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.

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

A P val­ue of 0.38? NE­JM re­sults raise new ques­tions for Eli Lil­ly's vaunt­ed Covid an­ti­body

Generally, a P value of 0.38 means your drug failed and by a fair margin. Depending on the company, the compound and the trial, it might mean the end of the program. It could trigger layoffs.

For Eli Lilly, though, it was part of the key endpoint on a trial that landed them a $1.2 billion deal with the US government to supply up to nearly 1 million Covid-19 antibodies.

So what does one make of that? Was the endpoint not so important, as Lilly maintains? Or did the US government promise a princely sum for a pedestrian drug?

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Daphne Koller, Getty

Bris­tol My­er­s' Richard Har­g­reaves pays $70M to launch a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion al­liance with a star play­er in the ma­chine learn­ing world

Bristol Myers Squibb is turning to one of the star upstarts in the machine learning world to go back to the drawing board and come up with the disease models needed to find drugs that can work against two of the toughest targets in the neuro world.

Daphne Koller’s well-funded insitro is getting $70 million in cash and near-term milestones to use their machine learning platform to create induced pluripotent stem cell-derived disease models for ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks at the Rose Garden, May 26, 2020 (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Eli Lil­ly lines up a block­buster deal for Covid-19 an­ti­body, right af­ter it failed a NI­AID tri­al

Two days after Eli Lilly conceded that its antibody bamlanivimab was a flop in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, the US government is preparing to make it a blockbuster.

The pharma giant reported early Wednesday that it struck a deal to supply the feds with 300,000 vials of the drug at a cost of $375 million — once it gets an EUA stamp from the FDA. And once that 2-month supply deal is done, the government has an option on another 650,000 doses on the same terms — which could potentially add another $812 million.

Ar­cus and As­traZeneca part­ner on a high stakes an­ti-TIG­IT/PD-L1 PhI­II can­cer study, look­ing to im­prove on a stan­dard of care

For AstraZeneca, the PACIFIC trial in Stage III non-small cell lung cancer remains one of the big triumphs for AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group. It not only made their PD-L1 Imfinzi a franchise player with a solid advance in a large niche of the lung cancer market, the study — which continues to offer data on the long-range efficacy of their drug — also helped salve the vicious sting of the failure of the CTLA-4 combo in the MYSTIC study.

No­var­tis buys a new gene ther­a­py for vi­sion loss, and this is one pre­clin­i­cal ven­ture that did­n't come cheap

Cyrus Mozayeni got excited when he began to explore the academic work of Ehud Isacoff and John G. Flannery at UC Berkeley.

Together, they were engaged in finding a gene therapy approach to pan-genotypic vision restoration in patients with photoreceptor-based blindness, potentially restoring the vision of a broad group of patients. And they did it by using a vector to deliver the genetic sequence for light sensing proteins.

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Noubar Afeyan, Flagship founder and CEO (Victor Boyko/Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Flag­ship launch­es Sen­da Bio­sciences with $88M in back­ing, look­ing to pi­o­neer the field of 'In­ter­sys­tems Bi­ol­o­gy'

Flagship Pioneering has a fresh company out this week, one that aims to lay the groundwork for a whole new discipline.

Senda Biosciences launched Wednesday with $88 million in Flagship cash. The goal? Gain insights into the molecular connections between people and coevolved nonhuman species like plants and bacteria, paving the way for “Intersystems Biology.”

Guillaume Pfefer has been tapped to run the show, a 25-year biotech veteran who comes from GSK after leading the development of the company’s shingles vaccine.

CMO Merdad Parsey (Gilead)

Gilead hits the brakes on a tri­fec­ta of mid- and late-stage stud­ies for their trou­bled fil­go­tinib pro­gram. It's up to the FDA now

Gilead $GILD execs haven’t decided exactly what to do with filgotinib in the wake of the slapdown at the FDA on their rheumatoid arthritis application, but they’re taking a time out for a slate of studies until they can gain some clarity from the agency. And without encouraging guidance, this drug could clearly be axed from the pipeline.

In their Q3 report out Wednesday afternoon, the company says researchers have “paused” a Phase III study for psoriatic arthritis along with a pair of Phase II trials for ankylosing spondylitis and uveitis. Late-stage studies for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s are continuing, but you can see for yourself how big a hole this leaves in the inflammatory disease pipeline, with obvious implications if the company abandons filgo altogether.

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Patrick Soon-Shiong at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jan. 13, 2020 (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers, dissed by some ex­perts, biotech show­man Patrick Soon-Sh­iong fi­nal­ly gets his Covid-19 vac­cine ready for a tri­al. But can it live up to the hype?

In January, when dozens of scientists rushed to start making a vaccine for the then-novel coronavirus, they were joined by an unlikely compatriot: Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor most famous for making big, controversial promises on cancer research.

Soon-Shiong had spent the last 4 years on his “Cancer Moonshot,” but part of his project meant buying a small Seattle biotech that specialized in making common-cold vectors, called adenoviruses, to train the immune system. The billionaire had been using those vectors for oncology, but the company had also developed vaccine candidates for H1N1, Lassa fever and other viruses. When the outbreak began, he pivoted.

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Q32 Bio grabs $60M to kick off hu­man stud­ies for next-gen com­ple­ment drugs — with some Covid-19 tweaks along the way

For a company that launched in the early months of the pandemic, Q32 Bio had its fair share of run-ins with the new normals under Covid-19.

The original plan, for instance, was to conduct first-in-human studies of the IL-7 receptor antibody it licensed from Bristol Myers Squibb in the Netherlands. But they realized shortly after that while the country was beginning to open up clinical trials, there were additional restrictions on drugs that tampered with immunological mechanisms.