MPM adds $408M for its next big wave of biotech star­tups — and on­col­o­gy still dom­i­nates the menu

MPM Cap­i­tal has put the fin­ish­ing touch­es to its 7th ven­ture fund — BV2018 — now tidi­ly tot­ting up to about $408 mil­lion as the ven­ture crew that runs this pro­lif­ic biotech deal­mak­er gets squared away for the next wave of in­vest­ments. Adding it up with their on­col­o­gy-on­ly funds, and the part­ners are work­ing with more than a bil­lion dol­lars.

Luke Evnin

Guid­ed by some close ex­pert con­nec­tions in the field, MPM has been keen on the on­col­o­gy R&D boom. Luke Evnin, who co-found­ed MPM in the late ‘90s, es­ti­mates that about 70% of MPM’s last fund went to fi­nance pro­grams for ex­per­i­men­tal can­cer drugs. In this next fund, he ex­pects the to­tal for can­cer to drop from that mark, but re­main the dom­i­nant field, tak­ing more than half its in­vest­ment cap­i­tal.

The last 5 years has seen im­muno-on­col­o­gy reach a peak, Evnin tells me. Dur­ing the next 3 or 4 years they’ll be fo­cused on one of the key mantras in biotech R&D: drug­ging the un­drug­gable. That could lead them to de­graders, syn­thet­ic lethal­i­ty or pro­tein-pro­tein in­ter­ac­tions, among oth­er fields. But wher­ev­er the bi­ol­o­gy of a drug tar­get is well known, you may well find MPM back­ing the hunt for a drug that can do the job.

MPM has had some re­cent IPOs from the port­fo­lio — Har­poon’s re­cent $76 mil­lion of­fer­ing for one — and Evnin is of the opin­ion the IPO win­dow will re­main open for busi­ness in 2019, though not quite as busy as last year. This next round of of­fer­ings will like­ly be lim­it­ed to more ma­ture com­pa­nies, he says, with the kind of deep-pock­et­ed in­sid­ers that can of­fer con­sid­er­able as­sis­tance.

Ans­bert Gadicke

Like a lot of new funds, MPM has a plan to back some 15 to 20 star­tups with their new mon­ey, which is al­ready be­ing di­rect­ed in­to the first round of in­vest­ments. But they have their own par­tic­u­lar Goldilocks ap­proach that will like­ly guide much of that. MPM wants to jump in­to launch rounds that are nei­ther too small to get any­thing done, nor too weight­ed to­ward mega-sized pack­ages that draw heat — from some sides — as too big for a start­up’s own good.

“Twen­ty mil­lion dol­lars runs out. You can’t get enough done,” says Evnin. But a syn­di­cate that brings in $50 mil­lion, look­ing to a non-di­lu­tive deal to fol­low up and then move on to a crossover and po­ten­tial IPO af­ter that, that sort of busi­ness strat­e­gy works well in this in­dus­try.

The cap­i­tal base for biotech right now is in sol­id shape, says Evnin. And so is the tal­ent pool all the VCs can draw from for their star­tups. That’s all en­cour­ag­ing as they look to the next 5 years and what’s ahead for the in­dus­try.

Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly CSO

UP­DAT­ED: An­a­lysts are quick to pan Eli Lil­ly's puz­zling first cut of pos­i­tive clin­i­cal da­ta for its Covid-19 an­ti­body

Eli Lilly spotlighted a success for one of 3 doses of their closely-watched Covid-19 antibody drug Wednesday morning. But analysts quickly highlighted some obvious anomalies that could come back to haunt the pharma giant as it looks for an emergency use authorization to launch marketing efforts.

The pharma giant reported that LY-CoV555, developed in collaboration with AbCellera, significantly reduced the rate of hospitalization among patients who were treated with the antibody. The drug arm of the study had a 1.7% hospitalization rate, compared to 6% in the control group, marking a 72% drop in risk.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

#ES­MO20: Alk­er­mes of­fers their first snap­shot of a ben­e­fit for their next-gen IL-2 drug. But why did 1 pa­tient starve to death?

Everyone in the cancer R&D arena is looking to build new franchises around better drugs and combos. And one busy pocket of that space is centered entirely on creating an IL-2 drug that can be as effective as the original without the toxicity that damned it to the sidelines.

Alkermes $ALKS formally tossed its hat into the ring of contenders at virtual ESMO today, highlighting the first glimpse of efficacy for their candidate, ALKS 4230, as both a monotherapy as well as in combination with Merck’s Keytruda.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Albert Bourla (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er match­es Mod­er­na with their full Covid-19 tri­al blue­print — As­traZeneca says it will un­veil its pro­to­col 'short­ly'

Yesterday, after sustained public pressure as Moderna released its Phase III Covid-19 trial blueprint, Pfizer released its own full trial design for their vaccine trials. The move was designed to boost transparency and shore up public trust in the vaccines, but it also revealed differences in how the two companies are approaching the much-watched studies while failing to satisfy the demands of the fiercest advocates for transparency.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Stronger to­geth­er? Boehringer and Mi­rati team to put first KRAS-KRAS com­bo in the clin­ic

Researchers are still waiting to see how much any of the vaunted KRAS drugs now in the clinic can, after decades of preclinical research and some early human studies, help patients. But while they do, two of the leading developers will look to see whether a KRAS-KRAS combo might pose a better shot than any KRAS alone.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Mirati have signed a collaboration to combine Mirati’s closely-watched lead KRAS inhibitor, MRTX849, in a clinical trial with the pan-KRAS blocker that Boehringer has quietly developed with high expectations behind their flashier contenders.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

#ES­MO20: Re­gen­eron, Sanofi eye an­oth­er first for their PD-1 con­tender Lib­tayo with promis­ing da­ta for on­col­o­gy niche

Regeneron and Sanofi took another step forward in the long march towards a greatly expanded market for their late-bloomer PD-1 checkpoint Libtayo.

The two occasional allies posted an objective response rate of 31% for Libtayo among 84 patients suffering from advanced cases of basal cell carcinoma at virtual ESMO. That spotlights progress for 26 patients, 5 of whom had a complete response. The data also reflect a boost in the number of responses seen from the last cut of the numbers.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er ex­ecs con­fi­dent­ly tap their top 10 block­busters-to-be. But what are the chances of sur­viv­ing PhI­II, let alone hit­ting these big peak sales es­ti­mates?

Pfizer’s top executive team doesn’t lack for confidence.

Where many Big Pharmas would be reluctant to put a peak sales figure on their late-stage drugs, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has shrugged off the usual diffidence to outline where the pharma giant expects to get $15 billion-plus.

The list, outlined this week during their investor presentations, is topped by 3 drugs in the $3 billion-plus peak sales category. They are:

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (Autolus)

#ES­MO20: Au­to­lus pro­vides glimpse of next-gen­er­a­tion CAR-T pro­gram, show­ing ear­ly pos­i­tive safe­ty da­ta

CAR-T therapies were hailed as a breakthrough when Novartis received the first FDA approval for Kymriah back in 2017. Though highly effective at treating certain types of blood cancers, CAR-Ts are also associated with severe and potentially deadly side effects, including lethal instances of cytokine release syndrome.

With this in mind, Autolus Therapeutics is looking to take a crack at a safer CAR-T and presented Phase II cohort data for its AUTO3 program at virtual ESMO 2020. The data showed that, among the 35 patients in the cohort being treated for r/r diffuse large B cell lymphoma, there were no instances of Grade 3 or higher CRS. Eight individuals saw Grade 1 inflammation while another four patients reached Grade 2.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

A long­time Cy­tomX ex­ec re-emerges at Syn­thekine, an $82M Stan­ford spin­out

Debanjan Ray apparently had big plans when he quietly left his long-held CFO spot at CytomX back in March 2019. He had gotten his own biotech.

Still in its early stages at the time, that biotech, known as Synthekine, is now ready to start talking. They are breaking out of stealth mode today with $82 million in Series A funding led by Canaan Partners, Samsara BioCapital and The Column Group, and plans to rapidly bring a handful of engineered cytokines, including a rejigged IL-2, into the clinic.

Sean Bo­hen's break from bio­phar­ma is over. The ex-As­traZeneca CMO has re­tired his Big Phar­ma jer­sey and is now — hap­pi­ly — run­ning a lit­tle biotech

The last I had heard about Sean Bohen, he had stepped out of his high-profile job as chief medical officer at AstraZeneca at the beginning of 2019 as CEO Pascal Soriot triggered a broad-ranging R&D shakeup. And then, earlier this week, I got a chance to catch up.

It turns out that Bohen decided at the time that he would not just jump into a new job in the booming biopharma business. As an oncologist, he had worked on the big programs at AstraZeneca, and before that he was at Genentech. That was good for a ticket to just about anyplace in the big biopharma world. But he felt it was time to stop and think things through.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.