­ing an FDA ap­proval through the or­phan chan­nel — un­til a price goug­ing scan­dal blew it up. Where­as some DMD pa­tients in the US had been buy­ing the drug, called de­flaza­cort, from a UK sup­pli­er for lit­tle more than $1,000 a year, Marathon at­tempt­ed to charge a list price of $89,000, pro­vok­ing out­rage from DMD pa­tients and sen­a­tors alike. Marathon swift­ly sold the drug, now Em­flaza, to PTC Ther­a­peu­tics and closed its doors.

The key dif­fer­ence here, of course, is that Cas­tle Creek is go­ing af­ter a dif­fer­ent in­di­ca­tion than the gener­ic has been used to treat. The com­pa­ny, split be­tween of­fices in Par­sip­pa­ny, NJ and Chica­go, has not brought up price in its dis­cus­sions so far.

In an ear­li­er Phase II clin­i­cal tri­al in­volv­ing 17 young EBS pa­tients, the drug was shown to help 40% of them re­duce the num­ber of blis­ters in treat­ed ar­eas by 60%, com­pared to 15% for place­bo.

Michael Der­by, pres­i­dent and gen­er­al man­ag­er of the CNS unit at Marathon, is the co-founder and CEO of Cas­tle Creek.

“We are fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing CCP-020 as an im­por­tant treat­ment for EBS and look for­ward to tar­get­ing the new in­vest­ment from Fi­deli­ty and Val­or to­wards the late-stage de­vel­op­ment of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al drug,” he said in a state­ment.


Im­age: Jeff Aronin.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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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.

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.

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.

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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