The next check­points? Im­muno-on­col­o­gy up­start looks to find new ways to un­leash T cells

With much of the re­search com­mu­ni­ty in on­col­o­gy fo­cused on T cell reg­u­la­tors like LAG-3 to fol­low up on CT­LA4 and PD-L1 in the hunt for new tar­gets to quell can­cer, a pair of in­ves­ti­ga­tors in Ger­many asked them­selves a sim­ple ques­tion.

If tu­mor cells ex­press PD-L1 to in­hib­it T cells, what else can be found on the sur­face of these cells that block T cells?

CEO Se­bas­t­ian Meier-Ew­ert

The ques­tion spurred them to be­gin an am­bi­tious tu­mor screen­ing pro­gram for new tar­gets. And their work has now in­spired a start­up, iOmx Ther­a­peu­tics, which has put to­geth­er a $44 mil­lion A round to back the first few years of pre­clin­i­cal work and at least one proof-of-con­cept study for a lead pro­gram.

MPM Cap­i­tal and Sofinno­va Part­ners co-led the A round, joined by Welling­ton Part­ners and Mer­ck Ven­tures.

At this stage, i/o has clear­ly emerged as the hottest field in drug re­search, in­spir­ing an ex­plo­sion of re­search projects and a long chain of deals that play out on a day-to-day ba­sis. So how do you po­si­tion a start­up as a po­ten­tial ground­break­er on next-gen check­point pro­grams amid all the ac­tion?

“The key is the re­al in­no­va­tion on the sci­ence side and the in­no­v­a­tive­ness of the tar­gets,” says CEO Se­bas­t­ian Meier-Ew­ert. In a num­ber of cas­es, there’s noth­ing in the lit­er­a­ture to sug­gest that some of their tar­gets be­ing test­ed in tis­sue sam­ples and mice are on the radar.

“Some of these tar­gets,” he adds, “we know that no one is work­ing on them, full stop.”

He should know. Meier-Ew­ert gave up his job as a man­ag­ing part­ner at MPM Cap­i­tal to take the lead as a full time CEO. And he chose iOmx af­ter get­ting a look at a lot of po­ten­tial projects. Now the small three-mem­ber staff in the Mar­tin­sried biotech hub in Mu­nich will be beefed up to 10 by the end of the year, on its way to 15-20 in the next few years.

Just don’t ask yet what his first new tar­gets are. This is a hot­ly com­pet­i­tive field, and iOmx wants to main­tain si­lence on its first pro­grams as the CEO sorts through the first round of part­ner­ing in­ter­est.

Co-founder Philipp Beck­hove did much of the foun­da­tion re­search while work­ing at the Ger­man Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter in Hei­del­berg, and is now at the RCI Re­gens­burg Cen­ter for In­ter­ven­tion­al Im­munol­o­gy. The com­pa­ny’s screen­ing plat­form was de­vel­oped by co-founder Nisit Khan­del­w­al, SVP of Re­search.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Kelly Martin, Radius Health CEO

VC firms take os­teo­poro­sis drug­mak­er Ra­dius Health pri­vate for al­most $900M

After attacks from activist investors and disappointing returns on share prices, Radius Health has now agreed to new ownership, a direction resulting in leaving the Nasdaq.

Radius Health, a biotech out of Massachusetts with one approved product in its arsenal, announced Thursday morning that it agreed to be acquired by two VC firms: Gurnet Point Capital and Patient Square Capital. The deal, worth around $890 million, will include debt assumption and the payout of $1 CVR per share for investors. And on top of that, OrbiMed is providing debt financing.