Lon­car In­vest­ments launch­es Chi­na bio­phar­ma in­dex; La Jol­la prices $100M pub­lic of­fer­ing

→ In a move that high­lights the in­creas­ing fix­a­tion on op­por­tu­ni­ties in Chi­na, a new stock mar­ket in­dex launched this morn­ing to track the per­for­mance of com­pa­nies lead­ing Chi­na’s biotech rise. This new in­dex will go by the sym­bol $LCHI­NA, and it in­cludes stocks on both the Hong Kong Ex­change and the Nas­daq.

Brad Lon­car

Found­ed by Brad Lon­car, an in­de­pen­dent biotech in­vestor, through his com­pa­ny Lon­car In­vest­ments, the in­dex is the sec­ond formed by Lon­car that fol­lows ma­jor trends in biotech. His first in­dex, which de­buted in 2015, is a col­lec­tion of im­munother­a­py stocks un­der the in­dex $LCINDX.

Lon­car says this new in­dex is in re­sponse to mas­sive growth in Chi­na’s glob­al biotech pres­ence, dri­ven in part by re­cent re­forms in Chi­na’s reg­u­la­to­ry body and the rule change al­low­ing biotechs to more eas­i­ly go pub­lic on Hong Kong’s stock ex­change.

“Chi­na’s bio­phar­ma in­dus­try is on the cusp of a true rev­o­lu­tion that has glob­al im­pli­ca­tions,” Lon­car said in a state­ment. “Un­til to­day, no good stock mar­ket in­dex ex­ist­ed as a bench­mark for fol­low­ing this im­por­tant trend.”

LCHI­NA has 32 hold­ings, in­clud­ing Shang­hai Fo­s­un Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Group, BeiGene, Gen­script Biotech, Zai Lab, and Hutchi­son Chi­na MediTech.

→ Seek­ing cash to sup­port its new­ly com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion, La Jol­la Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Com­pa­ny is look­ing to raise $100 mil­lion in a pub­lic of­fer­ing. Its lead prod­uct, a treat­ment for low blood pres­sure called Gi­apreza, nabbed the last FDA ap­proval of 2017 and was re­cent­ly rolled out in the US. The San Diego-based biotech said the pub­lic of­fer­ing, which sells a to­tal of 3,400,000 shares at $29.50 per share, will sup­port not just the con­tin­ued com­mer­cial­iza­tion of that drug but al­so clin­i­cal tri­als for LJPC-401, cur­rent­ly in Phase II stud­ies for iron over­load. The pro­ceeds will al­so cov­er pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment work and oth­er ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­pens­es.

Adri­an Gottschalk

→ Pock­ets heavy from a re­cent mega-haul of its own, start­up in­vest­ment ma­chine Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing is drop­ping $50 mil­lion in­to Cam­bridge biotech up­start Foghorn Ther­a­peu­tics, a new­ly-formed com­pa­ny ex­plor­ing the chro­matin reg­u­la­to­ry sys­tem’s con­nec­tion to hu­man dis­ease. The up­start was found­ed in 2016 by Flag­ship’s Dou­glas Cole, Ger­ald Crab­tree of the Howard Hugh­es Med­ical In­sti­tute and Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, and Cigall Kadoch, of the Dana-Far­ber Can­cer In­sti­tute, Har­vard Med­ical School and the Broad In­sti­tute. Bio­gen’s for­mer SVP and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion head Adri­an Gottschalk has signed on as CEO. In a state­ment de­scrib­ing the com­pa­ny’s work, Foghorn likened the chro­matin reg­u­la­tion sys­tem to traf­fic con­trol: “Just as air­ports need an air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem to di­rect which planes move and when, where, and in what or­der, our bod­ies need a sys­tem to con­trol which genes our cells ex­press, and when, where, in what or­der, and what quan­ti­ty.” Gottschalk said the com­pa­ny’s plat­form would be used against can­cer, neu­rol­o­gy, and im­munol­o­gy. “At Foghorn, we en­vi­sion a world where pa­tients can re­gain con­trol of their genes to bat­tle can­cer and oth­er se­ri­ous dis­eases… This is just the be­gin­ning of an en­tire­ly new ap­proach to con­trol­ling gene ex­pres­sion and to bring­ing new med­i­cines to pa­tients with in­tractable dis­eases.”

With con­tri­bu­tion by Am­ber Tong.

A new num­ber 1 drug? Keytru­da tapped to top the 10 biggest block­busters on the world stage by 2024

Analysts may be fretting about Keytruda’s longterm prospects as a host of rival therapies elbow their way to the market. But the folks at Evaluate Pharma are confident that last year’s $7 billion earner is headed for glory, tapping it to beat out the current #1 therapy Humira as AbbVie watches that franchise swoon over the next 5 years.

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John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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In­vestor day prep at Mer­ck in­cludes a new strat­e­gy to pick up the pace on M&A — re­port

Mer­ck’s re­cent deals to buy up two bolt-on biotechs — Ti­los and Pelo­ton — weren’t an aber­ra­tion. In­stead, both ac­qui­si­tions mark a new strat­e­gy to beef up its dom­i­nant can­cer drug op­er­a­tions cen­tered on Keytru­da while look­ing to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns that too many of its eggs are in the one I/O bas­ket for their PD-1 pro­gram. And Mer­ck is go­ing af­ter more small- and mid-sized buy­outs to calm those fears.

Dave Barrett, Brian Chee, Amir Nashat, Amy Schulman. Polaris

Bob Langer's first port of call — Po­laris Part­ners — maps $400M for ninth fund

Health and tech ven­ture group Po­laris Part­ners, which counts Alec­tor, Al­ny­lam and Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine as part of its port­fo­lio, is set­ting up its ninth fund, rough­ly two years af­ter it closed Po­laris VI­II with $435 mil­lion in the bank, sur­pass­ing its tar­get by $35 mil­lion.

The Boston-based firm, in an SEC fil­ing, said it in­tends to raise $400 mil­lion for the fund. Po­laris — which rou­tine­ly backs com­pa­nies mold­ed out of the work done in the lab of pro­lif­ic sci­en­tist Bob Langer of MIT  — typ­i­cal­ly in­vests ear­ly, and sticks around till com­pa­nies are in the green. Like its peers at Flag­ship and Third Rock, Po­laris is all about cham­pi­oning the lo­cal biotech scene with a steady flow of start­up cash.

Partners Innovation Fund

David de Graaf now has his $28.5M launch round in place, build­ing a coen­zyme A plat­form in his lat­est start­up

Long­time biotech ex­ec David de Graaf has the cash he needs to set up the pre­clin­i­cal foun­da­tion for his coen­zyme A me­tab­o­lism com­pa­ny Comet. A few high-pro­file in­vestors joined the ven­ture syn­di­cate to sup­ply Comet with $28.5 mil­lion in launch mon­ey — enough to get it two years in­to the plat­form-build­ing game, with­in knock­ing dis­tance of the clin­ic.

Canaan jumped in along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestor Sofinno­va Part­ners to co-lead the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tion by ex­ist­ing in­vestor INKEF Cap­i­tal and new in­vestor BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal.

A uni­corn stalks Wall Street in search of IPO cash; CASI Phar­ma in-li­cens­es CD19 ther­a­py from Chi­na’s Ju­ven­tas

→ A herd of up­start biotechs will look to Wall Street for some ma­jor wind­falls this week as a burst of new of­fer­ings con­tin­ues to feed cash in­to the R&D sys­tem. To­day we learned that Bridge­Bio will look to raise in the neigh­bor­hood of $225 mil­lion by of­fer­ing 15 mil­lion shares for $14 to $16 each. And they have a string of joint bookrun­ners: J.P. Mor­gan, Gold­man Sachs, Jef­feries, SVB Leerink, KKR, Piper Jaf­fray, Mizuho Se­cu­ri­ties, BMO Cap­i­tal Mar­kets and Ray­mond James. If suc­cess­ful, Bridge­Bio will emerge with a mar­ket cap of around $1.7 bil­lion. There are 5 biotechs look­ing to IPO this week, in­clud­ing Akero and Pre­vail.

Right back at you, Pfiz­er: BeiGene and a Pfiz­er spin­out launch a new­co to de­vel­op a MEK/BRAF in­hibitor that could ri­val $11.4B com­bo

A day af­ter Pfiz­er bought Ar­ray and its ap­proved can­cer com­bo, BeiGene and Pfiz­er spin­out Spring­Works have part­nered in launch­ing a new biotech that has an eye on the very same mar­ket the phar­ma gi­ant just paid bil­lions for. And they’re plan­ning on us­ing an ex-Pfiz­er drug to do it.

In a nut­shell, Chi­na’s BeiGene is toss­ing in a pre­clin­i­cal BRAF in­hibitor — BGB-3245, which cov­ers both V600 and non-V600 BRAF mu­ta­tions — for a big stake in a new, joint­ly con­trolled biotech called Map­Kure with Bain-backed Spring­Works.

Step­ping on Roche's toes, Mer­ck cuts in­to SCLC niche with third-line Keytru­da OK

In the in­creas­ing­ly crowd­ed check­point race, small cell lung can­cer has been a rare area where Roche, a sec­ond run­ner-up, has a lead over the en­trenched lead­ers Mer­ck and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb. But Mer­ck is fi­nal­ly mak­ing some head­way in that di­rec­tion with the lat­est ap­proval for its PD-1 star.

The lat­est green light en­dors­es Keytru­da in the third-line treat­ment of metasta­t­ic SCLC, where it would be giv­en to pa­tients whose dis­ease ei­ther don’t re­spond to or re­lapse af­ter chemother­a­py, which would have fol­lowed at least one pri­or line of ther­a­py.