Neu­rotrope bat­tered in lat­est Alzheimer's flop; Platelet Bio­Gen­e­sis rais­es $26M-plus

Neu­rotrope be­came the lat­est ca­su­al­ty in the high-risk Alzheimer’s R&D field. The biotech re­port­ed that their Phase II study of Bryo­statin-1 failed to show any im­prove­ment over place­bo us­ing the Se­vere Im­pair­ment Bat­tery (SIB) to­tal score at week 13. In fact, the drug arm did a lit­tle worse than a sug­ar pill, with an av­er­age in­crease of 1.3 points for the drug and 2.1 points for place­bo. Their shares $NTRP cratered in the rout that fol­lowed, plung­ing 78%. It’s cur­rent­ly a pen­ny stock.

The Alzheimer’s R&D field hasn’t record­ed a suc­cess in chang­ing the tra­jec­to­ry of the dis­ease, with re­cent piv­otal fail­ures forc­ing all the play­ers to re­con­sid­er their strate­gies.

Platelet Bio­Gen­e­sis (PBG) — a com­pa­ny fo­cused on stem cell-de­rived, on-de­mand hu­man platelets and platelet-based ther­a­peu­tics — has raised more than $26 mil­lion in Se­ries A-1 fi­nanc­ing. In com­bi­na­tion to this round, as well as Se­ries A fi­nanc­ing and grants, the com­pa­ny’s to­tal fund­ing is brought to about $45 mil­lion. The fi­nanc­ing was co-led by Ziff Cap­i­tal Part­ners and Qim­ing Ven­ture Part­ners USA in ad­di­tion to ex­ist­ing in­ves­tures Nest.Bio Ven­tures and eCoast An­gels.

The com­pa­ny said that it “will use the funds from the Se­ries A-1 round to ac­cel­er­ate the de­vel­op­ment of its donor-in­de­pen­dent platelet man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ad­vance its proof of con­cept work around platelet-based ther­a­peu­tics.” PBG plans to dou­ble its staff to ap­prox­i­mate­ly 50 em­ploy­ees in 2020.

Stu­art Levy, co-founder of Paratek Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, passed away last week.

“Stu­art was a dis­tin­guished physi­cian who was the fore­front of an­tibi­ot­ic de­vel­op­ment and a ded­i­cat­ed cham­pi­on for the pru­dent use of an­tibi­otics,” said Evan Loh, Paratek CEO. “More im­por­tant­ly, he was a dear friend and men­tor to so many and his pas­sion lives on in each of us as we work to con­tin­ue his mis­sion of com­bat­ing the dai­ly threat of life-threat­en­ing in­fec­tions. We will great­ly miss him.”

Levy co-found­ed Paratek more than 20 years ago along with Wal­ter Gilbert. He was in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of the com­pa­ny’s lead an­tibi­otics, Nuzyra and Seysara. Levy dis­cov­ered the ef­flux mech­a­nism for drug (tetra­cy­cline) re­sis­tance and was among the first sci­en­tists to doc­u­ment the trans­fer of re­sis­tant bac­te­ria from an­i­mals to farm­work­ers. His 1992 book, The An­tibi­ot­ic Para­dox: How Mir­a­cle Drugs Are De­stroy­ing the Mir­a­cle, has been cit­ed wide­ly and trans­lat­ed in­to four lan­guages.

The news comes a few weeks af­ter the com­pa­ny pub­lished pos­i­tive Phase III da­ta for Nuzyra for pa­tients with AB­SS­SI.

→ In the midst of a sur­prise in­ter partes re­view by the US Patent Tri­als Ap­peal Board (PT­AB) for Alex­ion’s Soliris, the com­pa­ny and Bridge­Bio’s sub­sidiary Ei­dos Ther­a­peu­tics have inked an agree­ment grant­i­ng Alex­ion an ex­clu­sive li­cense to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize their oral­ly-ad­min­is­tered small mol­e­cule AG10 — de­signed to treat transthyretin amy­loi­do­sis (AT­TR) by bind­ing and sta­bi­liz­ing transthyretin (TTR) in the blood— in Japan.

“Ei­dos is cur­rent­ly eval­u­at­ing AG10 in a Phase III study in the US and Eu­rope for AT­TR car­diomy­opa­thy (AT­TR-CM) – a pro­gres­sive, fa­tal dis­ease caused by the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of mis­fold­ed TTR amy­loid in the heart – and plans to be­gin a Phase III study in AT­TR polyneu­ropa­thy (AT­TR-PN) – a pro­gres­sive, fa­tal dis­ease caused by the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of mis­fold­ed TTR amy­loid in the pe­riph­er­al ner­vous sys­tem.”

→ A few months af­ter Ac­celeron and its part­ner at Cel­gene se­cured pri­or­i­ty re­view for their red blood cell boost­ing drug, lus­pa­ter­cept — to man­age ane­mia re­sult­ing from myelodys­plas­tic syn­drome (MDS) as well as be­ta tha­lassemia — the com­pa­ny has an­nounced an­oth­er win. This time they’ve gained an or­phan drug des­ig­na­tion by the FDA for its in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al ther­a­py so­tater­cept for the treat­ment of pa­tients with pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion (PAH).

Con­quer­ing a silent killer: HDV and Eiger Bio­Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals

Hepatitis delta, also known as hepatitis D, is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) that results in the most severe form of human viral hepatitis for which there is no approved therapy.

HDV is a single-stranded, circular RNA virus that requires the envelope protein (HBsAg) of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) for its own assembly. As a result, hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection occurs only as a co-infection in individuals infected with HBV. However, HDV/HBV co-infections lead to more serious liver disease than HBV infection alone. HDV is associated with faster progression to liver fibrosis (progressing to cirrhosis in about 80% of individuals in 5-10 years), increased risk of liver cancer, and early decompensated cirrhosis and liver failure.
HDV is the most severe form of viral hepatitis with no approved treatment.
Approved nucleos(t)ide treatments for HBV only suppress HBV DNA, do not appreciably impact HBsAg and have no impact on HDV. Investigational agents in development for HBV target multiple new mechanisms. Aspirations are high, but a functional cure for HBV has not been achieved nor is one anticipated in the forseeable future. Without clearance of HBsAg, anti-HBV investigational treatments are not expected to impact the deadly course of HDV infection anytime soon.

Am­gen chops 172 more staffers in R&D, op­er­a­tions and sales amid neu­ro­science ex­it, rev­enue down­turn

Neuroscience wasn’t the only unit that’s being hit by a reorganization underway at Amgen. As well as axing 149 employees in its Cambridge office, the company has disclosed that 172 others nationwide, including some from its Thousand Oaks, CA headquarters, are being let go.

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Ahead of strate­gic up­date, new Sanofi CEO mulls op­tions for con­sumer health­care arm — re­ports

Big pharma has made moves to sharpen its focus on developing new medicines, while slow-growing consumer health divisions fall by the wayside. Looks like another large drugmaker is considering a similar move. On Thursday, reports citing sources indicated that Sanofi is reportedly mulling a joint venture, sale, or a public listing of its consumer health arm.

The French group is in discussions for options that could value the division at $30 billion, Bloomberg and Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

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The triple crown in biotech: An all-or-noth­ing bet on an FDA ap­proval of 3 drugs over 16 months starts to­day

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $74 billion Celgene deal closed as expected Wednesday evening. And now a new clock has begun to tick down for Celgene shareholders who came away from the deal with CVRs — contingent value rights — worth $9 or nothing. Those CVRs start trading today as $BMYRT.

The new deadline they have is the end of March 2021, a little more than 16 months from now, when Bristol-Myers will need to gain approvals on 3 late-stage drugs it’s picking up in the buyout: Ozanimod and liso-cel (JCAR017) are due up at the end of 2020, with bb2121 deadlined at the end of Q1 in 2021.

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Genap­sys fi­nal­ly un­veils vaunt­ed se­quencer, but can it dent Il­lu­mi­na?

Hesaam Esfandyarpour holds what looks like a mini-cooler up to the computer screen in his California office.

Esfandyarpour is in his late-30s, with crows feet creeping up against a youthful face. He wears a gray polo and the device in his hand — with its hard plastic-looking shell, blue-and-white pattern, and a white plastic paddle resembling a handle jutting out the front — might contain diced strawberries and peanut-butter sandwiches to meet mom and the kids at a SoCal park. Instead, Esfandyarpour tells me it’s going to change medicine and biopharma research.

UP­DAT­ED: Make that 2 ap­proved RNAi drugs at Al­ny­lam af­ter the FDA of­fers a speedy OK on ul­tra-rare dis­ease drug

Seventeen years into the game, Alnylam’s pivot into commercial operations is picking up speed.
The bellwether biotech $ALNY has nabbed their second FDA OK for an RNAi drug, this time for givosiran, the only therapy now approved for acute hepatic porphyria. This second approval came months ahead of the February deadline — even after winning priority review following their ‘breakthrough’ title earlier.
AHP is an extremely rare disease, with some 3,000 patients in Europe and the US, not all diagnosed, and analysts have projected peak revenue of $600 million to $700 million a year. The drug will be sold as Givlaari.

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David Ricks. Eli Lilly

Eli Lil­ly touts $400M man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­pan­sion, 100 new jobs to much fan­fare in In­di­anapo­lis — even though it's been chop­ping staff

Eli Lilly is pouring in $400 million to beef up manufacturing facilities at its home base of Indianapolis. The investment, which was lauded by the city’s mayor, is expected to create 100 new jobs.

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Brii Bio backs in­fec­tious dis­ease start­up while ink­ing deal for its lead TB drug, dou­bling down on an­tibi­otics

Almost two years after leaving GSK to launch Brii Bio with a whopping $260 million in funding, Zhi Hong is seeing the trans-Pacific infectious disease specialist he set out to build take shape.

“Our pipeline is coming together,” he told Endpoints News, with 12 partnered assets plus some internal programs.

As its latest partner, AN2 Therapeutics, comes into the limelight for the first time with a $12 million seed round, so is Brii’s plans in the antibiotics space. Brii has obtained China rights to AN2’s antibacterial targeting mycobacterium tuberculosis for multi-drug resistant TB, which it says is in the clinical stage.

No­var­tis, Bay­er, Long­wood back ge­nomics start­up to speed search for im­munother­a­py tar­gets

Nearly a century passed between the first proto-immunotherapy attempts in cancer — crude and obscure but nonetheless with some scientific basis — and Jim Allison’s first T cell paper. Thirty-plus years flipped between the discovery of CTLA-4 as an off-switch and the approval of Yervoy. Twenty-two rolled between PD-1’s isolation and Opdiva and Keytruda. 

Longwood co-founder Lea Hachigian is betting she can hasten that. It’s a bet on newly established single-cell genomic analysis tech and the ability to crunch endless troves of data at a rate few others can, and investors including Leaps by Bayer and Novartis Venture Fund just put $39 million behind it. They call it Immunitas.