Steve Arkinstall, Revitope CEO

Mass­a­chu­setts biotech Re­vi­tope scores first col­lab­o­ra­tion thanks to dual-en­gag­ing T cell plat­form

Re­vi­tope On­col­o­gy be­gan 2020 hope­ful that its can­cer im­munol­o­gy plat­form would be fi­nal­ly ready to flour­ish. On Mon­day night, that plat­form nabbed the biotech its first col­lab­o­ra­tion.

The Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny has agreed to a li­cens­ing agree­ment with Shang­hai-based Jun­shi Bio­sciences in which Re­vi­tope can re­ceive up to $160 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial mile­stones, plus roy­al­ties. In ad­di­tion, Jun­shi will make a di­rect eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment of $10 mil­lion, equal to 9.99% of Re­vi­tope shares, as the two com­pa­nies work to de­vel­op a dual-anti­gen tar­get­ing can­cer ther­a­pies.

Re­vi­tope CEO Steve Arkin­stall was re­cruit­ed by Re­vit­rope from Kymab where he was chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer, and the way he de­scribes it, the part­ner­ship is very near­ly a per­fect fit.

“We’ve been de­vel­op­ing our T cell en­gager plat­form for the past three years and it re­al­ly reached the stage to op­ti­mize at the end of last year,” Arkin­stall told End­points News. “From very ear­ly on, Jun­shi was one of the com­pa­nies that showed enor­mous in­ter­est.”

Not on­ly did Jun­shi demon­strate the deep un­der­stand­ing of on­col­o­gy that Re­vi­tope sought from a part­ner, but it al­so pos­sessed a state-of-the-art an­ti­body dis­cov­ery unit. Re­vi­tope was par­tic­u­lar­ly im­pressed with Jun­shi’s han­dling of Covid-19 treat­ments in Chi­na — in which they se­quenced and de­vel­oped an­ti­bod­ies and launched a clin­i­cal tri­al in un­der nine months — and is ea­ger to ap­ply their plat­form to Jun­shi’s ex­ist­ing an­ti­body de­vel­op­ment tech­nol­o­gy.

Arkin­stall is so con­fi­dent in the biotechs’ com­pat­i­bil­i­ty that he said the two can es­sen­tial­ly hit the ground run­ning im­me­di­ate­ly. As part of the col­lab­o­ra­tion, Jun­shi is pro­vid­ing their pro­pri­etary an­ti­bod­ies for se­quenc­ing to in­cor­po­rate in­to Re­vi­tope’s plat­form. An­ti­body dis­cov­ery had been the “great lim­it­ing fac­tor” for Re­vi­tope pri­or to this deal, but no more.

“There’s no down­time from hav­ing to dis­cov­er an­ti­bod­ies; we can start en­gi­neer­ing pro­teins lit­er­al­ly on day 1,” said Arkin­stall, who be­came CEO in Jan­u­ary.

He de­scribed how con­ven­tion­al T cell can­cer treat­ments tar­get on­ly sin­gle anti­gens, which re­cruit T cells to at­tack not on­ly tu­mors with­in the body but al­so con­se­quent­ly harm healthy cells that car­ry the same anti­gen. Re­vi­tope, Arkin­stall said, has de­vel­oped a tech­nol­o­gy plat­form known as TEAC — T Cell En­gag­ing An­ti­body Cir­cuit — that uti­lizes dual-anti­gen tar­get­ing and al­lows drug can­di­dates to be as pre­cise as pos­si­ble.

Ef­fec­tive­ly, such can­di­dates will be in­ert un­til they come in­to con­tact with tu­mor cells co-ex­press­ing the dual-anti­gens and not at­tack healthy cells. Arkin­stall de­scribed it like a Venn di­a­gram; if a cell ex­press­es ei­ther anti­gen X or anti­gen Y, the TEAC mol­e­cule will not af­fect it. But if both anti­gens X and Y are present, in­di­cat­ing the tu­mor that Re­vi­tope wish­es to tar­get, the mol­e­cule will ac­ti­vate.

“That’s what it’s all about. It’s about se­lect­ing anti­gens that are co-ex­pressed on tu­mor cells and not on healthy cells or healthy tis­sue,” Arkin­stall said. “If you com­bine two anti­gens, X and Y, that are co-ex­pressed on tu­mors but not healthy cells, it’s opened up a new op­por­tu­ni­ty to ex­ploit those tar­get anti­gens.”

To­geth­er, Re­vi­tope and Jun­shi aim to de­vel­op up to five TEAC pairs us­ing Re­vi­tope’s plat­form and Jun­shi an­ti­bod­ies, and Arkin­stall hopes they’ll go far.

But Re­vi­tope is still just get­ting start­ed.

“We’ve been in­vest­ing in de­vel­op­ing the tech­nol­o­gy and it was on­ly re­al­ly at the be­gin­ning of this year that we were con­fi­dent it would reach prime time,” Arkin­stall said. “Jun­shi again with their en­thu­si­asm has been the quick­est to move, but we are in ac­tive dis­cus­sions with sev­er­al oth­er com­pa­nies at the mo­ment.”

Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Mod­er­na CEO Stéphane Ban­cel out­lines a prospec­tive moth­er­lode of Covid-19 vac­cine rev­enue — will a back­lash fol­low?

Moderna shows no sign of slowing down, or turning charitable when it comes to pricing supplies of its Covid-19 vaccine.

One of the leaders in the Phase III race to get a Covid-19 vaccine across the finish line in record time, Moderna says it’s on track to complete enrollment in one of the most avidly watched studies in the world next month. And the biotech has already banked some $400 million in deposits for vaccine supply as it works through negotiations with countries around the world — as CEO Stéphane Bancel sets out to hire a commercial team.

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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Covid-19 roundup: J&J and BAR­DA agree to $1 bil­lion for 100 mil­lion dos­es; Plas­ma re­duces mor­tal­i­ty by 50% — re­ports

J&J has become the latest vaccine developer to agree to supply BARDA with doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, signing an agreement that will give the government 100 million doses in exchange for $1 billion in funding.

The agreement, similar to those signed by Novavax, Sanofi and AstraZeneca-Oxford, provides funding not only for individual doses but to help J&J ramp up manufacturing. Pfizer, by contrast, received $1.95 billion for the doses alone. Still, if one looked at each agreement as purchase amounts, J&J’s deal would be $10 per dose, slotting in between Novavax’s $16 per dose and AstraZeneca’s $4 per dose.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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Ver­sant de­buts Ridge­line's start­up #4, armed with $30M and al­ter­na­tive TCR cell ther­a­pies for sol­id tu­mors

For all the iterations and advances in TCR therapies for cancer, any experimental treatments involving T cell receptors share one trait: By definition, they only recognize antigens presented as peptides on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on cells.

Versant reckons it’s time to expand the arsenal. With $30 million in initial funding, its Ridgeline Discovery Engine in Switzerland has been working on a non-peptidic approach that it says has tumor-agnostic potential, especially in solid tumors. They’ve named it Matterhorn, after a Swiss mountain as they did with the three other companies that have emerged from the Basel-based incubator.

CF Foun­da­tion, Long­wood team on new in­cu­ba­tor for com­pa­nies with cut­ting-edge CF treat­ments

Nine months after launching a $500 million hunt for a cure for cystic fibrosis, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation said it will use a portion of those funds to do something it has never done before: help launch new companies.

The CF Foundation, whose venture philanthropy efforts helped fund Vertex’s line of powerful CF drugs, is teaming with Longwood Fund to create a CF incubator. The incubator will identify new companies with platforms or technologies that can be applied in the rare genetic condition. The partners can then finance early development in exchange for a commitment from the companies to focus on applications in cystic fibrosis.

Kiersten Stead, John Hamer (DCVC Bio)

Deep tech, round 2: DCVC Bio bags $350M fund to chase the tip of the life sci­ence spear

It took one trip from San Francisco to Vancouver for Kiersten Stead and her DCVC Bio crew to feel confident about throwing their weight — and cash — behind AbCellera.

CEO Carl Hansen’s academic background and the potential of the platform, which combined machine vision and robotics with microfluidics, were promising. But the site visit sealed the Series A deal, where DCVC was the lead and only investor.

Mer­ck scoops up a PhII J&J dis­card in a bar­gain-base­ment deal. And this time they’re shoot­ing at NASH

When J&J turned to South Korea’s Hanmi for a GLP-1/glucagon dual receptor agonist obesity drug, the pharma giant paid $105 million in a cash upfront for the licensing rights and plotted a big clinical trial program to test it. A year ago, like a few of Hanmi’s big partners, J&J reviewed their trial data and walked away, handing it back.

Now Merck is stepping up to grab it for their NASH pipeline — and they got it a lot cheaper than J&J.