Peter Kolchinsky (RA Capital)

RA Cap­i­tal kicks off third VC fund as Pe­ter Kolchin­sky and Ra­jeev Shah bank $880M

RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, one of the pre­mier health­care in­vest­ment man­agers, is back with an­oth­er fund to shep­herd the next wave of life sci­ences in­no­va­tions.

RA closed its third “Nexus” fund at $880 mil­lion, the firm an­nounced Wednes­day morn­ing, as a means to sup­ple­ment its in­vest­ments in pri­vate com­pa­nies. Like the pre­vi­ous two Nexus funds, the goal of Nexus 3 will be to work in tan­dem with RA’s ever­green fund to in­vest in ther­a­peu­tics, di­ag­nos­tics and oth­er ar­eas in life sci­ences.

“In the last few years, we’ve be­come even more ac­tive in di­ag­nos­tics, de­vices, tools, vac­cines, and oth­er as­pects of health­care be­yond ther­a­peu­tics, all the while re­main­ing high­ly ac­tive in ther­a­peu­tics,” man­ag­ing part­ner Pe­ter Kolchin­sky told End­points News in an email. Kolchin­sky added he ex­pects the fund will par­tic­i­pate in new deals through the end of 2022.

Ra­jeev Shah

Kolchin­sky and Ra­jeev Shah, the two who run the show at RA, have man­aged 218 in­vest­ments in pri­vate com­pa­nies since 2012, in­clud­ing 128 that have since gone pub­lic through an IPO. The firm large­ly de­cides to in­vest in com­pa­nies that are an­tic­i­pat­ing the prob­lems of the fu­ture and work­ing on so­lu­tions.

If noth­ing is out there, RA will take ad­van­tage of the mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ty and launch a new com­pa­ny through its in­cu­ba­tor. But the fo­cus isn’t al­ways on get­ting a biotech through its pub­lic de­but.

“An IPO is sel­dom the defin­ing val­ue cre­ation event for most stocks, so we ex­pect to con­tin­ue to sup­port our com­pa­nies af­ter they go pub­lic, by pro­vid­ing coun­sel and of­ten by main­tain­ing a board seat,” part­ner Jake Sim­son said in a press re­lease.

The new fund comes about a year af­ter RA closed Nexus 2, which raised $461 mil­lion in Oc­to­ber 2020. Nexus 1, RA’s first such fund, got start­ed in Ju­ly 2019 with rough­ly $300 mil­lion.

Among the biotechs that have gar­nered RA Cap­i­tal’s sup­port in the last year are Janux Ther­a­peu­tics, which burst on­to the scene with a Mer­ck col­lab­o­ra­tion in ear­ly 2021 and saw RA Cap­i­tal lead its crossover round; Tyra Bio­sciences, which went pub­lic last month in a $173 mil­lion IPO; Icosavax, de­vel­op­ing its “soc­cer ball” VLPs and which al­so went pub­lic in Ju­ly; and GH Re­search, an Irish psy­che­delics com­pa­ny aim­ing to de­vel­op ther­a­pies from the drug col­lo­qui­al­ly known as “toad ven­om.”

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

No­var­tis' sec­ond at­tempt to repli­cate a stun­ning can­cer re­sult falls flat

Novartis’ hopes of turning one of the most surprising trial data points of the last decade into a lung cancer drug has taken another setback.

The Swiss pharma announced Monday that its IL-1 inhibitor canakinumab did not significantly extend the lives or slow the disease progression of patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer when compared to standard of-care alone.

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How Chi­na turned the ta­bles on bio­phar­ma's glob­al deal­mak­ing

Fenlai Tan still gets chills thinking about the darkest day of his life.

Three out of eight lung cancer patients who received a tyrosine kinase inhibitor developed by his company, Betta Pharma, died in the span of a month. Tan, the chief medical officer, was summoned to Peking Union Medical College Hospital, where the head of the clinical trial department told him that the trial investigators would be conducting an autopsy to see if the patients had died of the disease — they were all very sick by the time they enrolled — or of interstitial lung disease, a deadly side effect tied to the TKI class that’s been reported in Japan.

James Peyer, Cambrian CEO

Brent Saun­ders joins $100M Se­ries C for a com­pa­ny out to be the Bridge­Bio of ag­ing

About a year ago, James Peyer, a CEO and co-founder of the little known longevity biotech Cambrian Biopharma, was trying to find some R&D talent last year when he met with more than a bit of experience in that department: David Nicholson, the former R&D chief of the erstwhile pharma giant Allergan.

It turned out Nicholson already had an interest in Peyer’s field. In their Allergan days, he and COO Brent Saunders held weekly meetups where they tried to figure out how to take the company’s dominance in aesthetics — which, until recently, was often what people meant by anti-aging science — and expertise with more traditional drug development, and use it to make drugs that extend people’s lifespan.

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As pres­sure to share tech­nol­o­gy mounts, BioN­Tech se­lects Rwan­da for lat­est vac­cine site

BioNTech’s first mRNA-based vaccine site in Africa will call Rwanda home, and construction is set to start in mid-2022, the company announced Tuesday at a public health forum.

The German company signed a memorandum of understanding, after a meeting between Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Daniel Ngamije, Senegal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall, and senior BioNTech officials. Construction plans have been finalized, and assets have been ordered. The agreement will help bring end-to-end manufacturing to Africa, and as many as several hundred million doses of vaccines per year, though initial production will be more modest.

No­var­tis dumps AveX­is pro­gram for Rett syn­drome af­ter fail­ing re­peat round of pre­clin­i­cal test­ing

Say goodbye to AVXS-201.

The Rett syndrome gene therapy drug made by AveXis — the biotech that was bought, kept separate, then renamed and finally absorbed by Novartis into its R&D division — has been dropped by the biopharma.

In Novartis’ third quarter financial report, the pharma had found that preclinical data did not support development of the gene therapy into IND-enabling trials and beyond. The announcement comes a year after Novartis told the Rett Society how excited it was by the drug — and its potential benefits and uses.

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Katie Fanning, Mozart Therapeutics CEO

Mozart Ther­a­peu­tics makes its of­fi­cial de­but, jump­ing in­to the hot Treg R&D field with some big-name in­vestors back­ing it

Treg cells have been getting more and more attention recently among autoimmune specialists. There’s been Jeff Bluestone’s Sonoma, the $157 million launch of GentiBio this summer and Egle Therapeutics — which launched just last week — to name a few.

Now, there’s a new Treg player jumping in that wants to distinguish itself in the market: Mozart Therapeutics. Today, the biotech is emerging from stealth in its official debut with a $55 million Series A — with a bunch of A-list Big Pharma names on board a syndicate led by ARCH.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

With San­doz con­tin­u­ing to drag on No­var­tis, Vas Narasimhan says he may fi­nal­ly be ready for a sale or spin­off

After years of rehab work aimed at getting Sandoz in fighting trim to compete in a market overshadowed by declining prices, CEO Vas Narasimhan took a big step toward possibly selling or spinning off the giant generic drug player.

The pharma giant flagged plans to launch a strategic review of the business in its Q3 update, noting that “options range from retaining the business to separation.”

Analysts have been poking and prodding Novartis execs for years now as Narasimhan attempted to remodel a business that has been a drag on its performance during most of his reign in the CEO suite. The former R&D chief has made it well known that he’s devoted to the innovative meds side of the business, where they see the greatest potential for growth.

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FDA is much worse than its reg­u­la­to­ry peers at proac­tive­ly dis­clos­ing da­ta, re­searchers find

The European Medicines Agency and Health Canada continue to outpace the FDA when it comes to proactively releasing data on drugs and biologics the agency has reviewed, leading to further questions of why the American agency can’t be more transparent.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, Yale and other academic lawyers and researchers found that between 2016 and April 2021, the EMA proactively released data for 123 unique medical products, while Health Canada proactively released data for 73 unique medical products between 2019 and April 2021. What’s more, the EMA and Health Canada didn’t proactively release the same data on the same drugs. In stark contrast, the FDA in 2018 only proactively disclosed data supporting one drug that was approved that year.

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