Todd Harris and Daniel Bensen. Tyra

RA Cap­i­tal, Canaan help in­fuse $50M in­to Al­ta-in­cu­bat­ed biotech bat­tling ac­quired re­sis­tance to TKIs

Since Gleevec was ap­proved in 2001, over 40 oth­er ty­ro­sine ki­nase in­hibitors have come on­to the mar­ket to treat var­i­ous types of can­cer. But with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the class al­so came a surge of ac­quired re­sis­tance, where pa­tients’ tu­mors mu­tate around the drug tar­get and stop re­spond­ing to the ther­a­pies.

Tyra Bio, a Carls­bad, CA-based biotech “pur­pose built” to ad­dress that prob­lem, has just raised $50 mil­lion from Al­ta Part­ners, RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Box­er Cap­i­tal of Tavi­s­tock Group, and Canaan.

“It’s not en­tire­ly clear what type of ac­quired re­sis­tance might emerge re­al­ly un­til you get these drugs in­to pa­tients,” co-founder and CEO Todd Har­ris told End­points News. “In some in­stances, the first gen­er­a­tion drugs couldn’t have en­tire­ly pre­dict­ed what might come along.”

Bob More

But with some class­es of TKIs now in their third gen­er­a­tion, there is an in­creas­ing amount of clin­i­cal ev­i­dence and bet­ter tools to crunch them for in­sights in­to the pre­cise mu­ta­tions — in­sights that Tyra would take right back to the start of drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment. In the long run, the goal is for their drugs to not just be de­ployed when re­sis­tance emerges but to move to the front­line set­ting with the hope of a longer du­ra­tion of re­sponse.

Har­ris added that the strat­e­gy has shown some promise in ALK and EGFR, but re­mained tight-lipped about the ex­act tar­gets they are start­ing with, though it’s a safe bet they would first go af­ter the most well-known ones.

Daniel Bensen, COO and co-founder, will be steer­ing a small team along­side CSO Ronald Swan­son, CFO Es­ther van den Boom, and Robert Hud­kins, VP of chem­istry, as well as Jane Ar­bole­da, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of cell bi­ol­o­gy, to bring their first can­di­dates to the clin­ic. An army of biotechs are in the game, many fo­cus­ing on par­tic­u­lar nich­es with­in the vast TKI space. Tyra will be look­ing to out­pace some of them.

Ja­son Sheltzer of Cold Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­to­ry, William Hahn of Dana Far­ber, and Jef­frey Hager, for­mer­ly of Ideaya Bio, have come on board as sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­sors.

“Our strength is re­al­ly in a nim­ble and high­ly ex­pe­ri­enced drug dis­cov­ery and drug de­vel­op­ment team,” Har­ris said, lever­ag­ing tried and true tech­nolo­gies such as struc­tured-based drug de­sign, and patch­ing in self-built pre­clin­i­cal mod­els when­ev­er nec­es­sary.

Har­ris al­so co-found­ed what even­tu­al­ly be­came Si­en­na Bio­phar­ma, a skin drug de­vel­op­er that count­ed Arch Ven­tures and Part­ner Fund Man­age­ment as back­ers but nev­er­the­less was forced to file for Chap­ter 11 af­ter a bruis­ing tri­al fail­ure. The en­tre­pre­neur­ial les­son he learned: Fi­nance your com­pa­ny for the ups and downs along the biotech road.

Al­ta Part­ners, which in­cu­bat­ed Tyra, is ready for the long haul. The in­clu­sion of crossover firm RA Cap­i­tal al­so gives Har­ris more con­fi­dence that this one will stick. Each in­vestor in the Se­ries A is send­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the board: Bob More of Al­ta Part­ners, Jake Sim­son of RA Cap­i­tal, Sid Sub­ra­mo­ny of Box­er Cap­i­tal and Ni­na Kjell­son of Canaan. Mi­rati CMO Isan Chen and for­mer Gates foun­da­tion ex­ec Gilla Ka­plan are the oth­er two di­rec­tors.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.