CEO James Rosen (Artizan)

Pre­ci­sion in­flam­ma­tion drugs? Yale spin­out Ar­ti­zan clinch­es $11M and Bio­haven deal to sin­gle out bad bac­te­ria

As a Yale spin­out based in New Haven, Ar­ti­zan Bio­sciences was pret­ty fa­mil­iar with Bio­haven — a suc­cess­ful neu­ro-fo­cused drug de­vel­op­er and “shin­ing star,” as Ar­ti­zan CEO James Rosen puts it, in the bur­geon­ing biotech com­mu­ni­ty there.

But when a board di­rec­tor and an in­vestor tried con­nect­ing the two, they were in for a sur­prise.

“Un­be­knownst to Ar­ti­zan, Bio­haven had been do­ing a land­scap­ing ex­er­cise sur­vey­ing mi­cro­bio­me com­pa­nies with whom to part­ner for CNS dis­or­ders,” Rosen told End­points News, “and lo and be­hold, they found Ar­ti­zan right in their back­yard.”

Found­ed by Richard Flavell, Noah Palm and Mar­cel de Zoete, the biotech had been ap­ply­ing a method they pi­o­neered to iden­ti­fy dis­ease-caus­ing bac­te­ria. The plat­form scans bac­te­r­i­al strains for an an­ti­body coat­ing known as im­muno­glo­bin A (IgA) — a nat­ur­al im­mune re­sponse that sig­nals it’s bad bac­te­ria.

Bio­haven end­ed up sign­ing on for an op­tion to li­cense the in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease pro­grams Ar­ti­zan is al­ready de­vel­op­ing, and al­so as a part­ner to a new line of dis­cov­ery work along the gut brain ax­is.

It’s al­so lead­ing in an $11 mil­lion Se­ries A-2 along­side Hat­teras Ven­ture Part­ners, which had seed­ed Ar­ti­zan.

“One of the places we’re look­ing at most close­ly is dis­rup­tion of gut bar­ri­er in­tegri­ty,” Rosen said. “So when some of these mi­cro­bial con­tents are able to pierce the gut bar­ri­er, those in­testi­nal con­tents ei­ther in the form of bac­te­ria di­rect­ly or their vir­u­lence fac­tors or metabo­lites can get ex­po­sure to ei­ther cen­tral cir­cu­la­tion or get ex­po­sure to some of the com­po­nents of the ner­vous sys­tem that line the gut. The phys­i­o­log­i­cal re­sponse of the ner­vous sys­tem can be­come path­o­gen­ic.”

The goal is to repli­cate what they’ve al­ready done in IBD, where Ar­ti­zan’s 12 em­ploy­ees, work­ing with ex­ter­nal col­lab­o­ra­tors, had ze­roed in on a bug that’s heav­i­ly coat­ed with IgA, elu­ci­dat­ed its mech­a­nism and fig­ured out that it’s drug­gable by both small mol­e­cules and an­ti­bod­ies. Be­hind that, there are two oth­er bac­te­r­i­al strains they’d like to tar­get — ones that they be­lieve are se­cret­ing vir­u­lence fac­tors that in­duce in­flam­ma­tion and cause ul­cer­a­tion.

To­geth­er, ac­cord­ing to Rosen, these three strains are the cul­prit for half of all IBD cas­es.

“And so we be­lieve that for the pa­tients who will ben­e­fit from our ap­proach, it could ac­tu­al­ly be cu­ra­tive and restora­tive for their gut and the in­tegri­ty of their gut,” he added.

It would open the door for a pre­ci­sion med­i­cine ap­proach that’s been pop­u­lar­ized in on­col­o­gy to be ap­plied in IBD, with im­pli­ca­tions for pa­tient se­lec­tion in clin­i­cal tri­als. Once they de­clare a lead drug can­di­date lat­er this year and start plan­ning to en­ter the clin­ic at the end of 2022, Ar­ti­zan ex­pects to be able to screen pa­tients for the spe­cif­ic bac­te­r­i­al strain and vir­u­lence fac­tor they’re tar­get­ing. That way, they’d need much small­er tri­als to show an ef­fect.

By then, Ar­ti­zan will like­ly have raised a Se­ries B; Rosen ad­mits that the pan­dem­ic had thrown a wrench in­to their fundrais­ing plans, push­ing them in­to this in­ter­im step.

But he’s still op­ti­mistic, not­ing that the com­pounds gen­er­at­ed in the IBD pro­gram could be di­rect­ly ap­plied to oth­er dis­eases, there­by speed­ing things up. Af­ter proof-of-con­cept, Ar­ti­zan has al­so lined up a deal with Brii Bio to pick up de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion in Chi­na.

“We’re still ac­tive­ly look­ing for ad­di­tion­al part­ners in oth­er ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas,” he said, in­clud­ing on­col­o­gy, meta­bol­ic dis­or­ders and liv­er dis­ease.

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Kyodo via AP Images)

Take­da flesh­es out CNS pact with pep­tide drug­mak­er, set­ting aside $3.5B in fu­ture mile­stones

One of a suite of drugmakers looking to reinvest in the neuroscience space, Takeda has been aggressive in signing on new partners to help build up its pipeline in that space. But sometimes the best partner is the one you already have.

Takeda will set aside $3.5 billion in future milestones and an undisclosed upfront payment to build out its drug discovery deal with Japanese peptide conjugate maker PeptiDream, adding neurodegeneration to the partnership’s list of CNS targets, the companies said Tuesday.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Michael Henderson, BridgeBio CBO

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb catch­es the SHP2 wave in a new col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with Bridge­Bio

Once considered “undruggable,” the phosphatase enzyme SHP2 has seen recent interest from a suite of Big Pharmas, including AstraZeneca, Amgen, Novartis and Merck. Now Bristol Myers Squibb is getting in on the action, with a deal to pair its PD-1 superstar Opdivo with BridgeBio’s SHP2 inhibitor for difficult-to-treat cancers.

BMS and BridgeBio took the wraps off the non-exclusive, co-funded collaboration early Tuesday morning. The “catalyst,” BridgeBio CBO Michael Henderson said, was last year’s virtual JP Morgan conference, where the companies met to discuss early preclinical results they were seeing between SHP2 and immuno-oncology therapies.