Steffen Schuster, ITM CEO

Ra­dio­phar­ma re­mains hot as Ger­many's ITM rais­es $109M to ad­vance neu­roen­docrine can­cer pro­gram

The world of ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has been heat­ing up over the last few years, and Thurs­day saw an­oth­er com­pa­ny fo­cused on the field pull in a new nine-fig­ure raise.

Ger­many’s ITM, or Iso­topen Tech­nolo­gien München, scored a $109 mil­lion round of loan fi­nanc­ing to push for­ward its pre­ci­sion on­col­o­gy pipeline and fund late-stage de­vel­op­ment for its lead pro­gram. As part of the agree­ment, the loan will con­vert to shares in the event of fu­ture fi­nan­cial or cor­po­rate trans­ac­tions, ITM said.

Be­hind ra­dio­phar­ma is a con­cept sim­i­lar to that of an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates. Rather than a drug pay­load be­ing de­liv­ered to a spe­cif­ic tar­get, it’s a ra­dioac­tive mol­e­cule or iso­tope that’s trans­port­ed to where it needs to go. And it’s usu­al­ly not an an­ti­body per­form­ing the de­liv­ery, but pep­tides or oth­er types of mol­e­cules.

In ITM’s case, they have de­vel­oped their own ther­a­peu­tic ra­dioiso­tope called Lutetium-177, CEO Stef­fen Schus­ter told End­points News, which emits a low amount of ra­dioac­tive en­er­gy. Their lead pro­gram com­bines this mol­e­cule with an edotreotide com­po­nent, which tar­gets re­cep­tors in neu­roen­docrine cells that have gone awry as a re­sult of the can­cer.

Where­as AD­Cs have to be in­ter­nal­ized, the ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals on­ly need to bind to the tu­mor sur­faces, Schus­ter said. ITM’s can­di­dates func­tion as what he calls a high­ly-pre­cise “cage,” trap­ping the ra­dionu­clide with­in the tar­get­ing mol­e­cule that can then bind to the tu­mor sur­face. The can­di­date — whose full name is N.c.a. 177Lu-Edotreotide — is cur­rent­ly in a Phase III tri­al for gas­troen­teropan­cre­at­ic neu­roen­docrine tu­mors.

Schus­ter is keep­ing his cards close to the vest re­gard­ing da­ta read­outs, but not­ed that they’re “pret­ty far” in the 300-per­son study.

Sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est from in­vestors and Big Phar­ma com­pa­nies have heat­ed up the space re­cent­ly, most no­tably from a hand­ful of ac­qui­si­tions by No­var­tis. There was the Ad­vanced Ac­cel­er­a­tor Ap­pli­ca­tions buy­out from France back in 2017, giv­ing the phar­ma gi­ant its ra­dio­phar­ma plat­form and Luthera for $3.9 bil­lion.

Then came the En­do­cyte ac­qui­si­tion in 2018, where the for­mer­ly small biotech turned a $12 mil­lion li­cens­ing agree­ment in­to a deal with No­var­tis. The drug in­volved there was Lu-PS­MA-617, a ra­dioiso­tope tar­get­ing prostate-spe­cif­ic mem­brane anti­gen, or PS­MA, com­mon­ly found in metasta­t­ic prostate can­cer. No­var­tis shelled out $2.1 bil­lion to get its hand on that drug af­ter En­do­cyte hus­tled it in­to Phase III.

“We see oth­er com­pa­nies in the same space as part­ners and less as com­peti­tors,” Schus­ter told End­points. “One thing we have in com­mon with them is more — ‘fight’ is the wrong word — but we want to demon­strate that our ther­a­pies are bet­ter than some of the chemos which are re­al­ly bad for the pa­tients.”

More re­cent­ly, the biotechs Rayze­Bio and Ak­tis se­cured hefty rais­es from promi­nent in­vestors, sig­nal­ing a fur­ther ap­petite for the po­ten­tial be­hind these ther­a­pies. Rayze­Bio has tal­lied $150 mil­lion over two fund­ing rounds, in­clud­ing from an Oc­to­ber launch, while Ak­tis se­cured $72 mil­lion from a syn­di­cate led by MPM Cap­i­tal.

Oth­er play­ers like Fu­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Clo­vis are al­so an­gling for mar­ket en­try, with the for­mer so­lid­i­fy­ing an IPO last June for $212.5 mil­lion.

Where ITM hopes to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it­self is through its man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. ITM had been con­vinced of the ef­fec­tive­ness of these drugs since its found­ing in 2004, Schus­ter said, but there sim­ply hadn’t been enough sup­ply of ra­dionu­clides. By mak­ing their own drugs, and al­so sell­ing the nec­es­sary com­po­nents to oth­er phar­ma com­pa­nies, ITM is shoot­ing to be a leader in the field on two fronts.

“The Lutetium-177, from our stand­point, is go­ing to be the work­horse for ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals for the next 10 years,” Schus­ter said. “We were the ones who start­ed from 2004 on mak­ing this avail­able on scale in big quan­ti­ties to every­body. Not just us, but we sup­ply who was in­ter­est­ed, so we have been in­stru­men­tal over the last [sev­er­al] years to cre­ate this in­dus­try be­cause of the sup­ply of ra­dionu­clides.”

ITM’s Thurs­day raise was led by Pet­ri­chor Health­care Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment. Fur­ther terms of the deal be­yond de­tails of the con­vert­ible loans were not dis­closed.

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

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US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

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FDA spells out the rules and re­stric­tions for states seek­ing to im­port drugs from Cana­da

The FDA is offering more of an explanation of the guardrails around its program that may soon allow states to import prescription drugs in some select circumstances from Canada, but only if such imports will result in significant cost reductions for consumers.

While the agency has yet to sign off on any of the 5 state plans in the works so far, and PhRMA’s suit to block the Trump-era rule allowing such imports is stalled, the new Q&A guidance spells out the various restrictions that states will have to abide by, potentially signaling that a state approval is coming.

Simba Gill, CEO of Evelo Biosciences

While down 87% YOY, Evelo gets Flag­ship and oth­ers to in­fuse new cap­i­tal for come­back hope

Just four years after Flagship spinout Evelo Biosciences went public in an IPO worth $85 million, the biotech has seen its share price tank from $13 a share this time last year (ultimately reaching a peak of over $17) to now under $1.50. And today, it looks like Flagship still thinks the fledging biotech, in a down market, is still worth something after initial pre-IPO backing from the likes of Google’s GV, Celgene, Mayo Clinic and Alexandria Venture.

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Peter Thompson, Terremoto Biosciences interim CEO

For­mer Prin­cip­ia team looks to shake up co­va­lent small mol­e­cules again, this time at 'earthquake' scale

Terremoto Biosciences goes back a long ways, in a sense, to about a dozen years ago when Principia Biopharma was founded by UCSF professor Jack Taunton. Peter Thompson initially helmed the biotech.

The company helped expand covalent small molecule inhibitors beyond oncology and into autoimmune disease by targeting cystine. But that amino acid is uncommon in a lot of proteins, offering fewer drug targets than, say, lysine, which is present in most proteins of interest. So, over the years, Taunton went back to the drawing board to check out that second amino acid.

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at the World Economic Forum (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP Images)

All about ac­cess: Pfiz­er moves to a non-prof­it mod­el for drug sales in 45 low­er-in­come coun­tries

Leading the way to increase access to cheaper drugs worldwide, Pfizer said Wednesday it will provide all current and future patent-protected medicines and vaccines available in the US or EU on a not-for-profit basis to about 1.2 billion people in 45 lower-income countries.

Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda are the first five countries to sign on to this accord, which will also seek to blaze new paths for quick and efficient regulatory and procurement processes to reduce the usual delays in making new medicines and vaccines available in these countries.

Almirall is tapping artificial intelligence on behalf of its sales force for insights and efficiencies. (via Shutterstock)

Almi­rall rolls out sales rep ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sys­tem, cut­ting pre-call prep and 'wind­shield time'

Dermatology specialty pharma Almirall is making its sales reps smarter. Not with extra training or educational courses, but instead with artificial intelligence tools.

It began a soft launch of a sales rep AI and machine learning platform it calls Polaris last August in one of its 7 US coverage regions. The platform from Aktana gathers information from across Almirall internal sources and external ones – such as claims and prescribing data – to generate insights for reps. Now, instead of spending hours prepping for a sales call, Polaris can generate details about a physician’s preferences, past behaviors and prescription habits for reps in minutes, said Almirall head of commercial operations Vincent Cerio.

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