Genen­tech inks $650M deal with pro­tein degra­da­tion pi­o­neer Arv­inas

Genen­tech is dou­bling down on its com­mit­ment to New Haven biotech Arv­inas, ex­tend­ing the duo’s part­ner­ship and tack­ing an ad­di­tion­al $350 mil­lion on­to the to­tal deal val­ue.

The com­pa­nies have been work­ing to­geth­er since 2015, with Genen­tech li­cens­ing Arv­inas’ plat­form for pro­tein degra­da­tion to do some se­cre­tive R&D. Back then, Genen­tech wasn’t dis­clos­ing its dis­ease tar­gets, and it still isn’t. They’re on­ly telling us that the new deal in­cludes ad­di­tion­al tar­gets in “mul­ti­ple ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas.”

Un­der the re­vised terms, Arv­inas can re­ceive mile­stone pay­ments in ex­cess of $650 mil­lion. When the deal was first an­nounced, the pack­age in­clud­ed $300 mil­lion in po­ten­tial mile­stones.

John Hous­ton

What has Genen­tech so in­ter­est­ed? Arv­inas is a bit of a pi­o­neer in a new modal­i­ty called pro­tein degra­da­tion. Arv­inas’ CEO John Hous­ton tells me the com­pa­ny was the first to take the con­cept be­yond acad­e­mia. The sci­ence has since gained pop­u­lar­i­ty, with com­pa­nies like C4 Ther­a­peu­tics and Kymera jump­ing on board. Even ma­jor phar­mas like Cel­gene, Take­da, GSK and No­var­tis have ef­forts in the space.

The con­cept be­hind pro­tein degra­da­tion is sim­ple enough. Where pro­tein in­hi­bi­tion has led to some ad­vanced med­i­cines, de­grad­ing pro­teins could prove a much more durable so­lu­tion. In short, Arv­inas plans to tag cer­tain dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins for de­struc­tion by re­cruit­ing an E3 lig­ase to the tar­get, there­by send­ing the pro­tein to the cell’s nat­ur­al “garbage dis­pos­al” called the ubiq­ui­tin-pro­tea­some sys­tem.

Hous­ton said the plat­form, in the­o­ry, could be wide­ly ap­plic­a­ble to sev­er­al dis­eases.

“We’re not lim­it­ed by dis­ease area, as al­most any dis­ease with a cell you want to de­grade could be tar­get­ed,” Hous­ton said.

Still, the com­pa­ny is start­ing with two main pro­grams for an­dro­gen and es­tro­gen re­cep­tor degra­da­tion for prostate and breast can­cer. They’re work­ing on a pair of INDs and look­ing to get in­to the clin­ic by 2018, al­though the com­pa­ny’s breast can­cer pro­gram may get there a tad ear­li­er.

Hous­ton said af­ter these two tar­gets, Arv­inas may pur­sue lung can­cer and melanoma. Fur­ther in the fu­ture, Hous­ton (who used to run neu­ro­sciences at Bris­tol-My­ers) said he’d like to see the com­pa­ny take on neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, as well.

Ven­ture Cap­i­tal as a Strate­gic Part­ner: Fu­el­ing In­no­va­tion be­yond Fi­nance

The average level of investment required for a biotech start-up to succeed is increasing every year, elevating the pressure even further on venture capital to make smart financial investments. Financial investment alone, however, does not always guarantee that exciting innovations can be transformed into real businesses that make a meaningful difference to patients.

Beyond just capital

At Astellas Venture Management (AVM) – a wholly-owned venture capital organization within Astellas, headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area – capital is just one of the ingredients we offer to add value to our biotechnology investments and partnerships. We generally take a strategic investor approach for companies in our invested portfolio, providing access to expertise, technology and/or resources in addition to the injection of finance. An equity investment from AVM can include access to Astellas’ research and development (R&D) capabilities and expertise, and a global network of partner academic institutions and biotechnology companies, to help advance and accelerate the start-up’s innovation.

UP­DAT­ED: Ver­tex joins Mer­ck, Pfiz­er — re­vamp­ing multi­bil­lion-dol­lar tri­al strat­e­gy as biotech R&D crum­bles

You can add Pfizer, Merck and — as we found out Friday morning — Vertex to the growing list of pharma giants hitting the pause button on a range of clinical trials. But not everyone in R&D is getting a red light.

Vertex says that it’s doing its best to keep working its pipeline strategy, coming up with a plan “to enable virtual clinic visits and home delivery of study drug to ensure study continuity and medical monitoring, and to facilitate study procedures.”

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Covid-19 roundup: In­ter­cept, blue­bird and a grow­ing list of biotechs feel the pain as pan­dem­ic man­gles FDA, R&D sched­ules

Around 100 staffers at Boston area hospitals have now tested positive for Covid-19, spotlighting the growing risk that the pandemic will sideline many of the most essential workers in healthcare as caseloads peak in the US and around the globe. With more than 3,400 deaths, Spain has become the latest country to surpass the official death count attributed to the new coronavirus in China, where the outbreak originated. As of Thursday morning, confirmed global cases had crossed 470,000 and the death count eclipsed 21,000.

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Af­ter crit­ics lam­bast­ed Gilead for grab­bing the FDA's spe­cial rare drug sta­tus on remde­sivir, they're giv­ing it back

Two days after Gilead won orphan drug status for remdesivir as a potential treatment for Covid-19, they’re handing it back.

The company was slammed from several sides after Gilead reported that the FDA had come through with the special status, which comes with 7 years of market exclusivity, the waiver of FDA fees and some tax credits as well. Typically, everyone who can get orphan status lands it without much of a fuss, but Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Public Citizen and other consumer groups were outraged.

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Mod­er­na CEO Stéphane Ban­cel out­lines a short path for emer­gency use of a coro­n­avirus vac­cine

NIAID director Anthony Fauci has left no doubts that it takes 12 to 18 months to get a new vaccine tested and in commercial use, in the best of circumstances. But in times of a global emergency — like these — maybe there’s another, faster route to follow.

In an SEC filing on Tuesday, Moderna $MRNA staked out a record-setting pathway to getting their mRNA vaccine into the frontline of the healthcare response as early as this fall. The SEC filing notes that CEO Stéphane Bancel told Goldman Sachs that an emergency use approval could allow the vaccine to go to healthcare workers and certain individuals in a matter of months — presumably provided the NIH sees the safety and efficacy data they would need from the Phase I.

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Caught in a Covid-19 mael­strom, Eli Lil­ly locks down clin­i­cal tri­als as multi­bil­lion-dol­lar R&D ops de­rail

The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed Eli Lilly’s $6 billion R&D operations.

The pharma giant reported Monday morning that it has decided to hit the brakes on most new study starts and pause enrollment for most ongoing studies. Lilly adds that it is continuing dosing for ongoing studies, “but with study-by-study consideration.”

The pandemic has severely disrupted healthcare systems around the globe, says Lilly, making it difficult or impossible to conduct studies at many research sites. And there’s no timeline for when it expects to get back on track.

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As share buy­backs come un­der scruti­ny, what's in store for the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try?

Stock buybacks are not to be permitted for companies that will be bailed out in the coronavirus stimulus package, Congressional leaders have signaled. To what degree the biopharma industry has relied on buybacks for earnings growth in recent years, and if the trend continues, are the big questions as scrutiny into the practice heightens and balance sheets weaken with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on global economies.

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A Sin­ga­pore VC rais­es $200M for a new round, but will Covid-19 pre­vent it from rais­ing the rest?

A top Singaporean biotech venture fund is nearly halfway toward its largest ever fund, but in a sign of what could be in store for VCs amid a global economic freeze, said they could face headwinds raising the other half.

Vickers Venture Partners has secured $200 million out of a targeted $500 million for its 6th fund, first announced in early 2018. They’ve given themselves 13 months to complete the financing, Vickers founder Finian Tan told Deal Street Asia, but the financial frost settling amid the Covid-19 pandemic could slow efforts.

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Strug­gling Unum ex­ecs are ready to con­sid­er a sale, merg­er or any deal that comes its way

Unum $UMRX is working its way through a survival plan of sorts.

After getting hit with a trio of FDA holds in its brief public history and triggering its second pivot to a new lead drug program while laying off 60% of the staff, the troubled penny stock biotech Unum Therapeutics has hatched new plans to secure financial backing while lining up a go-forward strategy for the company.

First, Lincoln Park Capital Fund has agreed to buy up to $25 million of the long-suffering stock, as Unum directs. And the executive team — led by CEO Chuck Wilson — has put everything on the table for consideration: a sale, acquisition, merger, licensing deal, you name it. The ACTR707 program, meanwhile, is being formally wrapped up — their second failed lead program.