Top sci­en­tists and BD ex­ecs craft Cul­li­nan, a $150 mil­lion R&D port­fo­lio shop fo­cused on can­cer

Close to six years ago, then Am­gen R&D chief Roger Perl­mut­ter told me he had been “car­ry­ing a torch for (CSO) Patrick Baeuer­le at Mi­cromet for a long time.” That ad­mi­ra­tion ex­plains why Perl­mut­ter was will­ing to pay more than a bil­lion dol­lars to buy Mi­cromet — where Baeuer­le was R&D chief — which even­tu­al­ly de­liv­ered the pi­o­neer­ing Blin­cy­to to the mar­ket.

Af­ter a stint at Am­gen, biotech be­ing the kind of project-fo­cused in­dus­try it’s be­come, Baeuer­le be­came a VC at MPM and a start­up mae­stro. And to­day he’s hav­ing a com­ing out par­ty for Cul­li­nan On­col­o­gy, an in­tense­ly project-ori­ent­ed biotech bankrolled with $150 mil­lion to set up a port­fo­lio of can­cer drugs to de­vel­op.

Owen Hugh­es

“It’s a hy­brid; a fund and an op­er­at­ing com­pa­ny,” says Owen Hugh­es, the CEO of Cul­li­nan and a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of MPM Cap­i­tal, which set the com­pa­ny up. The $150 mil­lion round was co-led by UBS On­col­o­gy Im­pact Fund (OIF) man­aged by MPM and F2 Ven­tures.

Hugh­es knows a thing or two about rais­ing mon­ey. He jumped to this new ven­ture from the biotech uni­corn Intar­cia, where he was un­til re­cent­ly head of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment dur­ing a stretch in which the com­pa­ny raised $1.8 bil­lion. That gave him time to re­fine a “the­o­ry of mod­ern port­fo­lio the­o­ry rel­a­tive to any sci­en­tif­ic plat­form.”

Cul­li­nan’s strat­e­gy is to gath­er to­geth­er large­ly ear­ly-stage can­cer drug as­sets — ei­ther from Baeuer­le’s mind or oth­er sources, such as acad­e­mia or plat­form com­pa­nies — and build up a set of 8 to 10 pro­grams that will be held un­der the um­brel­la group. The team will be charged with the re­search work, de­vel­op­ing these drugs through proof-of-con­cept or in­to Phase II, at which time they can start do­ing some deals and gen­er­at­ing re­turns for the lim­it­ed part­ners.

There are no wet labs at the Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech. Much of the de­vel­op­ment work is be­ing out­sourced. Costs con­tained. Re­turns max­i­mized and risk dis­trib­uted.

“We have no in­ten­tions to com­mer­cial­ize any of the as­sets,” says Hugh­es.

“We’ve looked at every biotech com­pa­ny in the last 15 years,” he adds. “There’s a huge chasm (un­der the Gilead lev­el) be­tween the haves and have nots.” Mar­gins are typ­i­cal­ly low, he says, with com­pa­nies in­vest­ing back in­to R&D.

Hugh­es thinks he and the small, 10-mem­ber team at Cul­li­nan can change those dy­nam­ics.

He and Baeuer­le have some well known tal­ent in their cor­ner.

Corinne Sav­ill

Brig­gs Mor­ri­son, the for­mer CMO at As­traZeneca and cur­rent CEO at Syn­dax, is a clin­i­cal ad­vis­er. Leigh Za­wel, yet an­oth­er se­nior re­searcher to come out of Big Phar­ma af­ter his most re­cent stint run­ning Cen­ters for Ther­a­peu­tic In­no­va­tion for Pfiz­er, is on board. Corinne Sav­ill jumped in from her job as head of BD and li­cens­ing for No­var­tis.

And Hugh­es plans to re­cruit one per­son to run each of the in-house pro­grams.

Cul­li­nan al­ready has three pro­grams, two from Baeuer­le and one from acad­e­mia, which he isn’t quite ready to dis­cuss in any de­tail. Each of these drugs they take on could cost $25 mil­lion to $30 mil­lion to get ready for the next deal.

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ue of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine

By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?

Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.

Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

Avalon Ventures chief Jay Lichter has a well-known yen for drug development programs picked up in academia. And what he found in Haoxing Xu’s lab at the University of Michigan pricked his interest enough to launch one of his umbrella biotechs in San Diego.
Xu’s work laid the foundation for Avalon to launch Calporta, which has been working on finding small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for lysosomal storage disorders. And that pathway, they believe, points to new approaches on major market neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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In­vestors could emerge from Neil Wood­ford de­ba­cle with £1B loss, in­ter­nal analy­sis re­veals

When Link Fund Solutions announced that it is closing Woodford Equity Income Fund permanently and kicking out Neil Woodford, it was implied that investors probably won’t get back everything they entrusted to the fund manager. But nobody knew just how much they would lose.

An internal analysis commissioned by Link suggested that the collective loss could amount to £1 billion — out of a fund last valued at £3.1 billion — Citywire has revealed.

GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala scores in rare blood dis­or­der study

GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Nucala, which received a resounding FDA rejection for use in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) last year, has shown promise in a rare blood disorder.

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Spe­cial re­port: Twen­ty ex­tra­or­di­nary women in bio­phar­ma R&D who worked their way to the top

What differentiates a woman leader in biopharma R&D from a man?

Not much, except there are fewer of them in senior posts. Data suggest women are not more risk-averse, family-oriented or less confident than their male counterparts — indeed the differences between the two sexes are negligible. But a glance at the top R&D positions in Big Pharma leaves little doubt that upward migration in the executive ranks of biopharma R&D is tough.

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FDA Vas­cepa re­view spot­lights new safe­ty sig­nals, pos­si­ble min­er­al oil spoil­er as Amarin hunts a block­buster ap­proval

An in-house FDA review of Amarin’s Vascepa raises a set of hurdles the biotech will have to clear if the biotech expects to get the long-awaited FDA approval that could set it on a path to superstar status. But it appears that Amarin has survived another potential setback without introducing a major new threat to its prospects.

The stakes don’t get much higher, with analysts saying a win this week for Amarin could lead to billions in new sales — provided the agency stamps it with an OK. And investors liked what they say in the FDA review this morning, bumping the stock $AMRN 17%.

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FDA puts Sol­id Bio’s lead gene ther­a­py pro­gram on hold — again — af­ter an­oth­er pa­tient is hurt by SGT-001

Solid Biosciences continues to be plagued by safety issues.

Close to 18 months after the gene therapy biotech was able to quickly shed an FDA hold on their lead Duchenne muscular dystrophy program for SGT-001, regulators have stepped back in to force another halt after another patient was hit hard by a set of serious adverse events remarkably similar to the first set.

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FDA slaps a hold on an AML tri­al as Mark­er scraps a fail­ing ovar­i­an can­cer pro­gram, sink­ing shares

The FDA has placed a hold on a Phase II AML trial from the small immuno-oncology biotech Marker Therapeutics. Marker disclosed the issue two weeks after responding to FDA concerns, adding it to the Q3 release Tuesday. The company also announced it was scrapping a Phase II ovarian cancer program it determined was unlikely to succeed.

The agency’s concern centers around two reagents used in manufacturing for their trial for acute myeloid leukemia patients who have received a stem cell transplant. The reagents are from third parties and not present in the final product, Marker said.

Eli Lil­ly-backed biotech grabs $100M to dis­patch an­ti­body-oligonu­cleotide con­ju­gates af­ter mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy

Hold up your hand. Make a fist. Now open it. And again.

If you can do it fully and with ease, then the proteins in your hand are likely working properly. If you can’t then they may not be. In people with myotonic muscular dystrophy, something more atomic is going on.

In those folks, the problem is RNA. Certain base pairs repeat far beyond normal, up to 11,000 superfluous letters in some cases. The extended strands form “clumps.” Proteins misform and can’t function properly. They often allow one movement but not the reverse, a condition called myotonia that gives the dystrophy its name.