Glax­o­SmithK­line backs a pre­clin­i­cal ac­ne treat­ment from Eli­go Bio­science that us­es CRISPR to kill bac­te­ria

Rough­ly three and a half years since bag­ging a $20 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing round to de­vel­op its CRISPR-based mi­cro­bio­me mod­u­la­tion plat­form, Eli­go Bio­science has made its first deal with a ma­jor phar­ma play­er. And it’s one who’s typ­i­cal­ly on the look­out for new pre­ci­sion med­i­cines.

The French biotech locked down a part­ner­ship with Glax­o­SmithK­line for up to $224 mil­lion, the com­pa­nies an­nounced Mon­day, aim­ing to adapt Eli­go’s tech­nol­o­gy in­to a treat­ment for the bac­te­ria that caus­es ac­ne. Un­der the agree­ment, Eli­go will re­ceive an up­front pay­ment and R&D fund­ing to take the pro­gram through the proof of con­cept phase, af­ter which GSK can ex­er­cise an op­tion to li­cense the can­di­date.

Xavier Du­portet

Eli­go’s re­search came out of CEO Xavier Du­portet’s PhD stud­ies with his co-founder in Boston in 2013, when the pair were re­search­ing how bac­te­ria could be killed very specif­i­cal­ly based on ge­net­ic se­quences us­ing CRISPR. Rather than us­ing CRISPR to mod­i­fy DNA, like in some of its well-pub­li­cized ap­pli­ca­tions, Eli­go is mere­ly try­ing to cut the bac­te­r­i­al DNA with­in the body’s mi­cro­bio­mes.

The tricky part has been de­liv­er­ing the med­i­cine to its tar­get as pre­cise­ly and ef­fi­cient­ly as pos­si­ble, Du­portet says. To do so, Eli­go is us­ing vi­ral par­ti­cles from bac­te­rio­phages in the same vein that gene ther­a­pies are ad­min­is­tered for hu­mans. Eli­go re­places se­quences in the vi­ral phages with ones that aim for a spe­cif­ic ge­net­ic se­quence in the bac­te­ria, and then are de­liv­ered with­out af­fect­ing the en­tire mi­cro­bio­me.

“They in­ject ex­treme­ly ef­fi­cient­ly their own DNA, their genome, in­to bac­te­ria — not hu­man cells, just bac­te­ria,” Du­portet told End­points News. 

In ac­ne, the pro­gram here is dubbed EB005. The end goal is ul­ti­mate­ly to cre­ate a top­i­cal cream that can be ap­plied to ir­ri­tat­ed skin, with the prod­uct de­liv­er­ing the bac­te­ria-killing phages di­rect­ly to af­fect­ed ar­eas. By cre­at­ing such a cream, EB005 can en­ter the skin mi­cro­bio­mes as eas­i­ly as pos­si­ble, Du­portet said.

Em­manuel Hanon

For GSK, not on­ly did the po­ten­tial to de­vel­op a new type of ac­ne med­i­cine prove ap­peal­ing, but the ap­plic­a­bil­i­ty of this tech­nol­o­gy did as well, even though Mon­day’s deal on­ly cov­ers the ac­ne treat­ment. GSK ex­ec Em­manuel Hanon told End­points that while Eli­go’s plat­form func­tions nei­ther as a vac­cine nor an an­tibi­ot­ic, the end re­sult could end up sim­i­lar if the prod­ucts prove able to halt the pro­gres­sion of tar­get­ed bac­te­ria.

“It’s not re­al­ly any­thing that ex­ists to­day,” said Hanon, se­nior VP and GSK’s head of vac­cine R&D.

The com­pa­nies aren’t re­veal­ing any sort of time­lines just yet, but Du­portet not­ed that GSK’s back­ing helps val­i­date the tech­nol­o­gy es­pe­cial­ly since it’s still in the pre­clin­i­cal stage.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; 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.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

John Oyler, BeiGene CEO (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bris­tol My­ers wants to pull out of its Abrax­ane deal in Chi­na. BeiGene says no way

A year and a half after Chinese officials ordered BeiGene to stop selling Bristol Myers Squibb’s Abraxane in the wake of an alarming inspection of a US facility, the manufacturing issues at the root of the import suspension still appear unresolved.

And Bristol Myers wants to axe the Abraxane supply deal altogether.

But BeiGene, which is currently in arbitration proceedings against its Big Pharma partner, won’t let it off the hook so easily.

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FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

Madhu Natarajan, Takeda rare disease development head

Drawn to the idea of turn­ing B cells in­to 'pro­tein fac­to­ries,' Take­da jumps in­to a mile­stone-heavy, $900M pact

Madhu Natarajan can trace his fascination with the idea of taking B cells and turning them into protein factories back 20 years, when he had his own lab at UT Southwestern. So when Natarajan, now the rare disease development head for Takeda, sat down for a meet-up with execs from Seattle-based Immusoft at the last in-person JP Morgan conference, they went straight into a brainstorming session.

“That B cells can take up residence and do what they do for a long time,” says Natarajan, pumping out proteins and “leveraging it into a therapeutic context,” hits his sweet spot for discovery deals. And he was deeply impressed by what he heard.

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