Pre­ci­sion Bio wants to show there's a bet­ter way to ed­it genes — and now it has $126M in IPO cash to prove it

Af­ter spend­ing the sec­ond half of last year lay­ing the car­pet for an IPO — com­plete with a crossover round and a big part­ner­ship with Gilead — Pre­ci­sion Bio­Sciences has raised $126 mil­lion in its pub­lic de­but.

The go­ing price was $16 each for 7.9 mil­lion shares $DTIL, smack in the mid­dle of its pro­posed range but land­ing above Pre­ci­sion’s orig­i­nal pen­cilled-in goal of $100 mil­lion.

The Durham, NC-based gene edit­ing up­start is pitch­ing its ARC nu­cle­ase ap­proach as a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive to the promi­nent trio of CRISPR, TAL­EN and zinc fin­ger nu­cle­ase. Dubbed AR­CUS, the tech de­rives its name from a hom­ing en­donu­cle­ase found in al­gae called I-Crel, re­pur­pos­ing its nat­ur­al genome edit­ing abil­i­ties to cut and paste on­to cells as need­ed.

Be­cause the syn­thet­ic en­zyme can rec­og­nize long se­quences of DNA while stay­ing rel­a­tive­ly small, Pre­ci­sion claims, AR­CUS is more spe­cif­ic and flex­i­ble than oth­er gene edit­ing meth­ods out there. It is set to be test­ed in hu­mans soon as part of a tri­al for the com­pa­ny’s off-the-shelf CAR-T pro­gram, just as the CRISPR pi­o­neers — CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics, In­tel­lia and Ed­i­tas — are get­ting in­to the clin­ic.

Specif­i­cal­ly, Pre­ci­sion’s first CAR-T ther­a­py will aim to treat acute lym­phoblas­tic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lym­phoma by en­gi­neer­ing the donor T cells to tar­get CD19.

Next up in its pipeline is a he­pati­tis B pro­gram that Gilead has al­ready bought in­to, rep­re­sent­ing the “in vi­vo gene cor­rec­tion” half of its med­i­cine port­fo­lio. An IND for that po­ten­tial hep B cure is ex­pect­ed in 2020. Mean­while, oth­er dis­eases in that bas­ket in­clude he­mo­phil­ia A, fa­mil­ial amy­loid polyneu­ropa­thy, lipopro­tein li­pase de­fi­cien­cy and fa­mil­ial hy­per­c­ho­les­terolemia, from which Pre­ci­sion will choose one to el­e­vate out of dis­cov­ery stage.

Aside from clin­i­cal spend­ing, the biotech has al­lo­cat­ed $12 mil­lion to $14 mil­lion for a man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty be­ing built in Durham.

Im­ple­ment­ing re­silience in the clin­i­cal tri­al sup­ply chain

Since January 2020, the clinical trials ecosystem has quickly evolved to manage roadblocks impeding clinical trial integrity, and patient care and safety amid a global pandemic. Closed borders, reduced air traffic and delayed or canceled flights disrupted global distribution, revealing how flexible logistics and supply chains can secure the timely delivery of clinical drug products and therapies to sites and patients.

In fi­nal days at Mer­ck, Roger Perl­mut­ter bets big on a lit­tle-known Covid-19 treat­ment

Roger Perlmutter is spending his last days at Merck, well, spending.

Two weeks after snapping up the antibody-drug conjugate biotech VelosBio for $2.75 billion, Merck announced today that it had purchased OncoImmune and its experimental Covid-19 drug for $425 million. The drug, known as CD24Fc, appeared to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death in severe Covid-19 patients by 50% in a 203-person Phase III trial, OncoImmune said in September.

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UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Overnight for­tunes are be­ing made in biotech these days — and it's both en­cour­ag­ing and more than a lit­tle bit scary

Just to complete the last leg of a running story I’ve been tracking for a few weeks, Olema $OLMA has come through its IPO from the Thursday night pricing at $19 a share with a market cap just north of $2 billion.

That leaves newly-named CEO Sean Bohen holding a batch of 1,110,896 shares with a strike price of $4.82. As of Tuesday morning, the stock is now trading at $53.40, giving him a portfolio value of $53.4 million. Not bad for someone who was hired in September.

Carl Hansen, AbCellera CEO (University of British Columbia)

From a pair of Air Jor­dans to a $200M-plus IPO, Carl Hansen is craft­ing an overnight R&D for­tune fu­eled by Covid-19

Back in the summer of 2019, Carl Hansen left his post as a professor at the University of British Columbia to go full time as the CEO at a low-profile antibody shop he had founded called AbCellera.

As biotech CEOs go, even after a fundraise Hansen wasn’t paid a whole heck of a lot. He ended up earning right at $250,000 for the year. His compensation package included a loan — which he later paid back — and a pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes. His newly-hired CFO, Andrew Booth, got a sweeter pay packet than that — which included his own pair of Air Jordans.

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The ad­u­canum­ab co­nun­drum: The PhI­II failed a clear reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dard, but no one is cer­tain what that means any­more at the FDA

Eighteen days ago, virtually all of the outside experts on an FDA adcomm got together to mug the agency’s Billy Dunn and the Biogen team when they presented their upbeat assessment on aducanumab. But here we are, more than 2 weeks later, and the ongoing debate over that Alzheimer’s drug’s fate continues unabated.

Instead of simply ruling out any chance of an approval, the logical conclusion based on what we heard during that session, a series of questionable approvals that preceded the controversy over the agency’s recent EUA decisions has come back to haunt the FDA, where the power of precedent is leaving an opening some experts believe can still be exploited by the big biotech.

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Pur­due Phar­ma pleads guilty in fed­er­al Oxy­Con­tin probe, for­mal­ly rec­og­niz­ing it played a part in the opi­oid cri­sis

Purdue Pharma, the producer of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, admitted Tuesday that, yes, it did contribute to America’s opioid epidemic.

The drugmaker formally pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, the AP reported, including getting in the way of the DEA’s efforts to combat the crisis, failing to prevent the painkillers from ending up on the black market and encouraging doctors to write more painkiller prescriptions through two methods: paying them in a speakers program and directing a medical records company to send them certain patient information. Purdue’s plea deal calls for $8.3 billion in criminal fines and penalties, but the company is only liable for a fraction of that total — $225 million.

News brief­ing: Gilead part­ner Gala­pa­gos sells off CRO for $37M; Polyphor bags $3.3M from CF Foun­da­tion

Close Gilead ally Galapagos is selling off one of its contract research organizations to a Polish pharma company.

Galapagos has agreed to sell 100% of the outstanding shares in the CRO Fidelta to Selvita, in a deal worth roughly $37 million expected to close in the first week of January. The acquisition is expected to nearly double Selvita’s revenues, the company says, as well as expand its drug discovery efforts.

Gen­mab ax­es an ADC de­vel­op­ment pro­gram af­ter the da­ta fail to im­press

Genmab $GMAB has opted to ax one of its antibody-drug conjugates after watching it flop in the clinic.

The Danish biotech reported Tuesday that it decided to kill their program for enapotamab vedotin after the data gathered from expansion cohorts failed to measure up. According to the company:

While enapotamab vedotin has shown some evidence of clinical activity, this was not optimized by different dose schedules and/or predictive biomarkers. Accordingly, the data from the expansion cohorts did not meet Genmab’s stringent criteria for proof-of-concept.