Google backs $27M launch round for Holy Grail R&D work on two tar­gets: a can­cer vac­cine and a uni­ver­sal flu jab

Vac­citech isn’t just go­ing af­ter one of the Holy Grails in biotech R&D. It’s tak­ing aim at two of them.

A spin­out from some lead­ing vac­cine ex­perts at Ox­ford’s Jen­ner In­sti­tute, the start­up has been fol­low­ing up on new re­search to go af­ter both a uni­ver­sal flu vac­cine as well as a can­cer vac­cine an­gling for a place in the bright spot­light now fo­cused on im­muno-on­col­o­gy. And it now has a $27 mil­lion round to ad­vance tests in hu­mans.

Tom Evans, CEO

In­fluen­za, of course, can be a no­to­ri­ous­ly dif­fi­cult tar­get for man­u­fac­tur­ers to hit each year, as any of the mil­lions of peo­ple suf­fer­ing from the lat­est flu epi­dem­ic can tell you. But Vac­citech be­lieves its strat­e­gy to con­cen­trate an at­tack on con­stant, com­mon­ly shared pro­teins will help it cre­ate a sin­gle, ef­fec­tive jab for every­one.

Com­ing up right be­hind, Vac­citech is launch­ing a Phase II study to see if its can­cer vac­cine tar­get­ing the com­mon 5T4 anti­gen can — in com­bi­na­tion with a PD-1 check­point in­hibitor — mount a more ef­fec­tive at­tack on prostate can­cer cells. And if it works there, there’s a long line­up of can­cers that it could be used against.

That’s a tall or­der. Can­cer vac­cines us­ing shared anti­gens have been a non-starter in biotech, trig­ger­ing a per­son­al­ized ap­proach that is try­ing to match a per­son­al­ized vac­cine against an in­di­vid­ual’s can­cer cell pro­file. And Vac­citech isn’t the on­ly biotech go­ing af­ter 5T4, with ri­val pro­grams com­ing down the pike from a bis­pe­cif­ic 5T4-CD3 an­ti­body from Biotec­nol and start­up Asana. Ox­ford Bio­Med­ica is al­so still dab­bling with the MVA-5T4 can­cer vac­cine TroVax, which flopped in late-stage test­ing.

Sarah Gilbert

A MERS vac­cine is com­ing up right be­hind Vac­citech’s two lead ef­forts in the clin­ic, and there are al­so HPV and HBV pro­grams in ad­vanced pre­clin­i­cal stages — part of an am­bi­tious pipeline for a start­up like this.

Jen­ner chief Adri­an Hill and Sarah Gilbert led much of the re­search that is now back­ing the biotech.

Google ven­ture arm GV co-led the round with Se­quoia Chi­na and Ox­ford Sci­ences In­no­va­tion — which seed­ed the ven­ture — with help from Nep­tune Ven­tures.

The DCT-OS: A Tech­nol­o­gy-first Op­er­at­ing Sys­tem - En­abling Clin­i­cal Tri­als

As technology-enabled clinical research becomes the new normal, an integrated decentralized clinical trial operating system can ensure quality, deliver consistency and improve the patient experience.

The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines has many of us looking forward to a time when everyday things return to a state of normal. Schools and teachers are returning to classrooms, offices and small businesses are reopening, and there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the often-awkward adjustments we’ve all made personally and professionally in the last year are behind us, never to return. In the world of clinical research, however, some pandemic-necessitated adjustments are proving to be more than emergency stopgap measures to ensure trial continuity — and numerous decentralized clinical trial (DCT) tools and methodologies employed within the last year are likely here to stay as part of biopharma’s new normal.

Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos CEO (Thierry Roge/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Gala­pa­gos chops in­to their pipeline, drop­ping core fields and re­or­ga­niz­ing R&D as the BD team hunts for some­thing 'trans­for­ma­tive'

Just 5 months after Gilead gutted its rich partnership with Galapagos following a bitter setback at the FDA, the Belgian biotech is hunkering down and chopping the pipeline in an effort to conserve cash while their BD team pursues a mission to find a “transformative” deal for the company.

The filgotinib disaster didn’t warrant a mention as Galapagos laid out its Darwinian restructuring plans. Forced to make choices, the company is ditching its IPF molecule ’1205, while moving ahead with a Phase II IPF study for its chitinase inhibitor ’4617.

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As­traZeneca caps PD-L1/CT­LA-4/chemo com­bo come­back with OS win. Is treme­li­mum­ab fi­nal­ly ready for ap­proval?

AstraZeneca’s closely-watched POSEIDON study continues to be the rare bright spot in its push for an in-house PD-L1/CTLA-4 combo.

Combining Imfinzi and tremelimumab with physicians’ choice of chemotherapy helped patients with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer live longer, the company reported — marking the first time the still-experimental tremelimumab has demonstrated an OS benefit.

For AstraZeneca and CEO Pascal Soriot, the positive readout — which is devoid of numbers — offers much-needed validation for the big bet they made on Imfinzi plus tremelimumab, after the PD-L1/CTLA-4 regimen failed multiple trials in head and neck cancer as well as lung cancer.

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Ron DePinho (file photo)

A 'fly­over' biotech launch­es in Texas with four Ron De­Pin­ho-found­ed com­pa­nies un­der its belt

In his 13 years at Genzyme, Michael Wyzga noticed something about East Coast drugmakers. Execs would often jet from Boston or New York to San Francisco to find more assets, and completely miss the work being done in flyover states, like Texas or Wisconsin.

“If it doesn’t come out of MGH or MIT or Harvard, probably not that interesting,” he said of the mindset.

Now, he and some well-known industry players are looking to change that, and they’ve reeled in just over $38 million to do it.

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An­oth­er failed tri­al for Or­p­hazyme's 'pipeline-in-a-pro­duc­t' leaves shad­ow on drug's fu­ture

The tumultuous ride for Orphazyme continued on Friday as the company announced that a pivotal trial for its lead drug arimoclomol failed yet again, this time in the treatment of ALS, seeding doubt in a drug that had recently been cleared by the FDA for priority review. The latest failure casts a darker shadow on the upcoming decision despite Orphazyme’s upbeat outlook.

In a statement, the Danish biotech announced that the drug did not meet its primary or secondary endpoints evaluating function and survival. But the company has not announced any data surrounding the failure, instead saying that it will publish the complete results later this year.

Stéphane Bancel, Getty

Mod­er­na CEO brush­es off US sup­port for IP waiv­er, eyes more than $19B in Covid-19 vac­cine sales in 2021

Moderna is definitively more concerned with keeping pace with Pfizer in the race to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 than it is with Wednesday’s decision from the Biden administration to back an intellectual property waiver that aims to increase vaccine supplies worldwide.

In its first quarter earnings call on Thursday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel shrugged off any suggestion that the newly US-backed intellectual property waiver would impact his company’s vaccine or bottom line. Still, the company’s stock price fell by about 9% in early morning trading.

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'Chang­ing the whole game of drug dis­cov­ery': Leg­endary R&D vet Roger Perl­mut­ter leaps back in­to work as a biotech CEO

Roger Perlmutter needs no introduction to anyone remotely involved in biopharma. As the R&D chief first at Amgen and then Merck, he’s built a stellar reputation and a prolific career steering new drugs toward the market for everything from cancer to infectious diseases.

But for years, he’s also held a less known title: science partner at The Column Group, where he’s regularly consulted about the various ideas the VCs had for new startups.

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CEO Khurem Farooq (Gyroscope)

Hours be­fore ex­pect­ed de­but, Gy­ro­scope post­pones its IPO as 2 oth­er biotechs hold the line on their march to Nas­daq

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In a surprising turn of events, UK-based Gyroscope Therapeutics has postponed its IPO mere hours before it was set to debut on Nasdaq.

Working on a gene therapy for wet AMD, Gyroscope was all set and ready to go public earlier this week, setting terms for a $142 million raise with a price range of $20 to $22. But in the wee hours of Friday morning, the company put out a press release saying they would delay their debut “in light of market conditions,” CEO Khurem Farooq said in a statement.

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Angela Merkel (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Covid-19 roundup: Pfiz­er sub­mits vac­cine for full ap­proval; Merkel op­pos­es Biden pro­pos­al to sus­pend IP for vac­cines

Pfizer and BioNTech said Friday that they’ve submitted a biologics license application to the FDA for full approval of their mRNA vaccine for those over the age of 16.

How long it will take the FDA to decide on the BLA will be set once it’s been formally accepted by the agency.

Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, previously told Endpoints News that the review of the BLA should take between three and four months, but it may be even faster than that.