Sanofi teams with vir­tu­al re­al­i­ty biotech on oral Dupix­ent suc­ces­sor

Sanofi’s lat­est bet on a po­ten­tial Dupix­ent se­quel is a pre­clin­i­cal pill de­vel­oped by a British small-cap that spe­cial­izes in vir­tu­al re­al­i­ty chem­istry.

The French phar­ma rolled the dice Mon­day on an up to $500 mil­lion deal with C4X Dis­cov­ery. The mile­stone-heavy, $8 mil­lion up­front agree­ment will li­cense to Sanofi a small mol­e­cule the dis­cov­ery biotech de­vel­oped to block the cy­tokine IL-17 — a po­ten­tial oral treat­ment for pso­ri­a­sis and oth­er in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions.

Over the last 20 years, drug­mak­ers have de­vel­oped an as­sort­ment of ap­proved an­ti­bod­ies to block cy­tokines — mes­sen­ger mol­e­cules in the im­mune sys­tem — rang­ing from IL-1 to IL-33, re­sult­ing in treat­ments for in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions such as pso­ri­a­sis and atopic der­mati­tis. But all of these treat­ments have to be in­ject­ed, cre­at­ing a huge med­ical and mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ty for any­one who de­vel­ops a pill ver­sion.

Sanofi has par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in such a drug, hav­ing re­lied on the mega-block­buster IL-4/IL-13 block­er Dupix­ent to float its bal­ance over the last three years. They’ve al­ready in­vest­ed in a hand­ful of po­ten­tial oral fol­low-ups, in­clud­ing a RIPK1 block­er from Im­mune De­sign and a pro­tein degra­da­tion drug from Kymera. Both are now in Phase I.

The new mol­e­cule goes af­ter IL-17, the same cy­tokine that Eli Lil­ly’s ap­proved pso­ri­a­sis drug Taltz tar­gets. Taltz is an in­jectable, but Sanofi will have ri­vals; Leo Phar­ma and DiCE Mol­e­cules are both near­ing the clin­ic with their own oral IL-17 block­ers.

The newest ad­di­tion to its port­fo­lio comes from a com­pa­ny that’s brought a unique spin to com­pu­ta­tion­al drug dis­cov­ery since it launched out of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­ches­ter in 2008. They re­ly on a vir­tu­al re­al­i­ty pro­gram cus­tom-built to al­low med­i­c­i­nal chemists to vi­su­al­ize and con­struct new drugs.

Clive Dix

The re­sult has been a se­ries of spo­radic deals over the years, in­clud­ing with Take­da, Evotec and the now-dis­graced opi­oid-de­vel­op­er In­di­v­ior, with whom they brought an an­ti-ad­dic­tion mol­e­cule in­to the clin­ic. Late­ly, they’ve fo­cused on in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­or­ders, team­ing in Feb­ru­ary with Sano Ge­net­ics and Ben­evel­on­tAI to study in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease and ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis.

“While an­ti­body ther­a­pies have demon­strat­ed the po­ten­tial of IL-17 in­hi­bi­tion in the gen­er­a­tion of high­ly ef­fec­tive treat­ments, the in­jectable route means many pa­tients cur­rent­ly do not have ac­cess to the med­i­cines that can change their lives,” C4X CEO Clive Dix said in a state­ment. “We be­lieve that our small mol­e­cule pro­gramme has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate high val­ue, ef­fi­ca­cious and con­ve­nient oral IL-17 ther­a­peu­tics for this large mar­ket.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Rahul Singhvi, Resilience CEO

A Bob Nelsen start­up turns to Har­vard to help sharp­en its tech, in­spir­ing first spin­out

One of Bob Nelsen’s latest projects is headed to Harvard.

Resilience, a company started with the goal of establishing itself as a “one-stop-shop” for companies looking to scale manufacturing, including for hard-to-develop cell and gene therapies, is less than a year old. Friday, it announced a five-year R&D deal with Harvard University that includes $30 million to develop biologics, including vaccines, nucleic acids and cell and gene therapies.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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Susan Galbraith speaking at Endpoints News' virtual EUBIO21 summit

Imfinzi/treme­li­mum­ab com­bo scores As­traZeneca an­oth­er OS win — this time in liv­er can­cer

Is the tide turning on AstraZeneca’s battered PD-L1/CTLA4 combo?

A single priming dose of the experimental tremelimumab, followed by Imfinzi every four weeks, beat Nexavar (sorafenib) in helping a group of liver cancer patients live longer in a Phase III study, the company reported, meeting the primary endpoint.

Specifically, the two drugs extended overall survival for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma who had not received prior systemic therapy and were not eligible for localized treatment.

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