Glob­al syn­di­cate backs $400M ge­nomics R&D play in Ire­land as WuXi NextCODE ex­tends its reach in­to Eu­rope

The big push to trans­late fresh mounds of ge­nomics da­ta in­to new meds got a sig­nif­i­cant boost to­day as an in­ter­na­tion­al syn­di­cate of in­vestors from the US, Chi­na, Ire­land and Sin­ga­pore backed Wuxi NextCODE’s plan to add a ma­jor Eu­ro­pean se­quenc­ing ini­tia­tive and hub-build­ing project to their glob­al net­work.

The tech out­fit is mak­ing 3-year-old Ge­nomics Med­i­cine Ire­land a sub­sidiary, with fi­nan­cial back­ing tot­ting up to $400 mil­lion to see through an ef­fort to se­quence the genomes of 400,000 res­i­dents in Ire­land — about 10% of the pop­u­la­tion — in search of in­sights in­to the way spe­cif­ic genes in­flu­ence dis­ease.

In­clud­ed in this project is a ge­nomics ac­cel­er­a­tor look­ing to help spur a life sci­ences hub that they be­lieve can grow in­to some­thing along the lines of San Diego. And the Ire­land Strate­gic In­vest­ment Fund is putting up $70 mil­lion of the ini­tial $225 mil­lion bud­get with an eye to di­rect­ly cre­at­ing hun­dreds of jobs — with more to fol­low if they can ramp up the hub.

That’s a tall or­der. Ire­land has some biotechs, but its in­volve­ment in the in­dus­try is large­ly cen­tered on man­u­fac­tur­ing and its rep as a glob­al cor­po­rate tax haven. What­ev­er be­comes of the hub dream, though, big se­quenc­ing ef­forts have at­tract­ed the at­ten­tion of a broad swathe of bio­phar­ma play­ers, in­clud­ing Am­gen and Re­gen­eron, with GSK re­cent­ly jump­ing in­to a col­lab­o­ra­tion with 23andMe.

Along­side the Ire­land project, WuXi NextCODE put to­geth­er a $200 mil­lion C round — just a lit­tle more than a year af­ter it added $240 mil­lion from the Se­ries B.

The trans­glob­al fi­nan­cial syn­di­cate around this WuXi deal says a lot about the con­nec­tions that can com­mand large sums for mar­quee plans like this.

US-based Arch Ven­ture Part­ners, which has close ties to Ge Li’s glob­al ops at Shang­hai-based WuXi, linked up with the ear­ly-stage in­vestors at Po­laris, Sin­ga­pore’s Temasek and Chi­na’s Yun­feng Cap­i­tal and Se­quoia Cap­i­tal to back the play. And they have the mon­ey to make a host of star­tups a re­al­i­ty if the ini­tia­tive de­liv­ers on plans to cre­ate a hub built around ad­vanced AI, new tech and R&D.

“The suc­cess of this fi­nanc­ing round is an en­dorse­ment of our strat­e­gy to cre­ate the lead­ing glob­al plat­form for us­ing the genome to im­prove the lives of peo­ple and pa­tients every­where,” said Rob Brain­in, CEO of WuXi NextCODE. “This phase of our growth has a dis­tinct­ly Irish fo­cus to it, and we are cre­at­ing in Ire­land the world’s pre­mier genome dataset as a unique­ly pow­er­ful en­gine both for trans­form­ing how we dis­cov­er new drugs, as well as for bring­ing new di­ag­nos­tics, risk screens and oth­er tools and ser­vices to the in­di­vid­ual pa­tients.”

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

BREAK­ING: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

FDA's ad­vanced ther­a­pies of­fice pro­vides more clar­i­ty on gene ther­a­py CMC con­sid­er­a­tions

As the Office of Tissue and Advanced Therapies (OTAT) transforms into the Office of Therapeutic Products (OTP), with new user fee funds and “super office” status, the department focused on cell and gene therapies also opened its doors to a town hall Thursday offering clarification on guidance and regulations for manufacturers.

Some of the major concerns from manufacturers were the CMC considerations between first-in-human studies and late-phase studies supporting a marketing approval.

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