Gi­ant Roche wades in­to the pre­clin­i­cal NL­RP3 pool, bag­ging Je­cure for their an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry team at Genen­tech

You can now count the bio­phar­ma gi­ant Roche among the grow­ing num­ber of play­ers fas­ci­nat­ed by the po­ten­tial of NL­RP3 in­hi­bi­tion.

James Sabry, Genen­tech

Their big Cal­i­for­nia sub­sidiary Genen­tech has snapped up a lit­tle San Diego-based biotech called Je­cure Ther­a­peu­tics, which came out of qui­et time with a $20 mil­lion launch round from Ver­sant and a big ap­petite for NASH re­search. The ven­ture group had been drawn in by an ex­pe­ri­enced biotech team that had built and sold Quan­ti­cel to Cel­gene for close to $485 mil­lion.

They’ve been key­ing off the lab work of sci­en­tif­ic founder Ariel Feld­stein, the di­vi­sion chief of gas­troen­terol­o­gy at the UCSD School of Med­i­cine and a top in­ves­ti­ga­tor in he­pa­tol­ogy.

This time around, we don’t know what the pri­vate out­fit went for. But with on­ly a small amount bet so far by a sin­gle in­vestor, even a big mul­ti­ple for the in­vestors could on­ly amount to a bite-sized pre­clin­i­cal snack for the likes of Roche.

James Sabry, who’s now run­ning the whole BD show at Roche/Genen­tech, says the ac­qui­si­tion builds on their “ex­per­tise in NL­RP3 bi­ol­o­gy,” which has been put in­to the spot­light by a batch of up­starts look­ing to make a name for them­selves.

Just a few days ago I cov­ered the $46 mil­lion raise for In­fla­zome, a UK-based out­fit that was look­ing to go up­stream of the en­tire IL-1 be­ta path­way and hit the NL­RP3 tar­get in fight­ing in­flam­ma­tion. No­var­tis has scored some pos­i­tive late-stage da­ta on IL-1 for gout and car­dio, help­ing to val­i­date the path­way for the star­tups com­ing in from be­hind.

NodThera and IFM have al­so been mak­ing progress in this field, while there’s some pre­clin­i­cal in­fo to sug­gest that an ul­tra-low carb ke­to­genic di­et can al­so specif­i­cal­ly hit NL­RP3 for an an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry re­sponse — a fol­lowup to the decades of re­search work that’s backed ke­to for pe­di­atric epilep­sy.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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José Basel­ga finds promise in new class of RNA-mod­i­fy­ing can­cer tar­gets, lock­ing in 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams with $55M

Having dived early into some of the RNA breakthroughs of the last decades — betting on Moderna’s mRNA tech and teaming up with Silence on the siRNA front — AstraZeneca is jumping into a new arena: going after proteins that modify RNA.

Their partner of choice is Accent Therapeutics, which is receiving $55 million in upfront payment to steer a selected preclinical program through to the end of Phase I. After AstraZeneca takes over, the Lexington, MA-based startup has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize in the US — and collect up to $1.1 billion in milestones in the long run. The deal also covers two other potential drug candidates.

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