Bel­gium's liv­er-fo­cused stem cell ther­a­py de­vel­op­er Promethera rais­es $44M+ in lat­est round

Bet­ting on its stem cell ther­a­py for end-stage liv­er dis­ease, Bel­gium-based Promethera Bio­sciences has got €39.7 mil­lion (about $44.4 mil­lion) in the bank to de­vel­op the drug as an al­ter­na­tive to of­ten hard-to-pro­cure trans­plants.

Es­tab­lished in 2009, Promethera’s lead drug is an ex­per­i­men­tal stem cell ther­a­py called He­paStem for pa­tients with a dead­ly syn­drome called acute-on-chron­ic liv­er fail­ure, or ACLF, for whom trans­plants are the on­ly ex­ist­ing res­cue treat­ment. De­rived from hu­man liv­ers, the ther­a­py is for­mu­lat­ed us­ing mes­enchy­mal stem cells (MSCs) re­plete with liv­er mark­ers and liv­er fea­tures. At the In­ter­na­tion­al Liv­er Con­gress last month, Promethera pre­sent­ed da­ta from an on­go­ing dose-es­ca­la­tion Phase IIa study, which showed the treat­ment is safe and sug­gest­ed “trends in ef­fi­ca­cy.”

“The hope is to de­vel­op the tech­nol­o­gy as an al­ter­na­tive to liv­er trans­plan­ta­tion in ACLF pa­tients — not all of them are get­ting trans­plants be­cause a lot of the pa­tients are al­co­holics,” com­pa­ny chief John Tchelin­ger­ian said in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

John Tchelin­ger­ian

“Our cells have these nat­ur­al fea­tures — they are com­ing from the liv­er and go­ing back in­to the liv­er — af­ter their in­tra­venous ad­min­is­tra­tion in pa­tients. They are pro­duc­ing high­ly po­tent fac­tors that are nec­es­sary for liv­er bal­ance and liv­er main­te­nance…these fac­tors are tai­lored to act specif­i­cal­ly on liv­er cells and re­pair the le­sion or act against the in­flam­ma­tion oc­cur­ring in the liv­er.”

In 2016, Promethera ac­quired the as­sets of Durham-based Cynotet, who had over a decade of ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing with US-based or­gan pro­cure­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions (OPOs). This es­tab­lished in­fra­struc­ture makes Promethera the sec­ond port of call for the OPOs — if the liv­er is non-trans­plantable, Tchelin­ger­ian said.

Once the do­na­tion is pro­cured — the liv­er is processed at a GMP-com­pli­ant US Promethera fa­cil­i­ty, which pro­duces a liv­er cell sus­pen­sion that is en­riched with he­pa­to­cytes — this con­sti­tutes the start­ing ma­te­ri­als to pro­duce He­paStem.  This sus­pen­sion is put in­to sealed bags, frozen and shipped to the com­pa­ny’s Bel­gium fac­to­ry, where He­paStem is then for­mu­lat­ed and cryo-pre­served, he ex­plained. “The process takes about two months — to pro­duce a batch of bil­lions of stem cells from a sin­gle bag that con­tains a few hun­dred mil­lions cells. We have many runs per year. From one liv­er to­day — we can treat about 300 to 350 pa­tients suf­fer­ing from ACLF.”

“We’re the op­po­site of the CAR-Ts — who went from bench to pa­tient very quick­ly show­ing ef­fi­ca­cy…we have done the re­verse, I think that’s a very good way to bring our prod­ucts to the max­i­mum num­ber of pa­tients world­wide, be­cause we con­trol the full val­ue chain from the donor to the end prod­uct.”

No­var­tis’ $NVS pi­o­neer­ing CAR-T ther­a­py Kym­ri­ah was ap­proved amidst great fan­fare in 2017, but sales have suf­fered due to man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues. In the fourth quar­ter, the drug gen­er­at­ed a pal­try $28 mil­lion. How­ev­er, No­var­tis is do­ing its best to shore up man­u­fac­tur­ing, hav­ing bought cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­er Cell­for­Cure.

Promethera’s on­go­ing He­paStem Phase IIa will be com­plet­ed this sum­mer — and if the pos­i­tive find­ings are con­firmed, that da­ta will pro­vide the ground to launch a Phase IIb tri­al. That study is ex­pect­ed to kick off by the end of 2019, with about 200+ pa­tients and should take 2.5 years to com­plete.

Mean­while, Promethera in­tends to ini­ti­ate a NASH tri­al in very late-stage pa­tients some­time this year and will make a de­ci­sion on whether to pur­sue He­paStem in less-se­vere pa­tients, based on the re­sults of oth­er NASH read­outs ex­pect­ed this year.

So far, the com­pa­ny has raised rough­ly €110 mil­lion — in­clud­ing the Tues­day se­ries D raise, which was co-led by new Japan­ese in­vestors Itochu and Shin­sei Cap­i­tal Part­ners.

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.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

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.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

UP­DAT­ED: With loom­ing ‘apoc­a­lypse of drug re­sis­tance,’ Mer­ck’s com­bi­na­tion an­tibi­ot­ic scores FDA ap­proval on two fronts

Merck — one of the last large biopharmaceuticals companies in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Wednesday said the FDA had sanctioned the approval of its combination antibacterial for the treatment of complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections.

To curb the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and maintain the efficacy of the therapy, Recarbrio (and other antibacterials) — the drug must be used to treat or prevent infections that are proven or strongly suspected to be caused by susceptible gram-negative bacteria, Merck $MRK said.

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