Puretech-backed Karuna makes Nas­daq de­but with $89M IPO

Bet­ting on the po­ten­tial of two old­er drugs to fight Alzheimer’s and schiz­o­phre­nia — Boston-based Karuna Ther­a­peu­tics has priced its up­sized ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing in the mid­dle of the range, rais­ing gross pro­ceeds of about $89 mil­lion.

The com­pa­ny, which will de­but on the Nas­daq un­der the sym­bol “$KRTX” on Fri­day, is work­ing on the hy­poth­e­sis that a com­bi­na­tion of mus­carinic acetyl­choline re­cep­tor ag­o­nist xanome­line — an Eli Lil­ly $LLY castoff — and tro­spi­um chlo­ride, an FDA-ap­proved mus­carinic re­cep­tor an­tag­o­nist to­geth­er will make an adept an­tipsy­chot­ic.

Steven Paul Linkedin

Once up­on a time, star CNS re­searcher (and for­mer Voy­ager chief) Steven Paul was at Lil­ly, where he worked on xanome­line. The drug is de­signed to tar­get M1 and M4 re­cep­tors in the brain — but ad­verse events trig­gered by off-tar­get ef­fects soured the US drug­mak­er on the drug. Last Au­gust, he was one of the syn­di­cates of in­vestors in­clud­ing ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners and the Well­come Trust that backed Karuna.

Ex­ist­ing an­tipsy­chot­ic treat­ments work pri­mar­i­ly by in­hibit­ing D2 dopamine re­cep­tors. Mus­carinic re­cep­tor ag­o­nists emerged in the 1990s as a po­ten­tial al­ter­na­tive ap­proach for treat­ing psy­chosis —  but the de­vel­op­ment of such ther­a­peu­tics has been lim­it­ed by un­de­sir­able side-ef­fects that are trig­gered by the stim­u­la­tion of mus­carinic re­cep­tors in pe­riph­er­al tis­sues.

An­drew Miller Linkedin

Karuna — whose COO is MIT grad­u­ate An­drew Miller — con­tends that the ad­di­tion of tro­spi­um chlo­ride will counter the ad­verse event pro­file of xanome­line. The com­bined prod­uct,  dubbed KarXT, is de­signed to make a bee­line for mus­carinic re­cep­tors in the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and to ig­nore pe­riph­er­al tis­sues.

The lead ex­per­i­men­tal treat­ment is be­ing test­ed as a treat­ment for psy­chosis in a mid-stage study with schiz­o­phre­nia pa­tients — da­ta is ex­pect­ed by the end of the year. It is al­so in ear­ly-stage pro­grams for oth­er schiz­o­phre­nia symp­toms, Alzheimer’s-re­lat­ed psy­chosis and pain.

Oth­er drug­mak­ers have al­so been se­duced by the po­ten­tial of mus­carinic re­cep­tors. For in­stance, Al­ler­gan $AGN inked a $3.3 bil­lion deal to in-li­cense M1 and M4 tar­get­ed drugs from Hep­tares in the spring of 2016.

Less than a year af­ter rais­ing $42 mil­lion, PureTech-backed Karuna laid the ground­work for a $75 mil­lion IPO ear­li­er in June. Karuna orig­i­nal­ly filed to of­fer 4.4 mil­lion shares. On Thurs­day, the firm said it is of­fer­ing 5.6 mil­lion at $16, the mid­point of the $15 to $17 range.

So­cial im­age: Steven Paul, Karuna

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

New stan­dard of care? FDA hands Pfiz­er, Mer­ck KGaA an OK for Baven­cio in blad­der can­cer

The breakthrough therapy designation Pfizer and Merck KGaA notched for Bavencio in bladder cancer has quickly paved way for a full approval.

The PD-L1 drug is now sanctioned as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, applicable in cases where cancer hasn’t progressed after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Petros Grivas, the principal investigator of the supporting Phase III JAVELIN Bladder 100, called the approval “one of the most significant advances in the treatment paradigm in this setting in 30 years.”

Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Covid-19 roundup: Vac­cines will need to beat place­bo by 50% to qual­i­fy for FDA OK; UK tri­al drops Kale­tra

The FDA will set the bar for approving a Covid-19 vaccine at 50% efficacy, the Wall Street Journal reported, meaning any successful candidate will have to reduce the risk of coronavirus disease by at least half compared to placebo.

That requirement is part of guidance that the agency is set to release later today, laying out detailed criteria for vaccine developers — some of whom are eyeing an OK by the end of the year, in line with expectations at Operation Warp Speed.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Joseph Kim, Inovio CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

Pos­i­tive Covid-19 vac­cine da­ta? New mouse study? OWS in­clu­sion? Yep, but some­how, the usu­al tid­bits from In­ovio back­fire

You don’t go more than 40 years in biotech without ever getting a product to market unless you can learn the art of writing a promotional press release. And Inovio captures the prize in baiting the hook.

Tuesday morning Inovio, which has been struggling to get its Covid-19 vaccine lined up for mass manufacturing, put out a release that touched on virtually every hot button in pandemic PR.

There was, first and foremost, an interim snapshot of efficacy from their Phase I program for INO-4800.

On a roll, Mer­ck blazes through a new seg­ment of the bio­mark­er trail

Merck has notched an approval for using Keytruda to treat a biomarker-based subset of first-line colorectal cancer patients with unresectable or metastatic tumors, as the pharma giant continues to find new niches for its blockbuster PD-1 star.

The OK is significant in a number of ways. Not only does it build on an accelerated approval for all tumors characterized as microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR); it also marks the first single treatment for colorectal cancer that doesn’t contain chemotherapy.