Flag­ship un­veils gut-fo­cused up­start Kin­tai, with for­mer GSK ex­ec as chief

Pro­lif­ic ven­ture group Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing has spawned a fresh bio­phar­ma play­er with a for­mer big phar­ma ex­ec at the helm: Kin­tai Ther­a­peu­tics. The Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny is fo­cus­ing on the gut — but it is not lim­it­ing it­self to mi­cro­bio­ta and look­ing in­stead at the in­ter­play be­tween mi­crobes, im­mune cells, and neu­rons in the re­gion, to har­ness a new class of ther­a­peu­tics.

David Berry

“The gut—which is home to tril­lions of bac­te­ria, 70% of our im­mune cells, and 500 mil­lion neu­rons—is tru­ly a com­mand cen­ter, trans­mit­ting con­stant mes­sages and sig­nals through­out the body that af­fect our propen­si­ty for dis­ease,” said David Berry, gen­er­al part­ner at Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing and co-founder of Kin­tai Ther­a­peu­tics in a state­ment.

The gut im­mune sys­tem, the en­teric ner­vous sys­tem and the mi­cro­bio­me can be looked at in iso­la­tion, but it makes sense to ap­proach them in an in­te­grat­ed way us­ing com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gy and deep learn­ing al­go­rithms to un­der­stand what’s re­al­ly go­ing on at the in­ter­face be­tween the ex­ter­nal world (the gut mi­cro­bio­me) and im­mune cells, said Kin­tai chief Paul-Pe­ter Tak in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

Us­ing map­ping tech­nol­o­gy, since its found­ing in 2016, Kin­tai has iden­ti­fied 44,000 new genes and hun­dreds of new metabo­lites, and de­vel­oped a fe­cund pipeline of at least 10 ex­per­i­men­tal drugs for dif­fer­ent con­di­tions, Tak said.

The ner­vous sys­tem of the gas­troin­testi­nal tract (the en­teric ner­vous sys­tem) has five times as many nerve cells as the hu­man spinal cord, and 80% of our im­mune cells spend time in our gut, ac­cord­ing to Kin­tai.

By tar­get­ing the gut, “we are able to tar­get these (im­mune) cells and there­by have a dis­tant, re­mote an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry ef­fect…there­by hav­ing an ef­fect on neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases in the brain with­out even hav­ing to de­vel­op mol­e­cules that pen­e­trate the blood-brain bar­ri­er. We are able repli­cate the ef­fects of the gut mi­cro­bio­me with dis­crete mol­e­cules and that has led to a new class of mol­e­cules — pre­ci­sion en­teric med­i­cines — which al­low us to ac­ti­vate a cer­tain path­way in spe­cif­ic parts of the gut,” the for­mer GSK chief im­munol­o­gy of­fi­cer said. 

Tak ex­pects to be­gin hu­man stud­ies with its two lead pro­grams — meta­bol­ic syn­drome and ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis — next year, and an­tic­i­pates start­ing clin­i­cal stud­ies with five pro­grams with­in two years. In the com­ing years, the com­pa­ny in­tends to pri­or­i­tize the fields of on­col­o­gy and neu­rol­o­gy, Tak added.

For some of the com­pa­ny’s pro­grams such as meta­bol­ic syn­drome or in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease, it’s quite like­ly that Kin­tai will even­tu­al­ly seek a big phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal part­ner to has­ten the pace of drug de­vel­op­ment, he said.

Kin­tai — which gets its name from a his­tor­i­cal wood­en arch bridge, in the city of Iwaku­ni, Japan — cur­rent­ly has about 60 em­ploy­ees.


Im­age Source: Paul-Pe­ter Tak. GSK

In a stun­ning set­back, Amarin los­es big patent fight over Vas­cepa IP. And its high-fly­ing stock crash­es to earth

Amarin’s shares $AMRN were blitzed Monday evening, losing billions in value as reports spread that the company had lost its high-profile effort to keep its Vascepa patents protected from generic drugmakers.

Amarin had been fighting to keep key patents under lock and key — and away from generic rivals — for another 10 years, but District Court Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas ruled against the biotech. She ruled that:
(A)ll the Asserted Claims are invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C.§ 103. Thus, the Court finds in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s remaining infringementclaim, and in their favor on their counterclaims asserting the invalidity of the AssertedClaims under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

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UP­DAT­ED: Have a new drug that promis­es to fight Covid-19? The FDA promis­es fast ac­tion but some de­vel­op­ers aren't hap­py

After providing an emergency approval to use malaria drugs against coronavirus with little actual evidence of their efficacy or safety in that setting, the FDA has already proven that it has set aside the gold standard when it comes to the pandemic. And now regulators have spelled out a new approach to speeding development that promises immediate responses in no uncertain terms — promising a program offering the ultimate high-speed pathway to Covid-19 drug approvals.

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FDA puts pe­di­atric aGVHD drug on pri­or­i­ty re­view lane — will they go vir­tu­al with the ad­comm?

Despite worries about regulatory delays due to new work arrangements under Covid-19, the FDA appears intent to go full speed ahead with its everyday work, not only granting priority review to a stem cell therapy for acute graft versus host disease but also plotting an advisory committee meeting for it.

With a PDUFA date of September 30, the journey of the drug — remestemcel-L, or Ryoncil — could shed light on the agency’s capacity to facilitate drug development unrelated to Covid-19.

Covid 19 roundup: Trump push­es his new fa­vorite, untest­ed drug; CRISPR out­lines crip­pling im­pact of Covid-19

President Trump has a new favorite Covid-19 drug.

After a conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Politico reports, the president is pressuring the FDA to issue emergency use authorization for favipiravir, a flu drug that showed glimpses of success in China but remains unproven and carries a list of worrying side effects. The push comes after a week-plus in which the White House touted a potentially effective but unproven malaria medication despite the concerns of scientific advisors such as NIAID director Anthony Fauci. And Trump ally Rudy Giuliani has been talking up unproven cell therapy efforts on Twitter.

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Once fu­ri­ous over No­var­tis’ da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion scan­dal, the FDA now says it’s noth­ing they need to take ac­tion on

Back in the BP era — Before Pandemic — the FDA ripped Novartis for its decision to keep the agency in the dark about manipulated data used in its application for Zolgensma while its marketing application for the gene therapy was under review.

Civil and criminal sanctions were being discussed, the agency noted in a rare broadside at one of the world’s largest pharma companies. Notable lawmakers cheered the angry regulators on, urging the FDA to make an example of Novartis, which fielded Zolgensma at $2.1 million — the current record for a one-off therapy.

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Covid-19 roundup: GSK, Am­gen tai­lor R&D work to fit the coro­n­avirus age; Doud­na's ge­nomics crew launch­es di­ag­nos­tic lab

You can add Amgen and GSK to the list of deep-pocket drug R&D players who are tailoring their pipeline work to fit a new age of coronavirus.

Following in the footsteps of a lineup of big players like Eli Lilly — which has suspended patient recruitment for drug studies — Amgen and GSK have opted to take a more tailored approach. Amgen is intent on circling the wagons around key studies that are already fully enrolled, and GSK has the red light on new studies while the pandemic plays out.

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ITeos nabs $125M as they prep Keytru­da com­bi­na­tion tri­al — if Covid-19 will let them

For iTeos, it turned out, $75 million could only last so long.

Two years after announcing their eye-catching Series B raise, the Belgian biotech is back with an even larger Series B-2: $125 million.

The now $200 million financing illustrates the vast capital available for those with promising new immuno-oncology compounds, particularly those that might be used in combination with existing therapies. In December, iTeos announced a collaboration with Merck to test its lead compound with Keytruda this year. The proceeds will push forward that trial and help fund the ongoing Phase I/II trials for that compound, EOS-850, and a second one, EOS-448.

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Dai­ichi Sankyo sinks $200M in­to new gene ther­a­py tech from Ul­tragenyx

In a leap to the gene therapy space, Daiichi Sankyo has dropped $200 million to access Ultragenyx’s manufacturing technology, providing the rare disease biotech with plenty of cash and a stock boost amid a general cash crunch.

For $125 million in cash and a $75 million equity investment, Daiichi Sankyo has bought a non-exclusive license to the IP around two platforms with which it plans to develop AAV-based gene therapy products. The Japanese pharma is purchasing the stock $RARE at $60 per share, more than a third above its current price of $44.43.

It is 'kind of a proven tech­nol­o­gy': Hep B vac­cine mak­er joins glob­al hunt for coro­n­avirus vac­cine

Using lab-grown proteins that are engineered to mimic the architecture of viruses to induce an immune response, VBI Vaccines is joining the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine — harnessing technology that has initially been proved safe in early trials as a prophylactic for cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection.

Unlike the raft of the companies in the Covid-19 vaccine race — including Moderna, CureVac and J&J — VBI is taking a pan-coronavirus approach, by developing a vaccine that will encompass Covid-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).