James Li (JW)

Teamed up with Lyell, Juno/WuXi joint ven­ture files IPO bet­ting on Chi­na's CAR-T fu­ture

JW Ther­a­peu­tics got its start on the back of CAR-T tech from Juno Ther­a­peu­tics, a joint ven­ture bank­ing on the promise of mar­ry­ing cut­ting-edge Amer­i­can tech­nol­o­gy with WuXi AppTec’s state-of-the-art process de­vel­op­ment and late-stage clin­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture in Chi­na. Four years lat­er, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with a Juno co-founder’s new start­up is ce­ment­ing a bridge to the pub­lic mar­ket.

Lyell has grant­ed JW ex­clu­sive Chi­na rights to two CAR-T pro­grams tar­get­ing AFP and GPC3, anti­gens ap­plic­a­ble broad­ly across sol­id tu­mors, the com­pa­nies an­nounced last week. JW not­ed in its IPO fil­ing on the Hong Kong stock ex­change that it’s al­so nabbed rights to the T-cell an­ti-ex­haus­tion func­tion­al­i­ty.

“Sub­stan­tial” mile­stones and roy­al­ty pay­ments aren’t due un­til the first Lyell ther­a­py is ap­proved in JW ter­ri­to­ry.

Cheng Liu

The col­lab­o­ra­tion fol­lows a deal with Eu­re­ka Ther­a­peu­tics, a Cal­i­for­nia-based part­ner of both Juno and Lyell, through which JW ac­quired Syra­cuse — Eu­re­ka’s Chi­nese sub­sidiary — and its un­der­ly­ing tech plat­form. Eu­re­ka CEO Cheng Liu joined the JW board in hopes of join­ing forces to build the lead­ing cell ther­a­py com­pa­ny in Chi­na.

“Eu­re­ka still keep their in­de­pen­dence out­side Chi­na, they will do their own things,” JW chief James Li said at the time. “But in Chi­na we com­bine their ear­ly dis­cov­ery pow­er with our late-stage de­vel­op­ment and, even­tu­al­ly we are launch­ing our prod­uct next year, com­mer­cial ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

While the terms went undis­closed, JW now re­veals that the ac­qui­si­tion was val­ued at $105 mil­lion.

Both the Lyell and Eu­re­ka pacts are ex­plic­it­ly fo­cused on sol­id tu­mors, ini­tial­ly start­ing out in he­pa­to­cel­lu­lar car­ci­no­ma.

“One thing we’ve been think­ing hard in the past cou­ple years is how we can get in­to the sol­id tu­mor space, which is ab­solute­ly — to me, it’s the fu­ture of cell ther­a­py,” Li told End­points News.

Be­ing one of the pi­o­neers along­side Fo­s­un Kite and Leg­end, he said, has al­lowed JW to think ahead of new­er ri­vals both in terms of es­tab­lish­ing the best prac­tices and think­ing ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion.

It’s not done with the deal spree. JW not­ed that it’s plan­ning to use parts of the IPO pro­ceds to ex­e­cute its op­tions on a cou­ple of  off-the-shelf nat­ur­al killer cell ther­a­py can­di­dates from Tai­wan’s Ace­po­dia, tar­get­ing HER2 and an­oth­er undis­closed tar­get.

Reg­u­la­tors at the Na­tion­al Med­ical Prod­ucts Ad­min­is­tra­tion have ac­cept­ed its NDA for rel­ma-cel, the lead CD19-tar­get­ing CAR-T ther­a­py de­vel­oped from Juno’s pro­gram. The ini­tial in­di­ca­tion is third-line dif­fuse large B cell lym­phoma — with mul­ti­ple oth­er blood can­cers lined up be­hind it.

Be­hind that there’s a BC­MA pro­gram for which JW plans to file an IND in the first half of 2021, JW wrote in its IPO ap­pli­ca­tion.

Over the years it’s raised $190 mil­lion in ven­ture fund­ing, and pre­vi­ous me­dia re­ports has sug­gest­ed it’s seek­ing to raise $200 mil­lion to $300 mil­lion in the pub­lic de­but. As is stan­dard on HKEX, JW hasn’t pen­cilled in any es­ti­mates.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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