Art Krieg, Checkmate CSO

IPO bound? Five years in, Art Krieg and the Check­mate crew col­lect $85M to back up their 1-drug pipeline

Five years af­ter Art Krieg picked up a drug to make a bid in the fever­ish im­muno-on­col­o­gy space with a start­up called Check­mate Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, he and the team are still locked in to their sin­gle path­way ap­proach. And they just scored $85 mil­lion and a cou­ple of new mar­quee in­vest­ments to make some im­por­tant mid-stage moves on the R&D board.

The drug is CMP-001, which con­tains a CpG-A oligonu­cleotide that ac­ti­vates the TLR9 path­way to kick up an in­nate im­mune re­sponse to can­cer — one of the most pop­u­lar re­search strate­gies in the on­col­o­gy hand­book these days. And Check­mate says they are still the on­ly play­er in biotech to go af­ter this par­tic­u­lar path­way.

That’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly a val­i­da­tion of the ap­proach. Hot can­cer tar­gets like TIG­IT at­tract swarms of com­peti­tors, but it would leave Check­mate well ahead of any ri­val that might ap­pear.

Krieg, an oli­go ex­pert who moved from CEO to the CSO spot as the biotech moved in­to the clin­ic, has pas­sion­ate­ly be­lieved the ther­a­py can be dou­bled up with a PD-1 to amp up the im­pact for can­cer pa­tients. And they tied up with Keytru­da and Op­di­vo, the gold stan­dard in PD-1 check­points, to prove the point.

The goal here is to make a pipeline out of a prod­uct.

A key cat­a­lyst for the pri­vate play­er ar­rived last fall at SITC, when the biotech post­ed da­ta in­di­cat­ing a 25% over­all re­sponse rate for their Keytru­da-com­bo melanoma pa­tients who had al­ready proven to be re­sis­tant to an­ti-PD-(L)1 drugs. And that ev­i­dent­ly in­spired Lon­gi­tude Cap­i­tal and No­vo Hold­ings to lead the new round — al­most dou­bling the amount raised so far.

Oth­er new in­vestors in­clude Medix­ci (which puts a high pre­mi­um on fo­cus), Omega Funds, Clough Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Sec­toral As­set Man­age­ment and Bright­Edge, the ven­ture in­vest­ment fund of the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety. Check­mate’s ex­ist­ing in­vestors Sofinno­va In­vest­ments, ven­Bio Part­ners, F-Prime Cap­i­tal and Decheng Cap­i­tal al­so stepped in.

These days, that kind of raise for a biotech in the clin­ic begs the ques­tion of whether Check­mate plans to pitch an IPO soon.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Cy­to­ki­net­ics’ ALS drug fails PhI­II, leav­ing the biotech with a sin­gle late-stage prospect

Cytokinetics’ candidate for the muscle disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, failed a Phase III trial, the Bay Area biotech announced Friday morning.

At a second interim analysis of the trial, an independent review committee recommended that Cytokinetics discontinue its COURAGE-ALS trial for reldesemtiv, as it “found no evidence of effect” compared to placebo on the primary or key secondary endpoints.

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Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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Sar­to­rius to ac­quire French man­u­fac­tur­er for $2.6B+ in cell and gene ther­a­py play

The German life science group Sartorius will be picking up French contract manufacturer Polyplus for the price of €2.4 billion, or $2.6 billion.

On Friday, Sartorius announced the acquisition through its French subgroup, Sartorius Stedim Biotech, which will be acquiring Polyplus from private investors ARCHIMED and WP GG Holdings IV. Polyplus has 270 employees and produces materials and components that go into making viral vectors that are used in cell and gene therapies. This includes DNA/RNA reagents as well as plasmid DNA. Polyplus has locations in France, Belgium, China and the US.

CHMP gives thumbs-up for We­govy use in ado­les­cents, along with nine new drug rec­om­men­da­tions

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended nine drugs for approval this week while also giving thumbs up for six expanded indications, including Novo Nordisk’s approved obesity medication Wegovy for younger people. Wegovy is already approved as an obesity treatment in the EU for adults, and the new indication would allow prescriptions for adolescents aged 12 and older.

Green­Light re­ceives buy­out of­fer; Apol­lomics com­pletes SPAC merg­er

RNA biotech GreenLight Biosciences has been handed an offer for potential acquisition.

GreenLight said in a release that it has received a non-binding “indication of interest” from Fall Line Endurance Fund to acquire GreenLight’s capital stock for $0.60 per share in cash. The release said any potential agreement between the two parties would depend on certain conditions.

Through a special committee, the biotech will evaluate the offer but added there’s no certainty a deal will go forward. GreenLight will also not make any more announcements until a deal comes through or “otherwise determines” a statement is necessary.

TScan Therapeutics' departing CEO David Southwell and CSO/COO Gavin MacBeath

TCR up­start an­nounces CEO ex­it, with CSO now act­ing re­place­ment

A public T cell biotech’s chief executive has decided to leave the company.

TScan Therapeutics said Friday morning that CEO David Southwell stepped down earlier this week, leaving both his chief executive and board member roles. Filling in is Gavin MacBeath, the company’s CSO and COO. He became the acting CEO on Tuesday, and will continue to remain CSO and COO, TScan’s announcement read.

Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee lobs more bi­par­ti­san pres­sure on­to PBMs

Congress is honing in on how it wants to overhaul the rules of the road for pharmacy benefit managers, with a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday serving as the latest example of the Hill’s readiness to make changes to how pharma middlemen operate.

While pledging to ensure patients and pharmacies “don’t get a raw deal,” Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) laid out the beginning of what looks like a major bipartisan effort — moves the PBM industry is likely to challenge vigorously.

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Nicklas Westerholm, Egetis Therapeutics CEO

Ac­qui­si­tion talks on­go­ing for Swedish rare dis­ease biotech Egetis, shares up al­most 40%

Shares of the Sweden-based rare disease biotech Egetis Therapeutics skyrocketed on Thursday afternoon as the company said it’s engaged in “ongoing discussion” with external parties regarding a “potential acquisition.”

Egetis confirmed rumors with a statement on Thursday while noting that there is no certainty that a takeover offer will be made.

Nonetheless, the possibility of an acquisition has shot up Egetis’ share price. By the afternoon on Thursday, its stock price was {$EGTX.ST} up over 38%. An Egetis spokesperson told Endpoints News in an email that it has no further comments.

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