Jasper's cell ther­a­py con­di­tion­ing agent shows promise in small study; Vi­iV's Ruko­bia sees ap­proval in Eu­rope

Jasper Ther­a­peu­tics, broad­ly aimed at mak­ing cell ther­a­py safer, re­leased pre­lim­i­nary da­ta for its com­ple­ment to stem cell trans­plants on Mon­day.

The biotech is run­ning an open-la­bel Phase I tri­al of its lead pro­gram JSP191, an an­ti-CD117 mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body that tar­gets the stem cell fac­tor re­cep­tor, as a con­di­tion­ing agent in pa­tients aged 65 to 74 with myelodys­plas­tic syn­dromes or acute myeloid leukemia that are un­der­go­ing blood cell trans­plan­ta­tion. Six pa­tients have re­ceived the treat­ment thus far, and all six showed suc­cess­ful en­graft­ment.

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.

Jasper’s the­o­ry be­hind JSP191 is that it blocks the stem cell fac­tor from bind­ing to CD117 and dis­rupts sur­vival sig­nals, caus­ing the stem cells to die off. That cre­ates an “emp­ty space” of sorts in the bone mar­row, al­low­ing for donor or gene-cor­rect­ed trans­plant­ed stem cells to en­graft.

The com­pa­ny launched out of Stan­ford, emerg­ing from stealth in late 2019 with a $35 mil­lion Se­ries A round.

Eu­rope ap­proves Ruko­bia for drug-re­sis­tant HIV

GSK’s Vi­iV saw the FDA ap­prove its twice-dai­ly pill for HIV back in Ju­ly, but now they’ve re­ceived the green light on an­oth­er con­ti­nent.

The Eu­ro­pean Union on Mon­day grant­ed Ruko­bia the thumbs up for use in com­bi­na­tion with oth­er an­ti­retro­vi­ral ther­a­pies in adults with drug-re­sis­tant HIV, about two months af­ter the CHMP not­ed its pos­i­tive opin­ion. In the ran­dom­ized co­hort of the drug’s piv­otal tri­al, 60% of the 272 pa­tients who re­ceived Ruko­bia in ad­di­tion to op­ti­mized back­ground ther­a­py saw un­de­tectable HIV vi­ral load af­ter 96 weeks.

“There still re­mains a small sub­set of peo­ple liv­ing with mul­ti-drug re­sis­tant HIV who are at risk of hav­ing their dis­ease progress,” Vi­iV CEO Deb­o­rah Wa­ter­house said in a state­ment. “We aim to meet the di­verse needs of the HIV com­mu­ni­ty.”

Ruko­bia func­tions by tar­get­ing the first step of the HIV life cy­cle and shows no cross-re­sis­tance to oth­er cur­rent­ly li­censed an­ti­retro­vi­ral class­es, Vi­iV says. That can help HIV pa­tients who have strug­gled to sup­press their vi­ral lev­els us­ing oth­er treat­ments.

Vi­iV al­so notched an ap­proval in the US for Cabe­nu­va last month, be­com­ing the first FDA-ap­proved in­jectable for HIV. The ther­a­py will look to re­place the dai­ly oral pills that are cur­rent­ly stan­dard of care in treat­ing HIV-pos­i­tive adults.

The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, 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.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

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Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Seagen warns in­vestors against TRC Cap­i­tal’s lat­est 'mi­ni-ten­der of­fer'; BeiGene goes af­ter a new in­di­ca­tion for top PD-1 play­er

TRC Capital, which has selected various biotechs like Vertex and Biogen for the “mini-tender” treatment, jumped back into the game last month with an offer to buy shares in Seagen for $151. The problem, says Seagen, is that price was 4.28% lower than what the stock was selling for at the time they made the offer on Feb. 20, giving TRC a shot at an instant windfall.

So why sell for less than what it’s worth? Seagen notes warnings from regulatory authorities that these offers essentially try to trick investors into believing that they’re being offered a premium for the stock.

UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

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How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

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Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

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