Six years af­ter a spec­tac­u­lar de­but, Warp Dri­ve Bio is pow­er­ing down and hand­ing its 'un­drug­gable' am­bi­tions over to Rev­o­lu­tion

Close to six years af­ter Third Rock launched Warp Dri­ve Bio with a big-mon­ey col­lab­o­ra­tion from Sanofi and am­bi­tious plans to drug the un­drug­gable with new tech out of Har­vard, the biotech has reached the end of the line as an in­de­pen­dent op­er­a­tion. 

To­day Warp Dri­ve is dis­patch­ing its pipeline to an­oth­er Third Rock start­up com­pa­ny, Rev­o­lu­tion Med­i­cines, with the CEOs of both com­pa­nies in­sist­ing that this is a win-win for all in­volved, though Warp Dri­ve nev­er ac­tu­al­ly made the leap in­to the clin­ic.

Lau­rence Reid

Pressed on the point, Warp Dri­ve CEO Lau­rence Reid con­cedes that every de­ci­sion like this has its “up­sides and down­sides,” but he in­sists that the de­ci­sion by the board rep­re­sents the best path for­ward for in­vestors as well as the med­i­cines they have been toil­ing on since 2012.

Warp Dri­ve was a biotech child of its time. The com­pa­ny boast­ed of a ”ge­nom­ic search en­gine” that “en­ables hid­den nat­ur­al prod­ucts to be re­vealed on the ba­sis of their dis­tinc­tive ge­nom­ic sig­na­ture.” And with the likes of Greg Ver­dine — who left to do 2 new star­tups — and George Church out of Har­vard be­hind it, there were plen­ty of be­liev­ers.

What­ev­er the two CEOs say to­day about all the pos­i­tives be­hind the deal, any biotech com­pa­ny that goes six years with­out get­ting in­to the clin­ic — or an­nounc­ing plans to — is like­ly to get a thor­ough re­view from in­vestors. Reid, though, says that Third Rock and the oth­er in­vestors were will­ing to go back in­to a Se­ries B, the orig­i­nal plan for fi­nanc­ing the next step, be­fore the board set this new path out.

The fate of the 43 staffers?

Mark Gold­smith

That’s still to be de­cid­ed, says CEO Mark Gold­smith of Rev­o­lu­tion, which on­ly re­cent­ly un­der­went a tran­si­tion to on­col­o­gy af­ter aban­don­ing its ear­ly work on an an­ti-fun­gal. Ob­vi­ous­ly, he added, not every­one will make the jump from the East to the West Coast where Rev­o­lu­tion is based, and that in it­self will mean some re­duc­tion in staff.

The big Sanofi col­lab­o­ra­tions that were her­ald­ed in an­tibi­otics and on­col­o­gy? Those end­ed in 2017 and 2016, says Reid. And the lights went out on those part­ner­ships with­out any of the rah-rah that at­tend­ed their ar­rival.

Sanofi cur­rent­ly has 40% of the eq­ui­ty in Warp Dri­ve, with no rights to any of its prod­ucts.

How much is that worth af­ter the deal goes through, with Rev­o­lu­tion hand­ing out stock to in­vestors?

They aren’t say­ing.

The two oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tions that were formed with Glax­o­SmithK­line and Roche, which front­ed $87 mil­lion for the up­front and pre­clin­i­cal mile­stones? Con­tin­u­ing un­der re­view, to be de­cid­ed on lat­er, af­ter Rev­o­lu­tion’s ex­ec team “de­ter­mines its busi­ness strat­e­gy for the genome min­ing plat­form.”

Gold­smith al­so hit a va­ri­ety of up­beat notes about the deal, say­ing this would bring to­geth­er two high­ly com­ple­men­tary pipelines and al­low a more rapid de­vel­op­ment of the Warp Dri­ve as­sets.

Asked when the most ad­vanced Warp Dri­ve pro­gram could ex­pect to en­ter the clin­ic, Gold­smith replied that they aren’t pro­vid­ing time­lines.

 

Grow­ing ac­cep­tance of ac­cel­er­at­ed path­ways for nov­el treat­ments: but does reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proval lead to com­mer­cial suc­cess?

By Mwango Kashoki, MD, MPH, Vice President-Technical, and Richard Macaulay, Senior Director, of Parexel Regulatory & Access

In recent years, we’ve seen a significant uptake in the use of regulatory options by companies looking to accelerate the journey of life-saving drugs to market. In 2018, 73% of the novel drugs approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) were designated under one or more expedited development program categories (Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, Priority Review, and Accelerated Approval).ᶦ

Take­da swoops in to buy lit­tle biotech part­ner and its celi­ac drug poised to 'change stan­dard of care'

Having spent three years carefully grooming PvP Biologics and its drug for celiac disease, Takeda is happy enough with the proof-of-concept data to buy it all.

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Bio­gen touts new ev­i­dence from the gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny it wa­gered $800M on

A year ago, Biogen made a big bet on a small gene therapy company. Now they have new evidence one of their therapies could work.

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Fol­low­ing US, Chi­na hos­pi­tal ef­forts, Gilead plots its own PhI­II tri­als for close­ly watched Covid-19 drug

Gilead is launching its own Phase III trials of remdesivir, the repurposed antiviral that a WHO official called the “one drug right now we think may have real efficacy” against Covid-19 as the novel coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China ravages the world.

Announced just a day after the NIH and the University of Nebraska Medical Center registered their US-based trial online, Gilead’s program will comprise two studies enrolling around 1,000 patients beginning in March. They will recruit primarily in Asian countries but will also include patients from other locations with “high numbers of diagnosed cases,” the company said.

Mi­cro­bio­me Q&A: New study maps the vagi­na's 'op­ti­mal mi­cro­bio­ta' — and its im­pli­ca­tions for bio­phar­ma

The widely-held notion that the “optimal” vaginal microbiota is dominated by one strain of lactic-acid producing bacteria has now been challenged in a new paper, published in Nature Communications on Wednesday, which used advanced gene sequencing methods to map out the most comprehensive gene catalog of the human vaginal microbiome.

Things have changed in the more than 50 years since the concept of vaginal microbiota transplants was proposed and subsequently tainted by a Texas-based gynecologist who transplanted the vaginal fluid of women who had bacterial vaginosis into healthy females, suspecting he had isolated the bacteria responsible for the condition.

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In at least one life-sci hub, gen­der and di­ver­si­ty ini­tia­tives haven’t made a dent

Gender and racial diversity at the top of UK life science companies has hardly budged over the last seven years despite repeated advocacy efforts, according to a new report.

The report, from the recruiting firm Liftstream, found that 14.8% of directors on life sciences boards were women and 21.1% of top executives were women. That’s a modest bump from the 9.8% of directors and 18.1% of executives Liftstream identified in their last report from 2014. The percentage of women CEOs moved from 8% to 9.8%.

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Will a 'risk-of­f' mind­set has­ten cell ther­a­py M&A? Io­vance surges on buy­out chat­ter

Is it time for some cell therapy M&A?

Investors of Iovance Biotherapeutics certainly thought so, sending its stock $IOVA up as much as 40% after Bloomberg reported that the cancer-focused biotech is talking to potential buyers.

While 2019 saw a number of high-profile gene therapy company takeovers — led by Roche’s $4.3 billion bid of Spark as Astellas went for Audentes, Biogen snapped up Nightstar and Vertex absorbed Exonics — large players appeared to prefer partnering on the cell therapy front, particularly when it comes to cancer. Hal Barron put his weight behind Rick Klausner’s startup as he rebuilt GlaxoSmithKline’s cancer pipeline. Takeda turned to MD Anderson to license their natural killer cell therapy.

One less ri­val for Im­muno­vant, as Alex­ion aban­dons FcRn in­hibitor

Less than one year after Alexion parted with $25 million upfront to secure access to a second anti-FcRn asset, it is abandoning the experimental drug. The discontinuation, disclosed at the SVB Leerink Global Healthcare Conference in New York during a fireside chat, bodes well for rival Immunovant.

The drug (ABY-039), partnered for development with Sweden’s Affibody, was forsaken on the basis of early-stage data that was not viewed favorably, Baird and SVB Leerink analysts noted.

Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: NIH-part­nered Mod­er­na ships off its PhI-ready coro­n­avirus vac­cine can­di­date to a sea of un­cer­tain­ty

Off it goes.

Moderna has shipped the first batch of its mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 from its manufacturing facility in Norwood, Massachusetts, to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, for a pioneering Phase I study.

It’s a hectic race against time. In the 42 days since Moderna selected the sequence they would use to develop their vaccine — a record time, no less — the number of confirmed cases around the world has surged astronomically from a few dozen to over 80,000, per WHO and Johns Hopkins estimates.

The candidate that they came up with, mRNA-1273, encodes for a prefusion stabilized form of the spike protein, which gives the virus its crown shape and plays a key role in transmission. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Oslo-based group better known as CEPI, funded the manufacture of this batch.

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