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

Jake Van Naarden, Josh Bilenker, Nisha Nanda (Credit: Loxo, Aisling Capital)

Josh Bilenker and his Loxo crew are tak­ing the reins on on­col­o­gy R&D at Eli Lil­ly, culling the weak and map­ping a new path

Josh Bilenker, Jake Van Naarden and Nisha Nanda came out of Eli Lilly’s $8 billion Loxo Oncology buyout with a bundle of cash and plenty of choices on what they could do next. Start a new company, go public. Live on the beach in 5-star luxury. Contemplate the stars — in their own observatory.

So what are they doing?

They formed a new executive team that is taking over the management of Eli Lilly’s hundreds-strong oncology R&D group — essentially using Loxo as a base for a bold new experiment in Big Pharma R&D in an attempt to create a true biotech environment with the deep pockets of a top-15 industry player. They’ve recruited David Hyman from Memorial Sloan Kettering to join the team as chief medical officer. And the mandate includes culling out the oncology pipeline, highlighting their star prospects and going after new programs wherever they can find the best prospects.

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Samantha Budd Haeberlein. Biogen via YouTube

UP­DAT­ED: Skep­tics pounce as Bio­gen de­tails pos­i­tive sub­group analy­sis on ad­u­canum­ab — and both sides are dig­ging in

“Exhilarating.” “A major advance.” “A milestone achievement.” If one had just tuned into the panel comments on Biogen’s presentation at CTAD, it would seem that the biotech had an impressive, disease-modifying Alzheimer’s drug in aducanumab.

But off the stage, reactions to their admittedly complicated dataset and the biotech’s explanation for resurrecting a drug that failed its futility analysis were a lot more mixed, with analysts continuing to question whether the evidence is substantial enough to warrant an FDA approval and raising new doubts on the safety side.

Vas Narasimhan, Getty Images

No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan's R&D up­date spot­lights next wave of drug stars as well as late-stage fa­vorites

As one of the biggest spenders in biopharma R&D, Novartis execs love to tout the scope of its late-stage pipeline, spotlighting the winners most likely to create blockbuster revenue streams in the near future.

Building on the 5 drug approvals the pharma giant expects to end the year with, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan — who’s done a slate of acquisitions topped by the recent $9.7 billion MedCo buyout — tapped the top emerging drugs as:

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Jeff Jonas, Sage

UP­DAT­ED: Sage's star ex­per­i­men­tal de­pres­sion drug fails the cru­cial MOUN­TAIN study — shares crash

Sage Therapeutics’ crucial MOUNTAIN study for Sage-217 has failed, setting the stage for a quick and ugly investor backlash.

Widely viewed by analysts as the critical clinical study $SAGE needed to win on major depression, researchers say the drug failed to beat out a placebo at day 15, falling well short of the mark for statistical significance on the primary endpoint. And investors reacted with alacrity, fleeing the stock and gutting the price with a 60% instantaneous drop — erasing about $4.6 billion in market cap in an instant.

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One of the 100 limited-edition framed certificates we're sending to the first group of companies that signed up for an Enterprise plan

Un­lock the full End­points ex­pe­ri­ence for your com­pa­ny — and sup­port our mis­sion of in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma re­port­ing

I want to give readers a quick update on the most important part of our business model — premium subscriptions. We have some crucial financial goals we hope to achieve by the end of the year, and the team here in Lawrence is ready to ship some swag to kick off this limited December promotion.

We offer two premium plans — Enterprise for companies ($1,000/year, unlimited people), and Insider for individuals ($200/year). This month of December will be the last chance to enroll at the original rates — which have remained flat since we launched them in 2017.

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, AP Images

Sue Desmond-Hell­mann says it's time for her to leave the Gates Foun­da­tion. Strat­e­gy chief Mark Suz­man will now take the helm

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, the longtime researcher and executive who helped lead Genentech to develop the first gene-targeted cancer therapies, is stepping down after 5 years as CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Stepping down as CEO of@GatesFoundation is, without a doubt, the toughest decision of my career,” she wrote in the first of a series of tweets announcing and reflecting on her departure. “But one of my mantras is ‘take your own pulse first.’ Over the last few months, I’ve done just that and concluded that I need to slow down.”

Vivek Ra­maswamy’s En­zy­vant is hit with a CRL for man­u­fac­tur­ing — de­lay­ing a new ther­a­py for an ul­tra-rare killer

It was supposed to be Vivek Ramaswamy’s first drug approval, but the regenerative med company he set up to advance a new tissue-based approach to treating an ultra-rare condition in newborns has been hit with a complete response letter from the FDA.

The FDA rejected Enzyvant’s RVT-802, which set out to become the only therapy sanctioned to treat cases of pediatric congenital athymia — a condition marked by extreme immune deficiency.

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Serafim Batzoglou, insitro

Daphne Koller's AI start­up ends wide search for a da­ta chief, tap­ping Stan­ford's Ser­afim Bat­zoglou for the job

A few months back, Illumina VP Serafim Batzoglou got an invite from the woman who had first hired him at Stanford two decades prior: Daphne Koller.

Koller had been searching for months for a chief data officer for her new artificial intelligence biotech insitro. On stage, she spoke about how hard it was to find someone who understood AI and biology and how developing the right people in her field posed as big a challenge as developing the right data.

Michael Ehlers. Limelight Bio

Michael Ehlers teas­es plan to build the next 'sig­na­ture' ge­net­ic med­i­cine com­pa­ny with $75M from Ap­ple Tree Part­ners

When Michael Ehlers jumped ship at Biogen to become a venture partner and CSO at Apple Tree, he also got a new job as CEO of a gene therapy startup named Limelight Bio. The stealthy biotech is now ready to shed some — though not much — of its veils.

As ATP managing partner Seth Harrison tells it, the new venture grew out of a strong relationship with the co-founders, Jean Bennett and Phil Johnson. Bennett, who steered the early research on the landmark gene therapy eventually known as Luxturna alongside Spark Therapeutics CSO Kathy High, now leads Penn’s Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapies. Meanwhile, Johnson left his role at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to become Limelight’s CSO.