Google backs I/O start­up Ar­cus in $107M deal

Ar­cus Bio­sciences, with its in­trigu­ing can­cer pipeline and big shot CEO, has been a VC fa­vorite since its in­cep­tion in 2015. Now, Google’s ven­ture arm is back­ing the Bay Area start­up in a new $107 mil­lion round, bring­ing the com­pa­ny’s to­tal haul to a quar­ter bil­lion in start­up cap­i­tal in two years.

The lat­est in­fu­sion of cash was led by GV (for­mer­ly Google Ven­tures), with top-tier VC funds lin­ing up to join, in­clud­ing Welling­ton Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny, EcoR1 Cap­i­tal and oth­ers.

It’s not hard to see why, as Ar­cus has all the things in­vestors like to see: drugs in a hot area of de­vel­op­ment, a chief ex­ec­u­tive with a stel­lar rep­u­ta­tion, and a pipeline stacked with sev­er­al im­muno-on­col­o­gy hope­fuls.

Ter­ry Rosen

Ar­cus’ CEO Ter­ry Rosen is best known as the guy who took Flexus Bio from in­cep­tion to a $1.25 bil­lion sale in less than two years. He joined Ar­cus short­ly af­ter the sale, where he and the ex­ec­u­tive team built the start­up in stealth un­til its com­ing out par­ty last Au­gust.

Now, Rosen is busy gear­ing up the start­up’s pipeline to en­ter the clin­ic.

“We have been as­sem­bling a team of staff, in­vestors, lead­er­ship and ad­vi­sors with a high­ly aligned long-term vi­sion to cre­ate, de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize in­no­v­a­tive can­cer im­munother­a­pies that may of­fer a mean­ing­ful ben­e­fit to pa­tients over ex­ist­ing treat­ments,” Rosen said in a state­ment.

Ar­cus is de­vel­op­ing small mol­e­cule and an­ti­body pro­grams with plans to build its own ar­se­nal of drug com­bos.

The new cash will be used to move for­ward AB928, a dual adeno­sine re­cep­tor an­tag­o­nist, and AB122, a PD-1 an­ti­body. Ar­cus start­ed a Phase I tri­al of AB928 in ear­ly No­vem­ber, and has a Phase I/II tri­al sched­uled for the first half of 2018 to test a AB928/AB122 com­bo in can­cer pa­tients.

The fresh cap­i­tal will al­so al­low Ar­cus to ac­cel­er­ate a cou­ple ex­tra ex­per­i­men­tal drugs in­to the clin­ic, in­clud­ing AB680 (small mol­e­cule CD73 in­hibitor) and AB154 (TIG­IT an­ti­body).

The in­vest­ment round comes a few months af­ter Ar­cus scored a deal (worth up to $816 mil­lion) to li­cense an an­ti-PD-1 an­ti­body de­vel­oped at Chi­na’s Glo­ria Phar­ma and WuXi Bi­o­log­ics.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.