For­mer No­vo chair­man Göran An­do joins the board as Tes­sa bags $50M in ad­di­tion­al fund­ing

As Tes­sa Ther­a­peu­tics preps a piv­otal late-stage tri­al read­out and ramps up clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty for ear­ly-stage as­sets, it will be joined by a high pro­file board mem­ber as well as new in­vestors who just in­fused $50 mil­lion in­to the com­pa­ny.

Göran An­do

Göran An­do, the re­cent chair­man of No­vo Nordisk, is now an in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tor at Tes­sa. He joins a team that now has a whop­ping to­tal of $130 mil­lion to steer its virus-spe­cif­ic T cell tech­nol­o­gy-based prod­ucts to the mar­ket, in­clud­ing an $80 mil­lion raise from a sig­nif­i­cant group of Asian in­vestors an­nounced four months ago. Lead­ing that well-heeled pack was Temasek, the sov­er­eign wealth fund of Sin­ga­pore, where Tes­sa is based.

An­do was the CEO of Cell­tech be­fore it was ac­quired by UCB, and pri­or to that had served in R&D roles at Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb and Phar­ma­cia. Hav­ing sat on nu­mer­ous biotech boards, An­do says he’s drawn to Tes­sa’s unique ap­proach to T cell ther­a­py, “one of the most ex­cit­ing ar­eas in the health­care sec­tor to­day.”

Han Chong Toh

Root­ed in re­search work CSO John Con­nol­ly and CMO Han Chong Toh — of Bay­lor and the Na­tion­al Can­cer Cen­tre Sin­ga­pore, re­spec­tive­ly — Tes­sa adapts T cells to go af­ter vi­ral­ly-as­so­ci­at­ed tu­mors like cer­vi­cal and head and neck can­cer. That ap­proach, which promis­es to go be­yond some of the ground­break­ing suc­cess­es that CAR-T treat­ments have had in blood can­cers in­to sol­id tu­mors, has at­tract­ed a part­ner­ship with Park­er In­sti­tute for Can­cer Im­munother­a­py.

“Ob­vi­ous­ly there’s a lot of press and clin­i­cal da­ta and ex­cite­ment around CAR-T,” Fred Rams­dell, the vice pres­i­dent for re­search at the Park­er In­sti­tute, told End­points News at the time. “That’s great and won­der­ful. What Tes­sa is do­ing is a lot dif­fer­ent.”

John Con­nol­ly

A Phase III tri­al tar­get­ing Ep­stein-Barr Virus pos­i­tive na­sopha­ryn­geal can­cer is on­go­ing in the US and four Asian coun­tries, a pro­gram that came up with ex­cel­lent PhII da­ta when com­pared to his­tor­i­cal re­sults: two- and three-year sur­vival rates at 62.9% and 37.1%.

With the new round of fund­ing (the in­vestors were not dis­closed), the biotech will have plen­ty of cash to steer an HPV pro­gram for cer­vi­cal can­cer and oropha­ryn­geal can­cer in­to Phase II in 2019. Tes­sa has al­so been lin­ing up new tech on on­colyt­ic virus­es and chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tors for its next-gen work, which would bring them in­to liv­er and lung can­cers.

“Com­bined with the ad­di­tion­al fund­ing we have raised by ex­pand­ing our re­cent fund­ing round, I feel that we are now at a key mo­ment in our jour­ney as an im­por­tant play­er in the de­vel­op­ment of cel­lu­lar im­munother­a­py, and we are de­light­ed that Dr. An­do is join­ing us at this ex­cit­ing stage,” said CEO An­drew Khoo in a state­ment.

Atul Deshpande, Harbour BioMed chief strategy officer & head, US operations (Harbour BioMedO

An­oth­er biotech IPO set-up? Multi­na­tion­al biotech leaps from round to round, scoop­ing up cash at a blis­ter­ing pace

A short four months after announcing a $75 million haul in Series B+ fundraising, the multinational biotech Harbour BioMed pulled in another round of investments and eclipsed the nine-digit mark in the process.

Harbour completed its Series C financing, the company announced Thursday morning, raising $102.8 million and bringing its total investment sum to over $300 million since its founding in late 2016. The biotech plans to use the money to transition early-stage candidates from the discovery phase, fund candidates already in the clinic, and prep late-stage candidates for commercialization.

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Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

OWS shifts spot­light to drugs to fight Covid-19, hand­ing Re­gen­eron $450M to be­gin large scale man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US

The US government is on a spending spree. And after committing billions to vaccines defense operations are now doling out more of the big bucks through Operation Warp Speed to back a rapid flip of a drug into the market to stop Covid-19 from ravaging patients — possibly inside of 2 months.

The beneficiary this morning is Regeneron, the big biotech engaged in a frenzied race to develop an antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2 that just started a late-stage program to prove its worth in fighting the virus. BARDA and the Department of Defense are awarding Regeneron a $450 million contract to cover bulk delivery of the cocktail starting as early as late summer, with money added for fill/finish and storage activities.

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Ed Engleman (Stanford Blood Center)

Stan­ford star on­col­o­gy sci­en­tist Ed En­gle­man helped cre­ate the im­munother­a­py field. Now he wants to shake up neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion R&D

Over the last generation of drug R&D, Ed Engleman has been a standout scientist.

The Stanford professor co-founded Dendreon and provided the scientific insights needed to develop Provenge into a pioneering — though not particularly marketable — immunotherapy. He’s spurred a slate of startups, assisted by his well-connected perch as a co-founder of Vivo Capital, and took the dendritic cell story into its next chapter at a startup called Bolt.

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Nello Mainolfi (Kymera via YouTube)

Out to re­vive R&D, a resur­gent Sanofi pays $150M cash to part­ner up with a pi­o­neer­ing pro­tein degra­da­tion play­er

Frank Nestle was appointed Sanofi’s global head of immunology and inflammation research therapeutic area just days before dupilumab, the blockbuster-to-be IL-4 antibody, would be accepted for priority review. After four years of consolidating immunology expertise from multiple corners of the Sanofi family and recruiting new talents to build the discovery engine, he’s set eyes on a Phase I-ready program that he believes can grow into a Dupixent-sized franchise.

Covid-19 roundup: CDC de­bat­ing who should get first avail­able vac­cines; EU in Gilead talks af­ter US gob­bled first remde­sivir dos­es

The federal government has now spent billions of dollars accelerating the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, and yet they’ve remained hush-hush on who, precisely, would actually get inoculated once the first doses are approved and available. Internally, though, they have been debating it.

The CDC and an advisory committee of outside health experts have been working since April to devise a ranking system that would determine who receives a vaccine and when, The New York Times reported. The question of who is first in line for inoculation is important because no matter how many doses developers can make or how quickly they can make them, doses will still come out in batches; 300 million inoculations will not appear overnight.

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UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen shares spike as ex­ecs com­plete a de­layed pitch for their con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer's drug — the next move be­longs to the FDA

Biogen is stepping out onto the high wire today, reporting that the team working on the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab has now completed their submission to the FDA. And they want the agency to bless it with a priority review that would cut the agency’s decision-making time to a mere 6 months.

The news drove a 10% spike in Biogen’s stock $BIIB ahead of the bell.

Part of that spike can be attributed to a relief rally. Biogen execs rattled backers and a host of analysts earlier in the year when they unexpectedly delayed their filing to the third quarter. That delay provoked all manner of speculation after CEO Michel Vounatsos and R&D chief Al Sandrock failed to persuade influential observers that the pandemic and other factors had slowed the timeline for filing. Actually making the pitch at least satisfies skeptics that the FDA was not likely pushing back as Biogen was pushing in. From the start, Biogen execs claimed that they were doing everything in cooperation with the FDA, saying that regulators had signaled their interest in reviewing the submission.

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Daniel O'Day, Gilead CEO (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A new study points to $6.5B in pub­lic sup­port build­ing the sci­en­tif­ic foun­da­tion of Gilead­'s remde­sivir. Should that be re­flect­ed in the price?

By drug R&D standards, Gilead’s move to repurpose remdesivir for Covid-19 and grab an emergency use authorization was a remarkably easy, low-cost layup that required modest efficacy and a clean safety profile from just a small group of patients.

The drug OK also arrived after Gilead had paid much of the freight on getting it positioned to move fast.

In a study by Fred Ledley, director of the Center for Integration of Science and Industry at Bentley University in Waltham, MA, researchers concluded that the NIH had invested only $46.5 million in the research devoted to the drug ahead of the pandemic, a small sum compared to the more than $1 billion Gilead expected to spend getting it out this year, all on top of what it had already cost in R&D expenses.

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Sin­gu­lar fo­cus on ROR1 earns Velos­Bio $137M to fund PhI ADC and oth­er pro­grams

Years after selling Acerta to AstraZeneca for $7 billion, largely on the promise of its BTK inhibitor, Dave Johnson has once again gathered hefty financial support behind a new cancer target.

Matrix Capital Management and Surveyor Capital are leading a $137 million round for VelosBio, which has recently begun a Phase I study for its lead antibody-drug conjugate targeted against ROR1. Johnson took up the CEO post in October 2018.

Alexander Vos, VarmX CEO

'Fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­en­t' from Por­to­la, Dutch biotech lands €32M to steer an­ti-an­ti­co­ag­u­lant through the clin­ic

Portola may not have had much success proving the commercial value of an anti-anticoagulant, but that’s not stopping European investors from pouring $36.2 million (€32 million) into what they see as a superior approach put forth by a Dutch biotech.

VarmX’s blood thinner reversal agent stems from research done by founder and CSO Pieter Reitsma at Leiden University Medical Center. A modified recombinant form of factor X, VMX-C001 “has an insertion of 16 amino acids that replaces a stretch of 7 amino acids in the so-called serine protease domain” compared to the native coagulation factor, CEO Alexander Vos told Endpoints News.