Genentech inks $359M deal with Kineta; Celldex battered after ADC flops in PhIIb

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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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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