MD An­der­son es­tab­lish­es new $50M+ biotech fund to choose the next promis­ing can­cer ther­a­pies

Re­searchers at MD An­der­son have a new part­ner to help them get ear­ly-stage pro­grams in­to the clin­ic.

In con­junc­tion with The Fo­cus Fund, MD An­der­son is launch­ing the Can­cer Fo­cus Fund to ad­vance in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al can­cer ther­a­pies from late pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment through Phase I and Phase Ib/II clin­i­cal tri­als. The fund will start off with more than $50 mil­lion of ini­tial cap­i­tal.

Fer­ran Prat

“With­out ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port, we know that some ther­a­pies with great po­ten­tial may be de­layed, may not be de­vel­oped prop­er­ly in the clin­i­cal set­ting or may nev­er make it in­to clin­i­cal stud­ies,” MD An­der­son se­nior VP Fer­ran Prat said in a state­ment. “Through in­vest­ment from the Can­cer Fo­cus Fund and the sup­port of MD An­der­son, we hope to ad­vance worth­while new treat­ments past the tra­di­tion­al hur­dles in the drug de­vel­op­ment process.”

Along with the new cash, in­vestors in­clud­ed the Ba­ton Rouge Area Foun­da­tion, Rice Uni­ver­si­ty En­dow­ment, LSU Health Shreve­port Foun­da­tion, Ochsner Health and oth­er pri­vate in­vestors.

The part­ner­ship will es­tab­lish two com­mit­tees that will joint­ly over­see the pro­grams, one made up of MD An­der­son re­searchers and physi­cians and the oth­er com­pris­ing ex­pe­ri­enced biotech in­vestors. MD An­der­son’s side will eval­u­ate and choose which po­ten­tial treat­ments could be se­lect­ed for the fund, while the in­vest­ment com­mit­tee makes fi­nal de­ci­sions based on the rec­om­men­da­tions.

MD An­der­son will al­so be re­spon­si­ble for de­sign­ing and host­ing clin­i­cal stud­ies for the ther­a­pies that re­ceive IND ap­proval. Ochsner Health and LSU Health Shreve­port will serve as ad­di­tion­al tri­al sites so pa­tients can join stud­ies where deemed ap­pro­pri­ate.

Nor­mal­ly known for col­lab­o­rat­ing with biotechs and phar­ma com­pa­nies to con­duct re­search in­to can­cer ther­a­pies, as well as be­ing one of the world’s lead­ing can­cer cen­ters, MD An­der­son will now be choos­ing the ther­a­pies it­self. One of the in­sti­tu­tion’s more re­cent part­ner­ships came with Sanofi, team­ing up in a five-year deal to ad­vance the French phar­ma’s on­co­log­ic drug cock­tails.

The Hous­ton clin­ic al­so an­nounced last week it will work with Al­lo­gene in an­oth­er five-year part­ner­ship, aim­ing to study the com­pa­ny’s CAR-T ther­a­pies in hema­to­log­ic and sol­id tu­mors in both pre­clin­i­cal and clin­i­cal pro­grams.

Cor­rec­tion: A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this sto­ry iden­ti­fied a source of the fund­ing as Neu­berg­er Berman, a glob­al in­vest­ment man­age­ment firm. The fund has no as­so­ci­a­tion with the firm.

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

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The Swiss pharma announced Monday that its IL-1 inhibitor canakinumab did not significantly extend the lives or slow the disease progression of patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer when compared to standard of-care alone.

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Mammoth unveiled a nearly $700 million deal with Vertex on Tuesday morning, good for the development of in vivo gene therapies for two mystery diseases. The stars of the show are Mammoth’s ultra-small CRISPR systems, including two Cas enzymes licensed from Doudna’s lab over the past couple years, Cas14 and Casɸ.

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Brent Saun­ders joins $100M Se­ries C for a com­pa­ny out to be the Bridge­Bio of ag­ing

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It turned out Nicholson already had an interest in Peyer’s field. In their Allergan days, he and COO Brent Saunders held weekly meetups where they tried to figure out how to take the company’s dominance in aesthetics — which, until recently, was often what people meant by anti-aging science — and expertise with more traditional drug development, and use it to make drugs that extend people’s lifespan.

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After flopping a test in Covid-19 earlier this year, Angion’s lead organ damage drug has now hit the skids again in kidney transplant patients.

Angion and partner Vifor Pharma’s ANG-3777 failed to beat out placebo in terms of improving eGFR, a measure of kidney function, in patients who had received a deceased donor kidney transplant and were at high risk of developing what is known as delayed graft function, according to Phase III results released Tuesday.

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

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“We believe our vaccine can play an important role in addressing the needs of low-income countries given its combination of high Phase 3 efficacy against COVID-19, strong durability in the real-world evidence, and superior storage and handling conditions. We recognize that access to COVID-19 vaccines continues to be a challenge in many parts of the world and we remain committed to helping to protect as many people as possible around the globe,” Bancel said in a statement.

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