Ted Ashburn, Oncorus president and CEO

On­corus plots ear­ly-stage plant in Boston area as it walks I-O can­di­date through the clin­ic

Buoyed by what it called a suc­cess­ful 2020, Mass­a­chu­setts-based On­corus has snared a lease in the Boston area to lock down a man­u­fac­tur­ing site for its clin­i­cal-stage on­col­o­gy port­fo­lio.

On­corus, a five-year-old com­pa­ny, an­nounced Mon­day that it signed a 15-year lease to build an 88,000-square-foot GMP vi­ral im­munother­a­py clin­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in An­dover, MA.

The com­pa­ny said in a press re­lease that it an­tic­i­pates the first phase of the fa­cil­i­ty will be fin­ished by the end of 2021 and will pri­or­i­tize process de­vel­op­ment and qual­i­ty con­trol. Once ful­ly op­er­a­tional — pro­ject­ed in 2023 — On­corus plans to have GMP mul­ti-prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties avail­able to pro­duce clin­i­cal-grade vi­ral im­munother­a­pies for in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al new drug and clin­i­cal stud­ies.

On­corus pres­i­dent and CEO Ted Ash­burn, who hopped over to the start­up from Mod­er­na in 2018, said in a press re­lease that the fa­cil­i­ty was made pos­si­ble by its 2020 suc­cess­es. The com­pa­ny ini­ti­at­ed a study of sol­id tu­mor can­cer im­munother­a­py ON­CR-177, signed a clin­i­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion and sup­ply agree­ment with Mer­ck for ther­a­peu­tics, and launched an $87 mil­lion IPO.

“Now we’re thrilled to an­nounce that we’ve signed a lease for our planned man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty, which will play a cen­tral role in en­abling us to ad­vance our mis­sion to re­al­ize the full promise of vi­ral im­munother­a­py for can­cer pa­tients,” Ash­burn said. “Op­er­a­tional and man­u­fac­tur­ing scale-up will be a strate­gic pri­or­i­ty for On­corus go­ing for­ward.”

Not all fi­nan­cial de­tails of the new fa­cil­i­ty are pub­licly avail­able, an On­corus spokesper­son told End­points News, but the com­pa­ny did of­fer some in­sight in its S1 fil­ings pri­or to its Oc­to­ber IPO.

Rough­ly $18.9 mil­lion of the IPO pro­ceeds will be used for cap­i­tal and op­er­a­tional ex­pen­di­tures, as well as per­son­nel at the new fa­cil­i­ty, ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing. On­corus al­so dis­closed that it will need an­oth­er $30 mil­lion in cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­tures for the fa­cil­i­ty build­out.

In ad­di­tion to its IPO fi­nanc­ing, On­corus land­ed a $89.6 mil­lion Se­ries B in 2019 led by Cowen and Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors for its work in the on­colyt­ic virus space. And as of Oc­to­ber, the biotech has spent $96.3 mil­lion.

The fa­cil­i­ty con­struc­tion is the lat­est sign that the biotech will be a play­er to watch in the months and years to come. Af­ter Ash­burn jumped on board from Mod­er­na, for ex­am­ple, On­corus con­tin­ued to pull from the man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant when Steve Harbin came on­line as COO in De­cem­ber.

Harbin was a big get for the rel­a­tive­ly new biotech, as he served as Mod­er­na’s chief sus­tain­abil­i­ty of­fi­cer, head of cor­po­rate fa­cil­i­ties and head of the mR­NA biotech’s man­u­fac­tur­ing site be­fore re­tir­ing in 2019. He al­so has cred­its from roles at Eli Lil­ly and bio­Mérieux.

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Mer­ck scraps Covid-19 vac­cine pro­grams af­ter they fail to mea­sure up on ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er ma­jor set­back in the glob­al fight

After turning up late to the vaccine development game in the global fight against Covid-19, Merck is now making a quick exit.

The pharma giant is reporting this morning that it’s decided to drop development of 2 vaccines — V590 and V591 — after taking a look at Phase I data that simply don’t measure up to either the natural immune response seen in people exposed to the virus or the vaccines already on or near the market.

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Jean-Christophe-Hyvert, Lonza

Lon­za look­ing to build on 'd­if­fer­en­ti­at­ed ad­van­tage' in Covid-19, CD­MO mar­ket­place in 2021

It’s not new for Lonza, the Swiss CDMO nearing its quasquicentennial anniversary, to be in the upper echelon of the biotech manufacturing industry.

But 2020 — as it was for many CDMOs — was a special year even by Lonza’s standards. The company inked a deal to produce 1 billion worldwide doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and tapped pharma vet Pierre-Alain Ruffieux to lead its operations, moves which have allowed Lonza to make a myriad of other deals that will continue to ramp up its global production capacity.

Can strug­gling Iterum turn the cor­ner to an an­tibi­ot­ic suc­cess sto­ry? They will know in six months

More than five years after Corey Fishman and Michael Dunne dusted sulopenem off Pfizer’s shelves — the second castoff antibiotic they’ve brought out of the pharma giant — and founded Iterum Therapeutics around that single drug, they have lined up a quick shot at approval with priority review from the FDA.

The decision, six months from now, will mark a make-or-break moment for a struggling biotech that has just enough cash to keep the lights on until the third quarter.

Bahija Jallal, Immunocore

Buried in Im­muno­core's IPO fil­ings? A kick­back scheme from a now for­mer em­ploy­ee

Immunocore spent much of 2019 dealing with the fallout of the Neil Woodford scandal, as the former star investor’s fall crashed the biotech’s valuation out of unicorn range. Now it turns out that the company spent 2020 dealing with another internal scandal.

The longtime UK biotech darling disclosed in their IPO filing last week that they had fallen victim to an alleged kickback scheme involving one of their employees. After a whistleblower came forward, they said in their F-1, they spent the summer and spring investigating, finding fraud on the part of an employee and two outside vendors.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na dou­bles down on Covid-19 with new boost­er tri­als; Aus­tralia plans do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of As­traZeneca vac­cine amid dis­tri­b­u­tion lag

As Merck bows out of the global race to develop vaccines for Covid-19, Moderna is doubling down to make sure they can quell new variants that have recently emerged and quickly spread.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech put out word on Monday that in vivo studies indicate their mRNA vaccine works well enough against two strains first detected in the UK and South Africa. But with a six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers observed against the latter strain, the company is launching a new study of a booster version to make sure it can do the job.

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Matt Gline (L) and Vivek Ramaswamy

Scoop: Vivek Ra­maswamy is hand­ing the CEO job to a top lieu­tenant at Roivant — but he’s not ex­act­ly leav­ing the biotech scene

Over the past 7 years since founding Roivant, Vivek Ramaswamy has been a constant blur of biotech building motion.

He launched his first biotech with an Alzheimer’s drug he picked up cheap, and watched the experiment implode in one of the highest profile pivotal disasters seen in the last decade. But it didn’t slow the 30-something exec down; if anything, he hit the accelerator. Ramaswamy blazed global paths and went on to raise billions to spur the creation of a large lineup of little Vants promising big things at a fast pace. He sold off a section of the Vant brigade to Sumitomo Dainippon for $3 billion. And more recently the relentless dealmaker has been building a computational discovery arm to add an AI-driven approach to kicking up new programs and companies, supplementing the in-licensing drive while pursuing advances that have created more than 700 jobs at Roivant, with $2 billion in reserves.

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News brief­ing: Jef­frey Lei­den to chair Tmu­ni­ty board of di­rec­tors; Op­di­vo wins new ap­proval in ad­vanced RCC

Longtime Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden is taking on a new role.

Leiden has been appointed chairman of Tmunity’s board of directors, the company announced Monday. The move comes about a year and a half after Leiden announced he’d be stepping down from his position at Vertex.

Vertex saw immense growth under Leiden, leading the company from its exit out of hepatitis C, when cures were moving in, and into cystic fibrosis. The company’s cystic fibrosis triple combo therapy Trikafta is already its best-seller, reaching the distinction just six weeks after launch and recording the strongest first quarter of sales for any drug, per some estimates.

Ron Cooper, Albireo CEO

Al­bireo just ad­vanced down to the 10-yard line at the FDA. And Ron Coop­er’s team is get­ting prepped for the next big play

When Albireo Pharma’s board $ALBO moved to bring in Ron Cooper as the CEO more than 5 years ago, the development-stage company went with an experienced commercial player who had a big-time position on his resume after running Bristol Myers’ commercial ops in Europe.

Now, after successfully navigating a pivotal study, putting them in a foot race with a rival toward an FDA OK, Cooper is getting a boost from regulators on the last drive back to an arena he understands completely.

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