Neoanti­gen pi­o­neer Neon Ther­a­peu­tics casts off in search of $115M IPO to fu­el the race to a per­son­al­ized can­cer treat­ment

Can a be­spoke can­cer vac­cine ac­tu­al­ly suc­ceed in treat­ing in­di­vid­ual on­col­o­gy cas­es? 

Er­ic Lan­der

Neon Ther­a­peu­tics launched three years ago, set­ting out on a mis­sion to prove that it could, and it now has enough ex­am­ples of a se­lect hand­ful of in­di­vid­ual re­spons­es to their neoanti­gen plat­form to gam­ble that in­vestors will come in to back a $115 mil­lion IPO as they look to tran­si­tion from their first ex­plorato­ry hu­man stud­ies in­to ad­vanced de­vel­op­ment work.

Over the start­up pe­ri­od, Neon has been de­vel­op­ing its first pep­tide-based in­di­vid­u­al­ized can­cer vac­cines, work­ing with the mu­ta­tions present in each case. Their work has steered them to­ward a set of can­cers like non-small cell lung can­cer, which have a high mu­ta­tion bur­den and a rich set of in­di­vid­ual anti­gen tar­gets to se­lect from.

By ze­ro­ing in on these neoanti­gens, they say, they can make the first gen­er­a­tion of check­point in­hibitors — de­signed to un­leash a swarm of T cells on can­cer cells — far more ef­fec­tive. But ground­break­ing new tech­nolo­gies like these al­so re­quire their own man­u­fac­tur­ing base, and they won’t come cheap.

Cather­ine Wu, Neon Ther­a­peu­tics

Third Rock launched Neon Ther­a­peu­tics with a high coun­cil of promi­nent sci­en­tists from Dana-Far­ber, MIT and else­where. The ad­vi­so­ry group in­clud­ed Er­ic Lan­der from the Broad In­sti­tute of MIT and Har­vard, MD An­der­son’s Jim Al­li­son and Cather­ine Wu with Dana-Far­ber. In true Third Rock style they re­cruit­ed No­var­tis vet Hugh O’Dowd to come in and take the helm, and the VC group still owns 44.4% of the eq­ui­ty.

Ac­cess In­dus­tries weighs in at 12% with Fi­deli­ty at 7.5% and Part­ner Fund Man­age­ment at 7%. O’Dowd has a 2.6% slice.

Neon has burned through $111 mil­lion to get to this stage, and the team has $62 mil­lion in re­serve. A suc­cess here would ex­tend their run­way con­sid­er­ably, if they can get enough sup­port for what re­mains a high-risk ef­fort to break se­ri­ous new ground in on­col­o­gy.

Not at all un­sur­pris­ing­ly in an era of ram­pant I/O en­thu­si­asm, Neon is al­so busy in a field crowd­ed with would-be pi­o­neers. The most promi­nent group in­cludes Aduro Biotech, Ad­vax­is, Agenus, BioN­Tech AG, Grit­stone On­col­o­gy, Mod­er­na Ther­a­peu­tics, PACT Phar­ma, and Zio­pharm.

Neon plans to trade as $NT­GN.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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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

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

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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UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.

Bull­ish biotech mar­ket pro­pels Pli­ant to $144M IPO — as No­var­tis pro­vides a $10M boost

After pharma partner Novartis boosted its IPO with a $10 million private placement, Pliant Therapeutics has wrapped its journey to the Nasdaq on a high note.

Pliant had penciled in a $86 million raise back in May. But as has become the norm in recent months, that initial number has turned out to be a mere placeholder, making way for the final haul of $144 million.

The South San Francisco biotech did so by pricing at $16, the high end of the range, while bringing the number of shares offered up to 9 million.

Credit: AP Images

Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA sup­ports Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed with big $628M con­tract to ser­vice Amer­i­ca's vac­cine pro­duc­tion needs

Another BARDA contract designed to service America’s Covid-19 vaccine needs has been deployed.

The White House-led initiative designed to bankroll development to bring a vaccine to the American public by this fall — Operation Warp Speed — has via BARDA handed a meaty contract to the maker of an FDA-licensed anthrax vaccine to open up its manufacturing apparatus to shore up production of Covid-19 vaccines.

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FDA de­lays de­ci­sion on No­var­tis’ po­ten­tial block­buster MS drug, wip­ing away pri­or­i­ty re­view

So much for a speedy review.

In February, Novartis announced that an application for their much-touted multiple sclerosis drug ofatumumab had been accepted and, with the drug company cashing in on one of their priority review vouchers, the agency was due for a decision by June.

But with June less than 48 hours old, Novartis announced the agency has extended their review, pushing back the timeline for approval or rejection to September. The Swiss pharma filed the application in December, meaning their new schedule will be nearly in line with the standard 10-month window period had they not used the priority voucher.

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