No­var­tis backs $30M round for can­cer biotech; Bay­er drug makes a ‘break­through’ at FDA

Ay­ala Ther­a­peu­tics — which fo­cus­es on rare can­cers that oc­cur due to dys­reg­u­la­tion of the Notch-ac­ti­vat­ing path­way — has raised $30 mil­lion in a round of fi­nanc­ing led by part­ner No­var­tis.

The funds, which al­so came from in­vestors in­clud­ing SBI JI In­no­va­tion Fund, Is­rael Biotech Fund, aMoon and Harel In­sur­ance & Fi­nance Group, will be used to fu­el the de­vel­op­ment of its lead drug, AL101. The pan-Notch in­hibitor is cur­rent­ly be­ing eval­u­at­ed for ade­noid cys­tic car­ci­no­ma (ACC) in a Phase II tri­al, and the com­pa­ny is al­so plan­ning to in­ves­ti­gate its use in a mid-stage study in triple neg­a­tive breast can­cer.

In 2017, Ay­ala inked a deal with Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb $BMY to de­vel­op treat­ments for can­cers with al­tered Notch genes. The fol­low­ing year, it joined forces with No­var­tis to de­vel­op and mar­ket an­oth­er drug, AL102, in com­bi­na­tion with BC­MA-tar­get­ing agents for mul­ti­ple myelo­ma pa­tients.

The Is­raeli biotech raised $17 mil­lion in its first round of fi­nanc­ing in April 2018.

→ The FDA grant­ed Bay­er’s Aliqopa (co­pan­lis­ib) — used for the treat­ment of adult pa­tients with re­lapsed mar­gin­al zone lym­phoma (MZL) who have re­ceived at least two oth­er ther­a­pies pri­or — break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion based on over­all re­sponse rate (ORR) from its piv­otal Phase II CHRONOS-1 study. The com­pa­ny says that it “is con­duct­ing two ad­di­tion­al Phase III stud­ies to eval­u­ate the ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty of Aliqopa in com­bi­na­tion with oth­er ther­a­pies with iNHL (in­clud­ing MZL) who have re­lapsed fol­low­ing one or more pri­or ther­a­pies.”

→ Ger­man-based Bay­er $BAYRY and Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine $FMI are en­ter­ing a glob­al col­lab­o­ra­tion for the de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of NGS-based com­pan­ion di­ag­nos­tic tests, which help find a pos­si­ble can­cer treat­ment ther­a­py via mol­e­c­u­lar in­for­ma­tion from a pa­tient’s tu­mor genome. Bay­er will al­so have ac­cess to Foun­da­tionOne CDx — Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine’s se­quenc­ing based in vit­ro di­ag­nos­tic de­vice.

The first project that will be un­der­tak­en is de­vel­op­ing a com­pan­ion di­ag­nos­tic for Vi­t­rakvi (larotrec­tinib), the first and on­ly TRK in­hibitor ap­proved in the US for adult and pe­di­atric pa­tients with “sol­id tu­mors that have a neu­rotroph­ic tropomyosin re­cep­tor ki­nase (NTRK) gene fu­sion with­out a known ac­quired re­sis­tance mu­ta­tion that are ei­ther metasta­t­ic or where sur­gi­cal re­sec­tion will like­ly re­sult in se­vere mor­bid­i­ty, and have no sat­is­fac­to­ry al­ter­na­tive treat­ments or that have pro­gressed fol­low­ing treat­ment.”

As­traZeneca spin­out Viela Bio has notched a com­mer­cial deal with sea­soned Chi­nese phar­ma Han­soh cen­tered around inebi­lizum­ab, the lead drug among six as­sets from the phar­ma gi­ant. The an­ti-CD19 drug treats neu­romyelitis op­ti­ca spec­trum dis­or­der, a rare dis­ease that af­fects the eye and spine. All told, the deal is worth up to $220 mil­lion in­clud­ing up­front and mile­stones.

The Park­er In­sti­tute is em­bark­ing on a new re­search jour­ney to find out why some pa­tients de­vel­op au­toim­mune dis­or­ders fol­low­ing can­cer im­munother­a­py. To­geth­er with two oth­er non­prof­its (ded­i­cat­ed to di­a­betes and health­care re­spec­tive­ly), it’s pledg­ing $10 mil­lion over three years to sup­port re­searchers at Yale, UCSF, Vir­ginia Ma­son and Dana-Far­ber. The hope is to both ad­vance can­cer treat­ment and bet­ter un­der­stand how type 1 di­a­betes de­vel­ops in gen­er­al.

→ In 2015, In­ovio joined forces with As­traZeneca’s $AZN Med­Im­mune unit for $27.5 mil­lion up­front, as well as an­oth­er po­ten­tial $700 mil­lion in mile­stone pay­ments — for the ex­clu­sive rights to In­ovio’s im­munother­a­py, de­signed to tar­get can­cers caused by hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus (HPV), in ad­di­tion to two ad­di­tion­al DNA-based can­cer vac­cine prod­ucts. On Wednes­day, In­ovio in a fil­ing dis­closed that Med­Im­mune was re­tain­ing its rights to the HPV im­munother­a­py, ME­DI0457 (pre­vi­ous­ly called INO-3112), but walk­ing away from the rest.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.

As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.