Patrick Soon-Shiong, AP

Patrick Soon-Sh­iong merges trou­bled 'moon shot' Nan­tK­west and cell ther­a­py play Im­mu­ni­ty­Bio in late-stage ex­pan­sion

Once one of the hottest brands in biotech, Patrick Soon-Sh­iong’s next-gen can­cer brain­child Nan­tK­west has tak­en its lumps in re­cent years with lit­tle to show from its nat­ur­al killer cell plat­form. Now, with his cell ther­a­py play Im­mu­ni­ty­Bio mov­ing much faster in the clin­ic, Soon-Sh­iong will merge the two com­pa­nies to­geth­er to stream­line their mar­ket as­pi­ra­tions.

Nan­tK­west will re­verse merge with Soon-Sh­iong’s Im­mu­ni­ty­Bio in a stock-for-stock trans­ac­tion to bring 11 late-stage nat­ur­al killer and cell ther­a­py can­di­dates for on­col­o­gy and in­fec­tious dis­eases un­der a sin­gle roof, the com­pa­nies said Mon­day.

Rich Ad­cock

Soon-Sh­iong, a bil­lion­aire sur­geon and a big-tick­et name in bio­phar­ma, will stay on as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man while Rich Ad­cock, Nan­tK­west’s reign­ing CEO, will side­step in­to the same role at the new firm. The merg­er is set to close in the first half of 2021 with Im­mu­ni­ty­Bio in­vestors tak­ing the li­on’s share of the new com­pa­ny at a ful­ly di­lut­ed 78%.

Soon-Sh­iong stepped down from the CEO role in Oc­to­ber in fa­vor of Ad­cock five years in­to Nan­tK­west’s whirl­wind pub­lic of­fer­ing. The off-the-shelf nat­ur­al killer play, which Soon-Sh­iong de­scribed as his “can­cer moon shot,” was once the most valu­able IPO in biotech be­fore see­ing its share prices plum­met with lit­tle clin­i­cal da­ta to hold up and a very pub­lic re­con­sid­er­a­tion of the com­pa­ny’s hype.

For­tunes changed in ear­ly 2020 af­ter Soon-Sh­iong tout­ed ear­ly re­sults show­ing one pan­cre­at­ic can­cer pa­tient with a com­plete re­sponse, putting wind in the flag­ging com­pa­ny’s sales. On Fri­day, Nan­tK­west $NK shares closed trad­ing at $10.26.

So with lit­tle still to show for his ef­forts, Soon-Sh­iong will guide a new firm with a more di­ver­si­fied pipeline and a lit­tle bit more to show on the clin­i­cal side. Im­me­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing news of the merg­er Mon­day, Im­mu­ni­ty­Bio, a biotech tar­get­ing the in­nate and adap­tive im­mune sys­tem, trum­pet­ed re­sults from a Phase II/III tri­al show­ing its IL-15″su­per­ag­o­nist” Ank­ti­va (N-803) post­ed a 72% com­plete re­sponse rate in BCG un­re­spon­sive non-mus­cle in­va­sive blad­der can­cer af­ter 12 months of treat­ment.

That can­di­date comes from Im­mu­ni­ty­Bio’s im­munother­a­py fu­sion pro­tein, im­munomod­u­la­tor, and ade­n­ovirus plat­forms, which the biotech is al­so uti­liz­ing to chase a Covid-19 vac­cine. That can­di­date is an­gling for a Phase I hu­man study af­ter com­plete­ly clear­ing tri­al pri­mates’ air­ways in a U.S. gov­ern­ment-spon­sored tri­al, the com­pa­ny re­cent­ly said.

“What dis­tin­guish­es the merged en­ti­ty is the late stage im­munother­a­py prod­uct pipeline that is de­signed to elim­i­nate the need for high-dose chemother­a­py, im­prove the out­comes of cur­rent CAR T cell ther­a­pies, and ex­tend be­yond check­point in­hibitors,” Soon-Sh­iong said in a re­lease. “With 13 clin­i­cal tri­als across mul­ti­ple tu­mor types at Phase I to III and with the com­bined tal­ent in re­search, clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing, the merged en­ti­ty is poised to be a leader in the im­munother­a­py space.”

In all, the new­co will have 13 as­sets in clin­i­cal tri­als, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease, with IP run­ning out to 2035. The com­pa­ny will go on­line with a com­bined 200,000 square feet of man­u­fac­tur­ing and clin­i­cal space as it takes mul­ti­ple runs at the mar­ket.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Kite Phar­ma gets FDA to sign off on new Cal­i­for­nia-based vec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

Kite Pharma just got FDA approval to kick off operations at a new manufacturing campus.

The cancer-focused, CAR-T cell therapy player made the announcement Monday, saying that the federal regulatory agency gave the green light to Kite’s 100,000 square-foot, retroviral vector manufacturing facility in Oceanside, CA.

Kite’s global head of technical operations Chris McDonald tells Endpoints News that the facility has been in the works for about four years, after Kite teamed up with its parent company Gilead. Gilead acquired Kite Pharma for just shy of $12 billion in 2017.

Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.