Jazz trig­gers Co­di­ak’s first ex­o­some al­liance with a $76M ante and up to $1B-plus in mile­stones

Co­di­ak CEO Doug Williams has notched his first col­lab­o­ra­tion deal.

The biotech ex­ec and his team are col­lect­ing a $56 mil­lion up­front from Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $JAZZ as Co­di­ak ramps up 5 trans­la­tion­al pro­grams us­ing its ex­o­some plat­form, with two of the can­cer tar­gets in pub­lic sight — NRAS and STAT3. There’s an­oth­er $20 mil­lion on the ta­ble for near-term pre­clin­i­cal goals, with a $200 mil­lion pack­age of mile­stones per tar­get and a roy­al­ty arrange­ment for suc­cess.


Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, Williams says that the al­liance in­cludes an opt-in on 2 pro­grams that Co­di­ak can co-com­mer­cial­ize, which would mark a ma­jor change for the biotech. 

Williams, a long­time biotech ex­ec who man­aged Bio­gen’s R&D ops for one stretch, says he’s known Jazz CFO Matt Young for quite awhile now, which helped opened the door to this deal.

“There’s a grow­ing re­al­iza­tion in Jazz and glob­al­ly that ex­o­somes are an in­ter­est­ing ap­proach to de­vel­op­ing ther­a­peu­tics,” he notes. And it’s a good add-on for Jazz as they ex­plore new ways to “drug the un­drug­gable” in on­col­o­gy and oth­er ther­a­peu­tic fields.

It’s a good de­vel­op­ment for Co­di­ak, Williams adds, al­low­ing some ex­tra fi­nanc­ing on top of the $168.5 mil­lion he’s al­ready raised for the com­pa­ny, ex­pand­ing the pipeline and staff — which now sits at 60.

They’ve been work­ing on us­ing ex­o­somes as a kind of cel­lu­lar freight ser­vice, car­ry­ing pay­loads of nu­cle­ic acids, pro­teins, small mol­e­cules and more through the var­i­ous road­blocks your body us­es to check the spread of threat­en­ing sub­stances. By hi­jack­ing the sys­tem, Co­di­ak is look­ing to cre­ate a whole new way to drug the cur­rent­ly un­drug­gable. And their first in-house ef­fort fo­cused on jump­ing on board these nanopar­ti­cles with an siR­NA tar­get­ing KRAS that has shown promise in a va­ri­ety of mod­els for pan­cre­at­ic can­cer.

That should set up a move in­to the clin­ic with their own prod­uct in 2020.

The deal with Jazz, mean­while, leaves Co­di­ak in charge of ma­neu­ver­ing the 5 pro­grams through Phase I/II stud­ies, with Jazz left in charge of any ad­di­tion­al clin­i­cal work they elect to pur­sue.

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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A new chap­ter in the de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal tri­al ap­proach

Despite the promised decentralized trial revolution, we haven’t yet moved the needle in a significant way, although we are seeing far bolder commitments to this as we continue to experience the pandemic restrictions for some time to come. The vision of grandeur is one thing, but operationalizing and execution are another and recognising that change, particularly mid-flight on studies, is worthy of thorough evaluation and consideration in order to achieve success. Here we will discuss one of the critical building blocks of a Decentralized and Remote Trial strategy: TeleConsent; more than paper under glass, it is a paradigm change and key digital enabler.

Stephen Hoge, Moderna president (Moderna)

On morn­ing of FDA Covid-19 ad­comm, Mod­er­na com­pletes PhI­II en­roll­ment, putting them neck-and-neck with Pfiz­er

Weeks away from a potential EUA application, Moderna announced they have completed enrollment in their 30,000-person Phase III Covid-19 vaccine trial, with over a third of volunteers non-white and a quarter over the age of 65.

The announcement caps what has been the most closely-watched recruitment race in the history of drug development, as Pfizer and Moderna rushed to get enough volunteers to prove whether or not experimental vaccines could actually protect people from contracting Covid-19. Pfizer reached that mark on Sept. 15. Moderna said around the same time that they would slow down enrollment to ensure they enrolled enough participants from minority and at-risk groups.

Pfiz­er scoops up an an­tibi­ot­ic in rare M&A deal, bag­ging a vir­tu­al start­up op­er­at­ing on a shoe­string bud­get

Pfizer is stepping up with a rare antibiotics buyout deal today, grabbing Palo Alto, CA-based Arixa Pharmaceuticals in a bid to add a new oral version of avibactam, a beta lactamase inhibitor — or BLI — approved back in 2015 as part of the IV treatment Avycaz.

The Arixa acquisition follows some encouraging Phase I responses demonstrating that 60% to 80% of the oral drug is absorbed into the bloodstream. Only 7% of the IV version is absorbed orally, far below the 30% threshold Arixa has pointed to as a therapeutic threshold. The buyout gives Pfizer’s hospital group a line on a new oral combo with antibiotics like ceftibuten to go after drug-resistant cases of urinary tract infections and other ailments.

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John Maraganore, Alnylam CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

With lumasir­an on the FDA's doorstep, Al­ny­lam reads out new PhI­II da­ta in PH1

Just over a month away from its December PDUFA date, Alnylam flaunted new data from two Phase III studies to back lumasiran in primary hyperoxaluria type 1 (PH1), a rare liver condition.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech snagged a priority review for the candidate back in June, and got positive feedback from the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use just last week. Lumasiran uses RNA interference (RNAi) to silence the gene for glycolate oxidase, an enzyme used in the production of oxalate.

News brief­ing: UK biotech 4D phar­ma heads for Nas­daq via SPAC; Dr. Red­dy's shuts down man­u­fac­tur­ing af­ter cy­ber­at­tack

Another pharma company is intending to use a SPAC to join the Nasdaq.

4D pharma, a UK-based biotech, is reverse-merging with a blank check company in a deal worth up to $37.6 million. The move will give 4D pharma a new Nasdaq ticker, which will be $LBPS, using the American Depositary Share program.

As a result of the move, 4D pharma will gain $14.6 million in cash held by the blank check company, dubbed Longevity. The merger is expected to be completed in early 2021, after which shares will be immediately tradeable.

Can B cells break the bound­aries of cell ther­a­py? Long­wood start­up has $52M to prove a new en­gi­neer­ing tech

Back in December 2017, as the cell therapy world was still basking in the virtually back-to-back approvals of two pioneering CAR-Ts, researchers at Seattle Children’s Research Institute reported a scientific first in a different corner of the field: engineer B cells to treat disease.

The team, led by David Rawlings and Richard James, eventually worked with Longwood Fund to start a biotech around those findings. And now Atlas Venture and RA Capital Management are coming on board to lead a $52 million launch round, joined by Alta Partners, for Be Biopharma.

Jason Kelly, Gingko Bioworks CEO (Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe)

Ex­clu­sive: Eye­ing big Covid-19 test­ing ex­pan­sion, Gink­go rolls out 50M rapid anti­gen di­ag­nos­tics

In what they hope will be a key part of an extensive effort to boost Covid-19 testing in the US, Ginkgo Bioworks is acquiring and distributing 50 million rapid antigen tests that can potentially be used for virus surveillance in schools and communities and for quick, on the ground diagnoses.

The tests, developed by SD Biosensor, are in line with proposals from the Rockefeller Foundation and Harvard epidemiologists, among others, to blanket the country with fast, low-cost tests. Although not yet authorized in the US, they are a key part of testing efforts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who announced plans last month to distribute 120 million of them in low and middle income countries. Roche has commercialized the diagnostic in Europe.

Bo Cumbo, AavantiBio CEO (file photo)

Bo Cum­bo jumps from the top com­mer­cial post at Sarep­ta to the helm of a gene ther­a­py start­up with some in­flu­en­tial back­ers, big plans and $107M

After a 7-year stretch building the commercial team at Sarepta, longtime drug salesman Bo Cumbo is jumping to the entrepreneurial side of the business, taking the helm of a startup that’s got several deep-pocket investors. And he’s not just bringing his experience in selling drugs.

He tells me that when he told Sarepta CEO Doug Ingram about it, his boss got excited about the venture and opted to jump in with a $15 million investment from Sarepta to add to the launch money, alongside 3 of the busiest investors in biotech.

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