GSK vet Ja­son Gard­ner takes the helm of Ma­gen­ta, emerg­ing from stealth with a $48.5M round

Ja­son Gard­ner, Ma­gen­ta CEO. Jen Ran­dall Pho­tog­ra­phy.

Ja­son Gard­ner re­turned to his old stomp­ing grounds in Cam­bridge, MA back in the fall of 2014 with a mis­sion to hunt up new col­lab­o­ra­tions for the phar­ma gi­ant Glax­o­SmithK­line. He’s stay­ing on as CEO of an up­start biotech which is now com­ing out of stealth mode with a new plat­form tech un­der con­struc­tion for stem cell trans­plants. And he’s build­ing it with some of the top sci­en­tif­ic hands in the field.

“I left (GSK) last No­vem­ber to join At­las (Ven­ture),” the Har­vard-ed­u­cat­ed Gard­ner tells me. Bruce Booth at At­las played a big role in his change of ca­reer as Gard­ner ini­tial­ly stepped in as an en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence and then quick­ly shift­ed over to help­ing set up Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics in the seed stage. And the switch from Big Phar­ma to lit­tle start­up has brought him back to work­ing hand-in-hand with Har­vard pro­fes­sor David Scad­den and his lab, where Gard­ner did his post­doc work.

Scad­den and a large group of his col­leagues (see the full list be­low) will help Gard­ner and his grow­ing team of sci­en­tists at the new­born biotech. Ma­gen­ta is get­ting start­ed for­mal­ly with a $48.5 mil­lion A round led joint­ly by At­las and Third Rock, a first for these two promi­nent Boston-backed VCs. And Google’s GV is jump­ing in­to the syn­di­cate along with Ac­cess In­dus­tries (Blavat­nik Group) and Part­ners In­no­va­tion Fund, round­ing out a pool that could — de­pend­ing on how the com­pa­ny pro­gress­es — pony the biotech’s work for up to about three years.

Scad­den’s lab has been pub­lish­ing some new work in stem cell trans­plan­ta­tion that will help in­spire the R&D ef­fort at Ma­gen­ta. In sim­ple terms, it’s an old tech­nol­o­gy plagued with prob­lems and still full of po­ten­tial. The prob­lems stretch from prep­ping the pa­tients, to har­vest­ing stem cells and then boost­ing the har­vest to achieve a ther­a­peu­tic ef­fect — the three an­gles that the com­pa­ny will now work to im­prove.

More broad­ly, Ma­gen­ta is di­rect­ed at re­boot­ing the im­mune sys­tem, look­ing for a new path to cures in an age where im­munother­a­pies have moved to the cen­ter of hun­dreds of new drug de­vel­op­ment ef­forts.

“It’s the first time a com­pa­ny has tak­en a holis­tic look at stem cell trans­plants,” says Gard­ner. The goal: “How do we change the risk/ben­e­fit con­ver­sa­tion?” Ma­gen­ta’s mis­sion is to make that con­ver­sa­tion fo­cus a lot more on the ben­e­fits, and a lot less on the risks en­tailed.

Like a lot of start-up CEOs, Gard­ner will al­so be spend­ing a lot of his time re­cruit­ing. Ma­gen­ta cur­rent­ly has a staff of 20, which Gard­ner ex­pects will dou­ble next year.

It made a lot of sense for At­las and Third Rock to join hands on the new com­pa­ny, adds the CEO. It turned out they were both cir­cling the is­sue, query­ing the ex­perts and do­ing the same home­work, and quick­ly de­cid­ed they could do more to­geth­er than sep­a­rate­ly.

Here’s the full list of the sci­en­tif­ic founders:

  • David Scad­den, MD, Ger­ald and Dar­lene Jor­dan Pro­fes­sor of Med­i­cine, Pro­fes­sor of Stem Cell and Re­gen­er­a­tive Bi­ol­o­gy, and Chair of the De­part­ment of Stem Cell and Re­gen­er­a­tive Bi­ol­o­gy, Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty; Di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Re­gen­er­a­tive Med­i­cine, Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal; Co-founder and Co-di­rec­tor, Har­vard Stem Cell In­sti­tute
  • Der­rick Rossi, PhD, As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor of Stem Cell and Re­gen­er­a­tive Bi­ol­o­gy, Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty; In­ves­ti­ga­tor, Pro­gram in Cel­lu­lar and Mol­e­c­u­lar Med­i­cine, Boston Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal; Prin­ci­pal Fac­ul­ty mem­ber, Har­vard Stem Cell In­sti­tute
  • John Diper­sio, MD, PhD, Pro­fes­sor of Med­i­cine, Pe­di­atrics and Pathol­o­gy/Im­munol­o­gy, Chief, Di­vi­sion of On­col­o­gy, Site­man Can­cer Cen­ter, Barnes Jew­ish Hos­pi­tal, Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty St. Louis School of Med­i­cine
  • Robert Ne­grin, MD, Pro­fes­sor of Med­i­cine, Di­vi­sion Chief of the Blood and Mar­row Trans­plant Pro­gram; Med­ical Di­rec­tor of the Clin­i­cal Bone Mar­row Trans­plan­ta­tion Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty
  • Lui­gi Nal­di­ni, MD, PhD, Di­rec­tor, San Raf­faele-Telethon In­sti­tute for Gene Ther­a­py, Mi­lan (TIGET)
  • Alan Tyn­dall, MD, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor and Head of Rheuma­tol­ogy, Co-founder, Basel Stem Cell Net­work, Uni­ver­si­ty of Basel.
From left to right: Lilian Kim, Associate Director Business Development; John Moller, CEO; Yooni Kim, Executive Director, Asia Operations; Michelle Park, Director South Korea Operations.

Novotech CRO sees 26% growth in Asia tri­al ac­tiv­i­ty from biotechs, but still plen­ty of ca­pac­i­ty

As the Asia-Pacific clinical trials sector continues to grow rapidly, Novotech the Asia-Pacific-based CRO is seeing biotech clinical activity up by 26%. But says there is still plenty of capacity in the region that features advanced medical facilities, supportive regulatory environments, and more than 2.3 billion people, largely treatment naïve, living in urban areas.

China, South Korea and Australia have the most studies registered as recruiting or about to recruit according to ClinicalTrials.Gov.

Pfizer, South San Francisco — Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

UP­DAT­ED: Pfiz­er takes aim at a flag­ship fran­chise at Sanofi and Re­gen­eron — and scores a few di­rect hits

Count Pfizer in as a top player in the blockbuster game of JAK1 inhibitors.

Over the weekend the pharma giant posted some stellar Phase III efficacy data for their heavyweight contender abrocitinib in atopic dermatitis (eczema) that lines up ahead of a booming Dupixent (dupilumab), a blockbuster in the portfolios of Regeneron and Sanofi. And they put some real distance ahead of Eli Lilly’s trailing Olumiant, which made a delayed initial arrival on the market for rheumatoid arthritis after the FDA hobbled it with some additional hurdles on safety concerns.

JADE-MONO-1 scores well for Pfizer, teeing up what will be an intensely followed breakdown of the JADE MONO-2 data, which the pharma giant recently top-lined as “similar” to the first Phase III when tested against a placebo — a control group that has been easily outclassed by all the drugs in this market niche.

As of now, Pfizer looks to be equipped to run into the review stage — advantaged by a breakthrough therapy designation that is intended to speed up the regulatory process.

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A preda­tor's world? Top an­a­lyst sees the 'haves' and the 'haven't­s' di­verge as biotech bub­bles form — and col­lapse

Josh Schimmer

We’ve all seen the deluge of cash that’s been pouring into biotech from every angle: VCs, IPOs and follow-ons have generated billions in capital for new and emerging drug developers with ready access to some powerful new tech. But Evercore ISI’s Josh Schimmer is asking where we’re headed from here.

His answer is neither apocalyptic nor universally blissful, but if he’s right — and this is a discussion we’re hearing much, much more about at a time of growing economic and industry uncertainty — we may well be at a crossroads that could affect valuations, M&A and the entire global industry that has formed over the past 5 years.

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US mulls tar­iffs on Swiss drug ex­ports, weigh­ing on No­var­tis and Roche –  re­port

The leading Swiss newspaper has reported that the US is considering placing tariffs on pharmaceuticals from Switzerland. Roche and Novartis stock each fell 1% after the news broke.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told pharmaceutical representatives the Trump administration was considering the move. Tariffs do not appear to be in the immediate offing, but they would potentially affect Swiss giants Novartis and Roche along with other companies that manufacture in Switzerland, including Merck KGaA and US biotech Biogen, which is currently constructing a new facility in the country.

Neil Kumar, Endpoints

Bridge­Bio drops bid to re­claim Ei­dos af­ter di­rec­tors spurn 3 of­fers

A couple of months ago a newly public BridgeBio turned some heads by disclosing that it had made a bid for subsidiary Eidos Therapeutics in hopes of gobbling up the 34% stake that it doesn’t already own. Two offers later, the parties are calling it off.

A special committee of independent directors at the smaller biotech led by RA Capital’s Rajeev Shah and ex-Portola CEO William Lis first rejected the parent company’s initial offer — which would swap 1.3 BridgeBio shares for each Eidos share — on September 12. In the latest announcement, BridgeBio revealed that it eventually raised the offer to 1.5 shares and made $110 million available for all-cash or mixed consideration options, but Eidos still wasn’t interested.

Mark Foley, Revance

HR vi­o­la­tion push­es Re­vance co-founder out, vault­ing for­mer Zel­tiq chief to the helm

Months after Revance amended the terms of its Botox biosimilar collaboration with Mylan, the Newark, California-based drug developer disclosed its co-founder Dan Browne is stepping down, in what appears to be mysterious circumstances.

The company — which is also developing a rival to Allergan’s formidable Botox franchise — on Monday said Browne is departing “due to misjudgment in handling an employee matter,” that has also culminated in his resignation from Revance’s board of directors.

In-house FDA re­view flags a sus­pi­cious im­bal­ance in deaths as Sh­iono­gi hunts an OK for an­tibi­ot­ic

Shionogi has some big questions to answer if they plan to win an FDA panel’s backing for their new antibiotic.

While investigators have provided positive efficacy data for their new product to treat cases of complex urinary tract infections, an FDA review has flagged an imbalance of deaths between the antibiotic and a control arm. And they want the agency’s outside advisers to take a good hard look at that when they meet on Wednesday.

Cell ther­a­py start­up rais­es $16 mil­lion to fund its quest for the Holy Grail in re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cine

In 2006, Shinya Yamanaka shook stem cell research with his discovery that mature cells can be converted into stem cells, relieving a longstanding political-ethical blockage and throwing open medical research on everything from curbing eye degeneration to organ printing.

But that process still has pitfalls, including in risk and scalability, and some researchers are exploring another way first hinted at years ago: new technology to convert mature cells directly into other mature cells without the complex and time-consuming process of first making them into stem cells.

Eye­ing $86M, Galera leads a pack of three mod­est biotech IPOs push­ing past high pro­file stum­bles

Exactly one year after kicking off a pivotal Phase III study for its lead drug — a companion for cancer patients receiving radiotherapy — Galera is looking to the Nasdaq for some new cash to complete the clinical work and fuel its commercial drive.

CEO Mel Sorensen has penciled in an $86 million ask, which was filed on the same day as liver disease company 89bio and rare disease diagnostics shop Centogene. The trio marks the first batch of IPO filings in the wake of two highly anticipated but ultimately disappointing public debuts by BioNTech and Vir, signaling dwindling biotech fervor on Wall Street. 89bio and Centogene are seeking $70 million and $69 million, respectively.