Jim Wilson, Tachi Yamada, Stephen Squinto

How much does it cost to boot­strap a gene ther­a­py start­up? Not too much if you're Jim Wil­son, per Pas­sage Bio's $125M IPO fil­ing

Days ago when Deer­field part­ner Bruce Gold­smith jumped to helm Pas­sage Bio, he cit­ed a few rea­sons why it’s an “ex­treme­ly ex­cit­ing time” to be join­ing the gene ther­a­py play­er: IND fil­ings for three lead pro­grams, a da­ta-rich 2021 and an ex­pand­ing pipeline of ex­per­i­men­tal drugs for rare, mono­genic CNS dis­eases.

Bruce Gold­smith

It turns out there’s one more rea­son he held back: The Philadel­phia-based start­up was prep­ping an IPO.

Pas­sage Bio has pen­ciled in $125 mil­lion for its pub­lic de­but on the Nas­daq, with the ma­jor­i­ty of the pro­ceeds go­ing to the three AAV-based prod­uct can­di­dates slat­ed to en­ter the clin­ic in 2020.

Here’s the break­down on the tech be­hind each of them — of­fer­ing a glimpse of the ar­se­nal of de­liv­ery tools co-founder Jim Wil­son has as­sem­bled over the decades:

  1. PBGM01 uti­lizes a next-gen­er­a­tion AAVhu68 cap­sid to de­liv­er to the brain and pe­riph­er­al tis­sues a func­tion­al GLB1 gene en­cod­ing lyso­so­mal be­ta-galac­tosi­dase, or b-gal, for in­fan­tile GM1 gan­gliosi­do­sis
  2. PBFT02 uti­lizes an AAV1 cap­sid to de­liv­er to the brain a func­tion­al GRN gene en­cod­ing pro­gran­ulin, or PGRN, for FTD caused by pro­gran­ulin de­fi­cien­cy, or FTD-GRN
  3. PBKR03 uti­lizes a next-gen­er­a­tion AAVhu68 cap­sid to de­liv­er to the brain and pe­riph­er­al tis­sues a func­tion­al gene en­cod­ing the hy­drolyt­ic en­zyme galac­to­syl­ce­rami­dase, or GALC, for in­fan­tile Krabbe dis­ease

There are some com­peti­tors work­ing on each of the dis­eases they are tack­ling, in­clud­ing Ax­o­vant and Lyso­gene for GM1 as well as Alec­tor and Pre­vail for FTD, but Pas­sage Bio was con­fi­dent about be­ing an in­te­grat­ed play­er ca­pa­ble of tack­ling mul­ti­ple “cross-cor­rec­tion­al ther­a­pies” in the CNS.

Wil­son, a well-re­spect­ed pi­o­neer in the gene ther­a­py field, had in­tend­ed for this to be his lega­cy com­pa­ny, Or­biMed part­ner Stephen Squin­to pre­vi­ous­ly told End­points News. Thanks to Wil­son’s con­nec­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, Pas­sage se­cured a li­cens­ing deal with the uni­ver­si­ty for an up­front of just $2.5 mil­lion in cash and 3,720,000 shares in stock (then val­ued at $0.9 mil­lion) — plus a promise to fund cer­tain pre­clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, the S-1 re­vealed.

The pact cov­ered rights to 12 ther­a­pies in to­tal, and should Pas­sage ex­er­cise those op­tions by the 2022 ex­piry date, up­front fees would be some­where be­tween $0.8 mil­lion to $1 mil­lion. They have al­ready made the call on six; Penn is el­i­gi­ble for up to $16.5 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ment mile­stones and $55 mil­lion in sales mile­stones for each.

That, plus the $10 mil­lion up­front Pas­sage paid Catal­ent’s Paragon sub­sidiary for man­u­fac­tur­ing work, amount­ed to the bulk of the biotech’s ex­pense. While it’s bagged two hefty megarounds, Pas­sage has on­ly burned through $58.7 mil­lion so far.

The syn­di­cate stayed ba­si­cal­ly the same through­out Se­ries A and B, fea­tur­ing Fra­zier Life Sci­ences (13.9%, rep­re­sent­ed by Wil­son’s long­time men­tor Tachi Ya­ma­da on the board), Or­biMed (19.6%), Ver­sant Ven­tures (14.8%) Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures (7.6%), New Leaf Ven­tures (7.0%), Vi­vo Cap­i­tal (7.0%) and Ac­cess In­dus­tries’ AI Pas­sage (6.5%). Wil­son re­tained 7.0% for him­self.

With his rare dis­ease ex­pe­ri­ence gleaned from years at Alex­ion, Squin­to ini­tial­ly took up the CEO role be­fore pass­ing the reins to Gold­smith. His com­pen­sa­tion pack­age for the past year to­taled $2.2 mil­lion com­pen­sa­tion, and he con­tin­ues to be part of the team as in­ter­im head of R&D.

Chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer Alex Fo­topou­los and chief med­ical of­fi­cer Gary Ro­mano re­ceived $2.25 mil­lion and $2.02 mil­lion, re­spec­tive­ly.

Clin­i­cal tri­al di­ver­si­ty da­ta show mis­match be­tween en­roll­ment and dis­ease preva­lence, GSK says

A lack of diversity in clinical trials has persisted despite decades of initiatives to try to turn the tide.

In a recent review of 17 years of clinical trials, drugmaker GSK found that there were some mismatches between the demographics of its US-based trials and how prevalent diseases were in those populations.

The results, the company says, will help GSK and others design studies that better represent epidemiological rates within races and ethnicities.

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; 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.

With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Raymond Stevens, Structure Therapeutics CEO

Be­hind Fri­day's $161M IPO: A star sci­en­tist, GPCR drug dis­cov­ery and a plan to chal­lenge phar­ma in di­a­betes

What does it take to pull off a $161 million biotech IPO these days?

In Structure Therapeutics’ case, it means having a star scientist co-founder paired with the computational drug discovery company Schrödinger, $198 million in private funding from blue-chip investors, almost six years of research work on G protein-coupled receptors and a slate of oral, small-molecule drugs, with an eye on the huge and growing diabetes and weight-loss market.

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Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (Andreas Arnold/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

BioN­Tech opens new plas­mid DNA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Ger­many

German mRNA player BioNTech opened the doors to a new manufacturing facility on Thursday, this one just about 75 miles north of its headquarters in Mainz, Germany.

BioNTech announced on Thursday that it has completed the construction of its first plasmid DNA manufacturing facility in Marburg, Germany. The facility will produce materials for mRNA-based vaccines and therapies along with cell therapies.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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David Kirn, 4D Molecular Therapeutics CEO (via website)

FDA places hold on 4D Mol­e­c­u­lar’s Fab­ry gene ther­a­py

4D Molecular Therapeutics quietly tucked an FDA clinical hold on its Fabry gene therapy into an SEC filing.

Meanwhile, the biotech issued a press release the same day after the closing bell on Thursday touting an IND for another asset, in diabetic macular edema.

The California biotech had paused enrollment of patients in its two trials of the Fabry gene therapy (4D-310) last month after three patients experienced kidney issues, all of which were resolved within four weeks. At the time, 4DMT said it would wait until the second half of this year to look at 12-month clinical data on six patients in the Phase I/II trials, one in the US and one in Taiwan and Australia.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.

Af­ter 13 years, Ramy Mah­moud steps in­to CEO seat at Opti­nose; Ru­pert Vessey set to ex­it Bris­tol My­ers in Ju­ly

After 13 years as president and COO at Optinose, Ramy Mahmoud has stepped into a new role as its CEO. He is taking the place of Peter Miller, who stepped down earlier this week, though Miller is still staying with the company as a consultant.

In 2010, the two business partners joined Optinose to take it in a new direction, transforming it from a delivery platform to product company. They previously worked together at Johnson & Johnson, when Miller was president at Janssen and Mahmoud headed medical affairs. Miller said after he learned about Optinose, “I did what I always do, which is find people smarter than me to talk with about the idea. And the first person I called was Ramy … and I said, ‘Hey, Ramy, what do you think of this technology?’”

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Ma­gen­ta halts stem cell work and may sell it­self fol­low­ing pa­tient death, clin­i­cal hold

Magenta Therapeutics said it is halting work on its stem cell transplant drug pipeline and may sell itself, a week after the company reported the death of a patient in an early stage trial of its antibody-drug conjugate.

The Cambridge, MA-based company said it will conduct a “review of strategic alternatives,” and that could include an “acquisition, merger, business combination, or other transaction.”

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