Sofinno­va Ven­tures ups the ante - again - as it clos­es in on $650M biotech fund

Sofinno­va Ven­tures is close to cap­ping off a new $650 mil­lion biotech fund. Ear­li­er in the week the Sil­i­con Val­ley-based VC group post­ed an SEC fil­ing not­ing that it has round­ed up $595.5 mil­lion for Sofinno­va Ven­ture Part­ners X.

This 10th fund is al­ready well ahead of the $500 mil­lion Sofinno­va raised for its 9th fund back in the sum­mer of 2014. And it will be sub­stan­tial­ly big­ger than fund 8, which raised $440 mil­lion. James Healy is the gen­er­al part­ner.

Fund X marks just the lat­est ex­am­ple of the steady stream of in­vest­ment cash that con­tin­ues to flow in U.S. biotech cir­cles. With the rate of new IPOs slow­ing dra­mat­i­cal­ly in H1, there has been a slight drop in ven­ture fi­nanc­ings in Q2 in the US. Pos­si­bly that has some­thing to do with a re­duced de­mand for crossover cash to fund rounds just ahead of an IPO. But the mon­ey on tap still far ex­ceeds the av­er­ages of the 5 years ahead of 2015’s record-break­ing pace.

In re­cent times Sofinno­va has been a busy play­er in biotech. It con­tributed to a $40 mil­lion Se­ries A to launch a new biotech called Iterum Ther­a­peu­tics, fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing a new an­tibi­ot­ic, back in March. A year ear­li­er, there was a $72.5 mil­lion round for Edge Ther­a­peu­tics, when it was on the edge of a Phase III tri­al for a drug to treat brain he­m­or­rhages linked to aneurysms. Its ex­ten­sive port­fo­lio of biotech com­pa­nies in­cludes Spark, Prothena and aTyr.

Like the oth­er big play­ers in biotech VC cir­cles, Sofinno­va has been able to take ad­van­tage of the long line­up of IPOs that pushed de­vel­op­ers in­to pub­lic mar­kets. The gene ther­a­py play­er Au­dentes Ther­a­peu­tics was the lat­est ex­am­ple of that, go­ing pub­lic in Ju­ly. It al­so has some far-flung in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Merus, a Dan­ish biotech which went pub­lic in May.

Sofinno­va Ven­tures is not to be con­fused with Paris-based Sofinno­va Part­ners. The two once op­er­at­ed as one years ago, but have long since bro­ken up. They still work to­geth­er, though, from time to time, join­ing up on some of the same biotech syn­di­cates.

Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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Ver­sant de­buts Ridge­line's start­up #4, armed with $30M and al­ter­na­tive TCR cell ther­a­pies for sol­id tu­mors

For all the iterations and advances in TCR therapies for cancer, any experimental treatments involving T cell receptors share one trait: By definition, they only recognize antigens presented as peptides on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on cells.

Versant reckons it’s time to expand the arsenal. With $30 million in initial funding, its Ridgeline Discovery Engine in Switzerland has been working on a non-peptidic approach that it says has tumor-agnostic potential, especially in solid tumors. They’ve named it Matterhorn, after a Swiss mountain as they did with the three other companies that have emerged from the Basel-based incubator.

Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA qui­et­ly pulls plug on IL-6 drugs; BioN­Tech and Fo­s­un be­gin mR­NA tri­al

IL-6 inhibitors showed some early promise in potentially treating Covid-19 patients, but recent trial flops have dashed hopes. Now it appears BARDA has officially pulled the plug.

The HHS office’s website has quietly updated to reflect that it is “no longer supporting product development” for Covid-19 in both Actemra (tocilizumab) and Kevzara (sarilumab), dealing a blow to the Roche and Regeneron/Sanofi drugs. This all but assures that IL-6 drugs repurposed to treat Covid-19 are essentially dead in the water.

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CF Foun­da­tion, Long­wood team on new in­cu­ba­tor for com­pa­nies with cut­ting-edge CF treat­ments

Nine months after launching a $500 million hunt for a cure for cystic fibrosis, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation said it will use a portion of those funds to do something it has never done before: help launch new companies.

The CF Foundation, whose venture philanthropy efforts helped fund Vertex’s line of powerful CF drugs, is teaming with Longwood Fund to create a CF incubator. The incubator will identify new companies with platforms or technologies that can be applied in the rare genetic condition. The partners can then finance early development in exchange for a commitment from the companies to focus on applications in cystic fibrosis.

Kiersten Stead, John Hamer (DCVC Bio)

Deep tech, round 2: DCVC Bio bags $350M fund to chase the tip of the life sci­ence spear

It took one trip from San Francisco to Vancouver for Kiersten Stead and her DCVC Bio crew to feel confident about throwing their weight — and cash — behind AbCellera.

CEO Carl Hansen’s academic background and the potential of the platform, which combined machine vision and robotics with microfluidics, were promising. But the site visit sealed the Series A deal, where DCVC was the lead and only investor.

No­var­tis says Kym­ri­ah reach­es pri­ma­ry end­point in new PhII, al­though num­bers still to come

The race to develop CAR-T therapies has died down since Novartis’ Kymriah and Gilead’s Yescarta first crossed the finish line, though Tecartus also recently received approval. But the companies continue to expand their drugs’ applications, with Novartis preparing to conclude a new Phase II.

Interim data announced by the Swiss pharma show that Kymriah met its primary endpoint of complete response rate in treating patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma, the second-most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Based on preliminary trial findings, Kymriah had received RMAT designation from the FDA in April for r/r follicular lymphoma.

Ab­b­Vie shrugs off $134M cash deals, quit­ting a neu­ro R&D pact with Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics on vec­tor­ized an­ti­body treat­ments

It’s the end of the road for Voyager Therapeutics’ collaboration with AbbVie on tau and alpha-synuclein vectorized antibody development.

In two deals spanning the last two years, AbbVie dropped more than $134 million upfront for Voyager’s preclinical R&D of vectorized antibody treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But Voyager says AbbVie is walking away now, without offering an explanation for why.