Jonathan Montagu (L) and Gerry Harriman, HotSpot co-founders

HotSpot gets hot­ter with $100M raise to push to­ward clin­ic

HotSpot Ther­a­peu­tics, the al­lostery-fo­cused biotech that works on what it calls “nat­ur­al hotspots” — hence the name — is get­ting a bit hot­ter in its val­u­a­tion from in­vestors. And to that end they’ve raised $100 mil­lion.

The four-year-old AI com­pu­ta­tion­al biotech start­ed by two for­mer Nim­bus ex­ecs an­nounced this morn­ing that it closed its Se­ries C round right at the line of a 9-fig­ure in­vest­ment, cour­tesy of some big in­vestors.

Piv­otal bioVen­ture Part­ners took the lead on the round — with “sig­nif­i­cant par­tic­i­pa­tion” by LSP and B Cap­i­tal Group. A slew of new in­vestors hopped on the band­wag­on, such as Monashee In­vest­ment Man­age­ment and Rev­e­la­tion Part­ners, along with some old in­vestors like At­las Ven­ture, SR One Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and Sofinno­va Part­ners.

This new round more than dou­bles what HotSpot has pre­vi­ous­ly raised, bring­ing it to a to­tal of $190 mil­lion. The last time HotSpot raised funds was in May 2020, when the biotech an­nounced a $65 mil­lion Se­ries B.

The biotech fol­lows in Nim­bus’ foot­steps of de­vel­op­ing ther­a­pies for so-called al­losteric tar­gets us­ing a com­pu­ta­tion­al plat­form — look­ing at pro­tein pock­ets be­yond ac­tive sites to find ways to drug pro­teins that were pre­vi­ous­ly deemed un­drug­gable or hard to drug.

And as with many rounds, there’s al­so board ap­point­ments. Ash Khan­na, a ven­ture part­ner with Piv­otal bioVen­ture Part­ners, and Fouad Az­zam of LSP will join HotSpot’s board of di­rec­tors.

For HotSpot’s co-founders, CEO Jonathan Mon­tagu and CSO Ger­ry Har­ri­man, this al­lows HotSpot to piv­ot more in­to clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

And with the Se­ries C, an IPO is usu­al­ly not far be­hind. As Mon­tagu put it, this raise puts HotSpot “in the dri­ver’s seat,” he told End­points News — and while it’s too ear­ly to con­sid­er a move in­to the pub­lic eq­ui­ty mar­ket, he says it al­lows HotSpot the flex­i­bil­i­ty as to when it goes pub­lic.

With the cash run­way un­til 2024, the new round al­lows the biotech to move pro­grams in­to the IND-en­abling phase, Mon­tagu said. Their plan is to file an IND on their lead pro­gram some­time next year — a CBL-B tar­get fo­cus­ing on the E3 lig­ase — af­ter HotSpot nom­i­nates a de­vel­op­ment can­di­date for that tar­get. Even­tu­al­ly, HotSpot’s goal is to start dos­ing pa­tients in a clin­i­cal set­ting by the end of 2022.

The com­pa­ny hopes the IND will be the first of many. Out­side of the com­pa­ny’s 3 pub­licly-known tar­gets, there’s a few more that re­main undis­closed that, in Mon­tagu’s mind, gives HotSpot lever­age in ef­fi­cient R&D.

“We’re go­ing to scale the com­pa­ny so that we can have a steady state of 2-3 lead op­ti­miza­tion pro­grams at any one time, which will trans­late in­to a steady ca­dence of mol­e­cules en­ter­ing the clin­ic,” Mon­tagu said in an in­ter­view.

Out­side of the pipeline, the com­pa­ny is al­so look­ing to in­crease the num­ber of em­ploy­ees — which is cur­rent­ly split be­tween Boston and New Jer­sey. HotSpot is cur­rent­ly ex­pand­ing its team over­seas in Berlin, Ger­many, Mon­tagu con­firmed.

“What we would like to do is to re­al­ly build out a num­ber of ar­eas in our re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion that can not on­ly sup­port a grow­ing pipeline, but al­so make deep in­vest­ments in­to our plat­form. So we will see growth in ar­eas such as bi­ol­o­gy, chem­istry, and then our AI ef­forts in our plat­form,” Har­ri­man told End­points in an in­ter­view.

Har­ri­man al­so said they would hire out­side com­pa­nies for man­u­fac­tur­ing when it reach­es that point.

Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

Big week for Alzheimer’s da­ta; As­traZeneca buys cell ther­a­py start­up; Dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics hits a pay­er wall; 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.

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Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

As mon­ey pours in­to dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, in­sur­ance cov­er­age crawls



Talk therapy didn’t help Lily with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But a video game did.

As the 10-year-old zooms through icy waters and targets flying creatures on the snow-capped planet Frigidus, she builds attention skills, thanks to Akili Interactive Labs’ video game EndeavorRx. She’s now less anxious and scattered, allowing her to stay on a low dose of ADHD medication, according to her mom Violet Vu.

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Am­gen, years be­hind ri­vals, says PhI obe­si­ty drug shows dura­bil­i­ty signs

While NBC ran “The Biggest Loser” for 17 seasons, deemed toxic by critics for the reality show’s punishing exercise and diet upheavals, researchers in pharmaceutical labs have been attempting to create prescription drugs that induce weight loss — and one pharma betting it can require less frequent dosing is out with a new crop of data.

Amgen was relatively late to the game compared to its approved competitor Novo Nordisk and green light-approaching rival Eli Lilly. But early data suggested Amgen’s AMG 133 led to a 14.5% weight reduction in the first few months of dosing, buoying shares earlier this fall, and now the California pharma is out with its first batch of durability data showing that figure fell slightly to 11.2% about 150 days after the last dose. Amgen presented at the 20th World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease on Saturday afternoon.

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Eli Lil­ly’s Alzheimer’s drug clears more amy­loid ear­ly than Aduhelm in first-ever head-to-head. Will it mat­ter?

Ahead of the FDA’s decision on Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug donanemab in February, the Big Pharma is dropping a first cut of data from one of the more interesting trials — but less important in a regulatory sense — at an Alzheimer’s conference in San Francisco.

In the unblinded 148-person study, Eli Lilly pitted its drug against Aduhelm, Biogen’s drug that won FDA approval but lost Medicare coverage outside of clinical trials. Notably, the study didn’t look at clinical outcomes, but rather the clearance of amyloid, a protein whose buildup is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in the brain.

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Chris Kim, Liminatus Pharma CEO

A fledg­ling biotech goes SPAC route to bankroll can­cer vac­cine, CAR-T and CD47

A relatively unknown clinical-stage biotech — backed by a Korean lighting company and focused on a cancer vaccine out of a Thomas Jefferson University lab — is headed to Nasdaq via the blank check route.

Liminatus Pharma will get about $316 million in proceeds from the SPAC combination to fund its ongoing Phase IIa study of a cancer vaccine, bring a CAR-T therapy into the clinic and prep a CD47 immune checkpoint inhibitor for human trials, the company said this week.

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Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (ddp images/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech bets on dif­fi­cult STING field via small mol­e­cule pact with a Pol­ish biotech

BioNTech is beefing up its relatively thin small molecule pipeline by adding weight to a clinically difficult corner of oncology R&D: STING agonists. To do so, BioNTech is teaming up with a 15-year-old Polish biotech and doling out €40 million, about $41.5 million, to start.

The deal is broken into two parts: First, BioNTech obtains an exclusive global license to develop and market Ryvu Therapeutics’ STING agonist portfolio as small molecules, whether alone or in combination with other agents.

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Bay­er starts work on $43M+ ex­pan­sion of OTC man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Penn­syl­va­nia

German pharma giant Bayer will be looking to make a significant investment into one of its US plants that produces over-the-counter drugs.

Bayer announced that it will spend $43.6 million to expand its facility in Myerstown, PA, a small town east of Harrisburg. Bayer plans to increase the site by 70,000 square feet and will have room for the installation of eight packaging lines and an area to install rooftop solar panels. The project is expected to be completed by 2025 and will add around 50 to 75 jobs.

US month­ly costs for biosim­i­lars 'sub­stan­tial­ly high­er' than Ger­many or Switzer­land, JA­MA re­search finds

As the global biologics market is expected to hit nearly the half-trillion-dollar mark this year, new JAMA research points to the importance of timely biosimilar entry, particularly as fewer biosimilars are entering the US than in Europe, and as monthly treatment costs for biosimilars were “substantially higher” in the US compared with Germany and Switzerland.

Among the three countries, biosimilar market share at launch was highest in Germany, but increased at the fastest rate in the US, the authors from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Law wrote in JAMA Network Open today.