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.”

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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So what hap­pened with No­var­tis' gene ther­a­py group? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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Af­ter sell­ing to Genen­tech, the old Je­cure team is back at an RNA-fo­cused start­up — and more en­thu­si­as­tic than ever

When Genentech swooped in to buy NASH-focused Jecure Therapeutics back in 2018, a handful of the startup’s executives weren’t quite ready to disperse.

It had been just three years since Jecure launched with a preclinical portfolio of NLRP3 inhibitors — and the takeover came sooner than anyone, including CEO Jeff Stafford, had expected. So he got talking with James Veal and Gretchen Bain, two serial entrepreneurs in charge of Jecure’s R&D.

Lat­est news: It’s a no on uni­ver­sal boost­ers; Pa­tient death stuns gene ther­a­py field; In­side Tril­li­um’s $2.3B turn­around; and more

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