Pfiz­er's in­vest­ment fund is mak­ing waves in VC — in­clud­ing a $25M bet on IBD play­er Vedan­ta Bio­sciences

Pfiz­er has a gut feel­ing about Vedan­ta Bio­sciences.

On Tues­day, the Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based mi­cro­bio­me up­start be­came the fourth biotech to re­ceive an in­vest­ment from the Pfiz­er Break­through Growth Ini­tia­tive (PG­BI), bag­ging $25 mil­lion to send its in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease can­di­date to Phase II.

Since its launch in June, the PG­BI has in­vest­ed $120 mil­lion in small- to medi­um-sized biotechs span­ning sev­er­al key fo­cus ar­eas: in­ter­nal med­i­cine, in­flam­ma­tion and im­munol­o­gy, on­col­o­gy, rare dis­ease, vac­cines and hos­pi­tal. So far, Ho­mol­o­gy Med­i­cines has the largest stake, with $60 mil­lion to ad­vance its phenylke­tonuria (PKU) pro­gram.

In­spired by the abil­i­ty of fe­cal trans­plants to re­boot the bal­ance of healthy mi­crobes in the gut, Vedan­ta is work­ing on tai­lored pack­ages of bac­te­r­i­al strains de­signed to spur spe­cif­ic ther­a­peu­tic re­spons­es. The com­pa­ny says Pfiz­er’s in­vest­ment will fund a Phase II tri­al for its live bio­ther­a­peu­tic to treat IBD — dubbed VE202 — which is ex­pect­ed to launch this year.

VE202 is pro­duced from pure, clon­al bac­te­r­i­al cell banks, by­pass­ing the need for di­rect sourc­ing of fe­cal donor ma­te­r­i­al. Topline Phase I da­ta showed VE202 was gen­er­al­ly safe and well-tol­er­at­ed, and “demon­strat­ed durable and dose-de­pen­dent col­o­niza­tion,” Vedan­ta said.

“We be­lieve Vedan­ta’s ap­proach to mod­u­lat­ing the mi­cro­bio­me may hold promise for peo­ple liv­ing with IBD, and we are ex­cit­ed for its po­ten­tial as this im­por­tant study moves for­ward,” Michael Vin­cent, se­nior VP and CSO of Pfiz­er’s in­flam­ma­tion and im­munol­o­gy re­search unit, said in a state­ment.

Vin­cent is join­ing Vedan­ta’s sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board, and Pfiz­er holds rights to first ne­go­ti­a­tion on VE202. Mer­ck and Ab­b­Vie vet Jef­frey Sil­ber is lead­ing Vedan­ta’s ef­forts as CMO af­ter join­ing the com­pa­ny back in Sep­tem­ber.

Ho­mol­o­gy and Vedan­ta aren’t the on­ly two Mass­a­chu­setts-based biotechs to ben­e­fit from the PG­BI. Cam­bridge-head­quar­tered Tril­li­um Ther­a­peu­tics al­so snagged a $25 mil­lion in­vest­ment for its CD47 pro­gram. ES­SA Phar­ma, lo­cat­ed in Van­cou­ver, British Co­lum­bia, re­ceived a $10 mil­lion in­vest­ment for its work in the prostate can­cer space.

“Now, more than ever, our pa­tients need us, work­ing to­geth­er, to turn great sci­en­tif­ic ideas in­to in­no­v­a­tive new med­i­cines,” Pfiz­er said in a state­ment in June.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggests, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Tempus Labs)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs from 2020.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL CEO Paul Per­reault de­ter­mined to grow plas­ma col­lec­tion af­ter full-year sales dip

As the ink dries on CSL’s $11.7 billion Vifor buyout, the company posted a dip in profits, due in part to a drop in plasma donations amid the pandemic.

However, CEO Paul Perreault assured investors and analysts on the full-year call that the team has left “no stone unturned” when assessing options to grow plasma volumes. The chief executive also spelled out positive results for the company’s monoclonal antibody garadacimab in hereditary angioedema (HAE), though he isn’t revealing the exact numbers just yet.

Blaise Coleman, Endo International CEO

En­do files for Chap­ter 11 as it looks to fin­ish off its opi­oid lit­i­ga­tion

Irish drugmaker Endo International is entering into bankruptcy as it faces the weight of serious litigation related to its involvement in the opioid epidemic in the US.

The company has filed Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, with the company expected to file recognition proceedings in Canada, the UK and Australia. The company’s bankruptcy filing showed the company had assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion.