John Hood bags $90M for his quest to get fe­dra­tinib OK’d by FDA and cat­a­pult in­to the mar­ket

It took 18 months for John Hood to get the late-stage drug fe­dra­tinib back from Sanofi, as­sem­ble a small crew of ex­ecs for his start­up Im­pact Bio­med­i­cines and bring Medicxi in for a $22.5 mil­lion round to get this JAK2 ki­nase in­hibitor back on track. And in the last 14 days, he’s com­plet­ed a deal for up to $90 mil­lion in fi­nanc­ing need­ed to launch the drug — pro­vid­ed the FDA is will­ing.

“It takes a lot of mon­ey to launch a drug,” Hood tells me in an up­date. And now he has it.

None of this new mon­ey, by the way, is di­lut­ing his group’s eq­ui­ty stake.

John Hood

Hood left his job as a co-founder and CSO of re­gen­er­a­tive med biotech Sa­mumed to mount a sal­vage op­er­a­tion on fe­dra­tinib — a myelofi­bro­sis drug the FDA dropped a clin­i­cal hold on way back in 2013 af­ter some pa­tients be­gan to de­vel­op Wer­nicke’s en­cephalopa­thy.

Sanofi shelved the drug af­ter the safe­ty is­sue erupt­ed, but now Hood — the co-in­ven­tor of the drug when he ran R&D at Targe­Gen, ac­quired by Sanofi in a $635 mil­lion deal — has al­so con­vinced the FDA that the lethal side ef­fect re­searchers fret­ted about four years ago could be man­aged, get­ting that hold lift­ed.

The $90 mil­lion is com­ing from Ober­land Cap­i­tal in a se­ries of mile­stone pay­ments based on Hood’s suc­cess at mov­ing for­ward in this cam­paign. The first $20 mil­lion comes with the FDA’s clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the reg­u­la­to­ry path ahead. The next $20 mil­lion comes when the drug is filed. Then they can get up to $50 mil­lion to fund the launch, which Hood reck­ons will re­quire an or­phan drug sales force of about 40.

Ober­land’s bet­ting on the drug’s near-term suc­cess, with a deal to get paid back through drug roy­al­ties, a cre­ative way for Hood and his or­ga­ni­za­tion to hang on to eq­ui­ty.

Hood is op­ti­mistic that Sanofi, which took an eq­ui­ty stake in the biotech in ex­change for the rights, had done the hard clin­i­cal work to get fe­dra­tinib ready for an NDA. He feels he has the da­ta in hand to prove that the drug is the best sec­ond-line ther­a­py avail­able for myelofi­bro­sis pa­tients, the best hope for pa­tients who are no longer re­spond­ing to stan­dard of care.

If he pulls this off with a vir­tu­al crew and most­ly non-di­lu­tive cash where the gi­ant Sanofi had failed, it will be one of the come­back sto­ries of the decade.

Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology

ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development

CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at with any issues.

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As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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UP­DAT­ED: Pay­back? An­a­lysts say Sarep­ta was blind­sided by an FDA re­jec­tion dri­ven by reg­u­la­to­ry re­venge

In one of the least anticipated moves of the year, the FDA has rejected Sarepta’s application for an accelerated approval of its Duchenne MD drug golodirsen after fretting over safety issues.

In a statement that arrived after the bell on Monday, Sarepta explained the CRL, saying:

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Levi Garraway. Broad Institute via Youtube

Roche raids Eli Lil­ly for its next chief med­ical of­fi­cer as San­dra Horn­ing plans to step down

We found out Monday morning where Levi Garraway was headed after he left Eli Lilly as head of oncology R&D a few days ago. Roche named Garraway as their new chief medical officer, replacing Sandra Horning, who they say is retiring from the company.

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Af­ter a posse of Wall Street an­a­lysts pre­dict a like­ly new win for Sarep­ta, we're down to the wire on a crit­i­cal FDA de­ci­sion

As Bloomberg notes, most of the Wall Street analysts that cover Sarepta $SRPT are an upbeat bunch, ready to cheer on the team when it comes to their Duchenne MD drugs, or offer explanations when an odd setback occurs — as happened recently with a safety signal that was ‘erroneously’ reported last week.

Ritu Baral Cowen
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FDA de­ci­sion on Ver­tex's CF triple will come just ahead of planned CEO shake­up

Vertex has clinched a priority review for the all-important cystic fibrosis triple that will blaze the trail for treating a large group of patients unhelped by its current drugs.

FDA regulators have set a PDUFA date of March 19, 2020, just a year after the Boston biotech posted positive Phase III results showing that people with two F508del mutations experienced statistically significant improvements in lung function after a 4-week regimen of VX-445, tezacaftor and ivacaftor. After reviewing 24-week data among patients with one F508del mutation and one minimal function mutation — and thoroughly comparing the VX-445 triple with another combo featuring VX-659 on scores like safety, drug-drug interactions, and photosensitivity — Vertex ultimately went with VX-445.

An MIT spin­out kills one of its ‘liv­ing ther­a­peu­tics’ af­ter flunk­ing an ear­ly-stage study — shares rout­ed

Just a few weeks after bagging $80 million in a deal to collaborate with Gingko Bioworks on its special blend of engineered bacteria used for “living therapeutics,” little Synlogic in Boston $SYBX is tossing one of its two clinical programs after watching an early-stage study go down in defeat.

Their Phase Ib/IIa study for SYNB1020 to counter the accumulation of ammonia in the body, a condition called hyperammonemia or urea cycle disorder, floundered at the interim readout, forcing the biotech to kill it and reserve its cash for pipeline therapies with greater potential.

Elan­co to buy Bay­er's an­i­mal health busi­ness for $7.6B, as deal­mak­ing gath­ers steam in the sec­tor

Last week, Elanco explicitly dodged answering questions about its rumored interest in Bayer’s animal health business in its post-earnings call. On Tuesday, the Eli Lilly spinoff disclosed it was purchasing the German drug maker’s veterinary unit in a cash-and-stock deal worth $7.6 billion. 

Elanco $ELAN has been busy on the deal-making front. In April, it laid out plans to swallow its partner, Kansas-based pet therapeutics company Aratana $PETX. A July report by Reuters suggested a potential Bayer deal was being explored, and Bloomberg last week said the deal was imminent, citing sources.