Klein­er Perkins’ Beth Sei­den­berg bumps Tmu­ni­ty’s cell ther­a­py round to a cool $135M

Klein­er Perkins is join­ing the syn­di­cate back­ing Penn spin­out Tmu­ni­ty, adding $35 mil­lion for the cell ther­a­py cause and bring­ing its launch round to a mam­moth $135 mil­lion.

Us­man “Oz” Azam

Gen­er­al Part­ner and long­time life sci­ences in­vestor Beth Sei­den­berg is han­dling the in­vest­ment for the high-pro­file ven­ture group. And she’s not at all new to this.

Sei­den­berg al­so in­vest­ed in Cell De­sign Labs, a com­pa­ny that was ad­vanc­ing a next-gen ap­proach to CAR-T un­der UCSF sci­en­tist Wen­dell Lim, which Gilead snapped up a few months ago in a deal worth up to $567 mil­lion in the wake of its $12 bil­lion Kite buy­out. 

Now she has a front row seat to an­oth­er next-gen play; one of the most in­trigu­ing sto­ries in ear­ly-stage cell ther­a­py de­vel­op­ment. Tmu­ni­ty is con­duct­ing a ground­break­ing study us­ing gene edit­ing tech through its ex­ten­sive in­volve­ment with in­ves­ti­ga­tors at Penn, led by cell ther­a­py pi­o­neer Carl June.

Carl June

Tmu­ni­ty is helmed by “Oz” Azam, who left No­var­tis as the phar­ma gi­ant was rip­ping up the big cell and gene ther­a­py unit he had cre­at­ed, ab­sorb­ing it in­to the R&D op­er­a­tion ahead of its land­mark ap­proval for the world’s first ap­proved CAR-T Kym­ri­ah.

Sei­den­berg tells me she sees the in­vest­ment as a piece of un­fin­ished busi­ness. Carl June had talked to her ear­ly on about in­vest­ing in Tmu­ni­ty, but there were el­e­ments about their in­volve­ment with No­var­tis that had to be cleaned up. Af­ter the board at Cell De­sign Labs fin­ished the sale to Gilead, she says, June was back in touch. And the tim­ing was per­fect.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion with the Penn in­ves­ti­ga­tors is just a won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ty to con­tin­ue to feed in­to the com­pa­ny,” she tells me. And she has full con­fi­dence in Azam’s abil­i­ties to lead the com­pa­ny in a field he has de­vot­ed his ca­reer to for years now.

Big mega-rounds like this are be­com­ing more and more com­mon, trig­ger­ing an on­go­ing de­bate over the amount of mon­ey be­ing pumped in­to ear­ly-stage biotechs. A big ques­tion now is whether too much mon­ey is be­ing in­vest­ed too quick­ly, per­haps loos­en­ing the reins and en­cour­ag­ing an undis­ci­plined ap­proach to spend­ing. 

Sei­den­berg says it’s un­usu­al for her to jump in­to some­thing this big. She prefers the small­er rounds and more tra­di­tion­al ap­proach to start­ing a biotech. But that strat­e­gy won’t work here.

“I’ll make an ex­cep­tion for the right com­pa­ny and the right set of en­tre­pre­neurs,” she says.

Tmu­ni­ty in par­tic­u­lar has set its sights on de­vel­op­ing the kind of built-from-scratch man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tion it needs in light of the con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try’s in­abil­i­ty to pro­vide the ser­vice un­der con­tract. That was the right thing for Kite, and she be­lieves it’s the right thing for Tmu­ni­ty.

It al­so won’t come cheap.

Sei­den­berg is join­ing a syn­di­cate she’s quite com­fort­able with. Sean Park­er’s epony­mous in­sti­tute is on board, along with Ping An Ven­tures, Gilead Sci­ences, Be The Match Bio­Ther­a­pies, Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures.


Im­age: Beth Sei­den­berg.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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The Advance Clinical leadership team: CEO Yvonne Lungershausen, Sandrien Louwaars - Director Business Development Operations, Gabriel Kremmidiotis - Chief Scientific Officer, Ben Edwards - Chief Strategy Officer

How Aus­tralia De­liv­ers Rapid Start-up and 43.5% Re­bate for Ear­ly Phase On­col­o­gy Tri­als

About Avance Clinical

Avance Clinical is an Australian owned Contract Research Organisation that has been providing high-quality clinical research services to the local and international drug development industry for 20 years. They specialise in working with biotech companies to execute Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials to deliver high-quality outcomes fit for global regulatory standards.

As oncology sponsors look internationally to speed-up trials after unprecedented COVID-19 suspensions and delays, Australia, which has led the world in minimizing the pandemic’s impact, stands out as an attractive destination for early phase trials. This in combination with the streamlined regulatory system and the financial benefits including a very favourable exchange rate and the R & D cash rebate makes Australia the perfect location for accelerating biotech clinical programs.

Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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No­var­tis jumps in­to Covid-19 vac­cine hunt, as Big Phar­ma and big biotech com­mit to bil­lions of dos­es

After spending most of the pandemic on the sidelines, Novartis is offering its aid in the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

AveXis, the Swiss pharma’s gene therapy subsidiary, has agreed to manufacture the vaccine being developed by Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. The biotech will begin manufacturing this month, while the vaccine undergoes further preclinical testing. They’ve agreed to provide the vaccine for free for clinical trials beginning in the second half of 2020, but have not disclosed financials for after.

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Bryan Roberts, Venrock

Ven­rock sur­vey shows grow­ing recog­ni­tion of coro­n­avirus toll, wan­ing con­fi­dence in ar­rival of vac­cines and treat­ments

When Venrock partner Bryan Roberts went to check the results from their annual survey of healthcare leaders, what he found was an imprint of the pandemic’s slow arrival in America.

The venture firm had sent their form out to hundreds of insurance and health tech executives, investors, officials and academics on February 24 and gave them two weeks to fill it out. No Americans had died at that point but the coronavirus had become enough of a global crisis that they included two questions about the virus, including “Total U.S. deaths in 2020 from the novel coronavirus will be:”.

David Hoey (Vaxxas)

In for the long vac­cine game, Mer­ck buys in­to patch de­liv­ery tech with pan­dem­ic po­ten­tial

When Merck dived into the R&D fray for a Covid-19 vaccine earlier this week, execs made it clear that they’re not necessarily looking to be first — with CEO Ken Frazier throwing cold water on the hotly-discussed 12- to 18-month timelines. But when it does emerge from behind, the pharma giant clearly expects to play a significant part.

Part of that will depend on next-generation delivery technology that reshapes the world’s imagination of a vaccine.

Stymied by the pan­dem­ic, Im­munomedic­s' new CEO bows out, tak­ing a mil­lion bucks plus perks as he heads out the vir­tu­al ex­it

Just a little more than a month since taking over as the latest CEO to helm Immunomedics, $IMMU Harout Semerjian is exiting the company after being confronted by “logistical” obstacles thrown up by the pandemic that made it impossible for him to move from London to carry out the job. And he’s getting a little over a million dollars in cash plus perks to grease the skids on the way out.

Word of the changeup arrived right after the market closed Wednesday.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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