Ken Song, RayzeBio CEO

Just shy of its 1-year an­niver­sary, ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals plat­form play Rayze­Bio bags an­oth­er megaround

Per­haps they should have called it Raise­Bio.

Not even a full year post-launch, Rayze­Bio’s ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals plat­form has hooked yet an­oth­er $100 mil­lion-plus raise, and it ap­pears the com­pa­ny’s next big catch will be a Nas­daq tick­er.

CEO Ken Song un­veiled the Se­ries C round Tues­day morn­ing, bring­ing the fledg­ling biotech’s to­tal raise to $258 mil­lion. While he was hes­i­tant to call it a crossover round, he said it very well could be Rayze­Bio’s last pri­vate round of fi­nanc­ing.

“We’re open to look­ing at all things, but there’s no im­me­di­ate plans to take the com­pa­ny pub­lic, par­tic­u­lar­ly since we’re so well cap­i­tal­ized at this time,” he told End­points News. 

Rayze­Bio was es­tab­lished back in Au­gust 2020, and launched a cou­ple months lat­er with sev­en ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals pro­grams. Un­like ra­di­a­tion ther­a­py, which is ad­min­is­tered by an ex­ter­nal beam of high-en­er­gy rays, ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals de­liv­er ra­dioiso­topes to tu­mors via the blood­stream.

The over­all con­cept is sim­i­lar to that of an an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate, Song said — it all starts with a binder, a link­er and a pay­load. Ex­cept in­stead of an an­ti­body, Rayze­Bio is de­ploy­ing small­er pep­tides, and in­stead of a chemother­a­peu­tic pay­load, there’s a ra­dioac­tive par­ti­cle which is “many or­ders of mag­ni­tude” more po­tent.

From the be­gin­ning, Rayze­Bio es­tab­lished a part­ner­ship with Japan’s Pep­tiDream to dis­cov­er new pep­tides against a range of val­i­dat­ed sol­id tu­mor tar­gets. The pep­tides are then ra­di­o­la­beled with the com­pa­ny’s pre­ferred ra­dioiso­tope, Ac­tini­um-225. But Rayze­Bio is al­so ex­plor­ing the use of oth­er ra­dioiso­topes, and ad­di­tion­al ap­proach­es to iden­ti­fy binders — and as a re­sult, the team has ex­pand­ed be­yond its ini­tial sev­en pro­grams.

Song plans on us­ing the Se­ries C funds to bring more than one can­di­date in­to the clin­ic, though he de­clined to com­ment on a time­line.

“We’re still very much fo­cused on ad­vanc­ing a pret­ty broad pipeline of pro­grams, and we’ll be able to pro­vide an up­date hope­ful­ly in the near fu­ture, as to­wards tim­ing in­to the clin­ic,” he said.

Since De­cem­ber, the team has grown from 13 to more than 30, not count­ing con­tract work­ers. That in­cludes Er­ic Bischoff, a col­league from Song’s Metacrine days, who’s now SVP of de­vel­op­ment and op­er­a­tions. Gary Li, head of bi­ol­o­gy and trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine, was for­mer­ly SVP of trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine at QED Ther­a­peu­tics. Head of dis­cov­ery Derek Cole hails from Take­da, where he led med­i­c­i­nal chem­istry for the GI-drug dis­cov­ery unit. They all joined Deb­o­rah Charych, who co-found­ed Rayze­Bio and is now CTO.

The com­pa­ny came to­geth­er around a “con­ver­gence of in­ter­ests,” Song said. There’s been in­creas­ing in­ter­est in ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals over the last decade, with no­table en­trants like No­var­tis, which snagged FDA-ap­proved Lu­tathera and PS­MA-617 from a $3.9 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Ad­vanced Ac­cel­er­a­tor Ap­pli­ca­tions.

“There’s ac­tu­al­ly a fair num­ber of small­er ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies that are out there,” Song said. “But I would say that Rayze­Bio is unique in the breadth of our pipeline, as well as our se­lec­tion of tar­gets that we’re pur­su­ing would large­ly be viewed as first-in-class with­in the ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor.”

Back in De­cem­ber, the com­pa­ny said it would use part of a $105 mil­lion Se­ries B round to fund stud­ies in­to man­u­fac­tur­ing op­tions. Mak­ing ra­dioiso­tope-drug con­ju­gates re­quires a bit more spe­cial­iza­tion than typ­i­cal ther­a­pies. While the com­pa­ny is cur­rent­ly do­ing some ra­di­o­la­bel­ing in-house, it’s most­ly for re­search pur­pos­es, Song said.

“When it comes to ac­tu­al man­u­fac­tur­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion, we’re like­ly to work with con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers to be­gin with and then eval­u­ate whether or not there’s any need to in­vest in any of our own in­fra­struc­ture,” Song said.

The Se­ries C was led by Ven­rock Health­care Cap­i­tal Part­ners, with some help from a slate of new and old in­vestors, in­clud­ing Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors, Vi­vo Cap­i­tal, Acu­ta Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Deer­field Man­age­ment, TCG X, ven­Bio Part­ners, Ver­sant Ven­tures, Sam­sara  Bio­Cap­i­tal, Red­mile Group, Viking Glob­al In­vestors, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, Or­biMed, LifeSci Ven­ture Part­ners, Lo­gos Cap­i­tal, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, and oth­ers.

“Our goal is to build the lead­ing ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny that is able to take prod­ucts from ini­tial con­cept all the way through to de­liv­ery to pa­tients, and be a free stand­ing en­ter­prise,” he added.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.