News brief­ing: Nestlé whips up re­search col­lab­o­ra­tion with new­ly-un­veiled Flag­ship up­start; Mar­i­anne De Backer joins Kro­nos board

Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing tapped in­to a va­ri­ety of trendy R&D themes when it of­fi­cial­ly de­buted Sen­da Bio­sciences a few months ago, most promi­nent­ly its fo­cus on the mi­cro­bio­me, com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gy and cel­lu­lar in­ter­ac­tions. And while it’s all still in its in­fan­cy, the founders clear­ly elicit­ed some high-pro­file at­ten­tion from a ma­jor play­er which strad­dles the line be­tween food and med­i­cine.

Nestlé Health Sci­ence has part­nered with Sen­da on one of its ini­tial slate of R&D fo­cus­es, align­ing it­self with the biotech on meta­bol­ics, with a fo­cus on some big tar­gets, in­clud­ing obe­si­ty and glycemia.

Ac­cord­ing to Sen­da, they’ve gen­er­at­ed the pre­clin­i­cal an­i­mal da­ta need­ed to demon­strate that this new ap­proach of theirs can spur weight loss and glu­cose clear­ing. Now Nestlé will help en­gi­neer a move in­to the clin­i­cal sphere with hu­man stud­ies.

Nestlé proved with its Aim­mune buy­out that it is will­ing to go big in­to biotech when it finds the right op­por­tu­ni­ty. But this new deal is be­ing an­nounced with­out a biobuck to its name — all terms are be­ing kept on the qt.

But each re­tains own­er­ship where it counts. Nestlé holds the glob­al com­mer­cial rights to any nu­tri­tion­al prod­uct that can be de­vel­oped, while Sen­da is keep­ing rights to any ther­a­peu­tic that can be ad­vanced. — John Car­roll

Mar­i­anne De Backer joins Kro­nos Bio board

Long­time J&J vet and cur­rent Bay­er busi­ness chief Mar­i­anne De Backer is join­ing a new board.

Kro­nos Bio an­nounced Tues­day that De Backer has been ap­point­ed to the com­pa­ny’s board of di­rec­tors. The move comes about three months af­ter Kro­nos went pub­lic with an im­pres­sive $287.5 mil­lion IPO.

De Backer isn’t the on­ly promi­nent name with Big Phar­ma ex­pe­ri­ence at the com­pa­ny. 30-year Gilead R&D vet­er­an Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er has been run­ning the show at Kro­nos since the com­pa­ny launched in 2018.

De Backer’s “sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence in forg­ing and man­ag­ing strate­gic part­ner­ships cou­pled with her broad busi­ness and com­mer­cial acu­men and strong sci­ence back­ground will be valu­able as the com­pa­ny con­tin­ues to grow,” Bischof­berg­er said in a state­ment.

The biotech was mak­ing plen­ty of moves in re­cent months, hav­ing ac­quired en­tosple­tinib — which was shelved when Bischof­berg­er still worked at Gilead — as well as an­oth­er SYK in­hibitor, lan­raplenib. — Max Gel­man

Ger­man gene ther­a­py biotech grabs $10M plus to ad­vance to­ward clin­ic 

A Ger­man biotech that’s been work­ing on a new gene ther­a­py ap­proach aimed at turn­ing “tis­sues or or­gans that need to be treat­ed in­to fac­to­ries for lo­cal pro­duc­tion of ther­a­peu­tic pro­teins” has raised a new round aimed at get­ting them in­to a hu­man study.

GeneQuine Bio­ther­a­peu­tics GmbH grabbed more than $10 mil­lion — which in­cludes a loan com­bined with in­vest­ment cash — from a syn­di­cate of in­vestors in­trigued by its plat­form tech, which re­lies on helper-de­pen­dent ade­n­ovi­ral — HDAd — vec­tors, to do the work.

Their lead pro­gram:

GQ-303, cur­rent­ly at pre­clin­i­cal stage, is an HDAd vec­tor ex­press­ing the pro­tein pro­teo­gly­can 4 for lo­cal treat­ment of OA (os­teoarthri­tis). Pro­teo­gly­can 4 (al­so known as lu­bricin) has been shown to have a dual mech­a­nism of ac­tion in OA: 1) a bio­me­chan­i­cal ef­fect due to its lu­bri­cat­ing prop­er­ties, and 2) ef­fects on mol­e­c­u­lar path­ways lead­ing to sup­pres­sion of pain, in­flam­ma­tion and car­ti­lage de­gen­er­a­tion.

Paci­ra Bio­Sciences led the raise, which in­clud­ed High-Tech Grün­der­fonds,  Noshaq SA and Sa­mum Ver­mö­gensver­wal­tungs GmbH. — John Car­roll

The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Seagen warns in­vestors against TRC Cap­i­tal’s lat­est 'mi­ni-ten­der of­fer'; BeiGene goes af­ter a new in­di­ca­tion for top PD-1 play­er

TRC Capital, which has selected various biotechs like Vertex and Biogen for the “mini-tender” treatment, jumped back into the game last month with an offer to buy shares in Seagen for $151. The problem, says Seagen, is that price was 4.28% lower than what the stock was selling for at the time they made the offer on Feb. 20, giving TRC a shot at an instant windfall.

So why sell for less than what it’s worth? Seagen notes warnings from regulatory authorities that these offers essentially try to trick investors into believing that they’re being offered a premium for the stock.

UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.