→ Genentech is committing up to $359 million to pursue a novel target for chronic neuropathic pain. Their partner in this exclusive option and license agreement is Seattle-based Kineta Chronic Pain, which will be developing α9/α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) antagonists for the collaboration until Genentech steps in to grab development and commercialization rights. Kineta believes that the target may lead to a “safer therapy that is non-addictive and non-tolerizing.” The breakdown between upfront and milestones was not disclosed, though we do know that Kineta is in for high single to low double-digit royalties if the assets ever make it to market.
→ A painful restructuring might be in the works at Celldex $CLDX, where execs have decided to scrap an antibody-drug conjugate program following a disappointing Phase IIb readout. The Hampton, NJ biotech reported that its drug, glembatumumab vedotin, failed to do any better in progression-free survival among patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancers who overexpress glycoprotein NMB when compared to Xeloda, a chemo drug. (And that was a conclusion based on a p-value of 0.76.) None of the secondary endpoints — overall response rate, duration of response and overall survival — were met. This does not bode well for the company, which saw a Phase III cancer vaccine trial halted a couple of years back due to its extreme ineffectiveness. Celldex fell even deeper into penny stock territory, plunging 52% in pre-market trading.
→ Looking to pioneer PD-1/L1 checkpoints in China, Bristol-Myers Squibb $BMY has outlined the positive data it obtained in a late-stage study of Opdivo among a large group of primarily Chinese lung cancer patients. In a study as a second-line therapy, Opdivo hit on the primary endpoint of overall survival, with a hazard ratio of 0.68 in CheckMate-078. The overall response rate was 17% for Opdivo versus 4% in the chemo arm. And the risk of death was reduced by 32%. Lung cancer is a major market in China, and Bristol-Myers is looking to get out ahead of the growing number of rivals inside China with a PD-1/L1 of their own. It’s not moving fast, though. China’s drug agency accepted Bristol-Myers’ application in November, 2017 — 17 months ago. Regulators there, though, have been promising to speed things up.
→ Sofinnova Partners is putting its crossover fund dollars to work. For the first investment in the fund’s portfolio, the venture capital firm led a $33.5 million Series C for France’s LimFlow, which is making an endovascular treatment for critical limb ischemia. Kinam Hong, a partner of the Sofinnova Crossover I Fund, will join the board of directors.
→ Despite debacles with its Dengue and Clostridium difficile vaccines, Sanofi believes vaccines is the way to go, and it is putting money behind that resolution. The French drugmaker is spending $431 million (€350 million) on a new manufacturing plant in Toronto, with plans to double its vaccine output by 2023. The 150,000-square-foot facility will be built on the campus of Sanofi’s headquarters in Canada, a central region for its vaccines business.
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