Finch grabs a $53M round de­signed to take their ‘break­through’ mi­cro­bio­me treat­ment through a po­ten­tial­ly piv­otal tri­al

With a break­through des­ig­na­tion in one hand and a fresh $53 mil­lion in ven­ture back­ing in the oth­er, Somerville, MA-based Finch Ther­a­peu­tics is tak­ing a shot at a one-tri­al path­way to a pos­si­ble FDA OK for their new treat­ment for pre­vent­ing re­cur­rent C. dif­fi­cile in­fec­tions.

The fund­ing brings their to­tal raise for the mi­cro­bio­me com­pa­ny to $130 mil­lion, CEO Mark Smith tells me — enough mon­ey to pave a run­way past the FDA ap­proval they’ve sketched in­to the most op­ti­mistic ver­sion for their near-term fu­ture. 

Smith says that based on their talks with reg­u­la­tors, the FDA would be sat­is­fied if they could see high ef­fi­ca­cy in this tri­al. If the p val­ue comes in low­er, it would serve as the first of two, with reg­u­la­tors look­ing for con­fir­ma­tion of the ef­fect in a fol­low-up study.

Based on ear­li­er re­sults, Smith says a win­ning com­par­i­son would be around 80% ef­fi­ca­cy in the treat­ment arm com­pared to a con­trol arm ef­fect — where pa­tients just get an­tibi­otics — in the 40% to 50% mark.

“We were re­al­ly pleased with the out­come of the con­ver­sa­tion,” says the CEO.  “It’s a high bar for the ef­fect size we’re look­ing for.”

It’s no sure thing. Finch — who struck a deal to col­lab­o­rate with Take­da on IBD — is work­ing with da­ta they gath­ered in a small study, where they saw an 88% rate of ef­fi­ca­cy. Ef­fi­ca­cy was de­fined as two months with no re­cur­rence of the C. diff. That per­suad­ed them to see if they could blaze a path for­ward with a sin­gle piv­otal study, which would take them past a num­ber of ri­vals al­so fo­cused on the same tar­get.

That ef­fect, though, is “right in line” with fe­cal trans­plan­ta­tion. So why not con­tin­ue with the fe­cal ma­te­r­i­al?

In part be­cause it in­volves a pro­ce­dure, Smith replies, which a ther­a­py would cut out of the equa­tion. Sec­ond, if they can land an FDA ap­proval, reg­u­la­tors will like­ly re­quire the ap­proved ther­a­py over fe­cal trans­plan­ta­tion, which is still ex­per­i­men­tal. In ad­di­tion, the FDA is wary about fe­cal trans­plan­ta­tion, re­cent­ly not­ing a death due to an in­fec­tion from a mul­ti-drug re­sis­tant or­gan­ism picked up in one pro­ce­dure. 

Smith has some in­sights in­to the fe­cal trans­plan­ta­tion world gar­nered from a front-row seat. He’s been build­ing Finch Ther­a­peu­tics on the foun­da­tion pro­vid­ed by Open­Bio­me, a fe­cal trans­plant com­pa­ny he found­ed. And he’s been en­gi­neer­ing new prod­ucts based on that ex­pe­ri­ence with the gut.

And they’ve been mov­ing fast, pick­ing up their lead drug CP101 in a merg­er with Cresto­vo — which brought in ad­di­tion­al sup­port from Chris Shumway of Shumway Cap­i­tal — ex­e­cut­ing a $36 mil­lion C round a lit­tle more than a year ago.

Their time­line takes them to a tri­al read­out in H1 2020.

Suc­cess here would al­so ac­cel­er­ate their work on autism, which fol­lows up on some ev­i­dence that fe­cal trans­plan­ta­tion has an ef­fect here as well.

New in­vestors in­clud­ing OCV Part­ners, Susque­han­na In­ter­na­tion­al Group and Trans-Pa­cif­ic Tech­nol­o­gy Fund jumped in to the syn­di­cate, along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestors Avenir Growth Cap­i­tal, Mor­gan No­ble, Shumway Cap­i­tal, and Wil­lett Ad­vi­sors.

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

UP­DAT­ED: Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time Monday morning the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation of a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month. In a followup call, Dunsire also noted that the company will likely need 200 to 250 reps for this marketing task on both sides of the Atlantic. And analysts were quick to note that the dealmaking at Lundbeck isn’t done, with another $2 billion to $3 billion available for more deals to beef up the pipeline.

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San Diego cou­ple charged with steal­ing trade se­crets, open­ing Chi­nese biotech as DOJ crack­down con­tin­ues

A San Diego couple has been charged with stealing trade secrets from a US hospital and opening a business based off those secrets in China as the controversial industry-wide crackdown on alleged corporate espionage continues. On the same day, the Department of Justice announced they had arrested Beijing representative Zhongsan Liu for allegedly trying to obtain research visas for government recruiters.

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UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen pulls the plug on prized IPF drug from $562M+ Stromedix buy­out

One of Biogen’s attempts to branch out has flopped as the biotech scraps a mid-stage program for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

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Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Warts for the win: Aclar­is' lead drug clears piv­otal study

Aclaris Therapeutics has found a way to get rid of the warts and all.

The company — which earlier this month decided to focus on its arsenal of kinase inhibitors — on Monday unveiled positive data from a pivotal study testing its lead experimental drug for use in common warts.

The drug, A-101, was tested in a 502-patient study called THWART-2 — patients enrolled had one to six warts before qualifying for the trial. Patients either self-administered A-101 topical solution or a vehicle twice a week over a two-month period. A higher proportion of patients on the drug (a potent hydrogen peroxide topical solution) saw their warts disappear at day 60, versus the vehicle (p<0.0001) — meeting the main goal of the study.  Each secondary endpoint also emerged in favor of A-101, the company said.

Charles Nichols, LSU School of Medicine

Could psy­che­delics tack­le the obe­si­ty cri­sis? A long­time re­searcher in the field says his lat­est mouse study sug­gests po­ten­tial

Psychedelics have experienced a renaissance in recent years amid a torrent of preclinical and clinical research suggesting it might provide a path to treat mood disorders conventional remedies have only scraped at. Now a preclinical trial from a young biotech suggests at least one psychedelic compound has effects beyond the mind, and — if you believe the still very, very early hype — could provide the first single remedy for some of the main complications of obesity.

Ac­celeron drops a de­vel­op­ment pro­gram as #2 drug fails to spark func­tion­al ben­e­fits in pa­tients with a rare neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ail­ment

Acceleron is scrapping a muscular dystrophy development program underway for its number 2 drug in the pipeline after pouring over some failed mid-stage secondary data.

Gone is the ACE-083 project in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Their drug hit the primary endpoint on building muscle but flopped on key secondaries for functional improvements in patients, which execs felt was vital to the drug’s success.