Bill Lis, Jasper Therapeutics

Jasper and its stem cell con­di­tion­ing an­ti­body earn a tick­et to Nas­daq in lat­est SPAC re­verse merg­er

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An­oth­er biotech SPAC deal has land­ed as the glut of blank-check com­pa­nies con­tin­ues to make waves in the in­dus­try.

Thurs­day’s win­ner is Jasper Ther­a­peu­tics, join­ing forces with Am­pli­tude Health­care Ac­qui­si­tion Corp. in a $100 mil­lion re­verse-merg­er, Jasper an­nounced. The deal al­so comes with a PIPE fi­nanc­ing of an ad­di­tion­al $100 mil­lion, set­ting Jasper up with a $490 mil­lion mar­ket cap once the merg­er clos­es in the third quar­ter.

Funds from the SPAC will be used to ad­vance Jasper’s an­ti-CD117 an­ti­body and their stem cell plat­form, CEO Bill Lis said in a state­ment.

Orig­i­nal­ly launched out of Stan­ford in late 2019, Jasper’s main fo­cus has been around that an­ti­body, which it’s de­vel­op­ing as a con­di­tion­ing agent for all sorts of stem cell trans­plants in or­der to make the pro­ce­dures safer and more ac­ces­si­ble. The com­pa­ny had re­ceived $35 mil­lion as part of that Se­ries A thanks to the dis­cov­ery of a Stan­ford grad stu­dent show­ing an eas­i­er way to de­plete stem cells in mice be­fore trans­plan­ta­tion.

Stan­ford sci­en­tist Ju­dith Shizu­ru then helped turn that dis­cov­ery in­to the an­ti­body around which Jasper has spent so much ef­fort. It al­so led Jasper to see whether or not oth­er com­pa­nies had start­ed look­ing at this type of pro­ce­dure in hu­mans, lead­ing them to a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Am­gen. Rather than us­ing chemother­a­py or ra­di­a­tion to re­move old stem cells, the pro­gram works by re­duc­ing stem cells from with­in their hard-to-reach pock­ets in the bone mar­row.

Ear­li­er this year, Jasper’s lead pro­gram JSP191 re­port­ed pre­lim­i­nary da­ta from an open-la­bel Phase I study. In six pa­tients aged 65 to 74 with myelodys­plas­tic syn­dromes or acute myeloid leukemia that are un­der­go­ing blood cell trans­plan­ta­tion, all in­di­vid­u­als showed suc­cess­ful en­graft­ment of the stem cells, Jasper said in Feb­ru­ary.

Re­searchers al­so saw donor myeloid chimerism of at least 95% in five of six evalu­able pa­tients at 28 days. Three of the five al­so showed that resid­ual dis­ease could not be found, in­di­cat­ing a “com­plete erad­i­ca­tion,” Jasper said at the time.

Jasper’s merg­er is the eighth an­nounced SPAC deal so far in 2021, per the End­points News tal­ly, and the sec­ond this week af­ter Vivek Ra­maswamy’s Roivant took Jim Mom­tazee’s blank check com­pa­ny to Nas­daq in a $611 mil­lion deal. In ad­di­tion to those eight, there have been an­oth­er 31 SPACs fo­cused on health­care to go pub­lic this year, look­ing for a biotech ready to make the pub­lic leap.

Health­care SPACs in 2021 got start­ed with a bang when Richard Bran­son’s blank-check out­fit said it would merge with 23andMe, the com­pa­ny known for its cot­ton-swab an­ces­try pro­gram. 23andMe, how­ev­er, has made a piv­ot to­ward drug de­vel­op­ment in re­cent years af­ter part­ner­ing with Glax­o­SmithK­line, and is seek­ing to use some of the SPAC funds to boost those ef­forts.

Af­ter 23andMe came deals for Se­ma4, So­ma­Log­ic, Bet­ter Ther­a­peu­tics, Tan­go Ther­a­peu­tics and Sur­rozen, fol­lowed up by Roivant on Mon­day. The com­bined cash raised among all SPACs in 2021 that have priced or an­nounced their in­tents to merge is ap­proach­ing $11.5 bil­lion with Jasper’s Thurs­day deal.

Am­pli­tude Health­care Ac­qui­si­tion Corp. comes from the syn­di­cate led by Howard Hof­fen, CEO of in­de­pen­dent VC firm Metal­mark, and Bala Venkatara­man, found­ing part­ner of Avego since 2014.

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

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Lisa Deschamps, AviadoBio CEO

Ex-No­var­tis busi­ness head hops over to a gene ther­a­py start­up — and she's reeled in $80M for a dash to the clin­ic

Neurologist and King’s College London professor Christopher Shaw has been researching neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and collaborating with drugmakers for the last 25 years in the hopes of pushing new therapies forward. But unfortunately, none of those efforts have come anywhere close to fruition.

“So, you know, after 20 years in the game, I said, ‘Let’s try and do it ourselves,’” he told Endpoints News. 

Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Radek Spisek, Sotio CEO (Cellestia)

A qui­et Czech biotech bags $315M to dri­ve its blos­som­ing can­cer pipeline through the clin­ic

In the rather insular world of biotech, most innovation inevitably comes from a cluster of R&D hubs — Cambridge, San Francisco, etc. But sometimes success stories sprout from rocky soil, which is most certainly the case with Prague-based Sotio Biotech and its suddenly jam-packed pipeline of cancer drugs.

After years in quiet development, Sotio now has $315 million in new funds to play with from parent company PPF Group, an investment group founded in the Czech Republic, as the biotech looks to advance its growing pipeline through early- and mid-stage trials.

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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