Luca Santarelli, VectivBio CEO

Lu­ca Santarel­li's Vec­tivBio buys out small Mass­a­chu­setts biotech, re­dou­bling fo­cus on meta­bol­ic dis­ease

Lu­ca Santarel­li moved quick­ly af­ter spin­ning out Vec­tivBio from Ther­a­chon, get­ting an IPO set­tled in less than two years. On Tues­day, he con­tin­ued charg­ing for­ward with a new buy­out that will see Vec­tivBio ex­pand its pipeline sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the next year and a half.

Vec­tivBio has ac­quired Comet Ther­a­peu­tics for an undis­closed eq­ui­ty and cash sum, the biotech an­nounced Tues­day, aim­ing to tar­get a swath of rare meta­bol­ic dis­eases. The goal is to hit the ground run­ning, Santarel­li told End­points News, with four new pro­grams ex­pect­ed to launch at once and plans to en­ter the clin­ic in 18 months.

“This deal is im­por­tant for us but al­so some­thing we’ve been plan­ning for a long time,” Santarel­li told End­points.

In ad­di­tion to the sums paid up­front, Vec­tivBio could be on the hook for more eq­ui­ty and cash pay­ments should the new projects reach cer­tain mile­stones.

As their teams start work­ing to­geth­er, Vec­tivBio and Comet will go af­ter a fam­i­ly of con­di­tions known as in­her­it­ed meta­bol­ic dis­eases, or IMDs. These ge­net­ic dis­or­ders re­sult in in­fants be­ing un­able to prop­er­ly con­vert food in­to en­er­gy, re­sult­ing in the buildup of tox­ic metabo­lites and some­times life-threat­en­ing con­di­tions that have lim­it­ed treat­ment op­tions.

Comet, how­ev­er, has de­vel­oped a plat­form to at­tack these dis­eases with a “unique” bit of chem­istry, Santarel­li said. By fo­cus­ing on coen­zyme A, an en­zyme im­pli­cat­ed in many meta­bol­ic path­ways, re­searchers the­o­rized a way to re­store its nor­mal func­tion while de­liv­er­ing pay­loads spe­cif­ic to each IMD.

“It al­lows CoA to be used as a back­bone,” Santarel­li said of the Comet tech­nol­o­gy. “It al­lows for sys­temic ad­min­is­tra­tion and ex­po­sure, al­lows for sys­temic in­te­gra­tion and can car­ry var­i­ous car­goes in­to the cells.”

The first pro­gram that will come out of the ac­qui­si­tion will tar­get or­gan­ic acid dis­or­ders such as methyl­malonic acidemia and pro­pi­onic acidemia, Santarel­li added. Their goal is to de­liv­er car­go that can stim­u­late the dis­reg­u­lat­ed meta­bol­ic path­ways.

Vec­tivBio got start­ed back in 2019, spin­ning out from Ther­a­con af­ter Pfiz­er bought it out for $340 mil­lion up­front and $470 mil­lion in po­ten­tial mile­stones. The biotech al­most im­me­di­ate­ly got to work on a Phase II drug for short bow­el syn­drome, and Santarel­li raised $110 mil­lion last Oc­to­ber to get the pro­gram through Phase III.

He fol­lowed that up with an IPO ear­li­er this year, and the com­pa­ny is ex­pect­ing topline re­sults for SBS in­testi­nal fail­ure in 2023. But with the Comet ac­qui­si­tion Tues­day, Santarel­li is start­ing work on Vec­tivBio’s next chap­ter in the mean­time.

Comet launched back in 2018 and re­ceived $28.5 mil­lion in a Se­ries A in June 2019. The Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech has seen in­vest­ment from Sofinno­va Part­ners, INKEF Cap­i­tal, Canaan and Mis­sion Bio­Cap­i­tal.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Ex­elix­is pulls a sur­prise win in thy­roid can­cer just days ahead of fi­nal Cabome­tyx read­out

Exelixis added a thyroid cancer indication to its super-seller Cabometyx’s label on Friday — months before the FDA was expected to make a decision, and days before the company was set to unveil the final data at #ESMO21.

At a median follow-up of 10.1 months, differentiated thyroid cancer patients treated with Cabometyx (cabozantinib) lived a median of 11 months without their disease worsening, compared to just 1.9 months for patients given a placebo, Exelixis said on Monday.

Den­mark's Gubra to col­lab­o­rate with Bay­er on pep­tides; Sam­sung and Bio­gen re­ceive FDA ap­proval for Lu­cen­tis biosim­i­lar

Danish biotech Gubra announced a research collaboration and license agreement with Bayer to develop peptide therapeutics to treat cardiorenal diseases. The collaboration will utilize Gubra’s peptide drug discovery platform to identify potential candidates.

This is not the first time Gubra has partnered with a company on peptide therapeutics — they partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim back in 2017 to create peptide therapeutics to treat obesity.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.

Ex-My­lan em­ploy­ee pleads guilty to in­sid­er trad­ing, il­le­gal­ly deal­ing on FDA ap­provals, earn­ings and Up­john merg­er

A former Mylan IT executive pleaded guilty Friday to an insider trading scheme where he bought and sold stock options on another executive’s advice.

Prosecutors secured the plea from Dayakar Mallu, Mylan’s former VP of global operations information technology, after uncovering the plan. Mallu collaborated with an unnamed “senior manager,” the SEC said, to trade options ahead of Mylan public announcements regarding FDA approvals, revenue reports and its merger with the Pfizer generics subsidiary Upjohn. The two subsequently shared profits.

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