News briefing: AbbVie selects first target for Dragonfly partnership; Cognito nets BDD for Alzheimer's treatment device
Dragonfly’s partnership with AbbVie is beginning to bear fruit.
AbbVie has selected its first NK cell engager-based immunotherapy as part of the deal, triggering an undisclosed opt-in payment, the companies announced Tuesday. AbbVie will gain exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize products directed to this first target, which is also undisclosed, and Dragonfly becomes eligible for future milestones and royalties.
“This opt-in, so soon after launching our collaboration, is a great vote of confidence,” Dragonfly CEO Bill Haney said in a statement. “We look forward to continued success and rapid progress with the AbbVie team.”
The pair signed their collaboration back in November 2019. So far, all of Dragonfly’s collaborations have netted $800 million in upfront payments and early milestones. The biotech is eligible for up to $17 billion in total milestones should it achieve them all.
Tuesday’s selection comes out of Dragonfly’s TriNKET platform, building tri-specific NK cell engager therapies. Dragonfly has also signed on to three deals with Bristol Myers Squibb, the most recent of which came last July, and two with Merck. — Max Gelman
FDA grants Cognito breakthrough designation in Alzheimer’s
Cognito Therapeutics has received a breakthrough device designation for one of the toughest fields in the industry — Alzheimer’s disease.
The FDA handed down the designation Tuesday morning, Cognito announced, saying the agency is planning to review its lead product for the treatment of cognitive and functional symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s.
Cognito says it has developed a non-invasive device that uses gamma frequency technology to stem Alzheimer’s symptoms. Researchers at the company say they found stimulating the brain at a specific frequency had the effect of reactivating the immune system in the brain, correlating with a reduction in amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
In practice, this could look like an Alzheimer’s patient being exposed to strobe lights and clicking sounds. A study in mice appeared to show improvements in cognitive and memory skills, per the New York Times.
Within that study, light and sound delivered to mice at 40 hertz, or 40 flashes or clicks per second, ostensibly synchronized with the rhythm of the brain’s gamma waves. That led to an increase in trash-clearing and immune-regulating functions within the brains. — Max Gelman
BIO chief Michelle McMurry-Heath condemns Capitol violence, pauses political contributions
BIO president and CEO Michelle McMurry-Heath has been clear about the association’s position on the mob violence on Capitol Hill last week. On Monday, she took it one step further, announcing that BIO will pause its political contributions for the time being.
“As of today BIO will be pausing our political giving so we can reassess the criteria upon which we support political candidates in the future. As a membership organization we owe it to our members to hear their voices in this important decision,” McMurry-Heath said in the statement.
“One of the five new strategic pillars that BIO announced last fall is to be the voice of and for science and at its core science is the search for truth based on evidence. So it is very concerning that some elected leaders last week chose to ignore facts and embrace widely discredited conspiracies which in part led to the horrific events at the Capitol,” she continued.
Last week, the CEO joined many other biopharma leaders in condemning the violence. “It is simply unconscionable for an angry mob, upset by an election outcome to try to disenfranchise the votes of millions of Americans simply because their chosen candidate lost,” she said.
Jeremy Levin, chairman of BIO, posted a similarly heated response on Twitter on Jan 6.
I am raging. Tell me why the greatest democracy in the world would elect a crypto-dictator, allow him lie to the nation for 4 years, then launch a full out physical assault on our institutions- and until now not one of his Cabinet resigned???? #cabinetresignnow
— Jeremy Levin (@jmaxlevin) January 6, 2021
“Our members take this seriously and so do we,” McMurry-Heath said in the statement. — Nicole DeFeudis
Adagene and NHLBI discover new CAR-T candidate
Adagene and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute say they’ve come up with a new kind of CAR-T candidate for renal cell carcinoma, based on antibodies discovered by the Suzhou, China-based biotech.
The partners say the candidate is the first — that they’re aware of — to target a human endogenous retrovirus (HERV) expressed in the majority of clear cell kidney tumors. HERVs are remnants of ancient germ-line infections with exogenous retroviruses, and are estimated to comprise up to 8% of the human genome.
The candidate was developed in the lab of Richard Childs, chief of the NHLBI’s Laboratory of Transplantation Immunotherapy. From here, the NIH will take over manufacturing and clinical development.
“This is an encouraging development that builds on decades of research in our quest to find ways to adapt and enhance immune cells to target and kill even the most aggressive cancers,” Childs said in a statement. “I look forward to the evaluation and hopefully the development of this novel CAR-T cell and other antibody-based therapies in clinical trials.”
The candidate was discovered using Adagene’s NEObody tech, which is part of its Dynamic Precision Library. Last January, Adagene nabbed a $69 million Series D to advance its antibody work. — Nicole DeFeudis