Sleuthy Google up­start Cal­i­co forges a rare biotech col­lab­o­ra­tion on ag­ing with No­var­tis-backed C4

Andy Phillips, C4

The elu­sive but wide­ly buzzed about Cal­i­co, a start­up bankrolled by Google to find new ther­a­pies for ag­ing, has hitched up with pro­tein de­gen­er­a­tion-fo­cused C4 Ther­a­peu­tics with plans to em­bark on a 5-year, cross coun­try re­search col­lab­o­ra­tion.

The deal an­nounce­ment is long on over­ar­ch­ing goals, such as a pre­clin­i­cal fo­cus on can­cer, among oth­er ar­eas, but with lit­tle in­sight in­to the num­bers or the work. And that’s just the way Cal­i­co likes to keep it, care­ful­ly cloak­ing its ac­tiv­i­ties more like an IT com­pa­ny than any av­er­age biotech.

We do know that the com­pa­nies will work to­geth­er on pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams, with Cal­i­co tak­ing charge of any clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment work that may emerge.

“I’m not shar­ing how many things are be­ing worked on,” says Andy Phillips, pres­i­dent and CSO at C4. The goal here is to take a num­ber of projects for tar­get­ed pro­tein degra­da­tion through IND stage, on to the clin­ic and even­tu­al­ly peo­ple.

But Cal­i­co is stay­ing but­toned up. Says Phillips: “We’ve agreed with Cal­i­co that we can’t com­ment on their be­half in re­gards to these types of things.”

Cal­i­co, of course, is the brain­child of Google’s Lar­ry Page, who’s been keen­ly in­ter­est­ed in tak­ing a new ap­proach in de­vel­op­ing drugs that will add to our life spans. He brought in one of the best teams in biotech, start­ing with Genen­tech leg­end Art Levin­son and fol­low­ing up with his long­time col­league Hal Baron.

The deal is in­tend­ed to be “high­ly col­lab­o­ra­tive,” says Phillips, com­ing on top of some ag­gres­sive growth over the past year that re­cent­ly in­clud­ed their 53rd (or 54th) em­ploy­ee. And Phillips ex­pects that num­ber to grow in­to the 60s by the end of the year.

C4 launched a lit­tle more than a year ago with a $73 mil­lion round led by Co­bro Ven­tures and in­clud­ing No­var­tis along with a $750 mil­lion part­ner­ship with Roche. They’ve been work­ing on small mol­e­cule binders — dubbed de­gron­imids — that can tar­get, de­stroy and clear dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins through the ubiq­ui­tin/pro­tea­some sys­tem.

C4 is ad­vanc­ing re­search work that Jay Brad­ner did on pro­tein degra­da­tion at Dana-Far­ber be­fore he took the high-pro­file head job at the No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­Med­ical Re­search, bet­ter known as NI­BR.

Cal­i­co, mean­while, is based in The Cove at Oys­ter Point all the way across the coun­try, a boom­ing biotech de­vel­op­ment that in­cludes biotechs like Cy­tomX and De­nali.

Over the four years since Cal­i­co launched, the com­pa­ny has been al­ly­ing it­self with some big labs. The Broad, The Buck, UCSF, and the Jack­son Lab­o­ra­to­ry have all signed on to do ba­sic bi­ol­o­gy re­search. But there have been few biotech al­liances, aside from a cou­ple of deals with low-pro­file com­pa­nies like QB3 and 2M.

Don’t ex­pect any com­ment from the stel­lar team at Cal­i­co, though. Like any Google start­up, mum’s the word.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.