On the heels of ma­jor Pfiz­er deal, Arv­inas snags $55M Se­ries C for pro­tein degra­da­tion can­cer pro­grams

Af­ter ink­ing two ma­jor deals with Big Phar­mas tack­ling the in­creas­ing­ly hot path of pro­tein degra­da­tion ear­li­er this year, Yale spin­out Arv­inas has scored a $55 mil­lion round of fund­ing to take two of its can­cer pro­grams through the clin­ic.

The cash came in a Se­ries C round led by on­col­o­gy-fo­cused fund Nex­tech In­vest, which is new to Arv­inas’ line­up of fi­nan­cial back­ers. Oth­er new in­vestors Deer­field Man­age­ment, Hill­house Cap­i­tal and Sirona Cap­i­tal joined the round, along with a slew of re­peats.

John Hous­ton

Arv­inas is a bit of a pi­o­neer in a new modal­i­ty called pro­tein degra­da­tion, an area pick­ing up steam in the in­dus­try. The sci­en­tif­ic con­cept is sim­ple enough. Where pro­tein in­hi­bi­tion has led to some ad­vanced med­i­cines, de­grad­ing pro­teins could prove a much more durable so­lu­tion.

Specif­i­cal­ly, Arv­inas plans to tag cer­tain dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins for de­struc­tion by re­cruit­ing an E3 lig­ase to the tar­get, there­by send­ing the pro­tein to the cell’s nat­ur­al “garbage dis­pos­al” called the ubiq­ui­tin-pro­tea­some sys­tem.

Arv­inas’ CEO John Hous­ton tells me the plat­form, in the­o­ry, could be wide­ly ap­plic­a­ble to sev­er­al dis­eases.

“We’re not lim­it­ed by dis­ease area, as al­most any dis­ease with a cell you want to de­grade could be tar­get­ed,” Hous­ton said.

Hous­ton says Arv­inas was the first to take the con­cept be­yond acad­e­mia, but the sci­ence has since gained pop­u­lar­i­ty, with com­pa­nies like C4 Ther­a­peu­tics and Kymera jump­ing on board. Even ma­jor phar­mas like Cel­gene, Take­da, GSK and No­var­tis have ef­forts in the space.

In Jan­u­ary, Arv­inas scored a dis­cov­ery deal with Pfiz­er to hunt for a slate of small mol­e­cules that can de­grade pro­teins. Al­though the com­pa­nies were sparse on de­tails of the deal (in­clud­ing up­front pay­ment amounts and tar­gets), we do know the over­all pack­et of mile­stones adds up to $830 mil­lion for un­bri­dled suc­cess.

Arv­inas has signed two oth­er ma­jor al­liances with mar­quee phar­mas, ink­ing deals with Genen­tech and Mer­ck ear­li­er. And Genen­tech came back last No­vem­ber to dou­ble down on that re­la­tion­ship, push­ing the mile­stones up to $650 mil­lion.

This new round of in­vest­ment cap­i­tal will take Arv­inas’ new­ly ap­point­ed pro­grams —  which tar­get the an­dro­gen and es­tro­gen re­cep­tors for prostate and breast can­cers — through the clin­ic, the com­pa­ny said.

“This past year has been ex­cit­ing for us with two clin­i­cal can­di­date nom­i­na­tions, the ex­pan­sion of our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Genen­tech and the an­nounce­ment of a new col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pfiz­er,” Hous­ton said. “With this ad­di­tion­al fi­nan­cial sup­port from ex­ist­ing and new in­vestors who be­lieve in our in­no­v­a­tive pro­tein degra­da­tion plat­form, we will con­tin­ue ex­e­cut­ing on our strat­e­gy of pro­gress­ing our lead pro­grams to the clin­ic, ex­pand­ing the use of the plat­form out­side of on­col­o­gy, and tack­ling un­drug­gable tar­gets.”

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Kristen Hege, Bristol Myers Squibb SVP, early clinical development, oncology/hematology and cell therapy (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: Bris­tol My­er­s' Kris­ten Hege on cell ther­a­py, can­cer pa­tients and men­tor­ing the next gen­er­a­tion

Kristen Hege leads Bristol Myers Squibb’s early oncology discovery program carrying on from the same work at Celgene, which was acquired by BMS in 2019. She’s known for her early work in CAR-T, having pioneered the first CAR-T cell trial for solid tumors more than 25 years ago.

However, the eminent physician-scientist is more than just a drug developer mastermind. She’s also a practicing physician, mother to two young women, an avid backpacker and intersecting all those interests — a champion of young women and people of color in STEM and life sciences.

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Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Gos­samer’s Fa­heem Has­nain de­fends a round of pos­i­tive PAH da­ta as a clear win. But can these PhII re­sults stand up to scruti­ny?

Gossamer Bio $GOSS posted a statistically significant improvement for its primary endpoint in the key Phase II TORREY trial for lead drug seralutinib on Tuesday morning. But CEO Faheem Hasnain has some explaining to do on the important secondary of the crucial six-minute walk distance test — which will be the primary endpoint in Phase III — as the data on both endpoints fell short of expectations, missing one analyst’s bar on even modest success.

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Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

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Bob Duggan, Summit Therapeutics co-CEO

Bounc­ing from ma­jor set­back, Sum­mit hands out $500M cash for can­cer drug — thanks to a loan from bil­lion­aire CEO

After hitting a dead end with Summit Therapeutics’ lead program, Bob Duggan has found the drug that he believes will usher into a compelling second act. So compelling, in fact, that it involves $500 million cash — and he’s taking money out of his own pocket to fund the deal.

Striking a partnership with Akeso Therapeutics out of China, Summit is bringing in a bispecific antibody that blocks both PD-1 and VEGF called ivonescimab. Akeso, which has a PD-1/CTLA-4 bispecific approved in China, has already taken ivonescimab into multiple clinical trials, including a Phase III in lung cancer.

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Jay Lichter, Arialys Therapeutics CEO (Avalon Ventures)

Scoop: Aval­on, MPM back new CNS biotech with sci­en­tif­ic chops from Astel­las

A preclinical central nervous system biotech is in the works in La Jolla, CA, and the drug developer has reeled in capital from a syndicate of investors, Endpoints News has learned.

Arialys Therapeutics filed incorporation documents in the Golden State last December and applied its name for trademark protection with the US Patent and Trademark Office the week prior to that. Paperwork with the SEC also outlines plans to offer up equity in exchange for $55 million.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Phar­mas lay off Twit­ter ads for an­oth­er week; WPP un­cov­ers LGBTQ+ mar­ket­ing find­ings

When Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk tweeted this weekend, “Just a note to thank advertisers for returning to Twitter,” he likely wasn’t talking about big pharma companies. The vast majority of the top spending pharma advertisers had not returned last week, according to updated tracking data Pathmatic for Endpoints News.

Only three pharma advertisers spent any money at all, which is about the same as the past several weeks. AstraZeneca rejoined the active advertiser list, although at $700 spent hardly worth a personal Musk expression of gratitude. GSK remained active with $3,500 spent ad much lower than its previous spending, according to the Pathmatics data. Only Bayer spent any significant amount in advertising, with $244,000 spent last week, but that’s a considerable drop from almost $500,000 spent on OTC, prescription and corporate Twitter ads in each of the previous two weeks.

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Jonathan Montagu, HotSpot Therapeutics CEO

Ab­b­Vie puts up $40M to li­cense a treat­ment from HotSpot Ther­a­peu­tics

HotSpot Therapeutics has managed to gain some steam financially in the past few years, as the company wrangled several multi-million dollar raises. But its latest deal not only puts more cash into its pockets, it also connects with a major name in pharma.

On Tuesday, AbbVie and HotSpot announced they have entered an “exclusive” global collaboration, with the option to license HotSpot’s IRF5 program, which is designed to treat autoimmune diseases. The deal will see AbbVie hand HotSpot $40 million upfront, with the biotech eligible to receive $295 million in “option fees” and R&D milestones.

Jay Lichter, Avalon BioVentures CEO

Aval­on Ven­tures spins off a sep­a­rate fund to han­dle life sci­ence com­pa­nies — armed with $135M

Avalon Ventures has been a major player in the investing games both in tech and in the biotech world, but now a new fund will be zeroed in on investing in the life science field.

Christened Avalon BioVentures, the venture capital firm will be committed to investing in early-stage biomedical companies and has officially closed the fund with $135 million on hand from new and existing investors. The company will be focused specifically on the life science space only and emerging from Avalon’s tech and life science approach. The company will continue to “leverage” Avalon’s team and accelerator; Avalon founder Kevin Kinsella will be brought in as an emeritus partner.