Nu­mero quat­tro: Im­munol­o­gy ex­perts at deal-fo­cused IFM line up $55.5M for the next leg of their drug ex­plo­ration jour­ney

It’s pipeline prim­ing time at IFM Ther­a­peu­tics. And they have the mon­ey to get the job done.

The im­munol­o­gy ex­perts at the dis­cov­ery out­fit have lined up $55.5 mil­lion in new ven­ture back­ing from an ex­pand­ed syn­di­cate — still in­clud­ing their big be­liev­ers at At­las. And it’s not hard to fig­ure out the mo­ti­va­tion.

Gary Glick

Gary Glick, who’s mov­ing from CEO to ex­ec­u­tive chair­man on this round, and his team have lined up a slate of deals for their ear­ly-stage work.

Just 2 months ago No­var­tis’s NI­BR stepped up with an $840 mil­lion buy­out op­tion tied to re­search fund­ing for ther­a­peu­tics that fire up the STING path­way. And they’ve reaped more than $600 mil­lion in cash from Bris­tol-My­ers and No­var­tis on both sides of NL­RP3, tamp­ing down as well as trig­ger­ing that path­way, in ad­di­tion to STING.

“The fi­nanc­ing will have a goal of grad­u­at­ing 2 pro­grams in­to sub­sidiaries,” says Mar­tin Sei­del, a NI­BR vet who’s now mov­ing up to the CEO post af­ter run­ning re­search for IFM over the last cou­ple of years.

Now comes their third sub­sidiary, IFM Quat­tro, as the crew al­so starts their own in­cu­ba­tor to play with some new ideas in the field.

Mar­tin Sei­del

They’re stick­ing to their area of ex­per­tise in the in­nate im­mune sys­tem, look­ing for new ways that work in fight­ing can­cer as well as new an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ries. What ex­act­ly is on the hori­zon is a top­ic they aren’t ready to dis­cuss with End­points News, but there are a va­ri­ety of pos­si­bil­i­ties. Just a cou­ple of weeks ago a group of their sci­en­tists and col­lab­o­ra­tors pub­lished new work on the role the in­flam­ma­some plays in tau pathol­o­gy — a pos­si­ble new ap­proach to Alzheimer’s, where noth­ing has worked so far.

Lina Guguche­va

“So the plan at a high lev­el is to con­tin­ue to ex­e­cute on the strat­e­gy: Take tar­get spe­cif­ic pro­grams in­to sub­sidiaries” and then hunt up part­ners around the IND stage, says Lina Guguche­va, the BD chief at IFM. The new ven­ture round will be enough to fu­el the com­pa­ny of 35 staffers for the next 3 years or so as it sets up the new sub­sidiaries and starts to look to ex­e­cute new deals.

With their track record, back­ers have good rea­son to be­lieve that IFM has de­cent odds of pay­ing off again with a sol­id mul­ti­ple in a rel­a­tive­ly short span of time. As a re­sult, says Glick, there was plen­ty of in­ter­est from new in­vestors, and they opt­ed to let Omega Funds in­to the small syn­di­cate, along­side At­las and Abing­worth. Omega’s Pauli­na Hill joins Jean-Fran­cois Formela at At­las and Shel­ley Chu from Abing­worth on the board.

So what’s with the Ital­ian num­ber­ing sys­tem at IFM? Glick says it was in­spired by a tra­di­tion­al 12 course Ital­ian meal. And that leaves IFM prepar­ing the main course.

So­cial im­age: Mar­tin Sei­del, Gary Glick, Lina Guguche­va

A New Fron­tier: The In­ner Ear

What happens when a successful biotech venture capitalist is unexpectedly diagnosed with a chronic, life-disrupting vertigo disorder? Innovation in neurotology.

That venture capitalist was Jay Lichter, Ph.D., and after learning there was no FDA-approved drug treatment for his condition, Ménière’s disease, he decided to create a company to bring drug development to neurotology. Otonomy was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to finding new drug treatments for the hugely underserved community living with balance and hearing disorders. Helping patients like Jay has been the driving force behind Otonomy, a company heading into a transformative 2020 with three clinical trial readouts: Phase 3 in Ménière’s disease, Phase 2 in tinnitus, and Phase 1/2 in hearing loss. These catalysts, together with others in the field, highlight the emerging opportunity in neurotology.
Otonomy is leading the way in neurotology
Neurotology, or the treatment of inner ear neurological disorders, is a large and untapped market for drug developers: one in eight individuals in the U.S. have moderate-to-severe hearing loss, tinnitus or vertigo disorders such as Ménière’s disease.1 With no FDA-approved drug treatments available for these conditions, the burden on patients—including social anxiety, lower quality of life, reduced work productivity, and higher rates of depression—can be significant.2, 3, 4

Short at­tack­er Sahm Ad­ran­gi draws crosshairs over a fa­vorite of Sanofi’s new CEO — with PhII da­ta loom­ing

Sahm Adrang Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale chief Sahm Adrangi took a lengthy break from his series of biotech short attacks after his chief analyst in the field pulled up stakes and went solo. But he’s making a return to drug development this morning, drawing crosshairs over a company that’s one of new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson’s favorite collaborators.

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Patrik Jonsson, the president of Lilly Bio-Medicines

Who knew? Der­mi­ra’s board kept watch as its stock price tracked Eli Lil­ly’s se­cret bid­ding on a $1.1B buy­out

In just 8 days, from December 6 to December 14, the stock jumped from $7.88 to $12.70 — just under the initial $13 bid. There was no hard news about the company that would explain a rise like that tracking closely to the bid offer, raising the obvious question of whether insider info has leaked out to traders.

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Breast can­cer ap­proval in tow, As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi armed an­ti­body scores in key gas­tric can­cer study

AstraZeneca kicked off Monday with a flurry of good news. Apart from unveiling positive results on its stroke trial testing its clot-fighter Brilinta, and welcoming its experimental IL-23 inhibitor brazikumab back from Allergan — the British drugmaker also disclosed some upbeat gastric cancer data on its Daiichi-partnered HER2-positive oncology therapy.

Buoyed by the performance of its oncology drugs, last March AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot bet big to partner with Daiichi Sankyo on the cancer drug, with $1.35 billion upfront in a deal worth up to roughly $7 billion. Roughly 8 months later, as 2019 drew to a close, the FDA swiftly approved the drug — trastuzumab deruxtecan — for use in breast cancer, months ahead of the expected decision date.

Af­ter a brief break, As­traZeneca is back at di­vest­ing — hand­ing off hy­per­ten­sion meds for $350M

On the same day that it’s getting back an experimental IL-23 drug from AbbVie and Allergan’s pre-merger divestiture exercise, AstraZeneca has engineered a sale of its own.

The pharma giant is collecting $350 million from Atnahs Pharma for global commercial rights to a suite of five off-patent hypertension drugs: Inderal (propranolol), Tenormin (atenolol), Tenoretic (atenolol, chlorthalidone fixed-dose combination), Zestril (lisinopril) and Zestoretic (lisinopril, hydrochlorothiazide fixed-dose combination).

Sor­ren­to shrugs off an anony­mous pri­vate eq­ui­ty group’s $1B of­fer to buy the com­pa­ny

San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics isn’t going the M&A route — at least not today.

The biotech caused quite a stir when it put out word a few weeks ago that an unidentified private equity group was bidding a billion dollars-plus for the company. The news drove a quick spike in the company’s share price as investors hooked up for the ride — that didn’t happen.

The update sparked a 5% drop in the share price $SRNE ahead of the bell. It’s now trading just above $4, without any evidence that the $7 price looked like it was firm.

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie do­nates $1M+ of the HIV drug that Chi­na is now rec­om­mend­ing for coro­n­avirus treat­ment

AbbVie is donating more than $1 million worth of an HIV drug to help combat the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak in China, the company announced on Friday.

China’s National Health Commission has suggested Aluvia, a pill containing lopinavir and ritonavir, as one of two possible treatments for the symptoms of the virus currently known as 2019-nCoV in the absence of effective antiviral medications. The other part is nebulized alpha-interferon.

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie and Al­ler­gan di­vesti­tures are in, and an old As­traZeneca drug comes home

When AbbVie announced their $63-billion Allergan acquisition last year, executives acknowledged the two companies would have to divest some drugs to satisfy regulators. The two main assets in discussion have now been sold off – and one of them is coming home.

AstraZeneca will acquire brazikumab, Allergan’s late-stage IL-23 candidate for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The drug was originally developed by AstraZeneca’s defunct subsidiary MedImmune, in collaboration with Amgen. Allergan licensed it for $250 million upfront and $1.27 billion in milestones.

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As­traZeneca makes case for use of blood thin­ner Bril­in­ta in stroke pa­tients

AstraZeneca’s extravagant projections for its clot fighter Brilinta may have fizzled in the face of underwhelming trial data — but a new pivotal study is set to expand its use substantially.

On Monday, the British drugmaker said the drug, when taken in conjunction with aspirin, induced a statistically significant reduction in the risk of the primary composite endpoint of stroke and death, compared to aspirin alone, in 11,000 patients that have suffered minor acute ischaemic stroke or a high-risk transient ischemic attack (TIA).