GSK dumps a late-stage HIV drug; MIT offers support for tech start-ups; Ra Pharma closes flat after $92M IPO

Andrew Witty, GSK

Andrew Witty, GSK

GlaxoSmithKline didn’t just kill losmapimod on Wednesday. The pharma giant was also forced to dump a late-stage HIV drug acquired from Bristol-Myers late last year in a $1.46 billion deal. Here’s the explanation from CEO Andrew Witty, during the Q3 call: “We terminated 795. It’s really a tolerability issue. We didn’t feel it was good enough from that point of view. In fact, we have at least two more backups and they come from both Bristol-Myers and GSK labs actually. And I don’t think we are going to lose a lot of time. We obviously lose a bit of time here but not a lot of time. So I think we feel like the overall program is really still very much substantive as a number of opportunities in it and even at the time where we did the transaction with Bristol-Myers, while we didn’t know the tolerability profile of this lead asset, we were particularly intrigued by a couple of the backups. So even at the time of the transaction, we’ve been increasing our focus on the backups. As it turns out the leader from BMS wasn’t what we hoped it would be but the reality is I think the program remains very much intact. I don’t think the time liability is going to be very material and the backups come from both BMS and GSK which is good because that gives you a bit of diversity of chemistry and it gives us a bigger solution set to be able to come up with the right kind of product.”

MIT is revving up The Engine, a new venture that will look to raise “hundreds of millions” of dollars and provide support and working space to dozens of early-stage tech companies in the heart of the Cambridge, MA biotech hub. MIT is launching the initiative by chipping in $25 million for the first $150 million fund. The plan is to reserve 25,000 square feet of space to get started and add more than 200,000 more square feet as the resources become available.

Ra Pharmaceuticals’ IPO $RARX raised close to $92 million on Wednesday, closing flat on its first trading day at $13 a share. That $13 price marks a successful mid-range hit for the Cambridge, MA-based biotech, which has a lead drug in the pipeline for PNH. The company sold 7 million shares in the upsized offering.

Make that 201 combo studies for Keytruda. The UK’s Adaptimmune $ADAP is matching its lead NY-ESO SPEAR (Specific Peptide Enhanced Affinity Receptor) T-cell therapy with Merck’s PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda for multiple myeloma. The early-stage exploratory study is slated to start in H1 2017. Merck recently reviewed the 360 ongoing immuno-oncology studies it has in the clinic, which includes 200 combos.

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Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
CytomX Therapeutics San Francisco, CA
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Catalytic Data Science Charleston, SC
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Flatiron Health New York City or San Francisco

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