Proven­tion Bio inks Chi­na deal for au­toim­mune pro­gram; Ky­owa Kirin re­leas­es pos­i­tive topline da­ta in atopic der­mati­tis

Proven­tion Bio is mak­ing its way in­to Chi­na with a new deal an­nounced Wednes­day.

The Red Bank, NJ-based biotech has agreed to a deal with a sub­sidiary of Huadong Med­i­cine to work on PRV-3279, a bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­body-based mol­e­cule tar­get­ing CD32B and CD79B, in Chi­na, Hong Kong, Macau and Tai­wan. Proven­tion will get $6 mil­lion up­front and up to $11.5 mil­lion in fund­ing over the next three years to cov­er ex­pect­ed re­search costs.

The deal al­so in­cludes reg­u­la­to­ry and com­mer­cial mile­stones of up to $172 mil­lion. Proven­tion will re­tain all rights to PRV-3279 in the rest of the world.

Proven­tion’s the­o­ry be­hind the ex­per­i­men­tal drug is to en­gage both the CD32B and CD79B re­cep­tors to trig­ger in­hi­bi­tion of B cell func­tion and sup­press the im­mune sys­tem from at­tack­ing its own body. It’s cur­rent­ly in a Phase I tri­al for sys­temic lu­pus ery­the­mato­sus, a chron­ic au­toim­mune dis­or­der char­ac­ter­ized by an over­ac­ti­va­tion of B cells.

Wednes­day’s news comes a few months be­fore Proven­tion’s lead pro­gram teplizum­ab is due for a PDU­FA de­ci­sion in Type 1 di­a­betes at the FDA. The biotech picked up the drug in 2018, eight years af­ter it was dumped by Eli Lil­ly. — Max Gel­man

Ky­owa Kirin pro­gram meets pri­ma­ry in AD study

Japan­ese phar­ma Ky­owa Kirin has new pos­i­tive da­ta out Thurs­day for mod­er­ate to se­vere atopic der­mati­tis.

The com­pa­ny’s KHK4083 pro­gram met the pri­ma­ry end­point, with all co­horts achiev­ing sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance in per­cent change from base­line in Eczema Area and Sever­i­ty In­dex (EASI) af­ter 16 weeks. Ky­owa al­so not­ed the pro­gram passed in two key sec­ondary end­points, and saw fur­ther im­prove­ment in ef­fi­ca­cy af­ter week 16.

KHK4083 is a mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body tar­get­ing OX40 hop­ing to sup­press in­flam­ma­to­ry re­spons­es in a range of au­toim­mune dis­eases. Ky­owa says OX40 plays an im­por­tant role in main­tain­ing T cell pro­lif­er­a­tion and sur­vival, and this study helps val­i­date it as an ap­pro­pri­ate tar­get for AD.

Full re­sults will be shared “in the near fu­ture,” Ky­owa R&D chief Yoshi­fu­mi Torii said in a state­ment. — Max Gel­man

Chi­nese AI play­er gets $30M Se­ries A

NeoX Biotech an­nounced last week it had raised $30 mil­lion in a Se­ries A fund­ing round.

The Chi­nese com­pa­ny plans to use funds main­ly to en­hance its AI drug R&D plat­form, ac­cel­er­ate pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and ex­pand in­ter­na­tion­al busi­ness co­op­er­a­tion. NeoX says its tech can help op­ti­mize the drug dis­cov­ery process and make it more ef­fi­cient.

“We are fo­cus­ing on cut­ting-edge drug modal­i­ties, such as mul­ti­spe­cif­ic mol­e­cules and bi­o­log­ics,” CEO Michael Chen said in a state­ment. “We use our next-gen­er­a­tion neo­Plat­form to de­sign new drug modal­i­ties and to tru­ly ‘think out of the box’, in an ef­fort to ad­dress un­drug­gable tar­gets.”

The fi­nanc­ing was co-led by Sky9 Cap­i­tal and 5Y Cap­i­tal (for­mer­ly known as Morn­ing­side Ven­ture Cap­i­tal), with par­tic­i­pa­tion from BAI Cap­i­tal and Ver­tex Ven­tures along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestors Vi­sion Plus Cap­i­tal and Se­quoia Cap­i­tal Chi­na. — Max Gel­man

Fred Hutch spin­out lands seed round for AI tech

Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter spin­out Ozette has nabbed a $6 mil­lion seed round to de­vel­op its AI plat­form de­signed to au­to­mate cell analy­sis.

The biotech, in­cu­bat­ed at the Allen In­sti­tute for Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI2), says its Im­mune Mon­i­tor­ing Plat­form can ex­tract in­fo from sin­gle-cell da­ta across in­stru­ments, ex­per­i­ments and dis­ease states, con­dens­ing a man­u­al, la­bor-in­ten­sive process from months to hours.

“We’ve spent a decade work­ing at Fred Hutch to cat­alyze high-di­men­sion­al com­pu­ta­tion­al sin­gle-cell analy­sis in acad­e­mia and in­dus­try. To­day we can see the com­po­si­tion of the im­mune sys­tem at a much high­er res­o­lu­tion,” Greg Fi­nak, CTO and co-founder, said in a state­ment. “This deep­er lev­el of in­sight is crit­i­cal to de­vel­op­ing ef­fec­tive dis­ease treat­ments with few­er side ef­fects and that is some­thing every­one can feel good about.”

The seed round was led by Madrona Ven­ture Group, with help from the Allen In­sti­tute and Vul­can Cap­i­tal. — Nicole De­Feud­is

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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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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Gala­pa­gos posts a safe­ty win for fil­go­tinib, but is it too lit­tle, too late?; Bio-Techne inks $320M mol­e­c­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics buy­out

Once a promising $725 million play in immunology, Gilead’s big bet on filgotinib effectively disintegrated in December when the drugmaker reworked its partnership with Galapagos. Now, Galapagos is sporting safety data that will come as a relief — but will it make a difference on filgotinib’s chances in the US?

In a study designed to compare filgotinib’s effect on sperm count with placebo, Galapagos’ JAK inhibitor saw fewer patients post a 50% or more reduction in sperm concentration after 13 weeks of treatment, according to data from the MANTA and MANTA-RAy studies unveiled Thursday.

In the lat­est big in­vest­ment in gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing, Bio­gen com­mits $200M to a ma­jor new fa­cil­i­ty in NC

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the only R&D effort of any consequence at Biogen belongs to aducanumab, its controversial Alzheimer’s drug. But behind the uproar around that drug, the big biotech has a full scale pipeline in play that includes a growing focus on developing gene therapies.

Now Biogen plans to build up the kind of manufacturing muscle that will give it an advantage in gaining FDA approvals — where CMC is always key — and then marketing them around the world.

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Eli Lil­ly claims a TKO in its long-run­ning ti­tle fight with No­vo Nordisk for the block­buster di­a­betes mar­ket — but there’s a hitch

Eli Lilly isn’t just gunning for a better diabetes drug in tirzepatide. They want to cut ahead of Novo Nordisk’s blockbuster rival Ozempic (semaglutide) on the obesity front as well. But a newly-claimed win in a head-to-head Phase III showdown over reducing A1C while shedding pounds — complete with clear evidence of superiority over the approved rival — could prove a tough sell right now.

Let’s start with the latest data from Lilly.

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In­tro­duc­ing End­points FDA+, our new pre­mi­um week­ly reg­u­la­to­ry news re­port led by Zachary Bren­nan

CRLs. 483s. CBER, CDER and RWE. For biopharma professionals, these acronyms command attention because of the fundamental role FDA plays in drug development. Now Endpoints is doubling down on regulatory coverage, and launching a weekly report focusing on developments out of White Oak, with analysis and insight into what it all means.

Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan. He joins Endpoints from POLITICO, where he covered pharma. Prior to that he was the managing editor for Regulatory Focus, a news publication from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck pulls Keytru­da in SCLC af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed nod. Is the FDA get­ting tough on drug­mak­ers that don't hit their marks?

In what could be an early shot in the battle against drugmakers that whiff on confirmatory studies to support accelerated approvals, the FDA ordered Bristol Myers Squibb late last year to give up Opdivo’s approval in SCLC. Now, Merck is next on the firing line — are we seeing the FDA buckling down on post-marketing offenders?

Merck has withdrawn its marketing approval for PD-(L)1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of what it describes as an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based, the company said Monday.

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Cedric Francois, Apellis CEO (Apellis)

Apel­lis joins the grow­ing num­ber of bio­phar­mas scrap­ping a failed Covid-19 pro­gram af­ter an ear­ly flop

The global pandemic set off a frenzy of R&D activity as biotechs around the world scrambled to see if they could come up with a new medication or vaccine to help fight back. But even as the mRNA standouts are highlighting the market El Dorado open to successful teams, the failures are starting to pile up.

Thursday afternoon it was Apellis’ $APLS turn to deep-six a new drug.

The biotech reports that their C3 therapy APL-9 had failed to move the needle on mortality when combined with standard of care, as compared to SOC alone.