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.”

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Kyodo via AP Images)

Take­da flesh­es out CNS pact with pep­tide drug­mak­er, set­ting aside $3.5B in fu­ture mile­stones

One of a suite of drugmakers looking to reinvest in the neuroscience space, Takeda has been aggressive in signing on new partners to help build up its pipeline in that space. But sometimes the best partner is the one you already have.

Takeda will set aside $3.5 billion in future milestones and an undisclosed upfront payment to build out its drug discovery deal with Japanese peptide conjugate maker PeptiDream, adding neurodegeneration to the partnership’s list of CNS targets, the companies said Tuesday.

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Michael Henderson, BridgeBio CBO

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb catch­es the SHP2 wave in a new col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with Bridge­Bio

Once considered “undruggable,” the phosphatase enzyme SHP2 has seen recent interest from a suite of Big Pharmas, including AstraZeneca, Amgen, Novartis and Merck. Now Bristol Myers Squibb is getting in on the action, with a deal to pair its PD-1 superstar Opdivo with BridgeBio’s SHP2 inhibitor for difficult-to-treat cancers.

BMS and BridgeBio took the wraps off the non-exclusive, co-funded collaboration early Tuesday morning. The “catalyst,” BridgeBio CBO Michael Henderson said, was last year’s virtual JP Morgan conference, where the companies met to discuss early preclinical results they were seeing between SHP2 and immuno-oncology therapies.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.