Tim Harkness, Unchained Labs CEO

The Car­lyle Group shells out $435M for con­trol­ling stake in vac­cine, gene ther­a­py ser­vices com­pa­ny

The Car­lyle Group has put a tar­get on life sci­ences in re­cent years, look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to take con­trol­ling stakes in promis­ing firms. Af­ter shelling out near­ly half-a-bil­lion dol­lars last year on a one-fifth stake in an In­di­an CD­MO, the DC in­vestors have their eyes set on a com­pa­ny spe­cial­iz­ing in vac­cine and gene ther­a­py ser­vices.

Car­lyle shelled out $435 mil­lion to ac­quire more than 90% of Un­chained Labs, a six-year-old Cal­i­for­nia-based firm, from Dan­ish as­set man­ag­er No­vo Hold­ings and VC firms TPG Biotech and Canaan Part­ners.

The com­pa­ny has 170 em­ploy­ees, and ex­pects to gen­er­ate $75 mil­lion in rev­enue this year, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease. In Oc­to­ber, Un­chained launched its gene ther­a­py tool Stun­ner, a plat­form de­signed to give re­searchers a speedy read­out on AAV cap­sid con­cen­tra­tion and vi­a­bil­i­ty. In Jan­u­ary, it launched a mR­NA vac­cine ap­pli­ca­tion on Stun­ner that mea­sures the size dis­tri­b­u­tion of lipid nanopar­ti­cles and the to­tal amount of mR­NA at the same time.

In a press re­lease, CEO Tim Hark­ness said:

The Un­chained team has solved a ton of prob­lems for re­searchers over the past few years, but we are just be­gin­ning to scratch the sur­face of the bi­o­log­ics and gene ther­a­py op­por­tu­ni­ty. I am thrilled to wel­come Car­lyle as our new part­ner! They have the team, the vi­sion, the con­vic­tion, the ex­pe­ri­ence, and the cap­i­tal to help us ac­cel­er­ate or­gan­ic and in­or­gan­ic growth and re­al­ize our full po­ten­tial. I have nev­er been more op­ti­mistic about our fu­ture and I am tru­ly ex­cit­ed about join­ing Car­lyle for the next part of our jour­ney.

Hark­ness did not re­spond to an in­ter­view re­quest by press time.

The com­pa­ny has grown by more than 30% year over year, ac­cord­ing to Car­lyle man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Robert Schmidt, and the in­vest­ment was made out of the $18.5 bil­lion Car­lyle Part­ners VII fund.

At the start of April, Un­chained an­nounced an­oth­er gene ther­a­py and vac­cine ap­pli­ca­tion dubbed Big Tu­na, that fo­cus­es on the buffer ex­change, con­cen­tra­tion and clean-up of AAVs and lipid nanopar­ti­cles.

Car­lyle bought 20% of CD­MO Pi­ra­mal back in the sum­mer of 2020, in a deal that brought $490 mil­lion in cash, and ac­quired a ma­jor­i­ty stake in health re­search net­work TriNetX. The com­pa­ny is lean­ing on Un­chained’s R&D and dig­i­ti­za­tion, and hint­ed at ex­pan­sion, as Schmidt said that they hope to ac­cel­er­ate the com­pa­ny’s “ag­gres­sive growth plans.”

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Kyodo via AP Images)

Take­da flesh­es out CNS pact with pep­tide drug­mak­er, set­ting aside $3.5B in fu­ture mile­stones

One of a suite of drugmakers looking to reinvest in the neuroscience space, Takeda has been aggressive in signing on new partners to help build up its pipeline in that space. But sometimes the best partner is the one you already have.

Takeda will set aside $3.5 billion in future milestones and an undisclosed upfront payment to build out its drug discovery deal with Japanese peptide conjugate maker PeptiDream, adding neurodegeneration to the partnership’s list of CNS targets, the companies said Tuesday.

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Michael Henderson, BridgeBio CBO

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb catch­es the SHP2 wave in a new col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with Bridge­Bio

Once considered “undruggable,” the phosphatase enzyme SHP2 has seen recent interest from a suite of Big Pharmas, including AstraZeneca, Amgen, Novartis and Merck. Now Bristol Myers Squibb is getting in on the action, with a deal to pair its PD-1 superstar Opdivo with BridgeBio’s SHP2 inhibitor for difficult-to-treat cancers.

BMS and BridgeBio took the wraps off the non-exclusive, co-funded collaboration early Tuesday morning. The “catalyst,” BridgeBio CBO Michael Henderson said, was last year’s virtual JP Morgan conference, where the companies met to discuss early preclinical results they were seeing between SHP2 and immuno-oncology therapies.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.