Philipp Spycher, Araris CEO

Promis­ing bet­ter link­er tech to ADC field, Araris has 'very, very am­bi­tious' plans for the clin­ic

A cou­ple months af­ter rais­ing CHF 2.5 mil­lion ($2.76 mil­lion) in ini­tial seed fund­ing, one-year-old Araris Biotech is top­ping off the round with an­oth­er CHF 12.7 mil­lion ($14 mil­lion).

The Paul Scher­rer In­sti­tute and ETH Zurich spin­out now has CHF 15.2 mil­lion to work with, and CEO Philipp Spy­cher has big plans. He hopes to bring one of the com­pa­ny’s an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates (ADC) to the clin­ic by late 2022 or ear­ly 2023. “It’s very, very am­bi­tious, but we are very op­ti­mistic that we ac­tu­al­ly can make it,” he said.

AD­Cs have been around for “quite some time,” Spy­cher said. They con­sist of three parts: a drug pay­load, an an­ti­body and a link­er mol­e­cule that bridges the two to­geth­er. They’re de­signed to de­liv­er po­tent drugs to a de­sired tis­sue — for ex­am­ple, a chemother­a­py agent to a tu­mor. How­ev­er, the link­er can be un­sta­ble, or even “fall off,” Spy­cher said.

“And this is where we come in,” he added. Araris is work­ing on a sta­ble, uni­ver­sal link­er that can at­tach any off-the-shelf an­ti­body with any pay­load, with­out the need for mod­i­fi­ca­tion.

“Com­pa­nies, they spend mil­lions on iden­ti­fy­ing the prop­er an­ti­bod­ies. And then when you… need to mod­i­fy this an­ti­body in or­der to at­tach to the pay­load, this is what com­pa­nies re­al­ly don’t want to do,” Spy­cher said. The “beau­ty of the tech­nol­o­gy,” he added lat­er, is that the AD­Cs can be gen­er­at­ed “very eas­i­ly,” cut­ting de­vel­op­ment costs and time.

As for the tar­gets? “Stay tuned,” Spy­cher said. He ex­pects more in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the com­pa­ny’s can­di­dates to be re­leased lat­er this year.

The ADC field has seen a resur­gence of play­ers over the last few years, who join some long­time res­i­dents like Seagen (you may still re­mem­ber it as Seat­tle Ge­net­ics) and — you guessed it — ADC Ther­a­peu­tics.

Last year, the FDA grant­ed ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for Pad­cev, an ADC de­vel­oped by Astel­las and Seagen for adults with lo­cal­ly ad­vanced or metasta­t­ic urothe­lial can­cer who pre­vi­ous­ly re­ceived a PD-1/L1 in­hibitor and a plat­inum-con­tain­ing chemo. And back in Sep­tem­ber, Mer­ck struck a $1.6 bil­lion deal to de­vel­op Seagen’s oth­er ADC, ladi­ratuzum­ab ve­dotin. In May, ADC Ther­a­peu­tics hit Nas­daq with a $233 mil­lion pub­lic de­but.

“To­day, there are nine an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates ap­proved by the FDA but many of them can­not be dosed high enough to elic­it ef­fi­ca­cy due to sys­temic tox­i­c­i­ty of­ten caused by link­er in­sta­bil­i­ty or het­eroge­nous dis­tri­b­u­tions of the pay­load. The Araris tech­nol­o­gy ad­dress­es these lim­i­ta­tions and of­fers a nov­el and in­no­v­a­tive ap­proach to bring bet­ter ther­a­pies to pa­tients in need,” Do­minik Es­ch­er, a man­ag­ing part­ner at Pure­os Bioven­tures and new mem­ber of Araris’ board of di­rec­tors, said in a state­ment.

The most re­cent seed fund­ing was led by Pure­os, with a hand from 4BIO Cap­i­tal, btov Part­ners, Redalpine, VI Part­ners and Schroder Ad­veq.

“It’s a very young com­pa­ny and I think we are pro­gress­ing very well and can at­tract in­ter­est from large phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies, and al­so from in­vestors,” Spy­cher said.

The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, 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.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

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Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

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An Ar­ray co-founder re-emerges as CEO of a small aca­d­e­m­ic spin­out, look­ing to re­make an old class of can­cer drugs

Tony Piscopio hadn’t worked as a bench scientist in years when, around 2011, he got put in touch with a team at the University of Colorado trying to revitalize an old approach to treating cancer.

Piscopio, who had co-founded Array Biopharma before heading to South Korea to launch a new company, was back in the states, unattached and intrigued. He founded a three-person company with two professors, Xuedong Liu and Gail Eckhardt, and while they worked on the biology side, he returned to his old chemist chair and began drawing up potential compounds on a computer, along with manufacturing processes to make them. Outsourcing companies synthesized or analyzed the results.

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Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

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