Frédéric Desdouits, TreeFrog Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: French biotech rais­es $75M for new cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing tech, Parkin­son's treat­ment

A French cell ther­a­py start­up is get­ting two new of­fices in op­po­site parts of the world, and a new CEO to boot as it an­nounces a new round of fund­ing Mon­day.

Biotech TreeFrog Ther­a­peu­tics, which is fo­cused on stem cell ther­a­py, closed a $75 mil­lion Se­ries B, the com­pa­ny an­nounced. The round brings the com­pa­ny’s to­tal fund­ing to $83 mil­lion, and al­lows them to open up of­fices in Boston and Kobe, Japan, as it ad­vances its bio­mimet­ic C-Stem tech­nol­o­gy for clin­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing. The US of­fice will start with a staff of around 10 to 15 peo­ple, but if all goes well, that will change quick­ly.

Kévin Alessan­dri

As a part of the ex­pan­sion, board mem­ber Frédéric Des­douits has been hired as the com­pa­ny’s CEO, and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Kévin Alessan­dri will move to Boston to over­see the new of­fice. As far as the new of­fices are con­cerned, the move to Boston was at least par­tial­ly in­spired by the in­vest­ment from Bris­tol My­ers Squibb. As the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the tech­nol­o­gy are dis­cov­ered, the team wants to be close to its part­ners, as it col­lab­o­rates with oth­er play­ers.

“They came in be­cause we are a very young com­pa­ny…and we are learn­ing about the po­ten­tial of the tech­nol­o­gy al­most every month,” Des­douits said in a phone call with End­points News Mon­day. “We know we have a dis­rup­tive tech­nol­o­gy…we know we bring some­thing new, and we know it’s go­ing to take time.”

Des­douits has been with Tree Frog as a part-time ad­vi­sor for near­ly two years. He’s served as a di­rec­tor for Gen­fit, a French ther­a­peu­tics com­pa­ny fo­cused on liv­er dis­ease, for more than 7 years be­fore that, and was the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of French CD­MO Se­qens un­til Ju­ly 2020.

“In just two years and, with on­ly $7M in Se­ries A fund­ing, the TreeFrog Ther­a­peu­tics team tran­si­tioned C-StemTM from the bench to an in­dus­tri­al tech­nol­o­gy ap­plic­a­ble to any cell ther­a­py. We demon­strat­ed that C-StemTM out­per­forms all ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies for pluripo­tent stem cell ex­pan­sion in terms of scale and qual­i­ty,” he said in a state­ment. “We al­so con­firmed best-in-class pre­clin­i­cal da­ta for our cell ther­a­py pro­gram for Parkin­son’s dis­ease.”

The com­pa­ny was found­ed in 2018 in Bor­deaux, France. Its fi­nanc­ing was led by Bpifrance Large Ven­ture, a func­tion of the French Pub­lic In­vest­ment Bank that in­vests in life sci­ences and green tech­nol­o­gy, and Leonard Green & Part­ners, a Los An­ge­les-based pri­vate eq­ui­ty firm fo­cused on health­care. Eu­ro­pean ven­ture cap­i­tal group XAnge al­so led the round.

C-Stem al­lows for the mass pro­duc­tion of stem cells in in­dus­tri­al biore­ac­tors, which TreeFrog says can im­prove the qual­i­ty of cells and re­duce the cost over ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies. In June 2020, the team’s 50 em­ploy­ees moved in­to a 13,000 square-foot man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in France. This April, it pro­duced its first batch of stem cells in a 10-liter biore­ac­tor.

“In short, fund­ing, man­age­ment and gov­er­nance are now se­cured, as we em­bark on a very ex­cit­ing jour­ney, with the de­ploy­ment of tech­no­log­i­cal hubs in Kobe, Japan, and Boston, MA, and the prospect of treat­ing our first pa­tients in 2024,” Alessan­dri said in a press re­lease.

As a part of the fi­nanc­ing round, Lau­rent Higueret of Bpifrance Large Ven­ture and Pe­ter Zip­pelius of Leonard Green & Part­ners will join the board of di­rec­tors. Girish Pendse of Bris­tol My­ers Squibb will join as an ob­serv­er.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

FDA ad­comm to de­cide on mol­nupi­ravir EUA; Can­cer at­las un­veils new po­ten­tial drug tar­get

The FDA has another adcomm coming down the pipeline — this time on Covid-19 oral antiviral molnupiravir.

The federal agency’s advisory committee will meet on November 30th to go over Merck and Ridgeback’s EUA request for their investigational antiviral drug, and discuss the available data supporting its use in Covid-19 patients.

This comes two weeks after Merck claimed that their antiviral pill reduced the chance that newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients would be hospitalized or die by 50%. The pharma made the announcement after interim data on 775 patients in their clinical trial showed the antiviral’s potential.