Lil­ly en­lists a long-in­cu­bat­ing RNA up­start in new $1.25B part­ner­ship

For near­ly a decade af­ter Im­pe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don pro­fes­sor Nagy Habib launched Mi­NA Ther­a­peu­tics around a new kind of RNA in 2008, the com­pa­ny made vir­tu­al­ly no an­nounce­ment: no ven­ture cap­i­tal raised, no col­lab­o­ra­tions signed. Now, it’s like a fire hose.

Robert Habib

On Tues­day, Mi­NA an­nounced a re­search col­lab­o­ra­tion with Eli Lil­ly worth up to $1.25 bil­lion: $25 mil­lion up­front and $245 mil­lion in mile­stones for each of five po­ten­tial tar­gets. The col­lab­o­ra­tors didn’t di­vulge what those tar­gets would be, but said they would come in Lil­ly’s “key ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas,” such as meta­bol­ic dis­eases and dis­eases of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem.

“It’s noth­ing odd they haven’t been work­ing on,” CEO Robert Habib, Nagy’s son, told End­points News.

The deal is the third and largest phar­ma col­lab­o­ra­tion Mi­NA has signed since the start of 2020, af­ter a re­search deal with As­traZeneca for an undis­closed sum and an up to $266 mil­lion neu­rol­o­gy-fo­cused part­ner­ship with Servi­er. They al­so grabbed their first ven­ture round in that span, rais­ing $30 mil­lion from the Is­raeli VC aMoon and oth­ers.

Nagy Habib

The flur­ry rep­re­sents the pay­off of over a decade of work on a tech­nol­o­gy Nagy Habib deemed small-ac­ti­vat­ing RNA. These strands func­tion sim­i­lar­ly to the small in­ter­fer­ing RNA that has turned Al­ny­lam in­to a $15 bil­lion com­pa­ny but in re­verse: In­stead of hi­jack­ing cel­lu­lar ma­chin­ery to turn the vol­ume down on a gene, they hi­jack it to turn the vol­ume way up.

The biotech first used saR­NAs for liv­er can­cer, Nagy Habib’s fo­cus as a re­searcher. They used saR­NA to turn up ex­pres­sion of cer­tain genes on the myeloid cells that clus­ter around and of­ten shield a tu­mor from the im­mune sys­tem. The idea was to re­pro­gram the cells from pro-tu­mor myeloid cells to tu­mor-eat­ing myeloid cells and boost the ef­fi­ca­cy of check­point ther­a­pies like Keytru­da. They showed (ear­ly) proof-of-con­cept da­ta at AS­CO last year.

Mi­NA thinks that saR­NA, like mR­NA and RNAi, can be used across a range of dis­eases and, with their new­found part­ners, they’re now work­ing to ex­pand the list. There’s al­so an old­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Boehringer In­gel­heim on fi­brot­ic liv­er dis­eases, such as NASH.

In the Lil­ly deal, which they first be­gan ne­go­ti­at­ing at JPM 2020 be­fore the pan­dem­ic side­tracked every­thing, the In­di­anapo­lis phar­ma will se­lect the genes they want to am­pli­fy and Mi­NA will de­sign the RNA strands need­ed to do the trick.

“Where we start­ed is im­muno-on­col­o­gy but clear­ly we be­lieve this tech can be ap­plied across dif­fer­ent dis­ease ar­eas,” Robert Habib said. “It’s not lim­it­ed to any cell type.”

Cash from their part­ners has giv­en Mi­NA a good run­way, Habib said. Still, he added, they will look to raise an­oth­er ven­ture round in the next year.

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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invoX Pharma CEO Ben Toogood (L) and F-star CEO Eliot Forster

F-star bought out in $161M all-cash deal as Hong Kong's Sino Bio­pharm looks to­ward in­ter­na­tion­al ex­pan­sion

After more than a decade and a half of charting its own course, F-star Therapeutics will now settle under a new umbrella company.

The UK biotech will be acquired by invoX Pharma, a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s Sino Biopharm, in a roughly $161 million all-cash deal, the companies announced Thursday morning. F-star’s buyout will value its shares $FSTX at $7.12 apiece, nearly an 80% premium above Wednesday’s closing price.

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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.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Kelly Martin, Radius Health CEO

VC firms take os­teo­poro­sis drug­mak­er Ra­dius Health pri­vate for al­most $900M

After attacks from activist investors and disappointing returns on share prices, Radius Health has now agreed to new ownership, a direction resulting in leaving the Nasdaq.

Radius Health, a biotech out of Massachusetts with one approved product in its arsenal, announced Thursday morning that it agreed to be acquired by two VC firms: Gurnet Point Capital and Patient Square Capital. The deal, worth around $890 million, will include debt assumption and the payout of $1 CVR per share for investors. And on top of that, OrbiMed is providing debt financing.