Sean McClain, AbSci

Months af­ter strik­ing a deal with Sanofi, Ab­Sci nails its largest fundraise yet to sup­port its pro­tein print­ing tech

Months af­ter nail­ing down a $10.4 mil­lion Se­ries D and a part­ner­ship with French phar­ma gi­ant Sanofi, Ab­Sci is pulling in its largest fundraise yet — $65 mil­lion to ad­vance what it calls its pro­tein print­ing tech.

The Van­cou­ver, WA-based biotech is work­ing on a more ef­fi­cient way to man­u­fac­ture pro­teins — from full-length an­ti­bod­ies to in­sulin — us­ing E. coli. The com­pa­ny says it’s on a quest to make pro­tein pro­duc­tion “as sim­ple as DNA syn­the­sis,” al­low­ing for swift pro­duc­tion of dif­fi­cult-to-pro­duce bio­ther­a­peu­tics. It’s tag­ging the Se­ries E for ex­pan­sion of its pro­duc­tion ca­pac­i­ty, which in­cludes a new 60,000-square-foot fa­cil­i­ty in Van­cou­ver.

“Many drugs, es­pe­cial­ly bi­o­log­i­cal drugs, don’t make it to mar­ket or take for­ev­er to get to mar­ket, not be­cause of drug dis­cov­ery but man­u­fac­tura­bil­i­ty,” CEO Sean Mc­Clain told End­points News. “And what Ab­Sci is do­ing is flip­ping that par­a­digm and al­low­ing re­searchers to be able to fo­cus on drug dis­cov­ery and have a plat­form such as Ab­Sci’s pro­tein print­ing plat­form where they can… de­vel­op and man­u­fac­ture these drugs and get the ab­solute best drug can­di­dates to mar­ket, nev­er hav­ing to wor­ry about man­u­fac­tura­bil­i­ty,” he said.

The biotech was found­ed in Port­land, OR in 2011, and hooked a $5.1 mil­lion Se­ries A about five years lat­er. At the time, it was laser-fo­cused on its E. Coli ex­pres­sion plat­form, SoluPro, for pro­duc­ing sol­u­ble, com­plex pro­teins in high yields. It went com­mer­cial in 2018 with SoluPro, and in 2019 with its pro­tein print­ing plat­form, which builds on SoluPro with tech­nol­o­gy de­signed to pump out high-di­ver­si­ty strain li­braries and high-through­put screen­ing as­says.

Us­ing pro­pri­etary screen­ing as­says, “we’re able to screen up to 10 mil­lion dif­fer­ent pro­tein fold­ing and ex­pres­sion so­lu­tions in SoluPro in a giv­en ex­per­i­ment, and es­sen­tial­ly fish out the nee­dle in the haystack that gives the high­est titer and the high­est qual­i­ty,” Mc­Clain ex­plained.

The re­cent Se­ries E was led by Cas­din Cap­i­tal, with help from Red­mile Group, Ar­row­Mark Part­ners and Phoenix Ven­ture Part­ners.

Eli Cas­din

“We be­lieve Ab­Sci’s Pro­tein Print­ing tech­nol­o­gy has a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty to sup­port the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of next-gen­er­a­tion bi­o­log­ics which have long been con­sid­ered un­man­u­fac­turable,” Eli Cas­din, CIO and Founder of Cas­din Cap­i­tal, said in a state­ment.

In Jan­u­ary — a few days be­fore clos­ing a Se­ries D led by KBI Bio­phar­ma and JSR Life Sci­ences — Ab­Sci inked a deal with Sanofi to ap­ply SoluPro to two un­spec­i­fied bio­ther­a­peu­tic mol­e­cules. The com­pa­nies kept mum about the fi­nan­cial terms of the deal, on­ly shar­ing that the Sanofi-fund­ed part­ner­ship would take place at Ab­Sci.

“This col­lab­o­ra­tion il­lus­trates the need for new ex­pres­sion tech­nolo­gies that are ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing these next-gen­er­a­tion an­ti­body and pro­tein scaf­folds,” Mc­Clain said at the time.

In ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, the com­pa­ny closed a deal li­cens­ing SoluPro to Al­pha Can­cer Tech­nolo­gies for the pro­duc­tion of Re­com­bi­nant Hu­man Al­pha-fe­to­pro­tein (hAFP) to treat var­i­ous au­toim­mune dis­eases and can­cers. Un­der the terms of the deal, Ab­Sci will pre­pare the hAFP pro­duc­ing E. coli strain, in re­turn for an undis­closed amount in de­vel­op­ment and sales mile­stones, plus roy­al­ties.

“This year has been a big growth year for Ab­Sci… We’re just see­ing a ton of mo­men­tum right now, and see­ing that spilling in­to next year and the year af­ter that,” Mc­Clain told End­points.

Un­lock­ing ESG strate­gies for growth with Gilead Sci­ences

RBC Capital Markets explores what is material in ESG for biopharma companies with the ESG leads at Gilead Sciences. Gilead has long focused on sustainability but recognized a more robust framework was needed. Based on a materiality assessment, Gilead’s ESG strategy today focuses first on drug access and pricing, while also addressing D&I and climate change. Find out why Gilead’s board is “acutely aware” of the contribution that ESG makes to firm’s overall success.

Hervé Hoppenot, Incyte CEO (Jeff Rumans)

ODAC echoes FDA con­cern over In­cyte PD-1, as Paz­dur sig­nals broad­er shift for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

After the FDA lambasted their PD-1 ahead of an adcomm earlier this week, Incyte ran into new trouble Thursday as ODAC panelists voted against an accelerated OK by a wide margin.

Members of the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee recommended with a 13-4 vote to defer a regulatory decision on Incyte’s retifanlimab until after more data can be collected from a placebo-controlled trial. The PD-1 therapy is due for a PDUFA date in late July after receiving priority review earlier this year.

What con­tro­ver­sy? Eli Lil­ly plots Alzheimer's BLA fil­ing lat­er this year as FDA taps more an­ti-amy­loid drugs as break­throughs

The FDA is keeping the good news coming for Alzheimer’s drug developers. And Eli Lilly is taking them up on it.

Amid continued controversy around whether Biogen’s new flagship drug, Aduhelm, should have been approved at all — and swelling, heated debates surrounding its $56,000 price tag — the agency had no issue handing them and their Japanese partner Eisai a breakthrough therapy designation for a second anti-amyloid beta antibody, lecanemab, late Wednesday.

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From left: Rajul Jain, Stefan Vitorovic, Arjun Goyal, Arie Belldegrun, Jean-Philippe (JP) Kouakou-Zebouah, Helen Kim

Arie Bellde­grun's Vi­da Ven­tures goes back to the well with $825M mega­fund and its eyes set on more in­no­v­a­tive meds

Among the list of bright names in biopharma, few shine brighter than Kite founder and serial entrepreneur Arie Belldegrun, who has rattled off a remarkable run of success in recent years. Now, a Belldegrun investment team is locking up a massive third fund to keep chasing the cutting edge in therapeutics.

Vida Ventures closed its third investment fund at a whopping $825 million — its largest yet — as the ever-expanding VC firm hits 30 companies in its portfolio developing new routes to hard-to-treat diseases, the company said Thursday.

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New FDA doc­u­ments show in­ter­nal dis­sent on Aduhelm ap­proval

In a lengthy review document and a pair of memos from top officials, the FDA released on Tuesday night its most detailed argument yet for approving Biogen’s intensely controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab.

The documents amount to an agency attempt to quench the firestorm their decision kindled, as outside advisors members resigned and experts warned that an unproven drug now could stretch Medicare’s budget to a breaking point. Ultimately, the documents show how CDER director Patrizia Cavazzoni and Office of New Drugs director Peter Stein both concurred with FDA neuroscience head Billy Dunn on the accelerated approval while the staff at FDA’s Office of Biostatistics did not think an approval was warranted.

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Karen Flynn, Catalent

Q&A: When the pan­dem­ic struck, Catal­en­t's CCO had just joined the team

Karen Flynn came aboard Catalent’s team just in time.

The company was going through a surge of changes, and she had been brought over from her role as CCO of West Pharmaceutical Services to serve in the same capacity for the New Jersey-based CDMO. Then a few months later, the pandemic was in full-force.

Since then, Catalent’s been in hyper-expansion mode. In early May, it acquired Promethera’s Hepatic Cell Therapy Support SA subsidiary and its 32,40-square-foot facility in Gosselies, Belgium. Prior to that, the company acquired Belgian CDMO Delphi Genetics, wrapped up the expansion of an already-existing site in Madison, WI and added an ultra-low temperature freezer partner in Sterling. As Emergent has botched millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, the company has swooped in to move that production to its Maryland plant as well.

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Richard Pazdur (vis AACR)

FDA en­cour­ages in­clud­ing in­cur­able can­cer pa­tients in tri­als, re­gard­less of pri­or ther­a­pies

The FDA on Thursday called to include those with incurable cancers (when there is no potential for cure or for prolonged/near normal survival) in appropriate clinical trials, regardless of whether they have received existing alternative treatments.

Historically, many cancer clinical trials have required that participating patients previously received multiple therapies, according to Richard Pazdur, director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence.

On heels of Aduhelm ap­proval, Bris­tol My­ers jumps back in­to Alzheimer's race

Bristol Myers Squibb last put major resources behind an Alzheimer’s drug nearly a decade ago, when their own attempt at targeting amyloid flamed out in mid-stage studies. They invented another molecule, a Tau-targeted antibody, but jettisoned it to Biogen in 2017 as they dropped out of neuroscience altogether.

But on Thursday, the New York pharma announced they were getting back in the game. Bristol Myers exercised an $80 million option to bring a tau-targeted antibody from Prothena into a Phase I study. The opt-in, which Bristol Myers triggered ahead of analyst expectations, opens the door for another $1.7 billion in milestones down the road.

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James Peyer, Cambrian

Can a cell ther­a­py treat mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy? A Ger­man bil­lion­aire's an­ti-ag­ing start­up is try­ing to find out

Gene therapy companies have faced huge hurdles trying to deliver healthy genes into muscular dystrophy patients’ muscle cells, so here’s an idea: Why don’t we just replace the muscle cells themselves?

Over the last two years, Vita Therapeutics has been exploring that possibility, building on early stem cell work from Johns Hopkins professor Peter Andersen. And on Tuesday they announced a $32 million Series A to begin to move their first therapy into the clinic, where they hope it will help rebuild muscle in patients with a type of dystrophy that afflicts the arms and legs.