Af­ter dig­ging through dis­cards, biotech start­up is mak­ing a $45M bet it can fix a failed can­cer ther­a­py

The re­sults were clear: Nap­tu­momab estafe­na­tox failed to pro­long over­all sur­vival for re­nal cell car­ci­no­ma pa­tients in a large tri­al, de­fin­i­tive­ly enough that Ac­tive Biotech ef­fec­tive­ly shelved it in 2013.

But three years lat­er NeoTX, a scav­enger start­up that had been dig­ging through drugs that failed in hopes of find­ing a sub­pop­u­la­tion with a bio­mark­er that the orig­i­nal de­vel­op­er had missed, stum­bled up­on the da­ta and saw the un­ex­pect­ed gem they were look­ing for.

Ash­er Nathan

“Their Phase I da­ta was stel­lar, great Phase I, and then they had this Phase II that failed pri­mar­i­ly be­cause they added the wrong drug,” Ash­er Nathan, CEO and co-founder of NeoTX, told End­points News as he un­veils $45 mil­lion in new fi­nanc­ing.

In­ter­fer­on al­pha was “ab­solute­ly the wrong drug” to com­bine with nap­tu­momab estafe­na­tox as it negat­ed cer­tain qual­i­ties of the ex­per­i­men­tal fu­sion pro­tein, Nathan said. More im­por­tant­ly, Ac­tive Biotech didn’t re­al­ly know just the kind of po­ten­tial they had in a plat­form tech that binds to the tu­mor and coat it with a bac­te­r­i­al “su­per­anti­gen” that at­tracts an im­mune at­tack.

“This is a nat­ur­al im­mune re­sponse as op­posed to if you look at oth­er tech­nolo­gies like bis­pecifics, where they gauge CD3 mol­e­cules, that’s some­thing you’ll nev­er find in na­ture,” Nathan said.

So the Is­raeli biotech li­censed the drug from Ac­tive for $250,000 up­front, and has been col­lab­o­rat­ing to start a Phase I that tests a com­bo of nap and As­traZeneca’s check­point drug, Imfinzi (dur­val­um­ab).

Roger Ko­rn­berg

Roger Ko­rn­berg, a No­bel lau­re­ate, Stan­ford can­cer re­searcher and long­time friend of Nathan’s, helped guide the com­pa­ny’s piv­ot to fo­cus on this ap­proach, which they call se­lec­tive T cell redi­rec­tion or STR. And long­time Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb ex­ec Mar­cel Rozencweig is on­board as CMO, lead­ing a small of­fice in Prince­ton, New Jer­sey in prepa­ra­tion for a tri­al ex­pan­sion to the US.

They are en­rolling pa­tients with a wide range of sol­id tu­mors to the Phase Ib dose es­ca­la­tion tri­al — from pan­cre­at­ic ade­no­car­ci­no­ma and ovar­i­an can­cer to prostate can­cer and triple neg­a­tive breast can­cer — as nap­tu­momab tar­gets the on­cofe­tal anti­gen 5T4.

Oth­er drug­mak­ers have mount­ed ef­forts to hone in on 5T4, rang­ing from Sanofi and Ox­ford Bio­med­ica’s Phase III can­cer vac­cine to Pfiz­er’s ear­ly-stage an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate to Gen­mab’s pre­clin­i­cal CD3/5T4 bis­pe­cif­ic.

Mar­cel Rozencweig

NeoTX is al­so work­ing on a sec­ond can­di­date hit­ting a dif­fer­ent tar­get specif­i­cal­ly tai­lored to glioblas­toma. They’ve brought David Rear­don of Dana Far­ber on for that pro­gram, which al­so uti­lizes the bac­te­r­i­al com­po­nent.

The team of around 20 has some pow­er­ful — if un­con­ven­tion­al — back­ers. For the Se­ries C, they en­ticed “one of the top 10 rich­est peo­ple in the world,” for­mer Black­stone vice chair­man Tomil­son Hill, Amer­i­can busi­ness­man Paul Marinel­li as well as Ko­re­an in­vestor An­drew Kim.

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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