Hans van Houte (Nurix)

Part­nered with Gilead and Sanofi, pro­tein degra­da­tion spe­cial­ist Nurix bags $120M to chart its own clin­i­cal path

The race to steer the first pro­tein degra­da­tion drugs to the clin­ic is on.

On the same day that Cam­bridge, MA-based Kymera Ther­a­peu­tics un­veiled a $102 mil­lion round to en­ter in­to de­vel­op­ment phase, Nurix said it has raised $120 mil­lion to do the same out of San Fran­cis­co’s Mis­sion Bay.

Michael Rome

Fore­site Cap­i­tal led the round. Red­mile Group, a co-leader in Kymera’s Se­ries C, par­tic­i­pat­ed along­side Bain Cap­i­tal Life Sci­ences, Box­er Cap­i­tal (Tavi­s­tock Group), EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, Welling­ton Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny and an undis­closed in­vestor, as well as found­ing in­vestors The Col­umn Group and Third Rock Ven­tures.

In­vest­ing out of its $668 mil­lion Fund IV, Fore­site is in­ter­est­ed in any new modal­i­ties for drug dis­cov­ery. Hav­ing fol­lowed Nurix since at least 2017, stay­ing in touch with CEO Arthur Sands and his team through the years, part­ner Michael Rome said now is the per­fect time to get in­volved.

“What’s re­al­ly unique about the com­pa­ny is they spent sev­er­al years de­vel­op­ing their plat­form tech­nol­o­gy, whether that’s their DNA en­cod­ed li­braries, or their spe­cif­ic CTM mol­e­cules,” he said, re­fer­ring to its chimeric tar­get­ing mol­e­cules har­ness­ing E3 lig­as­es.

Arthur Sands

That deep dive in­to the bi­ol­o­gy of E3 lig­as­es — the ubiq­ui­tin tag that tells the cell’s garbage dis­pos­al sys­tem that a cer­tain pro­tein is up for degra­da­tion — has al­lowed Nurix to go be­yond sim­ply reap­pro­pri­at­ing the nat­ur­al ma­chin­ery. There are cer­tain E3 lig­as­es, it turned out, that de­grade pro­teins nec­es­sary for the im­mune sys­tem to mount an at­tack on can­cer. Block­ing them can un­leash the body’s full de­fense.

“They’re very com­plex pro­tein struc­tures,” Nurix CFO Hans van Houte told End­points News. “It turns out that there are prob­a­bly over 600 E3 lig­as­es in the hu­man genome, and they all have cer­tain roles to play in terms of reg­u­lat­ing pro­tein lev­els them­selves.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, it gives them an edge over ri­vals at Kymera, C4 and even Arv­inas (which is in a Phase I tri­al for prostate can­cer).

The promise of the tech­nol­o­gy has first en­ticed Cel­gene, then Gilead and Sanofi. Both came on board last year look­ing for new drugs to hit dif­fi­cult-to-ad­dress tar­gets.

Van Houte made a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween deal mon­ey — $100 mil­lion in up­front to­tal and $4.5 bil­lion in po­ten­tial mile­stones — and the new fi­nanc­ing. While the for­mer is help­ing beef up its re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion, the lat­ter is strict­ly re­served for bring­ing the two whol­ly-owned fran­chis­es (with two pro­grams each) in­to hu­man test­ing in the next 12 to 18 months.

Jean Chang

The first aims to de­grade BTK, the ki­nase tar­get for mar­ket­ed drugs like J&J/Ab­b­Vie’s Im­bru­vi­ca, As­traZeneca’s Calquence and BeiGene’s Brukin­sa. But tu­mors can de­vel­op a re­sis­tance to these ther­a­pies. Nurix hopes that by fol­low­ing a dif­fer­ent mech­a­nism of ac­tion, its CTM can by­pass the re­sis­tance mu­ta­tions and in­duce deep­er and more durable re­sponse.

An­oth­er has to do with a type of E3 lig­ase dubbed CBL-B, which is found to neg­a­tive­ly reg­u­late T cell ac­ti­va­tion. In­hibit­ing it, van Houte said, trig­gers the se­cre­tion of the pow­er­ful cy­tokine IL-2.

Nurix re­cent­ly re­cruit­ed biotech vet Jean Chang as VP of pro­gram man­age­ment and as­set strat­e­gy as part of a plan to build out the de­vel­op­ment team on top of its cur­rent 95-strong work­force. It ex­pects to file an IND by the end of the year.

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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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.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Time for round 2: Il­lu­mi­na-backed VC snags $325M for its next fund

Illumina Ventures closed off its second investment fund with a total commitment of $325 million, offering fresh fuel to back a slate of startups that have already included a smorgasbord of companies, covering everything from diagnostics to biotech drug development and genomics.

Fund II brings the total investment under Illumina Ventures’ oversight to $560 million, which has been focused on early-stage companies. And it has a transatlantic portfolio that includes SQZ, Twist and Encoded Therapeutics.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Raju Mohan, Ventyx Biosciences CEO

Months af­ter a mam­moth raise, Ven­tyx Bio­sciences dips back in­to ven­ture well

Several months after emerging from what CEO Raju Mohan called “quiet mode” with a mammoth $114 million raise, Ventyx Biosciences is now making its plans for the clinic loud and clear.

The California-based immune modulation player kicked the week off with a $51 million Series B, while also naming some key hires ahead of its big clinical push.

The CMO slot is going to Jörn Drappa, former CMO at Viela Bio before it was bought out by Horizon Therapeutics earlier this year. The AstraZeneca vet stayed on at Horizon for a while as executive VP of R&D before making the jump to Ventyx.

Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.