Gur­net Point-backed Boston Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals su­per­charges pipeline with twin deals grab­bing top cast-offs from GSK, No­var­tis

The ex­ec­u­tive crew at Boston Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has been busy.

In one 48-hour stretch they com­plet­ed two big in-li­cens­ing deals with a pair of the world’s phar­ma gi­ants — No­var­tis and GSK — which will dou­ble the size of their clin­i­cal pipeline with 4 new ther­a­pies and a slate of late-pre­clin­i­cal ef­forts that should bring the to­tal num­ber of pro­grams in hu­man tri­als to a dozen by the end of next year.

In the process, they’ve been adding just slight­ly to the small team at the com­pa­ny, which was gift­ed with a $600 mil­lion bankroll by Gur­net Point Cap­i­tal, whose chief — ex-Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbach­er — stepped in as chair­man of the board.

Right now, the staff tal­ly is just un­der 30, says Rob Arm­strong, the Eli Lil­ly vet who runs the com­pa­ny. 

They’ve al­ready divvied up these new as­sets, which in­cludes some of the top pro­grams out of No­var­tis’ trans­la­tion­al med group NI­BR, which punt­ed its an­tibac­te­r­i­al and an­tivi­ral re­search pro­grams in Emeryville, CA. last Ju­ly. For GSK, the drugs in­clude a se­lec­tion from the 30 ther­a­pies that CEO Em­ma Walm­s­ley put on the auc­tion block as she cleaned house ahead of an R&D re­vamp.

There are no num­bers in this deal, though Arm­strong notes that No­var­tis end­ed up tak­ing some eq­ui­ty in a sub­sidiary built for the deal, along with an up­front and mile­stones and a roy­al­ty sched­ule. As for GSK, he’s just not say­ing — though typ­i­cal­ly Big Phar­ma doesn’t ask for a lot of cash for the drugs it casts off from time to time. In GSK’s case, they all but hand­ed off their gene ther­a­py work, look­ing on­ly for a con­tin­ued fi­nan­cial in­ter­est.

In this case Boston Phar­ma’s haul in­cludes:

  • GSK3352589, a small mol­e­cule RET in­hibitor ready for a Phase II tri­al in ir­ri­ta­ble bow­el syn­drome with di­ar­rhea.
  • GSK3008356, a DGAT 1 drug that is be­ing re­pur­posed from NASH to ac­ne.
  • GSK3183475, a BET BD2 “which as a top­i­cal for­mu­la­tion has ther­a­peu­tic po­ten­tial to treat vi­tili­go and/or pso­ri­a­sis and is Phase 1-ready. “

On the No­var­tis side they are gain­ing:

  • LYS228, which Boston Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals be­lieves is a po­ten­tial best-in-class monobac­tam in Phase II clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment that has “demon­strat­ed ac­tiv­i­ty against CRE with re­sis­tance caused by ser­ine be­ta-lac­ta­mases (SBLs) and/or met­al­lo be­ta-lac­ta­mases (MBLs).”
  • IID572, a nov­el be­ta-lac­ta­mase in­hibitor that may be used in com­bi­na­tion with LYS228 or oth­er be­ta-lac­tam an­tibi­otics to ex­pand their use against dif­fi­cult-to-treat in­fec­tions caused by a broad­er spec­trum of CRE.
  • MAK181, an oral, first-in-class LpxC in­hibitor for Pseudomonas in­fec­tions.

“This is part of a longterm strat­e­gy,” ven­tures a cau­tious Arm­strong, forged 3 years ago when they set out to build a pipeline with 20 drugs in it. “This is a very lean trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine plat­form.” 

Keep­ing the team small, while re­ly­ing on a sup­port­ing cast of out­side ex­perts to han­dle a lot of the load — was al­ways part of that game plan. With top ex­ecs com­ing out of com­pa­nies like Lil­ly and Sanofi, Boston Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals likes the agili­ty of a small, ex­tra­or­di­nar­i­ly well fi­nanced com­pa­ny. And it doesn’t sound like they’re blow­ing any of the ex­cess on par­ties and danc­ing girls.

Al­so part of the game plan: They are cov­er­ing the wa­ter­front on dis­eases and drugs, se­lect­ing from a broad range to come up with the ther­a­pies they like. One um­brel­la team cov­ers every­thing — there’s on­ly one CMO at the com­pa­ny — and they’re steer­ing clear of busi­ness mod­els like Roivant, which is es­tab­lish­ing ful­ly staffed com­pa­nies un­der the guid­ance of the moth­er ship.

Long term, the group plans to start sell­ing off most of its as­sets ahead of Phase III, or in late-stage de­vel­op­ment if that makes sense.

Oth­ers can do the com­mer­cial work, once the biotech has plumbed the full val­ue of what’s there.


Im­age: Rob Arm­strong File Pho­to

Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck pulls Keytru­da in SCLC af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed nod. Is the FDA get­ting tough on drug­mak­ers that don't hit their marks?

In what could be an early shot in the battle against drugmakers that whiff on confirmatory studies to support accelerated approvals, the FDA ordered Bristol Myers Squibb late last year to give up Opdivo’s approval in SCLC. Now, Merck is next on the firing line — are we seeing the FDA buckling down on post-marketing offenders?

Merck has withdrawn its marketing approval for PD-(L)1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of what it describes as an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based, the company said Monday.

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In the lat­est big in­vest­ment in gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing, Bio­gen com­mits $200M to a ma­jor new fa­cil­i­ty in NC

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the only R&D effort of any consequence at Biogen belongs to aducanumab, its controversial Alzheimer’s drug. But behind the uproar around that drug, the big biotech has a full scale pipeline in play that includes a growing focus on developing gene therapies.

Now Biogen plans to build up the kind of manufacturing muscle that will give it an advantage in gaining FDA approvals — where CMC is always key — and then marketing them around the world.

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Lat­est Mass­Bio re­port shows just how much bio­phar­ma's biggest sec­tor boomed in 2020

It’s clear by now that biopharma experienced a massive boom in 2020, but a new report out Thursday says the Massachusetts hub was particularly successful.

The trade group MassBio released its latest industry snapshot, summarizing the last calendar year as the most successful for the Massachusetts biopharma sector. Overall, Massachusetts-based biotechs raised $5.8 billion in 2020, marking a hefty 93% increase from the previous year.

Eli Lil­ly claims a TKO in its long-run­ning ti­tle fight with No­vo Nordisk for the block­buster di­a­betes mar­ket — but there’s a hitch

Eli Lilly isn’t just gunning for a better diabetes drug in tirzepatide. They want to cut ahead of Novo Nordisk’s blockbuster rival Ozempic (semaglutide) on the obesity front as well. But a newly-claimed win in a head-to-head Phase III showdown over reducing A1C while shedding pounds — complete with clear evidence of superiority over the approved rival — could prove a tough sell right now.

Let’s start with the latest data from Lilly.

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Amid back of­fice con­sol­i­da­tion, Gilead ax­es 179 jobs in Cal­i­for­nia

Gilead is chopping 179 jobs in its home state of California as it scales down its headquarters in favor of a hub in North Carolina.

Up to half of the roles would shift to Research Triangle Park, where the company is setting up a new business services and information technology center, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The precise number will depend on how many employees choose to relocate.

Per a WARN notice filed with the state, the layoffs are expected to be effective May 30.

In­tro­duc­ing End­points FDA+, our new pre­mi­um week­ly reg­u­la­to­ry news re­port led by Zachary Bren­nan

CRLs. 483s. CBER, CDER and RWE. For biopharma professionals, these acronyms command attention because of the fundamental role FDA plays in drug development. Now Endpoints is doubling down on regulatory coverage, and launching a weekly report focusing on developments out of White Oak, with analysis and insight into what it all means.

Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan. He joins Endpoints from POLITICO, where he covered pharma. Prior to that he was the managing editor for Regulatory Focus, a news publication from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.