Next-gen T cell play­er TCR2 Ther­a­peu­tics sets stage for $100M-plus IPO as MP­M's Baeuer­le caps pro­lif­ic year

Patrick Baeuer­le

Patrick Baeuer­le has been busy. Right af­ter steer­ing next-gen BiTE com­pa­ny Har­poon Ther­a­peu­tics to­ward an IPO, the MPM part­ner and im­mu­nol­o­gist is shep­herd­ing an­oth­er on­col­o­gy com­pa­ny with pre­clin­i­cal as­sets — TCR2 Ther­a­peu­tics — in­to a pub­lic list­ing. And this time the biotech is look­ing for $100 mil­lion-plus in a mar­ket that’s been on a wild roller coast­er ride.

The im­munother­a­py com­pa­ny is de­vel­op­ing next-gen T-cell drugs for can­cer in an ef­fort to con­front lim­i­ta­tions posed by cur­rent T-cell and CAR-T ther­a­pies in sol­id tu­mors.

Robert Hofmeis­ter

One of the key com­po­nents of the im­mune sys­tem are T cells, which oblit­er­ate can­cer cells by us­ing T cell re­cep­tor (TCR) recog­ni­tion of cell sur­face mark­ers known as anti­gens. When a T cell rec­og­nizes a tu­mor anti­gen via the TCR, it snuffs the ma­lig­nant cell on which it re­sides. Ex­ist­ing T cell ther­a­pies for can­cer, in­clud­ing CAR-T cells and en­gi­neered TCR-T cells, at­tempt to repli­cate this mech­a­nism.

The drug de­vel­op­er’s tech­nol­o­gy — called TRuC-T cells — is de­signed to rec­og­nize and kill can­cer cells by har­ness­ing the TCR sig­nal­ing com­plex, un­like CAR-T for in­stance, which on­ly taps in­to a part of the TCR struc­ture. In con­trast to ex­ist­ing T cell ther­a­pies, the TCR2 tech­nol­o­gy is fash­ioned such that it could be used across pa­tients that ex­press the can­cer sur­face anti­gen ir­re­spec­tive of hu­man leuko­cyte anti­gens (HLA) sub­type, which could po­ten­tial­ly ad­dress a larg­er group of pa­tients.

The com­pa­ny has 5 drugs in its ar­se­nal. Its lead can­di­date — TC-210 — is be­ing de­vel­oped to tar­get mesothe­lin-pos­i­tive sol­id tu­mors. An ap­pli­ca­tion to test the drug in hu­mans was sub­mit­ted in De­cem­ber and the com­pa­ny ex­pects to con­duct a Phase I/II study ear­ly in 2019, and even­tu­al­ly ap­ply for the FDA’s fast track sta­tus. Its sec­ond drug, TC-110, is be­ing eval­u­at­ed for CD19-pos­i­tive B-cell hema­to­log­i­cal ma­lig­nan­cies. An IND is ex­pect­ed to be filed in the sec­ond half of 2019 and the com­pa­ny will al­so seek a fast track des­ig­na­tion for this as­set.  The rest — TC-220, TC-310 and TC-410 — are in ear­li­er stages of pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Al­fon­so Quin­tás Car­dama

TCRwill have two ex­pe­ri­enced sci­en­tif­ic minds work­ing on their pipeline in the clin­ic: Robert Hofmeis­ter, who de­vel­oped one of the first PD-L1 in­hibitors — Baven­cio — while at EMD Serono, will serve as CSO, while Al­fon­so Quin­tás Car­dama, who was piv­otal in the ap­proval process for one of the two li­censed T cell ther­a­pies for hema­to­log­i­cal ma­lig­nan­cies — No­var­tis’ Kym­ri­ah — will serve as CMO.

The com­pa­ny will be list­ed on the Nas­daq un­der the sym­bol $TCRR, ac­cord­ing to the S-1 post­ed last week. TCRwas found­ed by Baeuer­le, a part­ner at MPM who pre­vi­ous­ly served as CSO at Mi­cromet be­fore it was swal­lowed by Am­gen. Baeuer­le was ush­ered in­to Am­gen — where R&D was then run by Roger Perl­mut­ter — fol­low­ing the buy­out, to help take Mi­cromet’s Blin­cy­to across the fin­ish line.

Mitchell Fin­er

TCR2 al­so worked close­ly with Mitchell Fin­er, an MPM Cap­i­tal ex­ec­u­tive part­ner who has decades of cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing the de­sign of GMP process­es for blue­bird bio and Cell Genesys. Over­all, just un­der half of the 30 com­pa­nies MPM has in­vest­ed in are on­col­o­gy-fo­cused.

So far, TCR2  has raised rough­ly $170 mil­lion from in­vestors, in­clud­ing MPM Cap­i­tal, F2 Ven­tures, Di­men­sions Cap­i­tal, Ar­row­Mark Part­ners, Cathay For­tune Cap­i­tal, Cu­ra­tive Ven­tures, Hill­house Cap­i­tal Group, Mi­rae­As­set Fi­nan­cial Group and Red­mile Group. Pri­or to the IPO, MPM has the biggest hold­ing with a 19.18% stake, and F2 is a run­ner up with a 15.97% stake.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.