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.

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Pfiz­er's big block­buster Xel­janz flunks its post-mar­ket­ing safe­ty study, re­new­ing harsh ques­tions for JAK class

When the FDA approved Pfizer’s JAK inhibitor Xeljanz for rheumatoid arthritis in 2012, they slapped on a black box warning for a laundry list of adverse events and required the New York drugmaker to run a long-term safety study.

That study has since become a consistent headache for Pfizer and their blockbuster molecule. Last year, Pfizer dropped the entire high dose cohort after an independent monitoring board found more patients died in that group than in the low dose arm or a control arm of patients who received one of two TNF inhibitors, Enbrel or Humira.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

One of the most am­bi­tious start­up teams in biotech just out­lined plans for a $400M IPO and a val­u­a­tion of about $4B

The executive team at Sana Biotechnology has sketched out more details about the full scope of its ambitions as the new unicorn to watch. They amended their S-1 today to include a price range of $20 to $23 a share — which puts them in reach of pulling in around $400 million on the high end with a market value starting right around $4 billion.

That’s not bad for a preclinical biotech with no drugs yet in human studies, but it squares with its ambitions to remake the cell therapy field with a slate of in-house platforms. The biotech raised $705 million — primarily from ARCH (44 million shares) and Flagship (34.2 million shares) — to get to this stage.

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Glax­o­SmithK­line moves malar­ia vac­cine pro­duc­tion to In­dia; Nevakar bags Eu­ro­pean part­ner and nine-fig­ure deal

GSK is shifting production of its malaria vaccine to a Covid-19 vaccine developer in India.

Wednesday’s move to Bharat Biotech was made as part of efforts to battle the deadly fever, as GSK’s vaccine is the first to prove effective in combating the disease. Bharat will take over manufacturing of the protein part of the vaccine while GSK continues developing the adjuvant portion of the shot.

The vaccine is currently being piloted in regions of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi under the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program. More than 500,000 children have received the first dose since the pilots were initiated by the three countries in 2019.

Lil­ly at­tempts to re­vive an old idea for tack­ling pain, li­cens­ing PhI pro­gram from Japan’s Asahi Ka­sei Phar­ma

Eli Lilly is fronting some new cash in a space they’re quite familiar with.

The company is partnering with Japan’s Asahi Kasei Pharma on an experimental drug for chronic pain, acquiring the rights for the P2X7 receptor antagonist program dubbed AK1780. Lilly will shell out a pretty penny for the program, promising up to $410 million total should each milestone payment come to pass.

Asahi Kasei will receive an upfront sum of $20 million for the candidate. In addition, Lilly is on the hook for up to $210 million in development and regulatory milestones and another potential $180 million in sales milestones. Asahi Kasei can also obtain royalties ranging from the mid-single to low-double digits should an approved product come out of the deal.

Ther­mo Fish­er plat­form seeks to ex­pe­dite donor cell cul­ti­va­tion for al­lo­gene­ic cell ther­a­pies

One of the world’s leading CDMOs has launched a new technology it says will expedite a quickly-growing sect of biotech drug development: off-the-shelf, allogeneic cell therapies.

It’s been nearly a decade since the FDA approved the first use of the method that uses healthy donor cells to create a master cell bank, which is then used for specific therapies — a cord blood allogeneic treatment called Hemacord. In the years since, the use of allogeneic cells has taken off in research circles, most notably in the use of T cell therapies to target solid tumor cancers.

Top gene ther­a­py deals, M&A pacts in 2020 high­light an­oth­er big year in one of the hottest fields in bio­phar­ma

Chris Dokomajilar at DealForma has been crunching the numbers on gene therapy deals over the last 2 years and came away with a few key observations.

Both the upfront cash and deal totals last year backed off a bit from the record high hit in 2019, but the totals are still running well ahead of anything we’ve seen in the years prior to 2019/2020.
2020 R&D partnerships came in at 23 deals, with $1.1 billion in disclosed upfront cash and equity and more than $8.5 billion in total deal value. Looking at 2019-2020 M&A, Dokomajilar found: 9 Acquisitions, with over $11.1 billion in disclosed upfront cash and equity and more than $13.4 billion in total M&A value.

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Covid-19 roundup: EU and As­traZeneca trade blows over slow­downs; Un­usu­al unions pop up to test an­ti­bod­ies, vac­cines

After coming under fire for manufacturing delays last week, AstraZeneca’s feud with the European Union has spilled into the open.

The bloc accused the pharma giant on Wednesday of pulling out of a meeting to discuss cuts to its vaccine supplies, the AP reported. AstraZeneca denied the reports, saying it still planned on attending the discussion.

Early Wednesday, an EU Commission spokeswoman said that “the representative of AstraZeneca had announced this morning, had informed us this morning that their participation is not confirmed, is not happening.” But an AstraZeneca spokesperson later called the reports “not accurate.”

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Bob Nelsen (Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH an­nounces largest fund yet, rais­ing $1.85B to back men­tal health, cell and gene edit­ing ap­proach­es

Nearly a year ago, as the pandemic encroached and the stock market cratered, Flagship and ARCH Venture announced three mega-funds worth a combined $2.6 billion. They wanted, ARCH’s Bob Nelsen said, to restore confidence “that there was money out there and a lot of it” to invest in biotech.

Since then, the stock market has returned — almost frighteningly so — and Nelsen has kept raising and spending cash. On Thursday, he announced a new fund, worth $1.85 billion. It’s the largest pot yet for a VC famous for its deep pockets.