On­colyt­ic con­tender Turn­stone bags a $41M B round to push a suc­ces­sor for Im­ly­g­ic

Turn­stone CEO Sam­my Farah

Ever since Am­gen made it to the mar­ket with a pi­o­neer­ing on­colyt­ic virus can­cer ther­a­py called Im­ly­g­ic (T-Vec), which it bagged in a bil­lion-dol­lar deal to ac­quire BioVex, you could see a wave of biotech com­peti­tors form­ing — look­ing to do the same ther­a­peu­tic job bet­ter.

To­day, Cana­da’s Turn­stone Bi­o­log­ics takes an­oth­er big step in that march, bag­ging a $41.4 mil­lion Se­ries B that will go a long way to demon­strat­ing whether it has a re­al con­tender for that mar­ket, while fu­el­ing ad­di­tion­al work in build­ing the pipeline.

“The raise comes pret­ty quick­ly af­ter our ini­tial Se­ries A,” says CEO Sam­my Farah. “What re­al­ly drove our de­sire to bring in more fund­ing, we want­ed to ex­pand and ac­cel­er­ate clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment pro­grams, do much more in the clin­ic and do much more in the very near term.”

That means wrap­ping an on­go­ing Phase I/II study for the lead pro­gram for an en­gi­neered virus, with a sec­ond tri­al ready to launch lat­er this year that will in­clude one of the ap­proved check­point in­hibitors (they’re not say­ing which one, for now). Two more pro­grams will launch next year, bring­ing Turn­stone up to four ac­tive clin­i­cal ef­forts.

Turn­stone has been work­ing with a trio of found­ing sci­en­tists in its cor­ner, led by John Bell.

“I think we are quite unique,” Bell tells me. Their ther­a­py en­codes a tu­mor anti­gen de­signed to spur an im­mune re­sponse while al­so stim­u­lat­ing pe­riph­er­al im­mu­ni­ty, of­fer­ing an on­colyt­ic to pen­e­trate and de­stroy can­cer cells and a can­cer vac­cine at the same time. And like oth­er ri­val biotechs in the field, in­clud­ing PsiOxus, the biotech be­lieves that sys­temic de­liv­ery of their drug will make a big dif­fer­ence for pa­tients.

“The oth­ers,” he says about the com­pe­ti­tion, “can’t gen­er­ate a po­tent vac­cine ef­fect.” The check­point in­hibitor, which takes the brakes off the im­mune sys­tem as the vac­cine ap­plies the gas, makes for a nat­ur­al com­bi­na­tion ap­proach, as the lead­ers in that field work hard to pur­sue hun­dreds of new com­bi­na­tion ap­proach­es.

Bell al­so has been work­ing on new strate­gies de­signed to match next-gen drugs specif­i­cal­ly for cer­tain tu­mors. That may call for new and im­proved on­colyt­ic ap­proach­es while al­so ex­am­in­ing which of the check­points are more suit­able for cer­tain tu­mors.

“In ad­di­tion to the clin­i­cal pro­gram we talked about be­fore,” adds Farah, “we’re al­so look­ing at some ex­cit­ing ar­eas, like neoanti­gen per­son­al­ized vac­cines. Our tech­nol­o­gy is very suit­ed to per­son­al­ized can­cer field.”

Or­biMed led this round, with an ex­pand­ed syn­di­cate that in­cludes new in­vestor F-Prime Cap­i­tal Part­ners and ex­ist­ing in­vestors FAC­IT and Ver­sant Ven­tures, which led Turn­stone’s Se­ries A.

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As technology-enabled clinical research becomes the new normal, an integrated decentralized clinical trial operating system can ensure quality, deliver consistency and improve the patient experience.

The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines has many of us looking forward to a time when everyday things return to a state of normal. Schools and teachers are returning to classrooms, offices and small businesses are reopening, and there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the often-awkward adjustments we’ve all made personally and professionally in the last year are behind us, never to return. In the world of clinical research, however, some pandemic-necessitated adjustments are proving to be more than emergency stopgap measures to ensure trial continuity — and numerous decentralized clinical trial (DCT) tools and methodologies employed within the last year are likely here to stay as part of biopharma’s new normal.

'Chang­ing the whole game of drug dis­cov­ery': Leg­endary R&D vet Roger Perl­mut­ter leaps back in­to work as a biotech CEO

Roger Perlmutter needs no introduction to anyone remotely involved in biopharma. As the R&D chief first at Amgen and then Merck, he’s built a stellar reputation and a prolific career steering new drugs toward the market for everything from cancer to infectious diseases.

But for years, he’s also held a less known title: science partner at The Column Group, where he’s regularly consulted about the various ideas the VCs had for new startups.

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UP­DAT­ED: Pfiz­er hits the brakes on their piv­otal tri­al for a BC­MA/CD3 bis­pe­cif­ic on safe­ty con­cerns while FDA road­block is hold­ing up Duchenne MD PhI­II

Pfizer’s ambitious plan to take a Phase II study of its BCMA CD3-targeted bispecific antibody elranatamab (PF-06863135) and run it through to an accelerated approval has derailed.

The pharma giant said in a release this morning that they have halted enrollment for their MagnetisMM-3 study after researchers tracked three cases of peripheral neuropathy in the ongoing Phase I. They are now sharing info with the FDA as they explore the red safety flag.

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Stéphane Bancel at the Endpoints #JPM20 breakfast panel in San Francisco, January 2020 (Photo: Jeff Rumans, Endpoints News)

Mod­er­na says Covid-19 vac­cine boost­er in­creased im­mune re­sponse against vari­ants of con­cern

About a month after announcing their variant-specific Covid-19 vaccine boosters showed promising results in mice, Moderna says it now has some human data to back it up.

Volunteers given a booster shot about six to eight months after receiving their second dose saw increased antibody levels against SARS-CoV-2 and two variants of concern: B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa, and P.1, first identified in Brazil, the company said on Wednesday.

FDA ex­tends re­search agree­ment with MIT-li­censed or­gan-on-chip sys­tems

The FDA on Wednesday extended its four-year agreement with CN Bio, a developer of single- and multi-organ-on-chip systems used for drug discovery, for another three years.

CN Bio said the scope of the research performed by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has expanded to include the exploration of the company’s lung-on-a-chip system to help with the agency’s evaluation of inhaled drugs, in addition to the agency’s work on its liver model.

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In quest to meet user fee goals, FDA’s per­for­mance con­tin­ues down­ward trend

A recent update to the FDA’s running tally of how it’s meeting its user fee-related performance goals during the pandemic shows an agency that is not out of the woods yet.

The latest numbers reveal that for a second straight quarter in 2021, the FDA has met its user fee goal dates for 93% of original new drug applications, which compares with 94% and 98% for the previous two quarters in 2020, respectively.

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Cynthia Butitta (L) and Joe Jimenez

Is that an­oth­er IPO in the mak­ing? Ex-No­var­tis CEO Joe Jimenez and a lead Kite play­er take up new posts at an off-the-shelf ri­val to 2 pi­o­neer­ing drugs

Right on the heels of taking on a $160 million crossover round in a likely leap to Nasdaq, Century Therapeutics CEO Lalo Flores is now pushing ahead with the high-profile ex-Novartis chief Joe Jimenez as chairman.

Jimenez’s greatest fame at Novartis was earned for one of its weakest products, as their pioneering personalized CAR-T Kymriah won the honors for the first such drug to make it to the market. Now a host of players, including Century, are barreling in behind the frontrunners with allogeneic rivals that can be created for off-the-shelf use.

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Joe Wiley, Amryt CEO

A biotech with a yen for pricey rare dis­ease drugs — and bar­gain base­ment shop­ping — adopts an­oth­er or­phan in lat­est M&A pact

After making it through a long, painful haul to get past a CRL and on to an FDA approval last summer, little Chiasma has found a buyer.

Amryt $AMYT, a company known for its appetite for acquiring expensive drugs for rare diseases at bargain prices, snagged Chiasma and its acromegaly drug Mycapssa (octreotide) capsules in an all-stock deal — with an exchange of 0.396 shares of Amryt for every share of Chiasma.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director general of WTO (AP Photo/Keystone/Alessandro Della Bella)

Opin­ion: Waiv­ing Covid-19 vac­cine IP could save lives, but where is the man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­i­ty?

Droves of House Democrats in Washington and members of the European Parliament have now glommed onto a major push by India and South Africa at the WTO to abolish all IP around Covid-19 vaccines.

At first blush, waiving this IP sounds like an easy win: More Covid-19 vaccines made locally for more people means more lives saved. Simple enough, especially as low-income countries have received just a tiny fraction of the world’s vaccine allotment so far.