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

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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Douglas Love, Annexon CEO (Annexon)

IPO bound? A Bay Area biotech grabs a mega-round on the road to a piv­otal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion pro­gram

South San Francisco-based Annexon has added $100 million to its cash reserves, along with a new roster of marquee investors backing their play on the classical complement pathway involved in neurodegeneration. And that may well fit the profile for an IPO — though right now everything seems to be working on that score.

Eighteen months after Bain and their syndicate partners put up $75 million to fuel clinical work, Annexon is back at the trough. And this time they’re adding Redmile Group for the lead role, with supporting investments from these new arrivals: BlackRock, Deerfield Management Company, Eventide Asset Management, Farallon Capital Management, Janus Henderson Investors and Logos Capital.

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Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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Randy Schatzman, Bolt CEO (Bolt Biotherapeutics)

Bolt Bio­ther­a­peu­tics nabs $93.5M to push Provenge in­ven­tor's new idea deep­er in the clin­ic

A cancer-fighting concept from the inventor of the first cancer vaccine is nearing prime time, and its biotech developer has received a significant new infusion of cash to get it there.

Bolt Biotherapeutics announced a $93.5 million Series C round led by Sofinnova Investments and joined by more than 9 others, including Pfizer Ventures and RA Capital Management. That money will go toward pushing the San Francisco biotech’s platform of innate immune-boosting warheads through its first trial on metastatic solid tumors and into several more.

Josh Cohen, Justin Klee

Armed with pos­i­tive ALS da­ta, Amy­lyx scores $30M in fresh fund­ing to com­plete Alzheimer's PhII

Four years after announcing themselves to the biotech world with a new idea for drugging neurodegeneration, backing by the late Henri Termeer and $5 million from Morningside Venture, the young entrepreneurs at Amylyx are back for round 2.

Morningside continued to lead the $30 million Series B, with participation from Termeer’s widow, Belinda, and other unnamed investors. Having celebrated a topline Phase II win for its lead program in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Amylyx expects the cash to fund talks with regulators as well as a separate trial for the same drug in Alzheimer’s — for which they had just finished enrolling.

An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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