Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drug­mak­ers de­vel­ops bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies to more di­rect­ly tar­get tu­mor cells — there were about 100 pro­grams in or near­ing clin­i­cal tri­als back in May — a new com­pa­ny is emerg­ing to go one step fur­ther.

On Thurs­day, Ten­tar­ix Bio­ther­a­peu­tics un­veiled a $50 mil­lion Se­ries A round to sup­port its next-gen mul­ti-specifics plat­form. While the field has large­ly fo­cused on bis­pecifics, which en­gage two tar­gets, Ten­tar­ix be­lieves its mul­ti­func­tion­al pro­grams have the po­ten­tial to be even more spe­cif­ic, since more con­di­tions must be met for po­tent ac­tiv­i­ty to oc­cur.

The com­pa­ny’s lead pro­gram has one sub­unit that tar­gets the IL2R gam­ma re­cep­tor, a sub­unit that tar­gets the IL2R be­ta re­cep­tor and oth­er sub­units that bind to cell sur­face pro­teins on a spe­cif­ic sub­set of T cells.

“The ad­vent of tech­nolo­gies to pro­duce high-pre­ci­sion bi­o­log­ics to en­gage mul­ti­ple dis­ease tar­gets rep­re­sents a ma­jor ad­vance,” CEO Paul Grayson said in a state­ment. “This fi­nanc­ing al­lows us to de­vel­op mul­ti­ple pro­grams for on­col­o­gy and au­toim­mune dis­ease based on the Ten­tar­ix tech­nol­o­gy plat­form.”

To aid dis­cov­ery, Ten­tar­ix says it has built a high-through­put plat­form that can screen mil­lions of mol­e­cules for ac­tiv­i­ty and con­di­tion­al­i­ty.

The team, based in both San Diego and Van­cou­ver, is led by a group of well-sea­soned phar­ma vet­er­ans, in­clud­ing CSO Stephen De­marest, who was head of Eli Lil­ly’s pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing and com­pu­ta­tion­al bio­ther­a­peu­tics de­part­ments; chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer Mar­garet Karow, who’s held se­nior po­si­tions at Xilio, Am­gen and Re­gen­eron; and se­nior VP of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment Paul Kang, who worked on an­ti­body gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies at Im­m­Gen­ics, Ab­genix, Am­gen and In­no­v­a­tive Tar­get­ing So­lu­tions.

Grayson, a ven­ture part­ner at Ver­sant, has had a hand in build­ing sev­er­al biotechs now, in­clud­ing Au­ro­ra Bio­sciences (which was snapped up by Ver­tex two decades ago), Seno­myx (ac­quired by the Swiss com­pa­ny Fir­menich), Fate Ther­a­peu­tics and Bird Rock Bio.

There are cur­rent­ly three bis­pecifics on the mar­ket — Am­gen’s leukemia drug Blin­cy­to, Roche’s he­mo­phil­ia A drug Hem­li­bra, and J&J’s Ry­bre­vant, which scored an ap­proval back in May to treat a form of non-small cell lung can­cer. A crowd of can­di­dates is still in de­vel­op­ment, while some com­pa­nies, like Ten­tar­ix, have set their sights on mul­ti­spe­cif­ic drugs. Big Phar­ma has shown in­ter­est in that space too, with Sanofi strik­ing a deal for Bio­munex’s bi- and mul­ti-spe­cif­ic an­ti­body ther­a­peu­tics back in 2019.

“It is grat­i­fy­ing to see the vi­sion of mul­ti­func­tion­al pro­tein ther­a­peu­tics shared with the Ten­tar­ix founders rapid­ly de­vel­op in­to a trans­for­ma­tive dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment com­pa­ny,” said Sri­ni Akkara­ju, man­ag­ing gen­er­al part­ner at Sam­sara, which co-led the Se­ries A with Ver­sant.

Bio­mark­er 'roadmap­s' and the fu­ture of can­cer R&D; Cur­tain rais­es on #AS­CO22; Pfiz­er, No­var­tis tack­le drug ac­cess; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

While this was not a week for earth-shattering news, there were certainly a lot of interesting tidbits. If you found this recap helpful, please recommend it to your friends and colleagues. We’ll see you on the other side of the long weekend.

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Keep­ing pres­sure on Am­gen, Mi­rati draws mixed re­views on lat­est cut of KRAS da­ta

As the close runner-up to Amgen’s Lumakras in the KRAS race, any data cut from Mirati’s adagrasib continues to draw scrutiny from analysts. And the latest batch of numbers from ASCO is a decidedly mixed bag.

While a quick comparison suggests that adagrasib spurred slightly more responses and led to a longer overall survival than Lumakras among a group of non-small cell lung cancer patients, its duration of response appears shorter and the safety profile continues to spark concern.

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Ann is one of ViiV Healthcare's newest spokespeople as the retired school administrator speaks up about her HIV status.

GSK's Vi­iV de­buts next evo­lu­tion in HIV med Dova­to cam­paign with new spokes­peo­ple and new mes­sage

When Ann saw the first TV commercials for HIV medicine Dovato, she didn’t see herself represented. So the 74-year-old retired school administrator who’s been living with HIV since 1998, reached out to GSK’s ViiV Healthcare and asked why not?

Now Ann is one of three people starring in ViiV’s latest Dovato campaign called “Detect This.” The next-step evolution in the branded campaign plays on the word “detect” — often used in describing HIV status under control as undetectable — but in this case, uses the word as a directive for people to understand they can use fewer medicines.

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Tran­si­tion to new Eu­ro­pean clin­i­cal tri­als in­fo sys­tem starts slow­ly

At the end of January, the European Medicines Agency officially launched its new clinical trials info system (CTIS), although the migration to the new platform has only really just begun, and sponsors have until the end of January 2023 before all initial trial applications must be submitted through CTIS.

Overall, 56 clinical trial applications have been submitted in CTIS during the first 3 months since the launch of the system on Jan. 31, according to new data posted by the EMA. By comparison, about 4,000 new trials are authorized each year across Europe.

Switzer­land to de­stroy over 600,000 ex­pired dos­es of Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine

As concerns related to uptake and distribution continue to linger, Switzerland is among the first countries that plans to destroy hundreds of thousands of expired and unused Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The European country said it plans to destroy more than 600,000 doses of Moderna’s Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine as the doses have reached their expiration date.

However, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he’s in the process of throwing 30 million doses in the garbage, exclaiming, “We have a big demand problem.”

Nassim Usman, Catalyst Biosciences CEO

Af­ter $60M Ver­tex deal, group of Cat­a­lyst share­hold­ers claims biotech could’ve sold as­sets three years ago

Catalyst Biosciences was down to five employees in March, and the biotech needed to do something after two rounds of layoffs, a nixed collaboration and a culling of its hemophilia program.

In came Vertex, with $60 million to buy up the South San Francisco biotech’s preclinical complement drugs, which target the system that bridges the body’s innate and adaptive immune response and a class most known for Ultomiris and Soliris. The deal includes CB 2782-PEG, the dry AMD drug that Biogen no longer wanted in March.

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Lina Khan, FTC chair (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP Images)

Pile-on over PBMs con­tin­ues with FTC com­ments and a new bi­par­ti­san Sen­ate bill

More than 500 stakeholders sent comments to the FTC on whether the commission should look further into pharma middlemen, known as PBMs, with many of the commenters calling for more federal oversight.

Similar to the critical open comment period in a deadlocked FTC session last February, pharmacies and pharmacy groups are continuing to call out the lack of transparency among the top 3 PBMs, which control about 80% of the market.

Pharma brands are losing their shine with US consumers who are now thinking about the economy and inflation instead of Covid. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Phar­ma brands fade in an­nu­al Har­ris con­sumer vis­i­bil­i­ty poll: Mod­er­na drops off and Pfiz­er dips

As Covid-19 concerns are fading in the US, so is biopharma visibility. The annual Axios Harris Poll survey to determine and rank the 100 most top-of-mind brands in the US finds Moderna, which was No. 3 last year, not on the list at all for 2022, and Pfizer sinking 37 spots.

However, it’s not that Moderna or Pfizer did anything wrong, it’s just that Americans have moved on to other worries beyond Covid.

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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)

HHS fin­ish­es off Trump-era rule that would've erased ba­sic FDA regs with­out fre­quent re­views

HHS on Thursday finalized its decision to withdraw a rule, proposed just before former President Donald Trump left office, that would’ve caused thousands of HHS and FDA regulations to automatically expire if they weren’t reviewed within two years, and every 10 years thereafter.

The decision follows the filing of a lawsuit last March, in which several nonprofits alleged that the outgoing administration planted “a ticking timebomb” for HHS, essentially forcing it to devote an enormous amount of resources to the unprecedented and infeasible task of reviewing thousands of regulations regularly.