Langer-in­spired Kala files for an $86M IPO; J&J backs Proven­tion Bio

→  Kala Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has filed for an $86 mil­lion IPO, just weeks af­ter the biotech re­port­ed pos­i­tive top line da­ta for a Phase III study of its lead oph­thal­mol­o­gy drug KPI-121. In its S-1 the biotech — co-found­ed by MIT’s Bob Langer — says that it will file its first NDA be­fore the end of this year, with an­oth­er to fol­low in ear­ly 2018. And it’s in two more Phase III stud­ies for dry eye dis­ease with an­oth­er for­mu­la­tion of the lead treat­ment. Kala has tried to pull off an IPO dur­ing try­ing times for biotech stocks. Now the mar­ket has been boom­ing for a few days at least and biotech IPOs have been lin­ing up to take ad­van­tage of grow­ing ev­i­dence that in­vestors are once again in­vest­ing in risky plays.

→  Proven­tion Bio an­nounced that it raised $28.4 mil­lion in Se­ries A fi­nanc­ing, with J&J emerg­ing as a main in­vestor. Proven­tion’s pipeline in­cludes clin­i­cal-stage as­sets li­censed from Janssen and Vactech Oy, which the com­pa­ny will de­vel­op for chron­ic im­mune dis­eases. The com­pa­ny says it plans for an IPO in 2018. Ash­leigh Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Proven­tion, stat­ed, “With our found­ing fi­nanc­ing com­plete, we be­lieve that Proven­tion is ready to ad­vance its mis­sion of ear­ly dis­ease in­ter­cep­tion and pre­ven­tion.  Our goal is to do more than mere­ly treat the symp­toms of chron­ic au­toim­mune and in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases, such as type 1 di­a­betes, Crohn’s dis­ease and ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis.  We hope to iden­ti­fy and com­bat the un­der­ly­ing cause, or trig­ger, of such dis­eases be­fore symp­toms emerge, and to in­ter­cept dis­ease pro­gres­sion and re­lapse to elim­i­nate or re­duce long-term dam­age and chron­ic suf­fer­ing.”

→  Nico­lai Wagt­mann has been named chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer of Drag­on­fly, who re­cent­ly made waves by form­ing a 5-year col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cel­gene“We are de­light­ed to wel­come Nico­lai to a cru­cial role in Drag­on­fly’s strong sci­en­tif­ic team,” said Bill Haney, co-founder and CEO of Drag­on­fly. “He’s a gift­ed sci­en­tist who brings Drag­on­fly ex­trao­d­i­nary depth of ex­pe­ri­ence in Nat­ur­al Killer cell-based ther­a­pies, a tal­ent for lead­ing teams through the de­vel­op­ment of break­through im­munother­a­pies and a rich back­ground in col­lab­o­rat­ing ef­fec­tive­ly with world lead­ing Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies.  He’s pas­sion­ate­ly ded­i­cat­ed to Drag­on­fly’s mis­sion of elim­i­nat­ing can­cer in pa­tients – per­haps the biggest po­ten­tial sci­en­tif­ic op­por­tu­ni­ty, of our gen­er­a­tion.” 

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Ken Frazier, AP Images

Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

With an FDA OK for the use of filgotinib in rheumatoid arthritis expected to drop any day now, Gilead has recruited a new leader from academia to lead its foray into inflammatory diseases.

Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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No­var­tis chips in $10M for IPO-bound part­ner Pli­ant; Tenax shares soar on heart drug da­ta

Novartis is coming in with $10 million to help support the looming IPO of a partner. Pliant Therapeutics posted a new filing with the SEC showing that Novartis is buying the shares at $15, the mid-point of the range. It’s adding several million shares to the offering, bringing the total to around $135 million. Biotech companies have been enjoying quite a run on virtual Wall Street, with investors boosting new offerings to some big hauls.

Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Federico Mingozzi (Spark)

Spark touts an­i­mal da­ta for a so­lu­tion to AAV gene ther­a­py's an­ti­body prob­lem

Among all the limitations of using an adeno-associated virus as a vector to deliver a gene — still the most established modality in gene therapy given years of trial and error and finally success — the presence of neutralizing antibodies, whether pre-existing or induced, looms large.

“When I think about the immune responses in AAV, I try to sort of layer them,” Federico Mingozzi, the CSO at Spark Therapeutics, told Endpoints News. “The antibody is the first layer. It’s the first block that you find when you’re trying to do gene transfer.”