Sanofi turns to an up­start in the mR­NA field in lat­est at­tempt to quick­ly squelch a glob­al pan­dem­ic

You can add one more mes­sen­ger RNA pro­gram in the works for Covid-19 — and phar­ma gi­ant Sanofi is part­ner­ing on it, adding to its more tra­di­tion­al vac­cine ap­proach head­ed slow­ly but steadi­ly to the clin­ic.

David Loew Sanofi

Sanofi $SNY chose Trans­late Bio’s $TBIO mR­NA plat­form for the al­liance, hitch­ing a ride with an­oth­er biotech look­ing to dis­patch nu­cleotide se­quences en­cod­ed for anti­gens, or vi­ral pro­teins, that can kick up an im­mune re­sponse. New se­quenc­ing tech has giv­en these plat­forms a big leg up over old­er — and much slow­er — plat­forms that re­ly on eggs and cell cul­tures to re­li­ably dis­cov­er and de­liv­er the vi­ral pro­teins need­ed to safe­ly spur im­mune re­spons­es to prep them to re­pel a spe­cif­ic in­vad­er.

Sanofi Pas­teur, their big sub­sidiary en­gaged in this new ef­fort, knows all about how the old plat­form works and now hopes to use those in­sights to speed the Trans­late Bio pro­gram along. In a re­cent in­ter­view with End­points News’ Ja­son Mast, they de­scribed the race to a new vac­cine as some­thing of a tor­toise and hare sit­u­a­tion.

Now they want one of each.

“We be­lieve the more ap­proach­es we ex­plore, the bet­ter our like­li­hood of suc­cess in achiev­ing this goal,” said David Loew, glob­al head of vac­cines at Sanofi.

Ac­cord­ing to an SEC fil­ing, Trans­late isn’t get­ting an up­front for the deal and they plan to work out a roy­al­ty agree­ment lat­er.

Ron Re­naud

Trans­late and Sanofi — which ini­tial­ly al­lied on 5 in­fec­tious dis­ease pro­grams 2 years ago — are al­so al­ready plan­ning to build up new man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­i­ty through a con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion. Trans­late is helmed by CEO Ron Re­naud, who was re­cent­ly hit by a par­tial hold for one of their R&D pro­grams.

The mR­NA field’s Covid-19 ef­forts are led by Mod­er­na, which the NIH turned to in an ef­fort to see if they could de­vel­op and field a new vac­cine in record time. BioN­Tech and Cure­Vac are al­so at work on their own pro­grams.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, Mod­er­na had built up a full pipeline of mR­NA ther­a­pies — in­struct­ing cells to make a drug — be­fore shift­ing the spot­light square­ly on vac­cines. Their lead ef­fort was cen­tered on CMV, which has since been tem­porar­i­ly eclipsed by a 24/7 plan to com­bat coro­n­avirus as new cas­es and deaths swift­ly mount around the globe.

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

Bob Nelsen at the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH chief Bob Nelsen has $1.5B to prove 2 sim­ple points: ‘We’re in the most in­no­v­a­tive time ever’ and in­vestors are stay­ing

ARCH co-founder and managing director Bob Nelsen has a well known yen for the home run swing, betting big on potentially transformative meds and tech and the biotech teams he helps bring together. He thrives and bleeds on the cutting edge. And now Nelsen and the ARCH group have debuted 2 big funds to prove that this is the time for the best of biotech to shine — deadly pandemic be damned.

Two new funds, ARCH Venture Fund X and ARCH Venture Fund X Overage, gathered a combined $1.46 billion. And that’s a record. ARCH Venture Fund IX and ARCH Venture Fund IX Overage closed in 2016 with a combined $1.1 billion. ARCH Venture Fund VIII and ARCH Venture Fund VIII Overage closed in 2014 with a combined $560 million.

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UP­DAT­ED: A small, ob­scure biotech just won big with their IPO. In this mar­ket. Are you kid­ding me?

How could a small, largely unknown biotech that emerged from stealth mode just months ago with early-stage cancer programs jump onto Wall Street in the middle of a Category 6 financial hurricane and sail through with a $165 million IPO?

And what does that mean for the rest of the industry waiting to see just how much damage global lockdowns will wreak on clinical development?

The biotech is a company called Zentalis. The crew there nabbed an $85 million crossover round late last year — notably waiting 5 years before waving the numbers around to attract attention, according to my read of a FierceBiotech story. Perceptive joined in, but the syndicate was not in general the kind of marquee affair that gets tongues wagging.

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Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures co-leads $100M+ round for Chi­nese biotech and its late-stage lu­pus drug

Can a Chinese biotech deliver the first new lupus drug in decades? A high-profile group of VCs are betting on it.

Lilly Asia Ventures and Lake Bleu Capital are the co-headliners for RemeGen’s latest raise, which brought in more than $100 million. Hudson Bay Capital and Vivo Capital — which, like LAV, also invested in a pre-IPO round for Legend Biotech unveiled today — chimed in, as did Janchor Partners and OrbiMed.

Aaron Royston, venBio

In­vest­ing in the time of coro­n­avirus: the good, the bad and the hope­ful, as biotech VC firms close funds worth $3B

Apart from disrupting biopharma R&D and regulatory timelines, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably ravaged financial markets and eroded investor risk appetite. Investing in the time of coronavirus feels reckless, but if biotech venture funds are any indication, the time is ripe.

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GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala is one step clos­er to ap­proval in key chron­ic rhi­nos­i­nusi­tis pop­u­la­tion

Months after GSK’s Nucala cleared in a pivotal rare blood disorder study, the asthma biologic has scored in a late-stage trial in chronic rhinosinusitis patients with nasal polyps.

The British drugmaker on Friday disclosed data from the SYNAPSE study, which tested Nucala (also known as mepolizumab) against a placebo on top of standard-of-care in more than 400 patients, all of whom had a history of previous surgery (approximately one in three had ≥3 surgeries) and required surgery due to severe symptoms and bigger polyps.

Servi­er bags an an­ti­body spe­cial­ist in its lat­est on­col­o­gy M&A deal with plans to add the plat­form tech

Whatever Servier learned about Symphogen during their 2-year development alliance must have significantly whetted their appetite for an acquisition.

Paris-based Servier announced Friday that it has struck a deal to buy out the antibody expert. The acquisition comes 2 years after Servier acquired Shire’s cancer business for $2.4 billion. They’ve been working with Symphogen on a slate of programs, including some favs – PD-1, LAG3 and TIM3 — where they are looking to differentiate themselves from the more prominent drugs in these niches.

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GSK vac­cine chief heads for AIDS vac­cine ini­tia­tive; Pfiz­er en­lists Sue Desmond-Hell­mann to its board of di­rec­tors

→ Rip Ballou, who until very recently led vaccine research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, is joining the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to lead its USAID-funded ADVANCE program. The program uses a network of researchers and institutions in Africa to help develop a vaccine for HIV. Ballou had worked at GSK since 2010 and has led global vaccine R&D since 2015. Prior to that he held posts at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a different post at GSK, Medimmune, and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.  IAVI is led by Mark Feinberg, the former CSO of Merck Vaccines. 

Ahead of US IPO, Leg­end Biotech adds $150M, top-tier in­vestors to back CAR-T pipeline

Last month Nanjing Legend Biotech revealed that it sees, and was quietly planning for, a future as a public company in the US, separate but still tied to its former parent, Chinese CRO GenScript. It’s evidently a vision that enticed investors, drawing marquee names for a pre-IPO round.

The Series A fetched a whopping $150.5 million from Hudson Bay Capital Management, Lilly Asia Ventures, Vivo Capital, RA Capital Management and JJDC, the venture arm of J&J. The pharma giant has helped fund Legend’s CAR-T work with the $350 million upfront payment it handed over to partner on the lead BCMA program.

Drug dis­cov­ery in the age of coro­n­avirus

Developing new drugs is incredibly hard. That’s why, despite superhuman efforts from the industry, we’re still looking at 12-18 months minimum before we can realistically hope for a vaccine for Covid-19, and probably months before there’s a proven viable drug treatment.

But our increasing ability to begin to industrialize the drug discovery and development process through an engineering approach means that we have more hope for speeding up this process than ever before — and not just to defeat coronavirus, but to benefit the development of all new medicines in the future.