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.

Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Hal Barron. GSK

GSK's Hal Bar­ron her­alds their sec­ond pos­i­tive piv­otal for cru­cial an­ti-BC­MA ther­a­py, point­ing to a push for quick OKs in a crowd­ed field

Hal Barron has his second positive round of Phase III data in hand for his anti-BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916). And GSK’s research chief says the data paves the way for their drive in search of an FDA approval for treating multiple myeloma.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this drug for GSK, a cornerstone of Barron’s campaign to make a dramatic impact on the oncology market and provide some long-lost excitement for the pharma giant’s pipeline. They’re putting this BCMA program at the front of that charge — looking to lead a host of rivals all aimed at the same target.

We don’t know what the data are yet, but DREAMM-2 falls on the heels of a promising set of data delivered 5 months ago for DREAMM-1. There investigators noted that complete responses among treatment-resistant patients rose to 15% in the extra year’s worth of data to look over, with a median progression-free survival rate of 12 months, up from 7.9 months reported earlier. The median duration of response was 14.3 months.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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Why would Am­gen want to buy Alex­ion? An­a­lysts call hot­ly ru­mored takeover un­like­ly, but seize the mo­ment

A rumor that Amgen is closing in on buyout deal for Alexion has sparked a guessing game on just what kind of M&A strategy Amgen is pursuing and how much Alexion is worth.

Mizuho analyst Salim Syed first lent credence to the report out of the Spanish news outlet Intereconomía, which said Amgen is bidding as much as $200 per share. While the source may be questionable, “the concept of this happening doesn’t sound too crazy to me,” he wrote.

FDA asks why No­var­tis took two months to launch for­mal in­ter­nal probe, af­ter AveX­is flagged da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion

And the plot thickens. Novartis $NVS officials are reportedly now scrambling to explain to the FDA why it took them two months to open an internal investigation into data discrepancies for their $2.1 million gene-therapy for spinal muscular dystrophy — the world’s most expensive drug.

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Build­ing on suc­cess­ful PD-1 pact, Eli Lil­ly li­cens­es di­a­betes drug to Chi­nese part­ners at In­novent

Eli Lilly is expanding its partnership with China’s Innovent in a deal involving a diabetes drug sitting in its Phase I reserves.

The two companies had jointly developed one of China’s first homegrown PD-1 agents, scoring an approval for Tyvyt (sintilimab) late last year for relapsed/refractory classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This time around, Lilly is out-licensing a piece of its diabetes pipeline, a leading franchise that has historically produced the top-selling Trulicity and Humalog.

UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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