Join­ing forces with Sky­hawk, C4 Ther­a­peu­tics, Bio­gen buys more shots on goal on SMA, Alzheimer's

These days at Bio­gen, the spot­light tends to fall on one of two pro­grams: Its com­mer­cial SMA drug Spin­raza, and the ex­per­i­men­tal Alzheimer’s ther­a­py ad­u­canum­ab — and its deal­mak­ing team knows it.

Michael Ehlers

In twin deals an­nounced on Fri­day, Bio­gen $BI­IB is ty­ing up with Sky­hawk Ther­a­peu­tics to ex­plore small mol­e­cule RNA splic­ing mod­i­fiers for spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy and sign­ing on C4 Ther­a­peu­tics to re­search the ap­pli­ca­tion of pro­tein degra­da­tion tech in Alzheimer’s — among oth­er ear­ly-stage projects in neu­rol­o­gy.

The fi­nan­cial terms dis­closed so far add up to $489 mil­lion be­tween the two pacts.

Bill Haney’s Sky­hawk has the more de­lin­eat­ed deal: $74 mil­lion up­front for re­search ser­vices and in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights on pre­clin­i­cal can­di­dates to treat SMA, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and ad­di­tion­al neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders. Any ther­a­pies re­sult­ing from the col­lab­o­ra­tion are up for grabs for Bio­gen, which will be re­spon­si­ble for de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

Kath­leen Mc­Carthy

Sky­hawk’s work is in­spired by an ex­pe­ri­enced group led by co-founder and CSO Kath­leen Mc­Carthy, who worked at Roche on the SMA drug RG7916 — now in piv­otal tri­als af­ter scor­ing pos­i­tive ear­ly re­sults — with a stint at the Spinal Mus­cu­lar At­ro­phy Foun­da­tion, where she had worked on a small mol­e­cule ther­a­peu­tic tar­get­ing mR­NA-pro­tein in­ter­ac­tions for SMA.

Both Roche and No­var­tis are now hot on the trail of Bio­gen’s Spin­raza, the pi­o­neer­ing ther­a­py in the field that’s al­so one of the world’s most ex­pen­sive drugs.

“The SMA piece of the Bio­gen col­lab­o­ra­tion is es­pe­cial­ly in­ter­est­ing as: (1) com­pe­ti­tion in the space has in­creased and (2) an oral small mol­e­cule drug from Roche has re­cent­ly shown very promis­ing ev­i­dence of ac­tiv­i­ty, val­i­dat­ing the vi­a­bil­i­ty of the oral splic­ing mod­u­la­tion ap­proach,” Stifel an­a­lysts wrote in a note.

C4, mean­while, will help Bio­gen iden­ti­fy tar­gets in Alzheimer’s, Parkin­son’s and oth­er dis­eases, and pro­vide the tech to tag these dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins for de­struc­tion by the cell’s in­nate degra­da­tion mech­a­nism, ac­cord­ing to Michael Ehlers, EVP of R&D at Bio­gen. The whole col­lab­o­ra­tion is worth $415 mil­lion and though there’s no men­tion of the up­front, Bio­gen says it ex­pects to record an R&D ex­pense of $15 to $25 mil­lion in Q4 2018.

Found­ed by Jay Brad­ner be­fore he took the reins of the No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­Med­ical Re­search, C4 has on deck a col­lab­o­ra­tion with stealthy an­ti-ag­ing start­up Cal­i­co and an­oth­er on­col­o­gy pact with Roche, which got a $900 mil­lion ex­pan­sion Fri­day morn­ing.

 

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Pfiz­er's big block­buster Xel­janz flunks its post-mar­ket­ing safe­ty study, re­new­ing harsh ques­tions for JAK class

When the FDA approved Pfizer’s JAK inhibitor Xeljanz for rheumatoid arthritis in 2012, they slapped on a black box warning for a laundry list of adverse events and required the New York drugmaker to run a long-term safety study.

That study has since become a consistent headache for Pfizer and their blockbuster molecule. Last year, Pfizer dropped the entire high dose cohort after an independent monitoring board found more patients died in that group than in the low dose arm or a control arm of patients who received one of two TNF inhibitors, Enbrel or Humira.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

One of the most am­bi­tious start­up teams in biotech just out­lined plans for a $400M IPO and a val­u­a­tion of about $4B

The executive team at Sana Biotechnology has sketched out more details about the full scope of its ambitions as the new unicorn to watch. They amended their S-1 today to include a price range of $20 to $23 a share — which puts them in reach of pulling in around $400 million on the high end with a market value starting right around $4 billion.

That’s not bad for a preclinical biotech with no drugs yet in human studies, but it squares with its ambitions to remake the cell therapy field with a slate of in-house platforms. The biotech raised $705 million — primarily from ARCH (44 million shares) and Flagship (34.2 million shares) — to get to this stage.

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Top gene ther­a­py deals, M&A pacts in 2020 high­light an­oth­er big year in one of the hottest fields in bio­phar­ma

Chris Dokomajilar at DealForma has been crunching the numbers on gene therapy deals over the last 2 years and came away with a few key observations.

Both the upfront cash and deal totals last year backed off a bit from the record high hit in 2019, but the totals are still running well ahead of anything we’ve seen in the years prior to 2019/2020.
2020 R&D partnerships came in at 23 deals, with $1.1 billion in disclosed upfront cash and equity and more than $8.5 billion in total deal value. Looking at 2019-2020 M&A, Dokomajilar found: 9 Acquisitions, with over $11.1 billion in disclosed upfront cash and equity and more than $13.4 billion in total M&A value.

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Ther­mo Fish­er plat­form seeks to ex­pe­dite donor cell cul­ti­va­tion for al­lo­gene­ic cell ther­a­pies

One of the world’s leading CDMOs has launched a new technology it says will expedite a quickly-growing sect of biotech drug development: off-the-shelf, allogeneic cell therapies.

It’s been nearly a decade since the FDA approved the first use of the method that uses healthy donor cells to create a master cell bank, which is then used for specific therapies — a cord blood allogeneic treatment called Hemacord. In the years since, the use of allogeneic cells has taken off in research circles, most notably in the use of T cell therapies to target solid tumor cancers.

Bob Nelsen (Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH an­nounces largest fund yet, rais­ing $1.85B to back men­tal health, cell and gene edit­ing ap­proach­es

Nearly a year ago, as the pandemic encroached and the stock market cratered, Flagship and ARCH Venture announced three mega-funds worth a combined $2.6 billion. They wanted, ARCH’s Bob Nelsen said, to restore confidence “that there was money out there and a lot of it” to invest in biotech.

Since then, the stock market has returned — almost frighteningly so — and Nelsen has kept raising and spending cash. On Thursday, he announced a new fund, worth $1.85 billion. It’s the largest pot yet for a VC famous for its deep pockets.

Covid-19 roundup: EU and As­traZeneca trade blows over slow­downs; Un­usu­al unions pop up to test an­ti­bod­ies, vac­cines

After coming under fire for manufacturing delays last week, AstraZeneca’s feud with the European Union has spilled into the open.

The bloc accused the pharma giant on Wednesday of pulling out of a meeting to discuss cuts to its vaccine supplies, the AP reported. AstraZeneca denied the reports, saying it still planned on attending the discussion.

Early Wednesday, an EU Commission spokeswoman said that “the representative of AstraZeneca had announced this morning, had informed us this morning that their participation is not confirmed, is not happening.” But an AstraZeneca spokesperson later called the reports “not accurate.”

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Ad­vo­ca­cy groups don't want Janet Wood­cock to head the FDA, blast­ing ‘reg­u­la­to­ry fail­ures’ in opi­oid cri­sis

It turns out the controversies around Janet Woodcock’s regulatory legacy weren’t limited to Sarepta’s eteplirsen.

A coalition of advocacy groups dedicated to the opioid crisis urged Norris Cochran and Xavier Becerra — the acting and designated HHS secretary, respectively — to keep her reign as interim FDA chief a “very short transition.” During her lengthy tenure as CDER, they add, Woodcock presided over “one of the worst regulatory agency failures in U.S. history.”

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Dean Li kicks off Mer­ck­'s post-Roger Perl­mut­ter era by team­ing with Arti­va and its off-the-shelf CAR-NK tech

Even though Dean Li has now officially taken over for Roger Perlmutter as R&D chief, Merck’s appetite for dealmaking continues to be ravenous.

Li struck his first big deal at the helm Thursday morning, hammering out a collaboration with Artiva Biotherapeutics that could earn the biotech nearly $1.9 billion when all is said and done. It’s a quick rise and validation for Artiva, which just last June launched with a $78 million Series A.