Philo­gen who? A low pro­file but phar­ma-con­nect­ed Ital­ian-Swiss hy­brid steps out with $68M for a fi­nal push over the PhI­II fin­ish line

Philo­gen is one of the best con­nect­ed late-stage biotechs you’ve prob­a­bly nev­er heard of. 

Found­ed by three broth­ers — the busi­ness­man and com­pa­ny CEO Duc­cio Neri and his two sci­en­tist sib­lings, Dario and Gio­van­ni — way back in 1996, Philo­gen has been build­ing up its ex­per­tise in armed an­ti­bod­ies over the past 23 years. It’s struck mul­ti­ple de­vel­op­ment pacts with a whole range of phar­ma gi­ants, oc­ca­sion­al­ly rather ca­su­al­ly and briefly not­ing them in ab­bre­vi­at­ed re­leas­es — like the three it an­nounced in Jan­u­ary with No­var­tis, J&J and Cel­gene, shorn of any specifics.

Dario Neri

Philo­gen spe­cial­izes in arm­ing an­ti­bod­ies, with a fo­cus on im­muno­cy­tokines — link­ing cy­tokines for tar­get­ed de­liv­ery to spur lo­cal and sys­temic im­mune re­spons­es. The Ner­is say those pacts with top in­dus­try play­ers have kept the pri­vate com­pa­ny prof­itable — and large­ly out of the eye of IPO-fo­cused ven­ture groups — for the past 20 years. But to­day, with two in-house ther­a­pies in Phase III de­vel­op­ment, they’re step­ping out with a €62 mil­lion ($68 mil­lion) raise aimed at tak­ing the biotech over the top of late-stage tri­als and in­to the mar­ket.

“We have worked for many years on the an­ti­body de­liv­ery of many pay­loads and cer­tain­ly cy­tokines are very spe­cial for us,” Dario Neri tells me over the phone, em­pha­siz­ing that the biotech has de­vel­oped con­sid­er­able ex­per­tise in the use of both an­ti­bod­ies and lig­ands. Dario worked in Gre­go­ry Win­ter’s lab in Cam­bridge, UK af­ter his post-doc, then re­turned to ETH Zurich, where he is a pro­fes­sor of chem­istry and ap­plied bio­sciences. A co-founder and head of the sci­ence ad­vi­so­ry board at Philo­gen, he an­chors the biotech’s work in Switzer­land, a bio­phar­ma hotbed, which is co­or­di­nat­ed with the home base ac­tiv­i­ties in Siena, Italy, south of Flo­rence.

These im­muno­cy­tokines are fu­sion pro­teins, chem­i­cal­ly cou­pling the cy­tokine to their de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle. And some of its part­ners — like Pfiz­er — have come back to build a slate of part­nered ef­forts.

“We have dif­fer­ent types of col­lab­o­ra­tions,” says Dario Neri cheer­ful­ly, “some pub­lic and some not. Pfiz­er has signed up for a few.” Servi­er and Boehringer In­gel­heim have al­so lined up for deals.

“Our mod­el is in­no­vat­ing tar­get­ing,” he adds, lo­cal­ized at the site of dis­ease.

Gio­van­ni Neri

You can see that in their own so­lo work, tai­lored to some care­ful­ly de­fined tar­gets. Daro­mun, the lead drug, com­bines a pair of their im­muno­cy­tokines — The IL2 fu­sion pro­tein Dar­leukin and the TNF fu­sion pro­tein Fi­bro­mun — for the in­trale­sion­al treat­ment of Stage III B and C melanoma pa­tients who are try­ing to fight off pro­gres­sion to Stage IV, where their prospects of sur­vival are grim. In the late-stage work, re­searchers are com­par­ing the neoad­ju­vant use of the drug fol­lowed by surgery against surgery alone — the stan­dard of care — for an end­point fo­cused on re­cur­rence free sur­vival, with over­all sur­vival as a sec­ondary end­point.

Fi­bro­mun gained an or­phan drug des­ig­na­tion in Jan­u­ary from the FDA for soft tis­sue sar­co­ma.

Work­ing with its part­ners, Philo­gen has built up a staff of 110 who have cre­at­ed an in­te­grat­ed R&D group work­ing from dis­cov­ery to late stage tri­als, with their own man­u­fac­tur­ing wing. “We val­ue that very much,” says Dario Neri. “We know our prod­ucts best,” and by build­ing up their own ex­per­tise they’re able to move more re­li­ably than any com­pa­ny that re­quires a CMO for the work.

Prof­itable doesn’t mean earn­ing big mon­ey — Neri puts 2018 prof­its at €10 mil­lion. But com­pared to the av­er­age pre-rev­enue biotech con­sum­ing tens of mil­lions, if not hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars, it’s a whole oth­er world. Now they’d like more of the bio­phar­ma world to take note as they close in on a goal they’ve had in sight for close to a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry.

Lat­er, maybe, they can see if the third time is the charm for an IPO, which they tried and failed at in both 2008 — bad tim­ing for the mar­ket — and 2011, pulling the last one af­ter Bay­er pulled out of a deal. These broth­ers don’t give up eas­i­ly.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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