Part­nered with No­var­tis, tiny Ca­dent jumps out of stealth with $40M round for its CNS pipeline

A small Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny is hop­ing its bet on CNS drugs us­ing a well es­tab­lished phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ap­proach — al­losteric mod­u­la­tors — will ce­ment its place as a biotech pow­er­house in the years to come. Ca­dent Ther­a­peu­tics — cur­rent­ly a 9-per­son team — has al­ready found a part­ner in No­var­tis $NVS.

The com­pa­ny is work­ing on treat­ments for move­ment and cog­ni­tive dis­or­ders us­ing al­losteric mod­u­la­tors, from which some of the biggest neu­ro­science prod­ucts, such as Xanax and Am­bi­en, have been de­vel­oped. On Thurs­day, Ca­dent said it had emerged “out of stealth mode” by an­nounc­ing a $40 mil­lion Se­ries B round of fund­ing, led by Cowen Health­care In­vest­ments and At­las Ven­ture. In­vestors such as Qim­ing Ven­ture Part­ners and No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­med­ical Re­search al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed in the round, which will be used to shep­herd two of the com­pa­ny’s ex­per­i­men­tal drugs in­to three Phase II tri­als.

Ca­dent is us­ing al­losteric mod­u­la­tors – which func­tion some­what like dim­mer switch­es – to tar­get ion chan­nels that are es­sen­tial to neu­ronal ac­tiv­i­ty. The biotech’s move­ment dis­or­ders pro­gram is fo­cused on the SK chan­nel – which reg­u­lates the amount of potas­si­um that en­ters a cell –  for the treat­ment of es­sen­tial tremor (ET) and spin­ocere­bel­lar atax­ia (SCA). Mean­while, Ca­dent’s sec­ond pro­gram is cen­tered on cog­ni­tive dis­or­ders. It em­ploys the use of al­losteric mod­u­la­tors to reg­u­late the the NM­DA re­cep­tor, which has been shown to play a crit­i­cal role in cog­ni­tion and de­pres­sion.

Bob Dagher

“We have both fla­vors of the NM­DA re­cep­tor, we can turn it up in the case of cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment, and we can turn it down, in the case of de­pres­sion,” chief Michael Cur­tis told End­points News. 

Ca­dent’s de­pres­sion pro­gram is part­nered with No­var­tis $NVS, so the Swiss drug­mak­er is tasked with com­pet­ing with Sage $SAGE, Al­ler­gan $AGN, John­son & John­son $JNJ and oth­ers in the de­pres­sion space, he added. With­out delv­ing in­to specifics, Cur­tis said the No­var­tis deal gen­er­ates non-di­lu­tive fund­ing for Ca­dent.

In the case of pos­i­tive al­losteric mod­u­la­tors for the NM­DA re­cep­tor, Ca­dent is tar­get­ing cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment as­so­ci­at­ed with schiz­o­phre­nia. What sets the com­pa­ny apart, ac­cord­ing to Cur­tis, is the use of an EEG (elec­troen­cephalo­gram) — that mea­sures brain elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­i­ty — as a bio­mark­er. An EEG deficit is be­lieved to be di­rect­ly re­lat­ed to NM­DA re­cep­tor hy­po-ac­tiv­i­ty, but us­ing this mea­sure as a bio­mark­er was pre­vi­ous­ly not a prac­ti­cal propo­si­tion be­cause sci­en­tists re­quired the use of a spe­cial­ized fa­cil­i­ty to con­duct the test in a clin­i­cal tri­al set­ting. Ca­dent has solved this prob­lem by part­ner­ing with a com­pa­ny called Cog­ni­sion that has de­vel­oped a portable EEG sys­tem, Cur­tis said.

“The the­o­ry is that if we can turn up the NM­DA re­cep­tor us­ing al­losteric mod­u­la­tors — we can re­store the EEG sig­na­ture, which is con­sid­ered to be a pre­cur­sor in im­prov­ing cog­ni­tion. That gives us a rapid way in a Phase II to look at tar­get en­gage­ment in the pa­tient pop­u­la­tion that we’re go­ing af­ter be­fore we ever have to ask the cog­ni­tion ques­tion.”

Tim An­der­son

“We have sev­er­al shots on goal in in­di­ca­tions that don’t re­quire huge cap­i­tal in­vest­ments – we’re talk­ing about a 2-week phase II in ET, a 12-week phase II in SCA. Maybe a hun­dred pa­tients tops in these tri­als, so for rel­a­tive­ly small cap­i­tal we can get the val­ue in­flec­tive points,” Cur­tis said.

De­pend­ing on the re­sults of these mid-stage stud­ies, which the com­pa­ny ex­pects to read­out over the next 12-18 months, Ca­dent is open to all pos­si­bil­i­ties, such as fur­ther cap­i­tal rais­es, an IPO, a part­ner­ship and a takeover, he added.

Ca­dent al­so an­nounced it had hired in­dus­try vet­er­an Bob Dhager, who has worked with Co­v­ance, Sanofi $SNY and Glax­o­SmithK­line $GSK, as their chief med­ical of­fi­cer and that Cowen’s Tim An­der­son, among oth­ers, had joined the com­pa­ny’s board.

A lab technician works during research on coronavirus at Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical in Beerse, Belgium, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. (Virginia Mayo/AP Images)

End­points News ranks all 28 play­ers in the Covid-19 vac­cine race. Here's how it stacks up to­day

The 28 players now in or close to the clinical race to get a Covid-19 vaccine over the finish line are angling for a piece of a multibillion-dollar market. And being first — or among the leaders — will play a big role in determining just how big a piece.

Endpoints News writer Nicole DeFeudis has posted a snapshot of all the companies, universities and hospital-based groups now racing through the clinic, ranking them according to their place in the pipeline as well as the latest remarks available on timelines. And we’ll keep this lineup updated right through the end of the year, as the checkered flags start to fall, possibly as early as October.

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Stéphane Bancel speaks to President Donald Trump at the White House meeting on March 2 (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mod­er­na of­fers steep dis­count in US sup­ply deal — but still takes the crown with close to $2.5B in vac­cine con­tracts

The US pre-order for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine is in.

Operation Warp Speed is reserving $1.525 billion for 100 million doses of Moderna’s Phase III mRNA candidate, rounding out to about $15 per dose — including $300 million in incentive payments for timely delivery. Given that Moderna has a two-dose regimen, it’s good for vaccinating 50 million people. The US government also has the option to purchase another 400 million doses for a total of $6.6 billion, or $16.5 per dose.

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Cell and Gene Con­tract Man­u­fac­tur­ers Must Em­brace Dig­i­ti­za­tion

The Cell and Gene Industry is growing at a staggering 30% CAGR and is estimated to reach $14B by 20251. A number of cell, gene and stem cell therapy sponsors currently have novel drug substances and products and many rely on Contract Development Manufacturing Organizations (CDMO) to produce them with adherence to stringent regulatory cGMP conditions. Cell and gene manufacturing for both autologous (one to one) and allogenic (one to many) treatments face difficult issues such as: a complex supply chain, variability on patient and cellular level, cell expansion count and a tight scheduling of lot disposition process. This complexity affects quality, compliance and accountability in the entire vein-to-vein process for critically ill patients.

Martin Shkreli (AP Images)

Mar­tin Shkre­li's in­fa­mous Dara­prim falls off top 20 most ex­pen­sive drugs list

Martin Shkreli incited a national uproar five years ago when he raised the price of Daraprim by a factor of 56 essentially overnight from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Now that the “Pharma Bro’s” high-priced project has received a generic, it no longer places among the most expensive drugs in the world.

GoodRx is back with the latest update of the top 20 most expensive drugs and Daraprim’s exclusion marks the biggest change. The drug had previously ranked seventh on the list’s last iteration, which came in February before the world went into quarantine. Another of Shkreli’s former companies, Retrophin, saw its Chenodal drug place in the top 10 again.

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Ian Nicholson (F2G)

No­vo backs 'break­through' an­ti­fun­gal play­er's $60M round — with a fo­cus on rare mold in­fec­tions

The plight of antibiotics developers has been well documented: chronically underfunded research, daunting scientific challenges, and little commercial upside even for the ones that make it to the market. But in an adjacent corner of the antimicrobial space, an antifungal player is out to paint a very different picture.

F2G, a UK-Austria hybrid, has raised $60.8 million for its final push toward the clinic. Clearing the test could pave the way for its drug to be the first new antifungal agent in 20 years.

Bayer's Marianne De Backer with Endpoints founder John Carroll, Endpoints@JPM20 (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

UP­DAT­ED: Hunt­ing a block­buster, Bay­er forges an $875M-plus M&A deal to ac­quire women’s health biotech

Bayer has dropped $425 million in cash on its latest women’s health bet, bringing a UK biotech and its non-hormonal menopause treatment into the fold.

KaNDy Therapeutics had its roots in GlaxoSmithKline, which spun out several neuroscience drugs into NeRRe Therapeutics back in 2012. Five years later the team created a new biotech to focus solely on NT-814 — which they considered “one of the few true innovations in women’s health in more than two decades.”

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Roche pulls a tu­mor mi­cro-en­vi­ron­ment drug out of the freez­er, hands it to a UK up­start

Two years after pulling it from clinical development, Roche has handed control of a solid tumor cancer drug to a tiny Oxford University spinout.

For an undisclosed fee, Celleron Therapeutics acquired the drug, an anti-CSF1R antibody that’s designed to modulate the tumor micro-environment — an increasingly popular approach among cancer drug developers. Celleron says it will now put the drug into trials for patients with tenosynovial giant cell tumors, a rare disease where series of benign tumors begin to grow around the joints and tendons. It’s caused by cells over-producing CSF1R.

DFC CEO Adam Boehler and Kodak CEO Jim Continenza (Kodak)

Covid-19 roundup: Ko­dak board mem­ber's gift comes un­der scruti­ny; Red­hill be­gins Phase II/III tri­al for Covid-19 treat­ment in Mex­i­co

Eastman Kodak’s $765 million government loan to boost pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities was put on hold just last week, and now reports of a well-timed charitable donation have come to light.

Kodak board member George Karfunkel and his wife Renee Karfunkel reported in a securities filing a donation valued at $116.3 million to a Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn, NY, according to the Wall Street Journal. Per the filing, the donation took place on July 29, the day that Kodak’s stock hit its highest peak since 2014.

Eisai moves to 200 Metro Blvd. by late 2021 (ON3)

Ei­sai is cre­at­ing a new US cor­po­rate, R&D HQ in Roche’s old Nut­ley, NJ cam­pus

Eight years after Roche pulled up stakes from Nutley, NJ in a major R&D reorganization, Japan’s Eisai is moving its US corporate and research hub into their old campus.

Now the ON3 property, Eisai — a longtime Biogen partner focused on neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s — will bring together a staff of up to 1,200 employees. And execs are pitching the move to the New Jersey campus as a cultural game-changer.