Fra­zier clos­es 12th fund in 30 years, with $617M to bet on cell/gene ther­a­py, Big Phar­ma spin­offs and more

The team at Fra­zier Health­care did a num­ber of deals that ex­em­pli­fied its wide-rang­ing strat­e­gy in 2019: Tachi Ya­ma­da worked with gene ther­a­py pi­o­neer Jim Wil­son to launch Pas­sage Bio; Mike Gal­latin sold Mavuphar­ma and its STING-tar­get­ed small mol­e­cule to Ab­b­Vie; and Bhaskar Chaud­huri flipped Ar­cutis to an IPO just months af­ter in­tro­duc­ing it to the world via a crossover round close to $100 mil­lion. They’re now kick­ing off 2020 with a new, big­ger fund that will give them fire­pow­er to do more.

Patrick Heron Fra­zier

At $617 mil­lion, Fund X is “fair­ly dra­mat­i­cal­ly” big­ger than their last fund, said man­ag­ing part­ner Patrick Heron.

“We’re in­creas­ing­ly go­ing af­ter new ther­a­peu­tic modal­i­ties like gene ther­a­py, cell ther­a­py, neoanti­gens and be­cause those need sig­nif­i­cant man­u­fac­tur­ing and CMC in­vest­ment or in­vest­ing more dol­lars per com­pa­ny,” he told End­points News.

He sees Fra­zier pour­ing around $40 mil­lion in­to each com­pa­ny — sup­port­ing them through every stage, whether it’s helped with the launch or joined through a lat­er syn­di­cate — though that could vary if, say, they sell a com­pa­ny right af­ter Se­ries A. By that es­ti­mate, the new fund could touch any­where from 15 to 25 biotechs.

Jamie Brush

About a third of the port­fo­lio is re­served for home­grown star­tups, an­oth­er 15% to 25% for pub­lic se­cu­ri­ties, and the rest is in-be­tween.

Heron is one of three lead­ing the fund; he’s joined by man­ag­ing part­ner James Top­per and Dan Estes, who’s just been pro­mot­ed to gen­er­al part­ner. Al­so in­volved will be Jamie Brush, new­ly made part­ner af­ter spear­head­ing in­vest­ments in pub­lic se­cu­ri­ties for the past three years.

Fra­zier is hap­py to both cre­ate and syn­di­cate with its “ven­ture brethren,” Heron added, cit­ing Or­biMed as a friend.

The con­gre­ga­tion has grown ex­po­nen­tial­ly since Fra­zier first put its feet down three decades ago.

“When I start­ed at Fra­zier, there were prob­a­bly 10 to 15 life sci­ences fo­cused VC funds,” said Heron, who’s just cel­e­brat­ed his 20th year at the firm, “and now there’s prob­a­bly 100.”

It gives Fra­zier a lengthy track record to boast — which can be par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful when they pitch big­ger play­ers on biotech spin­offs such as Phath­om Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, now de­vel­op­ing one of Take­da’s GI drugs.

“Phar­ma com­pa­nies have be­come more re­cep­tive to that when they see sub­stan­tial val­ue ac­cru­al to them,” Heron said. “And it’s pub­lic now: Take­da owns prob­a­bly about $200 mil­lion worth of stock in Phath­om, and so they are ba­si­cal­ly de­riv­ing a lot of eco­nom­ic val­ue from the part­ner­ship, and what they’re al­so fo­cused on is the qual­i­ty of teams we can put around their as­set such that the pro­gram will reach the clin­ic and ben­e­fit pa­tients.”

Two for­mer Cel­gene ex­ecs from the glob­al in­flam­ma­tion and im­munol­o­gy fran­chise have been re­cruit­ed to the C-suite at Phath­om, in­clud­ing CEO Ter­rie Cur­ran and CCO Mar­tin Gilli­gan.

De­spite the lack of big check M&A at the be­gin­ning of the year and an elec­tion loom­ing in No­vem­ber, Heron re­mains op­ti­mistic as their deal flow has been in line with the ex­pec­ta­tion of 2 to 3 sales per year. And the same goes for IPO.

“I think you will see a lot of com­pa­nies sort of back­ing up the truck and load­ing up with as much cap­i­tal as they can, with prob­a­bly less ro­bust ac­tiv­i­ty in the sec­ond half of the year,” he said.

Grow­ing ac­cep­tance of ac­cel­er­at­ed path­ways for nov­el treat­ments: but does reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proval lead to com­mer­cial suc­cess?

By Mwango Kashoki, MD, MPH, Vice President-Technical, and Richard Macaulay, Senior Director, of Parexel Regulatory & Access

In recent years, we’ve seen a significant uptake in the use of regulatory options by companies looking to accelerate the journey of life-saving drugs to market. In 2018, 73% of the novel drugs approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) were designated under one or more expedited development program categories (Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, Priority Review, and Accelerated Approval).ᶦ

Sanofi out­lines big API plans as coro­n­avirus out­break re­port­ed­ly threat­ens short­age of 150 drugs

As the world becomes increasingly dependant on Asia for the ingredients of its medicines, Sanofi sees business to be done in Europe.

The French drugmaker said it’s creating the world’s second largest active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) manufacturer by spinning out its six current sites into a standalone company: Brindisi (Italy), Frankfurt Chemistry (Germany), Haverhill (UK), St Aubin les Elbeuf (France), Újpest (Hungary) and Vertolaye (France). They have mapped out €1 billion in expected sales by 2022 and 3,100 employees for the new operations headquartered in France.

UP­DAT­ED: NGM Bio takes leap for­ward in crowd­ed NASH field

South San Francisco-based NGM Bio may have underwhelmed with its interim analysis of a key cohort from a mid-stage NASH study last fall — but stellar topline data unveiled on Monday showed the compound induced significant signs of antifibrotic activity, NASH resolution and liver fat reduction, sending the company’s stock soaring.

There are an estimated 50+ companies focused on developing drugs for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a common liver disease that has long flummoxed researchers. The first wave of NASH drug developers struggled with efficacy as well as safety — and companies big and small have crashed and burned.

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Mickey Kertesz, KidsandArtOrg via YouTube

Soft­Bank's newest, $165M biotech in­vest­ment looks for in­fec­tious traces in the blood

SoftBank has found its newest biotech investment.

The Japanese bank has invested $165 million into Karius, a company that uses blood tests to diagnose infectious diseases, as part of its new Vision Fund 2. The full scope of the new fund has yet to be announced, but the first and newly-beleaguered Vision Fund poured $100 billion into technology companies, including the biotechs Vir Biotechnology and Roivant and the sequencing company 10x Genomics.

Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (Shutterstock)

FDA grants ‘break­through’ sta­tus to an­tibi­ot­ic al­ter­na­tive as Con­tra­Fect rush­es to join fight against su­per­bug

An experimental drug that promises to be the first anti-infective agent to prove superior to vancomycin — an antibiotic approved in 1958 — has notched the FDA’s “breakthrough” status.

ContraFect said the designation was based on Phase II data in which exebacase was tested against a superbug known as methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, or MRSA. In a subgroup analysis, the clinical responder rate at day 14 was 42.8% higher than that among those treated with standard of care, the company said (p=0.010).

Zhong Nanshan, CGTN via YouTube

Har­vard joins coro­n­avirus fight with $115 mil­lion and a high-pro­file Chi­nese part­ner

For two months, as the novel coronavirus swelled from a few early cases tied to a Wuhan market to a global epidemic, most of the world’s focus and dollars have flowed toward emergency initiatives: building vaccines at a record pace, plucking experimental antivirals out of freezers to see what sticks and immunizing mice for new antibodies.

Now a new and well-funded collaboration between Harvard and a top Chinese research institute will play the long game. In a 5-year, $115 million initiative backed by China Evergrande Group, researchers from the Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health will study the virus in an effort to develop therapies against infections by the novel coronavirus, known as SARS–CoV-2, and to prevent new ones.

No­var­tis gets a boost in block­buster mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis race with Roche

In the first step of what’s likely to be a long and uphill battle for the drugmaker, the FDA has accepted Novartis’s BLA submission for a new multiple sclerosis drug and given it priority review. The PDUFA date for the potential blockbuster drug is in June.

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Juergen Horn

An­i­mal health vet Juer­gen Horn makes new an­ti­body play for pets, rak­ing $15M in Se­ries A haul

Zoetis forked over $85 million in 2017 to acquire Nexvet Biopharma and its pipeline of monoclonal antibodies. Juergen Horn, Nexvet’s former chief product development officer, has now secured $15 million for his own biologic company for animals: Invetx.

Buoyed by emerging advances in gene therapies for humans, scientists have started looking at harnessing the technology for animals setting up companies such as Penn-partnered Scout Bio and George Church-founded Rejuvenate Bio. But akin to Nexvet, Invetx is working on leveraging the time-tested science of monoclonal antibodies to treat chronic diseases that afflict man’s best friend.

As coro­n­avirus out­break reach­es 'tip­ping point,' GSK lends ad­ju­vant tech to Chi­nese part­ner armed with pre­clin­i­cal vac­cine

As the coronavirus originating out of Wuhan spreads to South Korea, Italy and Iran, stoking already intense fears of a pandemic, GlaxoSmithKline has found another pair of trusted hands to place its adjuvant system. China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals will add the adjuvant to its preclinical, protein-based vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2.

Clover, which is based in the inland city of Chengdu, boasts of a platform dubbed Trimer-Tag that produces covalently-trimerized fusion proteins. Its candidate, COVID-19 S-Trimer, resembles the viral spike (S)-protein found in the virus.