Joshua Liang (Clover)

Fu­eled by Covid prospects, Chi­nese vac­cine de­vel­op­er scores $230M to up­scale the whole pipeline

The Covid tides are float­ing more than US or Eu­ro­pean boats.

Take Clover Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, the Cheng­du, Chi­na-based de­vel­op­er of a CEPI-fund­ed vac­cine that’s just closed $230 mil­lion in a Se­ries C. That means the biotech is of­fi­cial­ly $400 mil­lion rich­er than it was be­fore the pan­dem­ic struck — and po­ten­tial­ly stand­ing much clos­er to the com­mer­cial mar­ket.

“Over the last 12 months, we have grown our head­count from ~175 FTEs in Chi­na to now ~500 FTEs across over a dozen coun­tries,” CEO Joshua Liang told End­points News in an email.

It’s al­so tak­en a vac­cine can­di­date through ear­ly hu­man stud­ies, test­ing SCB-2019 with both Glax­o­SmithK­line’s and Dy­navax’s ad­ju­vants be­fore drop­ping the col­lab­o­ra­tion with the phar­ma gi­ant. The Phase II/III tri­al is slat­ed to start in the first half of 2021.

All of that puts Clover’s Trimer-Tag tech­nol­o­gy plat­form on an ac­cel­er­at­ed path not un­like mR­NA, with a slate of oth­er pro­grams whose prospects now shine brighter with the new­found val­i­da­tion.

For Clover, the next pri­or­i­ties will be on oth­er vac­cines — in­clud­ing mul­ti­va­lent ones against SARS-CoV-2 vari­ants — as well as can­cer ther­a­pies (in fact, the first com­pound it put in the clin­ic back in 2018 was an on­col­o­gy drug).

Their plat­form, Liang ex­plained, is a new way of mak­ing pro­tein-based vac­cines by specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ing virus­es that have “nat­u­ral­ly trimer­ic spike anti­gens.”

“These virus­es uti­lize these trimer­ic spikes to bind to re­cep­tors on our cells (such as ACE2 for SARS-CoV-2) and gain en­try to repli­cate and in­fect us,” he wrote. “Thus, in or­der to in­duce a neu­tral­iz­ing and pro­tec­tive im­mune re­sponse against the virus, the vac­cine anti­gen should pre­serve the na­tive trimer­ic struc­ture of the spike pro­tein. Our re­search has demon­strat­ed that com­pared to non-na­tive con­for­ma­tions of the spike pro­tein (such as dimer­ic spike pro­tein), our S-Trimer in­duces around 15-fold high­er lev­els of neu­tral­iz­ing an­ti­bod­ies.”

The re­sult­ing vac­cines can re­main sta­ble un­der stan­dard re­frig­er­a­tion of 2 to 8 de­grees Cel­sius, he added, and store at least two months at room tem­per­a­ture.

With the vac­cine sup­ply deficit “read­i­ly ap­par­ent” even in places where they are be­ing rolled out, Clover reck­ons there’s plen­ty of need to be served around the world. The com­pa­ny will of­fer its jab to the CO­V­AX mech­a­nism for dis­tri­b­u­tion if it’s au­tho­rized, Liang said, and they will be ready with ca­pac­i­ty to pro­duce over 1 bil­lion dos­es an­nu­al­ly, start­ing from its ex­ist­ing com­mer­cial-scale man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Changx­ing, Chi­na.

“The pan­dem­ic has af­fect­ed the en­tire world, not just the de­vel­oped world,” he not­ed.

GL Ven­tures — a unit of Hill­house Cap­i­tal — and Temasek co-led the Se­ries C, with par­tic­i­pa­tion from Ocean­pine Cap­i­tal, Or­biMed and ex­ist­ing in­vestor De­los Cap­i­tal.

The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, 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.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

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Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

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Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

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An Ar­ray co-founder re-emerges as CEO of a small aca­d­e­m­ic spin­out, look­ing to re­make an old class of can­cer drugs

Tony Piscopio hadn’t worked as a bench scientist in years when, around 2011, he got put in touch with a team at the University of Colorado trying to revitalize an old approach to treating cancer.

Piscopio, who had co-founded Array Biopharma before heading to South Korea to launch a new company, was back in the states, unattached and intrigued. He founded a three-person company with two professors, Xuedong Liu and Gail Eckhardt, and while they worked on the biology side, he returned to his old chemist chair and began drawing up potential compounds on a computer, along with manufacturing processes to make them. Outsourcing companies synthesized or analyzed the results.

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Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

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