Sean Mackay, IsoPlexis

Iso­Plex­is scores big backer for per­son­al­ized pro­tein 'bar­codes' as Per­cep­tive jumps on board new fund­ing round

A lit­tle less than two years af­ter bag­ging an ex­tend­ed $50 mil­lion Se­ries C, Iso­Plex­is and its “pro­teom­ic bar­codes” for per­son­al­ized can­cer care are back set­ting hooks to bring even more in­vestors on board. And this time, they’ve caught a big fish.

Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors is lead­ing a $135 mil­lion Se­ries D round for the com­pa­ny, the firms an­nounced Thurs­day, com­pris­ing $85 mil­lion in eq­ui­ty and a $50 mil­lion line of cred­it. Iso­Plex­is plans to use the pro­ceeds to ex­pand com­mer­cial and R&D staff, in­crease op­er­a­tional ca­pac­i­ty and ac­cel­er­ate prod­uct de­vel­op­ment.

The Bran­ford, CT-based com­pa­ny works with can­cer cen­ters and bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies in the US, Eu­rope and Chi­na, us­ing its bio­mark­er-dri­ven sys­tem de­signed to pre­dict re­spons­es to such treat­ments and per­son­al­ize treat­ment for pa­tients. Iso­Plex­is em­ploys a pro­pri­etary sin­gle-cell analy­sis tool to re­fine its im­munother­a­pies.

Sam Chawla

“We be­lieve the fu­ture of ad­vanced med­i­cines will re­ly up­on deep­er ac­cess to in vi­vo bi­ol­o­gy for the de­vel­op­ment of new ther­a­pies and are ex­cit­ed to back the team at Iso­Plex­is,” Per­cep­tive port­fo­lio man­ag­er Sam Chawla said in a state­ment.

Re­searchers have de­vel­oped what they call pro­teom­ic bar­code chips, which al­low them to look at the en­tire com­ple­ment of pro­teins with­in a pa­tient’s cells. It’s a process they say pro­vides the map­ping of new and ac­ces­si­ble lay­ers of bi­o­log­i­cal da­ta for every sin­gle cell, ul­ti­mate­ly al­low­ing for a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how in­di­vid­u­als may re­spond to ther­a­pies.

Re­searchers uti­lize Iso­Plex­is’ sys­tems for the analy­sis of func­tion­al pro­teins from sin­gle cells on cer­tain chips, which CEO Sean Mack­ay says is bar­cod­ed with an­ti­bod­ies. Af­ter the chip is run on the Iso­Plex­is in­stru­ment, re­searchers place it in­to their sys­tem to see just how a per­son’s im­mune sys­tem would re­spond to dif­fer­ent treat­ments.

“We call that the sin­gle-cell im­mune land­scap­ing,” Mack­ay told End­points News. “What we’re able to do with that is find sub­sets of pow­er­ful im­mune cells that you typ­i­cal­ly miss in bulk pro­fil­ing, sort of sta­tus quo, and that is a prod­uct that works on our in­stru­ment, ba­si­cal­ly a soft­ware-en­abled sys­tem that reads out what the chips look like and what the pro­teins are per cell.”

That soft­ware then lets Iso­Plex­is com­pare what’s typ­i­cal­ly missed in that bulk pro­fil­ing to long-term re­spon­der pa­tients in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent fields like can­cer im­munother­a­py, cell and gene ther­a­py, Covid-19 and au­toim­mune dis­ease, among oth­er ar­eas. Iso­Plex­is can then pick and choose the ap­pro­pri­ate pre­clin­i­cal treat­ments and bio­mark­ers in the clin­ic, pack­ag­ing that in­fo to phar­ma com­pa­nies and aca­d­e­m­ic labs.

Per­cep­tive, his­tor­i­cal­ly a pas­sive in­vestor that en­joys clin­i­cal-stage in­vest­ments and crossover rounds, has been fair­ly busy over the last year or so. It made its first for­ay in­to the com­pa­ny for­ma­tion and Se­ries A spaces in late 2019, set­ting up a $210 mil­lion ear­ly-stage VC fund with Xon­toge­ny. Then last Au­gust, they launched their first in-house start-up in Chi­na, fol­lowed by a $310 mil­lion raise a few months lat­er. Per­cep­tive’s third SPAC al­so filed for an IPO in late Ju­ly.

Oth­er new in­vestors in­clud­ed Al­ly Bridge Group and funds and ac­counts man­aged by Black­Rock. Un­named ex­ist­ing in­vestors al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed in the round.

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

No­var­tis' sec­ond at­tempt to repli­cate a stun­ning can­cer re­sult falls flat

Novartis’ hopes of turning one of the most surprising trial data points of the last decade into a lung cancer drug has taken another setback.

The Swiss pharma announced Monday that its IL-1 inhibitor canakinumab did not significantly extend the lives or slow the disease progression of patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer when compared to standard of-care alone.

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Robert Califf (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP Images, File)

As buzz on Califf FDA nom heats up, in­dus­try and agency in­sid­ers of­fer a strong nod for the ‘per­fect’ choice

For once in this long, dramatic road to finding a new FDA commissioner, there’s been some continuity. Both CNN and Politico reported this weekend that Rob Califf met with President Biden to discuss the permanent commish role, following earlier news broken by the Washington Post that all signs point to Califf.

Although there may be a few Democrats who continue to grandstand about the dangers of COI (Califf has worked for Verily, sits on the board of Centessa Pharmaceuticals, and has other ties to industry research), with the pandemic ongoing and the need for some kind of continuity at FDA mounting, Califf is likely to meet the same fate as when he first won Senate confirmation in 2016, by a vote of 89-4 — Bernie Sanders and 6 others didn’t vote.

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AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot (Raphael Lafargue/Abaca/Sipa USA)

A com­bo of As­traZeneca's Imfinzi and chemo wins where oth­ers have failed in piv­otal bil­iary tract test

Looking to run with the big dogs in the PD-(L)1 class, AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi has a tall hill to climb to compete in an increasingly bustling market. An aggressive combo strategy for the drug has paid off so far, and now AstraZeneca is adding another notch to its belt.

A combo of Imfinzi (durvalumab) and chemotherapy significantly extended the lives of first-line patients with advanced biliary tract cancer over chemo alone, according to topline results from the Phase III TOPAZ-1 study revealed Monday.

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Sean Ianchulev, Eyenovia CEO and CMO

Re­cent court de­ci­sion push­es FDA to re­ject and re­clas­si­fy drug-de­vice com­bo, crush­ing shares

Back in April, the FDA lost a crucial court case in which its broad discretion of regulating medical products that might satisfy the legal definitions of either “drug” and/or “medical device” was sharply curtailed.

In addition to the appeals court ruling that Genus Medical Technologies’ contrast agent barium sulfate (aka Vanilla SilQ) should not be considered a drug, as the FDA had initially ruled, but as a medical device, the agency also was forced to spell out which drugs would transition to devices as a result of the ruling.

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Peter Greenleaf, Aurinia CEO

Af­ter pass­ing on Ac­celeron, Bris­tol My­ers eyes bolt-on ac­qui­si­tion of au­toim­mune spe­cial­ist — re­port

Bristol Myers Squibb is looking to beef up its autoimmune portfolio by scooping up Aurinia Pharmaceuticals, Bloomberg reported.

The recent overtures to Aurinia, relayed by anonymous insiders, came just as Bristol Myers turned down buyout talks with partners at Acceleron — which Merck ultimately struck a deal to acquire for $11.5 billion. Bristol Myers has reportedly decided to cash out on its minority stake, likely bagging $1.3 billion in the process, while keeping the royalty deals on two of Acceleron’s blood disorder drugs.

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So — that pig-to-hu­man trans­plant; Po­ten­tial di­a­betes cure reach­es pa­tient; Ac­cused MIT sci­en­tist lash­es back; 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.

We’re incredibly excited to welcome Beth Bulik, seasoned pharma marketing reporter, to the team. You can find much of her work in our new Marketing channel — and in her weekly newsletter, Endpoints PharmaRx, which will launch in early November. Add it to your subscriptions here.

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NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

No, sci­en­tists are not any clos­er to pig-to-hu­man trans­plants than they were last week

Steve Holtzman was awoken by a 1 a.m. call from a doctor at Duke University asking if he could put some pigs on a plane and fly them from Ohio to North Carolina that day. A motorcyclist had gotten into a horrific crash, the doctor explained. He believed the pigs’ livers, sutured onto the patient’s skin like an external filter, might be able to tide the young man over until a donor liver became available.

UP­DAT­ED: Agenus calls out FDA for play­ing fa­vorites with Mer­ck, pulls cer­vi­cal can­cer BLA at agen­cy's re­quest

While criticizing the FDA for what may be some favoritism towards Merck, Agenus on Friday officially pulled its accelerated BLA for its anti-PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab as a potential second-line treatment for cervical cancer because of the recent full approval for Merck’s Keytruda in the same indication.

The company said the BLA, which was due for an FDA decision by Dec. 16, was withdrawn “when the window for accelerated approval of balstilimab closed,” thanks to the conversion of Keytruda’s accelerated approval to a full approval four months prior to its PDUFA date.

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