Sue Dil­lon, Karyn O'Neil steer fledg­ling Aro Bio­ther­a­peu­tics to $13M de­but — with J&J's bless­ing

Sue Dil­lon

When news first broke that R&D heavy­weights Sue Dil­lon and Karyn O’Neil left J&J to launch Aro Bio­ther­a­peu­tics, pre­cious lit­tle was known about the com­pa­ny ex­cept that it’s work­ing with a new class of an­ti­body al­ter­na­tives called Cen­tyrins. Ten months lat­er, the Philadel­phia-based biotech has fi­nal­ly pulled the cur­tain for a bet­ter look at its tech — and the team that has since come to­geth­er.

Karyn O’Neil

With a fresh $13 mil­lion in the bank, Aro is now in late-stage lead op­ti­miza­tion for a bi-spe­cif­ic Cen­tyrin that’s first be­ing test­ed for ad­vanced non-small cell lung can­cer. The sec­ond pro­gram — a Cen­tyrin-siR­NA con­ju­gate — al­so tar­gets can­cer, though Aro says its fo­cus spans oth­er “dev­as­tat­ing dis­eases.”

Derek Miller

“Cen­tyrins were con­ceived with the aim of sim­pli­fy­ing the com­plex­i­ties of an­ti­bod­ies,” Dil­lon, the CEO and for­mer glob­al im­munol­o­gy head at Janssen, said in a state­ment. “This has en­abled Aro sci­en­tists to rapid­ly cre­ate bi- and mul­ti-spe­cif­ic Cen­tyrins that are si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly op­ti­mized for po­tent an­ti-tu­mor ac­tiv­i­ty and for ef­fi­cient man­u­fac­ture in E. coli.”

Aro seems to be an in­trigu­ing mix of two sto­ries: the clas­sic Big Phar­ma to small biotech and the spin­out of a gi­ant’s in­ter­nal ven­ture unit.

Mark Lau­ren­zi

O’Neil’s team at Cen­tyrex, a Janssen group, were cred­it­ed with dis­cov­er­ing Cen­tyrin pro­tein ther­a­peu­tics. Aro owes its tech li­cense to Cen­tyrex (which al­so li­censed the Cen­tyrin plat­form to Fu­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Po­sei­da Ther­a­peu­tics for de­riv­a­tive us­es). John­son & John­son In­no­va­tion — JJDC pro­vid­ed the ini­tial in­vest­ment to get the start­up off the ground; Dil­lon and O’Neil have al­so tapped Mark Lau­ren­zi, a ven­ture leader there, to be Aro’s VP of fi­nance and op­er­a­tions.

Steven Nadler

But it is al­so clear that the fledg­ling biotech is be­gin­ning to map out a life in­de­pen­dent of J&J. Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb vet Steven Nadler is com­ing on board to lead dis­cov­ery and trans­la­tion­al re­search, while Derek Miller has been brought in as chief busi­ness of­fi­cer and head of cor­po­rate strat­e­gy af­ter play­ing sim­i­lar roles at Cela­tor, Genen­tech and Glax­o­SmithK­line. Aro has al­so found a home in Pen­no­va­tion Cen­ter, an in­cu­ba­tor backed by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia.

Aside from an in­ter­nal pipeline in on­col­o­gy and im­munol­o­gy, Aro will be seek­ing part­ner­ships for ap­pli­ca­tions of its tech in the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and mus­cles, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

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.”

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.