No­vo Hold­ings is look­ing for a few good su­per­bug biotechs in need of ear­ly-stage fund­ing — in­vest­ing $165M

There aren’t many ven­ture funds out there in biotech land that em­brace star­tups look­ing to de­vel­op a new gen­er­a­tion of an­tibi­otics for the grow­ing men­ace posed by drug-re­sis­tant su­per­bugs.

So the peo­ple who man­age No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion’s $60 bil­lion are mak­ing one.

No­vo Hold­ings says it has set up a $165 mil­lion transAt­lantic fund de­signed specif­i­cal­ly to in­vest in ear­ly-stage biotechs la­bor­ing in one of the hard­est fields in R&D. The fund will look to pro­vide $20 mil­lion to $40 mil­lion a year for 3 to 5 years to back a port­fo­lio of star­tups in Eu­rope and the US with cold, hard cash. Their in­vest­ments will range from $1 mil­lion to $15 mil­lion in 20 com­pa­nies, look­ing for at least one new ther­a­py in the bunch.

While su­per­bugs pose a se­ri­ous threat to the world’s pop­u­la­tion, with some es­ti­mates point­ing to the march of drug re­sis­tance lead­ing to a fu­ture where it’s even dead­lier than can­cer, the mar­ket still of­fers lit­tle en­cour­age­ment for new pro­grams. As a re­sult there are new dis­cus­sions on what the US and oth­er gov­ern­ments can do to en­cour­age re­search in the field of an­timi­cro­bials.

There are some ini­tia­tives here, such as the $455 mil­lion, pub­lic/pri­vate CARB-X ef­fort to pro­vide re­search grants to in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the field. But No­vo Hold­ings still sees a big gap on fund­ing for com­pa­ny launch­es. And the thin pipeline of ear­ly-stage ef­forts un­der­scores the need for the mon­ey.

Here’s how No­vo Hold­ings de­scribes the sit­u­a­tion:

De­spite grow­ing recog­ni­tion of this threat, there is an ear­ly-stage fund­ing gap for new treat­ments, specif­i­cal­ly from lead op­ti­miza­tion up to Phase 1 da­ta. Chal­leng­ing com­mer­cial prospects and lack of clin­i­cal ev­i­dence cre­ate dif­fi­cul­ty in at­tract­ing cap­i­tal at this stage of de­vel­op­ment. No­vo Hold­ings is unique­ly po­si­tioned to meet this ma­jor un­met need. It has a long-term in­vest­ment hori­zon, which means that it can pur­sue am­bi­tious strate­gies to meet this chal­lenge. It al­so has the ca­pa­bil­i­ties to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of promis­ing ther­a­peu­tic op­tions and a suc­cess­ful in­vest­ment track record in­to eight an­ti-in­fec­tive com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing a port­fo­lio com­pa­ny con­tain­ing the world’s largest an­ti-in­fec­tive dis­cov­ery group.

The plan is to fo­cus on the 12 most dan­ger­ous strains of bac­te­ria, as de­fined by the WHO.

Sanofi brings in 4 new ex­ec­u­tives in con­tin­ued shake-up, as vac­cines and con­sumer health chief head out the door

In the middle of Sanofi’s multi-pronged race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, David Loew, the head of their sprawling vaccines unit, is leaving – part of the final flurry of moves in the French giant’ months-long corporate shuffle that will give them new-look leadership under new CEO Paul Hudson.

The company also said today that Alan Main, the head of their consumer healthcare unit, is out, and they named 4 executives to fill new or newly vacated positions, 3 of whom come from both outside both Sanofi and from Pharma.

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As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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As­traZeneca’s $7B ADC suc­ceeds where Roche failed, im­prov­ing sur­vival in gas­tric can­cer

Another day, another win for Enhertu.

The antibody-drug conjugate AstraZeneca promised up-to $7 billion to partner on has had a quite a few months, beginning with splashy results in a Phase II breast cancer trial, a rapid approval and, earlier this month, breakthrough designations in both non-small cell lung cancer and gastric cancer.

Now, at ASCO, the British pharma and their Japanese partner, Daiichi Sankyo, have shown off the data that led to the gastric cancer designation, which they’ll take back to the FDA. In a pivotal, 187-person Phase II trial, Enhertu shrunk tumors in 42.9% of third-line patients with HER2-positive stomach cancer, compared with 12.5% in a control arm where doctors prescribed their choice of therapy. Progression-free survival was 5.4 months for Enhertu compared to 3.5 months for the control.

Daphne Koller, insitro CEO (insitro)

Daphne Koller’s AI start­up gets $143M in new cash from a16z, oth­ers

Biotech is becoming saturated with machine learning companies promising to reinvent and hasten drug development, but few, if any, have amassed the war chest Daphne Koller has.

Entering Tuesday, the former Stanford professor, MacArthur Fellowship recipient, Coursera founder and chief computing officer of Google’s secretive anti-aging biotech Calico had raised $100 million for her AI startup insitro. Now she’s raised $143 million more.

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