Pre-rev­enue vac­cine de­vel­op­er CanSi­no lines up at a buzzing HKEX

On the same day As­cle­tis start­ed pub­licly pitch­ing its his­toric IPO on the Hong Kong stock ex­change, an­oth­er home­grown drug­mak­er is tak­ing its own shot at a pub­lic list­ing.

Xue­feng Yu

Prob­a­bly best known for its Ebo­la vac­cine — which got ap­proved and ac­cept­ed in­to Chi­na’s na­tion­al stock­pile last Oc­to­ber — CanSi­no Bi­o­log­ics is de­vel­op­ing 15 vac­cine can­di­dates for 12 dis­ease ar­eas in to­tal. The lead pro­grams fo­cus on meningo­coc­cal con­ju­gate vac­cines, fol­lowed by ver­sions of the com­mon DTP vac­cine, both of which would be boost­ed by the raise.

As its name (quite sub­tly) sug­gests, CanSi­no has its roots in the Cana­di­an/Chi­nese con­nec­tion the founders shared. It all start­ed, CEO Xue­feng Yu writes in an open­ing let­ter, on a sum­mer day about 10 years ago, when He­len Hui­hua Mao, Dongxu Qiu, Tao Zhu and him­self gath­ered for a bar­beque in Toron­to.

He­len Hui­hua Mao

As se­nior ex­ecs at Sanofi Pas­teur, As­traZeneca and Wyeth, they saw all too well the glar­ing gap in vac­cine de­vel­op­ment as il­lus­trat­ed by Yu’s sto­ries from his trips to Chi­na. Then they made a de­ci­sion that sur­prised even them­selves: to start a com­pa­ny that would not on­ly pro­duce bet­ter al­ter­na­tives to cur­rent or im­port­ed vac­cines, but al­so come up with “glob­al­ly in­no­v­a­tive” vac­cines based on Chi­na’s un­met med­ical needs.

Dongxu Qiu

That was 2009. Nine years lat­er, they have at­tract­ed top-notch in­vestors at Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures (18.75%) and Qim­ing Ven­tures (8.10%) as well as the state-owned Fu­ture In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Fund (5.50%) to back their vi­sion. The founders, who are now joined by for­mer As­traZeneca top ex­ec Shou-Bai Chao in run­ning the com­pa­ny, each hold around 10% of the stock.

Tao Zhu

As CanSi­no moves for­ward with two Phase III MCV pro­grams, two Phase I DTP vac­cines, an ear­ly-stage tu­ber­cu­lo­sis boost­er and a slate of oth­er pre­clin­i­cal projects, they’ve al­so start­ed build­ing up a com­mer­cial plan. The plan, they write in the ap­pli­ca­tion, is to have 100 staffers ded­i­cat­ed to sell­ing the vac­cines to lo­cal cen­ters for dis­ease con­trol, ini­tial­ly in 30 eco­nom­i­cal­ly-de­vel­oped cities and grad­u­al­ly ex­pand­ing to oth­er lo­ca­tions.

If As­cle­tis’ progress is any in­di­ca­tion, the HKEX reg­u­la­tors — as­sist­ed by a pan­el of es­teemed biotech pro­fes­sion­als — will have no prob­lem by keep­ing the vet­ting process with­in the promised 12 weeks.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

Editor’s note: This is a live story and will be updated.

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bacteria are ruthless.

Some soil bacteria have evolved tiny, but deadly injection systems that attach to insect cells, perforate them and release toxins inside — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Scientists, on the other hand, want to leverage that system to deliver medicines.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, MIT CRISPR researcher Feng Zhang and his lab describe how they engineered these syringes made by bacteria to deliver potential therapies like toxins that kill cancer cells and gene editors. With the help of an AI program, they developed syringes that can load proteins of their choice and selectively target human cells.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

See­los Ther­a­peu­tics 'tem­porar­i­ly' stops study in rare neu­ro dis­or­der for busi­ness rea­sons

Microcap biotech Seelos Therapeutics is halting enrollment of its study in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (also known as Machado-Joseph disease) because of “financial considerations,” and in order to focus on other studies, the company said today, adding that the pause would be temporary.

The study will continue with the patients who have already enrolled, and the data from them will be used to decide whether to continue enrolling others in the future.

Alec­tor cuts 11% of work­force as it dou­bles down on late-stage neu­ro pro­grams part­nered with GSK, Ab­b­Vie

A month after revealing plans to concentrate on its late-stage immuno-neurology pipeline, Alector is trimming its headcount by 11%.

The layoffs will impact around 30 employees across the organization, the company disclosed in an SEC filing, adding that the plan will “better align the company’s resources” with the new strategy. With $712.9 million in cash, cash equivalents and investments as of the end of 2022, Alector believes the reserves will now get it through 2025.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Hugo Peris, Spiral Therapeutics CEO

Hear­ing-fo­cused biotech grabs trio of pro­grams from Oton­o­my's fire sale

Otonomy may be shutting down, but the lessons learned there will live on at another biotech working on new treatments for hearing loss.

San Francisco-based Spiral Therapeutics has bought certain assets related to three of Otonomy’s programs, ranging from data, patent rights, and know-how to inventory. That includes data around Otonomy’s twice-failed lead program, OTO-104 (Otividex), a sustained-exposure formulation of dexamethasone.

Jeff Bluestone (R), Sonoma Biotherapeutics CEO

Jef­frey Blue­stone brings his start­up haul to $400M+, join­ing forces with Re­gen­eron on cell ther­a­pies

These days, when Jeffrey Bluestone gets together with his contemporaries in science, the conversation often turns to retirement plans.

But a little more than three years ago, Bluestone reached a momentous turning point in his career, exiting a prestigious post at UCSF, where he had spent decades in the scientific pursuit of new therapies. And it had nothing to do with retirement anytime in the near future.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Covant acting CEO Matt Maisak (L) and CSO Iván Cornella

With Boehringer In­gel­heim’s help, Roivant churns out an­oth­er Vant to go up against En­deav­or, Im­pact founders

Roivant Sciences has added another branch to its family tree, unveiling Covant Therapeutics with a $10 million upfront commitment from Boehringer Ingelheim to turn up the heat in cancer.

The Boston-based drug discovery startup will jointly create a new small molecule immunotherapy with the private German pharma giant. The deal, made public Tuesday morning, includes up to $471 million in future payments and tiered royalties, should the product make it to market.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.