New­ly part­nered with blue­bird, Grit­stone seeks $80M IPO in fi­nal dash for clin­ic

Since launch­ing in 2015, Grit­stone On­col­o­gy has court­ed some well-heeled in­vestors and high pro­file part­ners to bet on its neo-anti­gen R&D ef­fort. Now, it is ready to find a new group of sup­port­ers with an IPO.

The Emeryville, CA-based biotech is seek­ing $80 mil­lion to fol­low up two mega-rounds and a rel­a­tive­ly mod­est Se­ries C, fil­ing its S-1 on the same day it an­nounced a new TCR al­liance with blue­bird bio — a deal that, the pa­per­work re­vealed, could bring in $1.2 bil­lion in mile­stones in ad­di­tion to the $30 mil­lion to­tal in near-term cash.

While that col­lab­o­ra­tion plays out in the com­ing five years, Grit­stone has its eyes set on a more im­mi­nent goal: ini­ti­at­ing Phase I/II stud­ies for its per­son­al­ized im­munother­a­py, GRAN­ITE-001, in the sec­ond half of this year. Ze­ro­ing in on com­mon sol­id tu­mors like metasta­t­ic non-small cell lung can­cer and gas­troe­sophageal, blad­der and col­orec­tal can­cers, these tri­als will be the first tests of Grit­stone’s the­o­ry that tar­get­ing rare mu­ta­tions can boost the ef­fi­ca­cy of check­point in­hibitors pro­vid­ed by Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb.

The IPO will sup­port the tri­al, as well as the con­tin­ued build­out of their man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Pleasan­ton, CA. Some of the funds will go to­ward R&D of oth­er pro­grams — no­tably, an off-the-shelf ver­sion of the neo-anti­gen im­munother­a­py.

An­drew Allen

Even though neo-anti­gens are of­ten spe­cif­ic to an in­di­vid­ual pa­tient, Grit­stone re­searchers have ob­served in their tu­mor se­quenc­ing work that cer­tain neo-anti­gens are shared by a sub­set of pa­tients, giv­ing birth to their SLATE-001 pro­gram. The plan is to sub­mit an IND by mid-2019.

Grit­stone is helmed by founder and CEO An­drew Allen, who now leads a team of 100 staffers — up from 65 last Sep­tem­ber. He owns 6.5% of the stock; oth­er in­vestors in­clude Ver­sant Ven­tures, The Col­umn Group, Clarus, Fra­zier Health­care Part­ners, Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures, GV, Red­mile Group and Cas­din Cap­i­tal.

Look for the com­pa­ny on Nas­daq un­der the sym­bol $GRTS.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Time for round 2: Il­lu­mi­na-backed VC snags $325M for its next fund

Illumina Ventures closed off its second investment fund with a total commitment of $325 million, offering fresh fuel to back a slate of startups that have already included a smorgasbord of companies, covering everything from diagnostics to biotech drug development and genomics.

Fund II brings the total investment under Illumina Ventures’ oversight to $560 million, which has been focused on early-stage companies. And it has a transatlantic portfolio that includes SQZ, Twist and Encoded Therapeutics.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Raju Mohan, Ventyx Biosciences CEO

Months af­ter a mam­moth raise, Ven­tyx Bio­sciences dips back in­to ven­ture well

Several months after emerging from what CEO Raju Mohan called “quiet mode” with a mammoth $114 million raise, Ventyx Biosciences is now making its plans for the clinic loud and clear.

The California-based immune modulation player kicked the week off with a $51 million Series B, while also naming some key hires ahead of its big clinical push.

The CMO slot is going to Jörn Drappa, former CMO at Viela Bio before it was bought out by Horizon Therapeutics earlier this year. The AstraZeneca vet stayed on at Horizon for a while as executive VP of R&D before making the jump to Ventyx.

Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.