Mer­ck snaps up a Ger­man im­muno-on­col­o­gy up­start in a $603M bolt-on deal

Mu­nich-based Rigontec is de­liv­er­ing a sol­id re­turn for its ven­ture back­ers. Mer­ck $MRK has struck a rare deal to buy the biotech for $150 mil­lion in cash and an­oth­er $453 mil­lion in mile­stones, snap­ping up a 3-year-old fledg­ling that raised just €30 mil­lion to get to this point.

For Mer­ck it’s an­oth­er ex­am­ple of how Roger Perl­mut­ter likes to aug­ment the work be­ing done around its PD-1 su­per­star Keytru­da with the oc­ca­sion­al add-on. It’s a small deal for the phar­ma gi­ant, and he’s clear­ly im­pressed with the po­ten­tial the Bonn Uni­ver­si­ty spin­out has in ac­ti­vat­ing RIG-I as a key path­way in the in­nate im­mune sys­tem.

The tech­nol­o­gy is de­signed to ac­ti­vate an im­mune re­sponse, just as PD-1 can elim­i­nate a de­fen­sive net­work pro­tect­ing can­cer cells.

“Rigontec’s im­muno-on­col­o­gy ap­proach of en­gag­ing the in­nate im­mune sys­tem to safe­ly elim­i­nate can­cer cells com­ple­ments our strat­e­gy and our cur­rent pipeline,” said Er­ic Ru­bin, vice pres­i­dent of ear­ly-stage on­col­o­gy de­vel­op­ment at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries. “We are ea­ger to build up­on Rigontec’s sci­ence as we con­tin­ue our ef­forts in bring­ing for­ward mean­ing­ful ad­vances for pa­tients with can­cer.”


Mer­ck un­der Perl­mut­ter has struck a few of these small ac­qui­si­tions. IOmet’s I/O work was bagged in mid-2016 in an­oth­er easy bolt-on for Mer­ck, which hasn’t been do­ing big deals in re­cent years.

The big win­ners to­day are Rigontec’s in­vestors: Boehringer In­gel­heim Ven­ture Fund, For­bion Cap­i­tal Part­ners, High-Tech Grün­der­fonds, MP Health­care Ven­ture Man­age­ment, NRW.BANK, Sun­stone Cap­i­tal and Welling­ton Part­ners Life Sci­ences.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Len Schleifer (left) and George Yancopoulos, Regeneron (Vimeo)

Eyes on he­mo­phil­ia prize, Re­gen­eron adds a $100M wa­ger on joint de­vel­op­ment cam­paign with In­tel­lia

When George Yancopoulos first signed up Intellia to be its CRISPR/Cas9 partner on gene editing projects 4 years ago, the upstart smartly ramped up its IPO at the same time. Today, Regeneron $REGN is coming back in, adding $100 million in an upfront fee and equity to significantly boot up a whole roster of new development projects.

And they’re highlighting some clinical hemophilia research plans in the process.

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Covid-19 roundup: Did in­sid­ers cash in on pos­i­tive news re­port about Gilead be­fore pub­li­ca­tion?

A series of bullish trades on Gilead options just before the release of a favorable news story is raising questions among regulatory experts, Reuters reported.

On April 16, just hours before STAT published anecdotes from a Chicago hospital that served as one of the clinical sites to test Gilead’s remdesivir in Covid-19 patients, the California-based company’s shares were trading at around $75. Four large blocks of options were purchased for about $1.5 million each, betting that the stock would rise beyond that to as much as $87.5 by mid-August.

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Federico Mingozzi (Spark)

Spark touts an­i­mal da­ta for a so­lu­tion to AAV gene ther­a­py's an­ti­body prob­lem

Among all the limitations of using an adeno-associated virus as a vector to deliver a gene — still the most established modality in gene therapy given years of trial and error and finally success — the presence of neutralizing antibodies, whether pre-existing or induced, looms large.

“When I think about the immune responses in AAV, I try to sort of layer them,” Federico Mingozzi, the CSO at Spark Therapeutics, told Endpoints News. “The antibody is the first layer. It’s the first block that you find when you’re trying to do gene transfer.”

Jean-Jacques Bienaimé, BioMarin chairman and CEO

Bio­Marin holds the line on bleeds with 4-year val­rox up­date on he­mo­phil­ia A — but what's this about an­oth­er de­cline in Fac­tor 8 lev­els?

BioMarin has posted some top-line results for their 4-year followup on the most advanced gene therapy for hemophilia A — extending its streak on keeping a handful of patients free of bleeds and off Factor VIII therapy, but likely stirring fresh worries over a continued drop in Factor VIII levels.

We just don’t know how big a drop.

We’ll see more data when the results are presented at the World Federation of Hemophilia in a couple of weeks. But in a statement out Sunday night, BioMarin $BMRN reported that none of the patients required Factor VIII treatment, adding:

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As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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