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.

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

Bio­gen hands De­nali $1B-plus in cash, $1B-plus in mile­stones to part­ner on late-stage Parkin­son’s drug

Biogen is handing over more than a billion dollars cash to partner with the up-and-coming neurosciences crew at Denali on a new therapy for Parkinson’s. And the big biotech is ready to pile on more than a billion dollars more in milestones — if the alliance is a success.

For Biogen $BIIB, the move on Denali’s small molecule inhibitors of LRRK2 puts them in line to collaborate on a late-stage program for DNL151, which is scheduled to start next year.

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FDA hands out a quick OK for po­ten­tial SMA block­buster ris­diplam, hand­ing Genen­tech and Roche a chance to chal­lenge ri­vals on the price

US regulators handed Roche and Genentech a big win Friday afternoon, one that has market-shaping potential for its high-priced rivals from Novartis and Biogen.

The FDA has green-lit the companies’ spinal muscular atrophy drug risdiplam, which will be marketed as Evrysdi in the US, for use in patients two months and older. It’s the first SMA drug that can be taken orally, as Biogen’s Spinraza is injected into the spine while Novartis’ Zolgensma is a gene therapy.

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen scores a pri­or­i­ty re­view for its Alzheimer's drug ad­u­canum­ab, mov­ing one gi­ant leap for­ward in its con­tro­ver­sial quest

Biogen scored a big win at the FDA today as regulators accepted their application for the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab and gave it a priority review.

The PDUFA date is March 7, 2021.

Significantly, Biogen says it did not use its priority review voucher to win special treatment at the FDA. The agency handed that out gratis.

That’s the ideal scenario Biogen was looking for as disappointed analysts wondered aloud about the delayed application earlier in the year.

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Moncef Slaoui, Getty Images

When will it end? Big Phar­ma's top vac­cine ex­pert at OWS of­fers a speedy time­line for a Covid-19 vac­cine — ei­ther be­fore or right af­ter the elec­tion

Moncef Slaoui hasn’t started making plans for his summer vacation next year. But he offers high odds that all Americans will be able to do that in the not too distant future.

In an interview with a pair of sympathetic podcasters at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Slaoui provides an education to listeners on how any drug or vaccine can be sped through trials. And he leaves the door wide open to the notion that the leading vaccine developers can demonstrate efficacy and safety in a compelling fashion as early as October — or as late as the end of this year.

Covid-19 roundup: Gates Foun­da­tion pours $150M in­to In­dia’s Serum In­sti­tute; Pfiz­er teams with Gilead on remde­sivir

By CEO and scion Adar Poonawalla’s estimation, the Serum Institute in India has already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into scaling up the unproven Covid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford for use in low and middle income countries. It’s meant taking on a risk that other companies, including AstraZeneca, have mitigated with huge amounts of government funding.

Now, for the first time, Poonawalla is getting some outside help. The Gates Foundation has agreed to pay the institute $150 million to supply 100 million vaccines to India and other emerging economies next year, Reuters reported. That includes both the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the one being developed by Novavax. Those vaccines will be available in 92 countries and be priced at $3 per dose.

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President Trump speaks with members of the media before boarding Marine One (AP Images)

'Oc­to­ber is com­ing,' and every­one still wants to know if a Covid-19 vac­cine will be whisked through the FDA ahead of the elec­tion

Right on the heels of a lengthy assurance from FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn that the agency will not rush through a quick approval for a Covid-19 vaccine, the President of the United States has some thoughts on timing he’d like to share.

In an exchange with Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera on Thursday, President Trump allowed that a vaccine could be ready to roll “sooner than the end of the year, could be much sooner.”

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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Bio­haven adds near­ly $1B in Nurtec deals with Roy­al­ty Phar­ma, Sixth Street

Biohaven just added nearly $1 billion to their balance sheet.

On Friday morning, the neuroscience biotech announced a pair of creative agreements with Royalty Pharma and the investment firm Sixth Street to bolster the commercial launch of their new migraine drug, Nurtec. Biohaven will sell a sliver of its royalties on Nurtec and 3% of the royalties on their experimental migraine drug zavegepant to Royalty Pharma as part of a larger agreeement that will pay $450 million. At the same time, the company announced they took out a $500 million loan from Sixth Street.

Ab­b­Vie set­tles in­sur­ance fraud suit, agrees to tweak nurse am­bas­sador pro­gram; CStone aims for NSCLC OK with pos­i­tive PhI­II da­ta

AbbVie has resolved a California lawsuit alleging insurance fraud in the promotion of its cash cow Humira, paying $24 million to settle things with the state’s insurance regulator.

The settlement comes almost four years after a whistleblower first reported AbbVie’s practice of deploying registered nurses to visit patients at home or call them by phone to ensure that Humira prescriptions are filled. AbbVie was also charged with providing illegal kickbacks to doctors in an attempt to encourage them to prescribe Humira for a range of anti-inflammatory diseases.