French VC Sev­en­ture fo­cus­es sec­ond fund on fer­tile mi­cro­bio­me field — tar­gets €200M-plus

A few years ago, the spec­tac­u­lar fail­ure of Seres Ther­a­peu­tics’ sem­i­nal ef­fort in­to de­vel­op­ing a “crap­sule” — a syn­thet­ic, fer­ment­ed mi­cro­bio­me ther­a­peu­tic de­rived by a man­u­fac­tur­ing process that does not re­quire hu­man donor ma­te­r­i­al — de­railed an emerg­ing field work­ing to har­ness the in­sights gained from gut mi­cro­bio­ta to de­vel­op drugs. But since then, the suc­cess of fe­cal trans­plant ther­a­pies to treat stub­born­ly re­cur­rent C. diff in­fec­tions has en­tered the bio­phar­ma zeit­geist, at­tract­ed a buck­et of biobucks and even in­spired the takeover of a key play­er, Re­bi­otix. The ther­a­peu­tic ef­fort has resurged along­side a bur­geon­ing in­ter­est in nu­tri­tion — think pro­bi­otics. French VC Sev­en­ture Part­ners has fin­gers in every mi­cro­bio­me pie — drugs, di­ag­nos­tics, dig­i­tal of­fer­ings and nu­tri­tion — and it has launched its sec­ond ded­i­cat­ed mi­cro­bio­me fund with a tar­get of more than €200 mil­lion.

Is­abelle de Cre­moux

Un­sur­pris­ing­ly, the biggest cap­i­tal in­jec­tion is re­served for ther­a­peu­tics com­pared to the re­main­ing three cat­e­gories, Is­abelle de Cre­moux, man­ag­ing part­ner of Sev­en­ture Part­ners, who led the fund rais­ing, told End­points News. The first two in­vest­ments from the fund, dubbed Health for Life Cap­i­tal (HFL) II, have al­ready been made in US-based Ax­i­al Bio­ther­a­peu­tics ($25 mil­lion round) and Den­mark-based Galec­to Biotech (€79 mil­lion round), she said, de­clin­ing to pro­vide de­tails on the val­ue of each in­vest­ment.

“When I raised HFL I more than four years ago, my client list was not very long, we would have to ex­plain what it (the mi­cro­bio­me field) was in the first parts of meet­ings — for HFL II it has com­plete­ly changed, most are aware of what it is,” she said.

HFL II was launched this Jan­u­ary, while the orig­i­nal fund was launched in 2014. Both funds have en­ticed in­vest­ments from glob­al play­ers such as Danone and No­var­tis, as well as en­tre­pre­neurs and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

“There were in­vestors in the first fund that are re-up­ping their in­vest­ment in the sec­ond fund — ap­prox­i­mate­ly 90% are com­ing back from the first fund,” de Cre­moux said.

The con­cept of fe­cal mi­cro­bio­ta trans­plan­ta­tion (FMT) — re­plen­ish­ing a pa­tient’s gut with bac­te­ria from a healthy fe­ces — was orig­i­nal­ly doc­u­ment­ed in Chi­na, and has been used in the Unit­ed States since the 1950s with lit­tle reg­u­la­to­ry scruti­ny. About six years ago, the FDA sanc­tioned the use of FMT as a last re­sort mea­sure for re­cur­rent C. diff, but the agency con­tin­ues to con­sid­er it an in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al treat­ment. Glob­al­ly, hun­dreds of tri­als are now un­der­way test­ing the po­ten­tial of FMT for pa­tients suf­fer­ing from var­i­ous ill­ness­es, from autism to obe­si­ty.

Mi­cro­bio­me-based ther­a­peu­tics to­day is a fer­tile field for drug de­vel­op­ers tar­get­ing a wide va­ri­ety of in­di­ca­tions us­ing dif­fer­ent ther­a­peu­tic modal­i­ties, some of which are de­signed to side­step the “ick” fac­tor as­so­ci­at­ed with tra­di­tion­al stool trans­fer.

Chrono­log­i­cal­ly many of the com­pa­nies are tar­get­ing C. diff as a first in­di­ca­tion to show proof of ef­fi­ca­cy be­fore ex­pand­ing to oth­er big­ger in­di­ca­tions. Af­ter C. diff, we’ve seen a wave of com­pounds tar­get­ing IBD and Crohn’s dis­eases, meta­bol­ic dis­eases (such as obe­si­ty and di­a­betes),  au­toim­mune dis­eases and fi­nal­ly can­cer, de Cre­moux not­ed: “Can­cer is cer­tain­ly big­ger in size in terms of mar­ket po­ten­tial for mi­cro­bio­me com­pounds. More re­cent­ly it’s been about gut-brain ac­cess: not on­ly Parkin­son’s like Ax­i­al is tar­get­ing, but al­so se­vere de­pres­sion and eat­ing dis­or­ders.”

She added:

The field all start­ed with FMTs, then it moved out of FMT to fo­cus on liv­ing bio­prod­ucts, phage-de­rived com­pounds and small mol­e­cules etc. Sur­pris­ing­ly the field is mov­ing back again on FMT be­cause even if it’s very com­plex from a reg­u­la­to­ry per­spec­tive…the cur­rent clin­i­cal tri­als test­ing FMT re­al­ly show spec­tac­u­lar re­sults, and from a time­frame per­spec­tive it will prob­a­bly be the ear­li­er prod­uct to be ap­proved in the mi­cro­bio­me sec­tor, al­though some of the oth­er com­pounds men­tioned will have a high­er mar­ket po­ten­tial.

In HFL I, Sev­en­ture in­vest­ed a to­tal €160 mil­lion in 20 com­pa­nies in­clud­ing En­terome, Vedan­ta Bio­sciences, MaaT Phar­ma, and Bio­mX. HLF II is ex­pect­ed to hit its goal (of €200 mil­lion) with 20 in­vest­ments — by this sum­mer.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.