Shang­hai-based cell ther­a­py biotech nabs new funds; Col­orado biotech nets an ac­qui­si­tion

A Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures-backed cell ther­a­py biotech has se­cured $50 mil­lion in Se­ries A funds to bankroll CAR-NK ther­a­pies.

At the helm of the Shang­hai-based Neukio Bio­ther­a­peu­tics is a leader with ex­pe­ri­ence in the CAR-T cell ther­a­py mar­ket, with Richard Liqun Wang hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly served as chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Fo­s­un and Kite joint ven­ture that land­ed the first CAR-T cell ther­a­py ap­proval in Chi­na last year. Kite and own­er Gilead mar­ket the cell ther­a­py prod­uct as Yescar­ta in the US.

Neukio raised the round with sup­port from Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures, Sher­pa Health­care Part­ners and IDG Cap­i­tal. The com­pa­ny pre­vi­ous­ly snagged $40 mil­lion in what it char­ac­ter­ized as an an­gel round in Oc­to­ber 2021. The same in­vestors took part in that fi­nanc­ing.

The biotech, formed last year, is look­ing to make al­lo­genic cell ther­a­pies “via the iP­SC-CAR-NK ax­is,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site. Neukio has 5,700 square me­ters of R&D and man­u­fac­tur­ing space, the biotech says on its web­site.

With the Se­ries A, Neukio said it will put can­di­dates through pre­clin­i­cal and clin­i­cal stud­ies, as well as use the pro­ceeds to hire more em­ploy­ees.

“In as lit­tle as 10 months since the op­er­a­tion of our new lab­o­ra­to­ries, not on­ly have we com­plet­ed sev­er­al sig­nal­ing path­way mod­i­fi­ca­tions and CAR de­signs tai­lored for sol­id tu­mors, but al­so we have made sig­nif­i­cant progress in the de­vel­op­ment of in­no­v­a­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es of NK dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion and ex­pan­sion,” Wang, the founder, CEO and chair­man, said in a state­ment.

New in­vestors in­clude CD Cap­i­tal, Al­win Cap­i­tal and Sur­plus Cap­i­tal. — Kyle LaHu­cik

Flag­ship Bio­sciences ac­quire a di­vi­sion from In­ter­pace  

A Col­orado-based biotech is look­ing to snap up a di­vi­sion from In­ter­pace Bio­sciences.

Flag­ship Bio­sciences, which pro­vides bi­o­log­i­cal and bio­mark­er an­a­lyt­i­cal ser­vices, has ac­quired In­ter­pace Phar­ma So­lu­tions, a di­vi­sion of In­ter­pace Bio­sciences, for an undis­closed amount.

Ac­cord­ing to Flag­ship, the com­bined com­pa­ny will add to an ar­se­nal of an­a­lyt­i­cal and bio­mark­er ser­vices as well as pro­vide ac­cess to a re­search lab­o­ra­to­ry in North Car­oli­na’s Re­search Tri­an­gle.

“By com­bin­ing these or­ga­ni­za­tions, we cre­ate a sin­gle-source provider of­fer­ing a larg­er range of bio­mark­er and an­a­lyt­ics ser­vices while main­tain­ing and ex­pand­ing the proven ex­per­tise of each lab­o­ra­to­ry,” said Trevor John­son, Flag­ship’s CEO in a state­ment.

The deal, ac­cord­ing to Flag­ship, aims to use IPS’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties to sup­port clin­i­cal tri­als and di­ag­nos­tic de­vel­op­ment in sev­er­al ar­eas in­clud­ing im­muno-on­col­o­gy, hema­tol­ogy and sol­id tu­mors, among oth­ers.

This ac­qui­si­tion al­so comes on the back of Flag­ship re­ceiv­ing an in­vest­ment from Am­per­sand Cap­i­tal Part­ners, BroadOak Cap­i­tal Part­ners and Re­search Cor­po­ra­tion Tech­nolo­gies. The amount of the in­vest­ment was not dis­closed. — Tyler Patchen

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Astel­las, Pan­th­er­na add or­gan to mR­NA tie-up; Rock­et launch­es sale of six fig­ures worth of stock

Astellas and Pantherna have expanded their November 2021 pact surrounding the latter’s mRNA platform to include a new target organ, the duo announced Tuesday morning, though they did not specify what that target is.

German biotech Pantherna is home to two platform technologies — one that designs mRNAs for non-vaccine therapies and another that designs LNPs. Astellas and Pantherna’s deal appears to mainly revolve around the first platform, which Astellas said it is using to research direct reprogramming, or turning cells from one kind into another without an intermediate stem cell phase.

Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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