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.

 

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation for a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month.

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Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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Tal Zaks. Moderna

The mR­NA uni­corn Mod­er­na has more ear­ly-stage hu­man da­ta it wants to show off — reach­ing new peaks in prov­ing the po­ten­tial

The whole messenger RNA field has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investor cash gambled on the prospect of getting in on the ground floor. And this morning Boston-based Moderna, one of the leaders in the field, wants to show off a few more of the cards it has to play to prove to you that they’re really in the game.

The whole hand, of course, has yet to be dealt. And there’s no telling who gets to walk with a share of the pot. But any cards on display at this point — especially after being accused of keeping its deck under lock and key — will attract plenty of attention from some very wary, and wired, observers.

“In terms of the complexity and unmet need,” says Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer, “this is peak for what we’ve accomplished.”

Moderna has two Phase I studies it wants to talk about now.

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It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

Two days after a fairly benign review from FDA staff, an independent panel of experts largely endorsed the efficacy and safety of Aimmune’s peanut allergy therapy, laying the groundwork for approval with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS).

Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

Ear­ly snap­shot of Ad­verum's eye gene ther­a­py sparks con­cern about vi­sion loss

An early-stage update on Adverum Biotechnologies’ intravitreal gene therapy has triggered investor concern, after patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) saw their vision deteriorate, despite signs that the treatment is improving retinal anatomy.

Adverum, on Wednesday, unveiled 24-week data from the OPTIC trial of its experimental therapy, ADVM-022, in six patients who have been administered with one dose of the therapy. On average, patients in the trial had severe disease with an average of 6.2 anti-VEGF injections in the eight months prior to screening and an average annualized injection frequency of 9.3 injections.

Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.