Five months, $98.5M and a PhII drug from No­var­tis lat­er, Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics is floor­ing it


Last No­vem­ber, Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics end­ed a year of self-im­posed start­up si­lence with a hefty $48.5 mil­lion Se­ries A and a bur­geon­ing team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors fo­cused on cord blood stem cell ther­a­pies. To­day, just a lit­tle more than 5 months lat­er, it’s adding $50 mil­lion in Se­ries B cash from some mar­quee in­vestors that in­cludes the ven­ture group for­mer­ly known as Google and in-li­cens­ing a mid-stage drug that No­var­tis clear­ly thinks high­ly of for en­hanc­ing cord blood stem cells as a treat­ment.

Oh, and some of that ven­ture cash is from crossover in­vestors, spurring some added think­ing in this fledg­ling biotech about the right tim­ing on a po­ten­tial IPO.

The drug is HSC835, which is now be­ing rechris­tened as MG­TA-456. And the ther­a­py comes with da­ta from some small tri­als, help­ing ad­vance Ma­gen­ta with a full-fledged clin­i­cal pro­gram which fits neat­ly in­to Ma­gen­ta’s R&D strat­e­gy.

No­var­tis has spot­light­ed this drug for its abil­i­ty to im­prove the ther­a­peu­tic pow­er of um­bil­i­cal cord trans­plants, amp­ing up the stem cells need­ed for the en­graft­ment process to cre­ate in­fec­tion-fight­ing cells. And that’s right in Ma­gen­ta’s wheel­house.

It’s a great fit for Ma­gen­ta, CEO Ja­son Gard­ner tells me. The biotech hired in a pair of the ear­ly in­ves­ti­ga­tors on this pro­gram. And when they went to No­var­tis to sound out their in­ter­est man­ag­ing its clin­i­cal fu­ture, de­clar­ing a com­mit­ment to hus­tling it through the clin­ic, the mes­sage res­onat­ed well at the phar­ma gi­ant, which re­tains an un­spec­i­fied in­ter­est in the drug.

Ma­gen­ta is keep­ing those terms to it­self — which is gen­er­al­ly how No­var­tis likes to keep things.

The ex­tra $50 mil­lion that just ar­rived in an ac­cel­er­at­ed Se­ries B will al­so help the biotech ex­pand its fo­cus on can­cer, ge­net­ic dis­eases and au­toim­mu­ni­ty.

GV (for­mer­ly Google Ven­tures) led the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tion from all ex­ist­ing in­vestors, in­clud­ing At­las Ven­ture, Third Rock Ven­tures, Part­ners In­no­va­tion Fund and Ac­cess In­dus­tries. The fi­nanc­ing al­so in­clud­ed Cas­din Cap­i­tal and oth­er crossover in­vestors, as well as Be The Match Bio­Ther­a­pies, a sub­sidiary of Na­tion­al Mar­row Donor Pro­gram. And Be The Match Bio­Ther­a­pies — with its 178 US trans­plant cen­ters — is al­ly­ing with the biotech as it push­es ahead with new clin­i­cal tri­als.

We’re a long way from the 2014 biotech IPO boom, which was the last time you could flip a start­up in­to Nas­daq. But the CEO is hap­py to con­cede that the sub­ject has come up in­side the com­pa­ny.

“We have dis­cussed that op­tion,” says Gard­ner. “We like that op­tion.” But there are lots of op­tions to con­sid­er right now, he adds, in­clud­ing do­ing some non-di­lu­tive deals.

Says Gard­ner: “We like to have all the op­tions avail­able to the com­pa­ny.”

Out-li­cens­ing is not a new strat­e­gy for No­var­tis. Just last March No­var­tis de­cid­ed to spin out a pair of an­ti-ag­ing ther­a­peu­tics to a PureTech start­up, the lat­est in a se­ries of out-li­cens­ing deals for a com­pa­ny that has been care­ful to fo­cus on the core strat­e­gy un­der Chair­man Jo­erg Rein­hardt, who’s keen­ly in­ter­est­ed in main­tain­ing a rel­a­tive­ly con­ser­v­a­tive re­search fo­cus at the phar­ma gi­ant as rev­enue flat­tened and then de­clined.

For Gard­ner, a GSK vet who was sent to Cam­bridge to help scout new ther­a­pies for the phar­ma gi­ant and wound up get­ting sucked in­to At­las’ start­up world, the ac­cel­er­a­tion at Ma­gen­ta feels fine.

By the end of this year, says Gard­ner, he ex­pects the 26-mem­ber team at Ma­gen­ta to grow to about 40. And along the way will come more da­ta and a clear out­line of de­vel­op­ment time­lines that will put this biotech way ahead of most any fledg­ling to pop up in the Boston hub.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

UP­DAT­ED: With loom­ing ‘apoc­a­lypse of drug re­sis­tance,’ Mer­ck’s com­bi­na­tion an­tibi­ot­ic scores FDA ap­proval on two fronts

Merck — one of the last large biopharmaceuticals companies in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Wednesday said the FDA had sanctioned the approval of its combination antibacterial for the treatment of complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections.

To curb the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and maintain the efficacy of the therapy, Recarbrio (and other antibacterials) — the drug must be used to treat or prevent infections that are proven or strongly suspected to be caused by susceptible gram-negative bacteria, Merck $MRK said.

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