Jean-François Pariseau and Dion Madsen, Amplitude

New Am­pli­tude fund looks to bet over $100 mil­lion on in­cip­i­ent Cana­di­an biotech mar­ket

Two top Cana­di­an ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and the Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Bank of Cana­da have raised over $70 mil­lion for a new fund aimed sharply at fund­ing promis­ing ideas emerg­ing from the “un­der-fund­ed” Cana­di­an bio­phar­ma and health­care sec­tor.

Jean-François Pariseau and Dion Mad­sen have spun out their health­care di­vi­sion of BDC Cap­i­tal in­to the Am­pli­tude fund. They’ve raised over CAD $100 mil­lion ($76 mil­lion USD) with a goal of CAD $200 mil­lion ($152 mil­lion USD), to bol­ster pre­ci­sion med­i­cine north of the 49th par­al­lel. 

Cana­da may seem like an un­like­ly place to chan­nel VC health­care dol­lars, but Mad­sen said that’s part of the point. The fund will fo­cus on three pri­or­i­ties — tar­get­ed ther­a­pies such as cell and im­munother­a­py, med­ical imag­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence — they see as promis­ing but un­der­fund­ed com­pared with ma­jor mar­kets like the US and Eu­rope. 

“We see world-class in­no­va­tion here, this is com­pet­i­tive as any­thing we see emerg­ing from any aca­d­e­m­ic cen­ters around the world, but it’s rel­a­tive­ly un­in­vest­ed,” Mad­sen told End­points News. “So we see a tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ty.”

Mad­sen said he and Pariseau had the idea for the new fund two years ago. The aim was to build a deep­er staff and a larg­er re­source pool to back — “am­pli­fy” — a strat­e­gy they had de­vel­oped over years at BDC Cap­i­tal, where they over­saw a CAD $270 mil­lion port­fo­lio.

There, the two had sur­veyed bio­phar­ma strate­gies in the US, Eu­rope, and across Asia. See­ing Cana­di­an com­pa­nies ac­quired ear­ly or sput­ter for a lack of funds, Mad­sen said, they de­cid­ed to pro­vide cap­i­tal, tech or that could lead them to­ward an IPO. They in­vest­ed in 11 com­pa­nies. The re­sults in­clud­ed rare dis­ease and on­col­o­gy biotechs Clemen­tia and Zymeworks, along with car­dio­vas­cu­lar-fo­cused Mile­stone Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

“Cana­da had sci­en­tif­ic plat­forms and in­no­va­tion that was re­al­ly not cap­tured be­cause it was be­ing un­der­fund­ed and sold off,” Mad­sen said.

The fund of­fi­cial­ly spun out in Ju­ly 2018 and had their first close to­day. They made their first in­vest­ment this sum­mer as part of pre­ci­sion on­col­o­gy start­up Re­pare Ther­a­peu­tics’ $82.5 mil­lion Se­ries B, which closed in Sep­tem­ber.

Lloyd Se­gal

Re­pare us­es CRISPR gene-edit­ing tech­nol­o­gy to iden­ti­fy new small mol­e­cule tar­gets for can­cer. It has at­tract­ed in­vest­ment in­ter­est most no­tably from Ver­sant, but CEO Lloyd Se­gal said he and oth­er Cana­di­an ex­ec­u­tives have known Mad­sen and Pariseau for years and that gives them an ad­van­tage.

“Cana­da is not nec­es­sar­i­ly on the beat­en path of where the tier 1 VCs glob­al­ly go look for com­pa­nies, and they do a great job of putting those com­pa­nies on­to the radar screen,” Se­gal told End­points. “They make it their busi­ness to un­der­stand the play­ers in Cana­da far more deeply be­cause that’s their day job. That’s their edge.”

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

Bio­gen hands De­nali $1B-plus in cash, $1B-plus in mile­stones to part­ner on late-stage Parkin­son’s drug

Biogen is handing over more than a billion dollars cash to partner with the up-and-coming neurosciences crew at Denali on a new therapy for Parkinson’s. And the big biotech is ready to pile on more than a billion dollars more in milestones — if the alliance is a success.

For Biogen $BIIB, the move on Denali’s small molecule inhibitors of LRRK2 puts them in line to collaborate on a late-stage program for DNL151, which is scheduled to start next year.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen scores a pri­or­i­ty re­view for its Alzheimer's drug ad­u­canum­ab, mov­ing one gi­ant leap for­ward in its con­tro­ver­sial quest

Biogen scored a big win at the FDA today as regulators accepted their application for the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab and gave it a priority review.

The PDUFA date is March 7, 2021.

Significantly, Biogen says it did not use its priority review voucher to win special treatment at the FDA. The agency handed that out gratis.

That’s the ideal scenario Biogen was looking for as disappointed analysts wondered aloud about the delayed application earlier in the year.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Levi Garraway, Roche CMO (Source: Genentech)

FDA hands out a quick OK for po­ten­tial SMA block­buster ris­diplam, giv­ing Genen­tech and Roche a chance to chal­lenge ri­vals on the price

US regulators handed Roche and Genentech a big win Friday afternoon, one that has market-shaping potential for its high-priced rivals from Novartis and Biogen.

The FDA has green-lit the companies’ spinal muscular atrophy drug risdiplam, which will be marketed as Evrysdi in the US, for use in patients two months and older. It’s the first SMA drug that can be taken orally, as Biogen’s Spinraza is injected into the spine while Novartis’ Zolgensma is a gene therapy.

Moncef Slaoui, Getty Images

When will it end? Big Phar­ma's top vac­cine ex­pert at OWS of­fers a speedy time­line for a Covid-19 vac­cine — ei­ther be­fore or right af­ter the elec­tion

Moncef Slaoui hasn’t started making plans for his summer vacation next year. But he offers high odds that all Americans will be able to do that in the not too distant future.

In an interview with a pair of sympathetic podcasters at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Slaoui provides an education to listeners on how any drug or vaccine can be sped through trials. And he leaves the door wide open to the notion that the leading vaccine developers can demonstrate efficacy and safety in a compelling fashion as early as October — or as late as the end of this year.

Covid-19 roundup: Gates Foun­da­tion pours $150M in­to In­dia’s Serum In­sti­tute; Pfiz­er teams with Gilead on remde­sivir

By CEO and scion Adar Poonawalla’s estimation, the Serum Institute in India has already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into scaling up the unproven Covid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford for use in low and middle income countries. It’s meant taking on a risk that other companies, including AstraZeneca, have mitigated with huge amounts of government funding.

Now, for the first time, Poonawalla is getting some outside help. The Gates Foundation has agreed to pay the institute $150 million to supply 100 million vaccines to India and other emerging economies next year, Reuters reported. That includes both the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the one being developed by Novavax. Those vaccines will be available in 92 countries and be priced at $3 per dose.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Bio­haven adds near­ly $1B in Nurtec deals with Roy­al­ty Phar­ma, Sixth Street

Biohaven just added nearly $1 billion to their balance sheet.

On Friday morning, the neuroscience biotech announced a pair of creative agreements with Royalty Pharma and the investment firm Sixth Street to bolster the commercial launch of their new migraine drug, Nurtec. Biohaven will sell a sliver of its royalties on Nurtec and 3% of the royalties on their experimental migraine drug zavegepant to Royalty Pharma as part of a larger agreeement that will pay $450 million. At the same time, the company announced they took out a $500 million loan from Sixth Street.

UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ab­b­Vie set­tles in­sur­ance fraud suit, agrees to tweak nurse am­bas­sador pro­gram; CStone aims for NSCLC OK with pos­i­tive PhI­II da­ta

AbbVie has resolved a California lawsuit alleging insurance fraud in the promotion of its cash cow Humira, paying $24 million to settle things with the state’s insurance regulator.

The settlement comes almost four years after a whistleblower first reported AbbVie’s practice of deploying registered nurses to visit patients at home or call them by phone to ensure that Humira prescriptions are filled. AbbVie was also charged with providing illegal kickbacks to doctors in an attempt to encourage them to prescribe Humira for a range of anti-inflammatory diseases.

Per­cep­tive fields SPAC #3 as an­oth­er group of biotechs scoops up $364M in lat­est Nas­daq romp

There’s no sign that the windfall of cash dropping biotech’s way on Wall Street is abating. Three more biopharmas priced IPOs on Thursday and Friday morning, riding a historic boom with a $364 million payoff.

London-based biotech Freeline Therapeutics took home the lion’s share of the cash with $159 million after pricing 8,823,529 shares at $18 a pop. Checkmate Pharmaceuticals, of Cambridge, MA, raised $75 million with an offer of 5 million shares at $15 — right at the midpoint of its range. And Arya Sciences Acquisition Corp III, the third in a series from Perceptive, priced 13,000,000 shares at $10 per share.