Locus CEO and co-founder Paul Garofolo

Lo­cus pulls in a mod­est Se­ries B as it at­tempts to em­u­late on­col­o­gy's pre­ci­sion med­i­cine mod­el in an­tibac­te­ri­als

De­spite a sig­nif­i­cant bear mar­ket af­fect­ing the pub­lic biotech sec­tor, pri­vate com­pa­nies are still man­ag­ing to pull in VC-backed fund­ing rounds. The lat­est such round comes out of North Car­oli­na’s re­search tri­an­gle for a pre­ci­sion an­tibac­te­r­i­al drug mak­er.

Lo­cus Bio­sciences closed a $35 mil­lion Se­ries B round Wednes­day morn­ing, fea­tur­ing some no­table names in­clud­ing Ar­tis Ven­tures, Ten­cent Hold­ings, Viking Glob­al In­vestors, Dis­cov­ery In­no­va­tions and John­son and John­son In­no­va­tion, the in­vest­ment arm of J&J. CEO and co-founder Paul Garo­fo­lo told End­points News that the funds will be used to ad­vance the com­pa­ny’s lead can­di­date, dubbed LBP-EC01.

The pro­gram is a cr­Phage pre­ci­sion med­i­cine tar­get­ing E.coli bac­te­ria caus­ing uri­nary tract in­fec­tions. The can­di­date, for which BAR­DA of­fered a $76.9 mil­lion fund­ing award in 2020, is near­ing a Phase II/III tri­al that the com­pa­ny hopes will start in the mid­dle of 2022.

Garo­fo­lo says that while many ear­ly en­trants in the mi­cro­bio­me space were main­ly fo­cused on donor-de­rived so­lu­tions, Lo­cus’ phi­los­o­phy has al­ways been to at­tack spe­cif­ic tar­gets with pre­ci­sion med­i­cine. Ac­cord­ing to him, the biotech’s drugs are de­signed to lim­it off-site tox­i­c­i­ty: an ap­proach sim­i­lar to the vast ar­ray of on­col­o­gy biotechs out there, though for Lo­cus that means not af­fect­ing “good” bac­te­ria.

The CEO is al­so look­ing to­ward ac­qui­si­tions, a move they’re fa­mil­iar with as, af­ter its Se­ries A in 2017, the com­pa­ny ac­quired Epibio­me’s plat­form. The deal man­aged to put Lo­cus on J&J’s radar, Garo­fo­lo said, and it is a move they are con­sid­er­ing again, es­pe­cial­ly as the mar­ket go­ing through a tur­bu­lent pe­ri­od.

“We think there (are) great pre­ci­sion ad­di­tion tech­nolo­gies that are out there that are re­al­ly strug­gling, the mi­cro­bio­me space is not in great shape. I don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly think that’s be­cause the com­pa­nies are not great com­pa­nies,” he said. “I think there are some great com­pa­nies out there that are re­al­ly in ba­si­cal­ly trou­bled wa­ters.”

The com­pa­ny’s pre­vi­ous Se­ries A round in 2017, of which Ar­tis and Ten­cent were a part, net­ted the com­pa­ny $17 mil­lion. But since then, the com­pa­ny has been land­ing sev­er­al non-di­lu­tive deals to keep the com­pa­ny’s en­gine run­ning. This in­cludes a deal in 2019 with J&J to de­vel­op CRISPR-en­gi­neered bac­te­rio­phage ther­a­peu­tics tar­get­ing two key pathogens for the po­ten­tial treat­ment of res­pi­ra­to­ry tract in­fec­tions, among oth­ers.

Through that deal, Lo­cus earned a cool $20 mil­lion in ini­tial pay­ments, and the biotech is el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive a to­tal of $798 mil­lion in po­ten­tial mile­stone pay­ments and roy­al­ties.

Over­all, Garo­fo­lo is tight­en­ing up Lo­cus’s war chest for the months ahead. He said he feels pre­pared for what the tri­als and the mar­ket might have up their sleeves.

Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis de­tails plans to axe 8,000 staffers as Narasimhan be­gins sec­ond phase of a glob­al re­org

We now know the number of jobs coming under the axe at Novartis, and it isn’t small.

The pharma giant is confirming a report from Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that it is chopping 8,000 jobs out of its 108,000 global staffers. A large segment will hit right at company headquarters in Basel, as CEO Vas Narasimhan axes some 1,400 of a little more than 11,000  jobs in Switzerland.

The first phase of the work is almost done, the company says in a statement to Endpoints News. Now it’s on to phase two. In the statement, Novartis says:

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Bob Nelsen (Lyell)

As bear mar­ket con­tin­ues to beat down biotech, ARCH clos­es a $3B ear­ly-stage fund

One of the biggest names in biotech investing has a whole lot of new money to spend.

ARCH Venture Partners closed its 12th venture fund early Wednesday morning, the firm said, bringing in almost $3 billion to invest in early-stage biotechs. The move comes about a year and a half after ARCH announced its previous fund, for almost $2 billion back in January 2021.

In a statement, ARCH managing director and co-founder Bob Nelsen appeared to brush off concerns about the broader market troubles, alluding to the downturn that’s seen several biotechs downsize and the XBI fall back to almost pre-pandemic levels.

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Sanofi to cut in­sulin prices for unin­sured from $99 to $35, match­ing the in­sulin cap com­ing through Con­gress

As the House-passed bill to cap the monthly price of insulin at $35 nationwide makes its way for a Senate vote soon, Sanofi announced Wednesday morning that beginning next month it will cut the monthly price of its insulins for uninsured Americans to $35, down from $99 previously.

The announcement from Sanofi, which allows the uninsured to buy one or multiple Sanofi insulins (Lantus, Insulin Glargine U-100, Toujeo, Admelog, and Apidra) at $35 for a 30-day supply effective July 1, follows House passage (232-193) of the monthly cap in March, with just 12 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

Shehnaaz Suliman, ReCode Therapeutics CEO (Photo by Jennifer Leahy)

Pfiz­er, Sanofi-backed LNP out­fit goes back to the well and draws $120M for its trek to the clin­ic

A preclinical biotech touting a five-lipid drug delivery platform is looking to break out of its preclinical mold, and it just secured a sizable raise to do just that.

ReCode Therapeutics reported Wednesday morning that Leaps by Bayer and Matrix Capital Management affiliate AyurMaya co-led a Series B extension round, adding $120 million to the biotech’s previous Series B haul of $80 million. The biotech has been backed by several players in Big Pharma, notably Pfizer and Sanofi from its original Series B close last fall. And in this extension — featuring all new investors, CEO Shehnaaz Suliman tells Endpoints News — Amgen’s VC arm jumped on board.

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Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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Hank Safferstein, Generian CEO

Astel­las sub­sidiary to part­ner with Pitts­burgh up­start in search for 'un­drug­gable' pro­teins

As Astellas continues its drive to build out its gene therapy portfolio and capabilities, a subsidiary of the Japanese pharma company has entered into a collaboration with a little-known Pittsburgh biotech.

Astellas-owned Mitobridge and Generian Pharmaceuticals announced on Wednesday that they will work together in a new deal for “undruggable” protein targets. Generian will net an undisclosed upfront payment and could get up to $180 million in milestones, should anything from its platform prove successful, as well as single-digit royalties on global net sales.

Adam Simpson, Icosavax CEO

Reel­ing from Covid flop, Icosavax says its RSV can­di­date passed ear­ly test. But in­vestors need some more con­vinc­ing

Three months separated from a disappointing readout of its Covid-19 vaccine, Icosavax is back with what it calls positive topline data for a different VLP vaccine candidate — although investors aren’t impressed.

IVX-121, a vaccine candidate for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), appeared to generate “robust” immune responses among both young and older adults, as measured by neutralizing antibodies, and appeared generally well-tolerated, Icosavax reported.

Eliot Charles, MiroBio executive chairman

Ox­ford spin­out nabs al­most $100M in new cash to test PD-1 in au­toim­mune dis­eases and hunt for a CEO

After about 15 years in an Oxford lab and three more years in the upstart world following a 2019 spinout, MiroBio is ready to enter UK clinical trials and, en route to the clinic, the biotech has picked up $97 million in Series B funds.

The £80 million financing round kicked off in earnest last September and includes a transatlantic consortium — led by Medicxi — ready to bankroll that first clinical trial, beginning “imminently,” as well as the debut study of a second program thereafter, executive chair Eliot Charles, an SR One venture partner, told Endpoints News.