Saar Gill at ASCO 2017 via ASH on YouTube

Ris­ing Penn star Saar Gill gets fund­ing for a next-gen CAR-T start­up, adding a new weapon to the mix

Ear­li­er this month, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Saar Gill turned up at AS­CO to present new da­ta demon­strat­ing that a com­bi­na­tion of Im­bru­vi­ca with No­var­tis’ next-gen CAR-T CTL119 proved very ef­fec­tive in treat­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly lethal cas­es of chron­ic lym­pho­cyt­ic leukemia, wip­ing out all signs of the dis­ease in 8 of 9 treat­ment-re­sis­tant pa­tients en­rolled in an ex­plorato­ry study.

But Gill’s been par­tic­u­lar­ly busy on the CAR-T front, and not just in new re­search work. He’s al­so been en­list­ing some mar­quee in­vestors on a new start­up project that will aim at mak­ing a ma­jor new ad­vance in the field.

Close­ly in­volved with CAR-T head­lin­er Carl June in Penn’s pi­o­neer­ing work with No­var­tis, which is now rac­ing to­ward a like­ly first ap­proval, Gill’s start­up is promis­ing to com­bine the proven ef­fi­ca­cy of reengi­neered T cells with macrophages, an­oth­er weapon in the fight against can­cer that could add to the fire pow­er of the first CAR-Ts with a spe­cial fo­cus on a chal­leng­ing fron­tier: sol­id tu­mors.

“We hy­poth­e­sized ear­ly on that fo­cus­ing on dif­fer­ent ef­fec­tor cells, oth­er than T cells, might be more ef­fec­tive in try­ing to tack­le sol­id tu­mors, which has been a chal­lenge for T cell ther­a­pies. The in­nate bi­ol­o­gy drove us to try macrophages,” Gill says.

CAR-T’s first and best ap­pli­ca­tion has been cen­tered on liq­uid tu­mors, with some ma­jor ob­sta­cles to over­come in ex­pand­ing in­to sol­id tu­mors. Now Gill has some un­spec­i­fied sup­port in a new round led by Ab­b­Vie Ven­tures and Health­Cap with par­tic­i­pa­tion by Grazia Eq­ui­ty and IP Group.

Gill’s com­pa­ny is called CAR­MA — a play­ful ab­bre­vi­a­tion of the chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tors added to T cells in CAR-T along with macrophages — and it’s iden­ti­fied a lead drug called CAR­MA-0508.

“Macrophages can en­gulf and kill cells through the process of phago­cy­to­sis. By ge­net­i­cal­ly en­gi­neer­ing these cells with CARs, we can specif­i­cal­ly di­rect them to tu­mor cells, such as ovar­i­an can­cer cells,” says co-founder Michael Klichin­sky, a PhD can­di­date in the de­part­ment of sys­tems phar­ma­col­o­gy and trans­la­tion­al ther­a­peu­tics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, in a pre­pared state­ment. “Our pre-clin­i­cal da­ta sup­port our hy­poth­e­sis and show tar­get­ed, se­lec­tive and ef­fec­tive killing of sol­id tu­mor cells by CAR­MA. In ad­di­tion, we ex­pect that CAR macrophages will prime a T cell im­mune re­sponse against the tu­mor.”

CAR­MA isn’t the on­ly new com­pa­ny to get start­ed out of Penn look­ing to play a big role in CAR-T’s sec­ond act. June al­so launched Tmu­ni­ty Ther­a­peu­tics, an­oth­er cell ther­a­py com­pa­ny, re­cruit­ing No­var­tis’ Us­man ‘Oz’ Azam to take the lead role at the com­pa­ny late last year.

Im­age: Saar Gill at AS­CO 2017 via ASH on YouTube

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

[via AP Images]

Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 60,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.