Laurie Glimcher and Ansbert Gadicke (Justin Knight, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)

Ty­ing ba­sic sci­ence to spin­outs, Dana-Far­ber de­buts sis­ter funds to­tal­ing $126M with MPM Cap­i­tal

As one of the most pres­ti­gious can­cer in­sti­tutes in the US, Dana-Far­ber has en­joyed con­sid­er­able sup­port for its en­tre­pre­neur­ial pur­suits, spin­ning out about 30 com­pa­nies in the past 12 years.

Bar­rett Rollins

“Now where we’ve al­ways strug­gled — where every can­cer cen­ter strug­gled — is sup­port of ba­sic sci­ence,” Bar­rett Rollins, chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer emer­i­tus, told End­points News.

And then two of its trustees had an idea. What if they tied phil­an­thropy to in­vest­ment in Dana-Far­ber star­tups, re­quir­ing a do­na­tion to ba­sic sci­ence as a con­di­tion for ac­cess­ing its bright­est biotech ven­ture ideas?

Eight years of in­vestor-vet­ting and mod­el-re­fin­ing lat­er, it’s raised $26 mil­lion for the phil­an­thropic fund and set­tled on a gen­er­al part­ner to man­age the “sis­ter” ven­ture fund: MPM Cap­i­tal.

The $100 mil­lion On­col­o­gy In­no­va­tion Fund will com­ple­ment the $1 bil­lion MPM has re­served for on­col­o­gy in­vest­ing, Ans­bert Gadicke, co-founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, said. It in­cludes a $400 mil­lion ven­ture cap­i­tal fund and $700 mil­lion crossover fund — with on­col­o­gy sit­ting as the num­ber 1 fo­cus at the firm.

Around half of the fund will go to­ward new spin­outs from Dana-Far­ber that MPM will help launch, he added. All told, he ex­pects to back 15 star­tups with this fund, some of which could be fledg­lings from oth­er aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions or start­ed by fel­low VCs. Six in­vest­ments are al­ready un­der­way.

“We like to have that lev­el of di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion but what still al­lows us to be con­cen­trat­ed and make mean­ing­ful in­vest­ments in each com­pa­ny,” Gadicke said.

MPM has full con­trol over the fund, while Dana-Far­ber — led by Lau­rie Glim­ch­er — is whol­ly re­spon­si­ble for how to spend their phil­an­thropic mon­ey.

Much re­mains to be ex­plored in both ge­net­ic con­trol of can­cer and ear­ly de­tec­tion/pre­ven­tion work, ac­cord­ing to Rollins. And then there’s the re­lent­less tide of im­muno-on­col­o­gy — a field that he said Dana-Far­ber pi­o­neered 40 years ago. In fact, the in­sti­tute has pre­vi­ous­ly worked with MPM to pour Ar­lene Sharpe, Gor­don Free­man and Vi­jay Kuchroo’s find­ings in­to CoS­tim Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, lat­er ac­quired by No­var­tis. Tizona Ther­a­peu­tics, the Ab­b­Vie-part­nered biotech that Gadicke de­scribed as the star of the port­fo­lio, is al­so fo­cused on im­munother­a­py.

“The rea­son why that’s such a great ex­am­ple is be­cause the dis­cov­ery of PD-L1 and PD-1 ef­fect by Gor­don were the re­sult of this undi­rect­ed cu­rios­i­ty-dri­ven ba­sic sci­ence which is the tar­get of the phil­an­thropic fund,” Rollins said.

The plan is to of­fer $1 mil­lion grants to two to four such projects each year over the next four to five years, hire a new ju­nior fac­ul­ty mem­ber and pur­chase some ex­pen­sive equip­ment with the rest of the fund.

J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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FDA hands Mor­phoSys and In­cyte a quick OK on their po­ten­tial block­buster CAR-T al­ter­na­tive

Nearly three years after okaying the CAR-Ts Yescarta and Kymriah, the FDA has approved a new CD19 therapy.

MorphoSys’ Monjuvi, or tafasitamab-cxix, was cleared Friday for use in refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DBLCL). The approval sets up both MorphoSys and their commercial partner Incyte to compete with Gilead and Novartis in the ultra-competitive indication, where similar trial results and far easier delivery could allow them to cut a fair share of the market.

Rich Heyman (ARCH)

Rich Hey­man joins PMV Phar­ma, a p53 biotech, as it adds $70 mil­lion in Se­ries D

Less than a year after pulling in an impressive $62 million Series C round, PMV Pharma is back at it again.

The Cranbury, NJ-based biotech announced Monday an additional $70 million in Series D financing as it seeks to develop cancer therapies targeting p53 mutations. Additionally, PMV also introduced longtime biotech entrepreneur Rich Heyman as chairman of the board of directors.

“This financing provides PMV Pharma with the resources to expand our pipeline and to potentially advance multiple p53 therapies into the clinic,” said PMV president and CEO David Mack in a statement.

Covid-19 roundup: Eli Lil­ly retro­fits RVs for first-of-its-kind an­ti­body tri­al with NIH; Am­gen, Ab­b­Vie, Take­da team on a drug

Eli Lilly and the NIH are about to start a first-of-its-kind trial that researchers and developers have talked about for months as a way of providing temporary immunity to the most at-risk populations.

Lilly announced this morning that it will start a 2,400-person trial with the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases to test whether its experimental Covid-19 neutralizing antibody can prevent people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities from developing the disease. The idea, known as passive immunity, is that rather than waiting on a vaccine to induce people to develop antibodies, doctors can give them lab-grown antibodies. Ideally, those antibodies will either attack the new SARS-CoV-2 infection, if the patient has recently been exposed, or persist in the blood for several weeks and prevent infection or disease for that period.

So Covid-19 leader BioN­Tech has a can­cer vac­cine in de­vel­op­ment? Yes, and Re­gen­eron just jumped in for the PhII com­bo study

Before the coronavirus global emergency stole the R&D show in biopharma, the leaders in the race to develop new mRNA therapies had a big interest in determining if their tech could be used to create an effective cancer vaccine after all the first-gen tries had failed to impress. So perhaps it’s not surprising that an early cut of the data at frontrunner BioNTech went largely unnoticed.

Unless you were at Regeneron.

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Sanofi un­der for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion for De­pakine al­le­ga­tions; Beam li­cens­es CAR-T tech from Ox­ford Bio­med­ica

Sanofi is facing a formal investigation on manslaughter charges, due to accusations that its epilepsy drug Depakine caused birth malfunctions and slow neurological development when taken during pregnancy.

The French pharma was formally charged in February, years after evidence surfaced that the drug, sodium valproate, posed neurodevelopmental risks. Sodium valproate first hit the market in 1967 for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder, and is currently prescribed in more than 100 countries.

Tony Coles, Cerevel Therapeutics CEO

Adding $445M, Tony Coles and his big Pfiz­er neu­ro spin­out hitch a ride to Wall Street on Per­cep­tive’s SPAC

Two years ago, after Pfizer abruptly shut down its entire neuroscience division, Bain Capital bet $350 million that those assets were still worth something and packaged them into a new biotech: Cerevel Therapeutics. A year later, they got seasoned executive Tony Coles, who had recently jumped back into the C-suite of another neuroscience startup, to run the company.

Now Coles is steering Cerevel public, in what he says is the largest ever transaction of its kind. Cerevel has agreed to merge with Perceptive Advisors’ specialty acquisition company ARYA II. Between the roughly $125 million Perceptive raised through ARYA and an additional investment of $320 million Bain Capital, Perceptive and — yes, really — Pfizer, among others, Cerevel will now move forward with an added $445 million in its coffers.

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Days af­ter seal­ing Sanofi pact, Kymera beats a path to the Nas­daq with $100M IPO pitch

Back in March, when Kymera Therapeutics closed $102 million in Series C funding led by Biotechnology Value Fund and Redmile Group, CEO Nello Mainolfi noted the protein degradation player was “at the cusp of transitioning” into a fully integrated R&D company. Five months and a major Sanofi pact later, he’s back asking for another little push to get there.

Kymera has penciled in $100 million in its first IPO pitch — although given the public market’s seemingly insatiable appetite for biotechs these days the final figure is anyone’s guess.

CymaBay flash­es pos­i­tive re­sults from the tri­al they have to re­launch

Two weeks after the FDA lifted its clinical hold on their lead drug, CymaBay said it showed positive results in an aborted Phase III trial.

The drug, a small molecule known as seladelpar, had been in development for three different liver conditions before an independent review of a NASH study last year showed that it might actually be damaging patient’s liver cells. The FDA slapped a clinical hold across all three trials, only lifting it last month when an FDA review determined that the drug hadn’t caused liver damage.