Un­fazed by dis­rup­tions, Cowen's in­vest­ment arm backs AM-Phar­ma's $176M piv­otal plan around lethal con­di­tion

It may not be the best time to start up a late-stage study un­re­lat­ed to Covid-19, but AM-Phar­ma isn’t let­ting a slight de­lay de­rail its over­all plan.

Erik van den Berg

The Dutch biotech has been sin­gu­lar­ly fo­cused on re­cAP, an an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry re­com­bi­nant hu­man form of an en­zyme orig­i­nal­ly found in cows called al­ka­line phos­phatase.

The one Phase III it be­lieves it needs for ap­proval was sched­uled for this sum­mer, fund­ed by a $133 mil­lion round last Ju­ly. Hav­ing pushed study ini­ti­a­tion to af­ter the sum­mer, AM-Phar­ma is adding $52 mil­lion for the reg­u­la­to­ry work need­ed to pre­pare for launch, in­clud­ing CMC val­i­da­tion and com­mer­cial sup­ply.

When the pan­dem­ic will peak is im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict, said CEO Erik van den Berg, but giv­en the sever­i­ty of the dis­ease that AM-Phar­ma is tack­ling — sep­sis-as­so­ci­at­ed acute kid­ney in­jury — they want­ed to start as soon as pos­si­ble and broad­ly stick to the orig­i­nal time­line. Da­ta from the Phase III tri­al are ex­pect­ed in 2023.

The new €23 mil­lion eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment by Cowen Health­care In­vest­ments, its first US-based in­vestor in the syn­di­cate, along­side the €24 mil­lion loan from the Eu­ro­pean In­vest­ment Bank, has boost­ed his con­vic­tion.

Right now, with all of AM-Phar­ma’s 23 staffers work­ing from home in Utrecht, the Nether­lands, crit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties are still on­go­ing. Doc­u­ments still need to be pre­pared for re­view be­fore sites can be ini­ti­at­ed — a siz­able project when you are plan­ning a tri­al in­volv­ing 1,400 pa­tients in 12 coun­tries.

“Our work is most­ly project man­age­ment and co­or­di­na­tion,” van den Berg said. “We don’t have any labs to close in this pe­ri­od. All of our sup­pli­ers are still on­line and al­so moved as much as pos­si­ble to home-based work­ing.”

There will be chal­lenges when the tri­al ac­tu­al­ly be­gins, as the pa­tients that will be re­cruit­ed tend to be treat­ed in in­ten­sive care units, many of which could be over­whelmed by se­vere coro­n­avirus pa­tients. While he is plan­ning for dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties, van den Berg is hope­ful hu­man cre­ativ­i­ty will save them from the worst-case sce­nario.

In a sense it’s char­ac­ter­is­tic of a team that has built a busi­ness around of­fer­ing hope where there is lit­tle, re­duc­ing the mor­tal­i­ty rate by 40% ver­sus place­bo in Phase II. And it wouldn’t be the first time it has had to con­tend with un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances: van den Berg hadn’t been plan­ning on tak­ing the piv­otal pro­gram and com­mer­cial ef­forts un­til Pfiz­er pulled out of a deal to ac­quire the com­pa­ny, leav­ing it to go it alone.

“Worst case sce­nario is we’re sit­ting in our home of­fices for years,” he said. ”But I don’t think that’s re­al­is­tic. I don’t see it that bleak.”

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

Credit: Shutterstock

How Chi­na turned the ta­bles on bio­phar­ma's glob­al deal­mak­ing

Fenlai Tan still gets chills thinking about the darkest day of his life.

Three out of eight lung cancer patients who received a tyrosine kinase inhibitor developed by his company, Betta Pharma, died in the span of a month. Tan, the chief medical officer, was summoned to Peking Union Medical College Hospital, where the head of the clinical trial department told him that the trial investigators would be conducting an autopsy to see if the patients had died of the disease — they were all very sick by the time they enrolled — or of interstitial lung disease, a deadly side effect tied to the TKI class that’s been reported in Japan.

Peter Nell, Mammoth Biosciences CBO

UP­DAT­ED: Jen­nifer Doud­na spin­out inks a Mam­moth CRISPR deal with Ver­tex worth near­ly $700M

When a company gets its start in gene editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna’s lab, it’s bound to make headlines. But three years in, the fanfare still hasn’t died down for Mammoth Biosciences. Now, the Brisbane, CA-based company is cheering on its first major R&D pact.

Mammoth unveiled a nearly $700 million deal with Vertex on Tuesday morning, good for the development of in vivo gene therapies for two mystery diseases. The stars of the show are Mammoth’s ultra-small CRISPR systems, including two Cas enzymes licensed from Doudna’s lab over the past couple years, Cas14 and Casɸ.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

James Peyer, Cambrian CEO

Brent Saun­ders joins $100M Se­ries C for a com­pa­ny out to be the Bridge­Bio of ag­ing

About a year ago, James Peyer, a CEO and co-founder of the little known longevity biotech Cambrian Biopharma, was trying to find some R&D talent last year when he met with more than a bit of experience in that department: David Nicholson, the former R&D chief of the erstwhile pharma giant Allergan.

It turned out Nicholson already had an interest in Peyer’s field. In their Allergan days, he and COO Brent Saunders held weekly meetups where they tried to figure out how to take the company’s dominance in aesthetics — which, until recently, was often what people meant by anti-aging science — and expertise with more traditional drug development, and use it to make drugs that extend people’s lifespan.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

An­gion's or­gan dam­age drug strikes out again, this time in high-risk kid­ney trans­plant pa­tients

After flopping a test in Covid-19 earlier this year, Angion’s lead organ damage drug has now hit the skids again in kidney transplant patients.

Angion and partner Vifor Pharma’s ANG-3777 failed to beat out placebo in terms of improving eGFR, a measure of kidney function, in patients who had received a deceased donor kidney transplant and were at high risk of developing what is known as delayed graft function, according to Phase III results released Tuesday.

(Photo courtesy Pfizer)

FDA's vac­cine ad­comm votes al­most unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of Pfiz­er's Covid-19 vac­cine for younger chil­dren

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on Tuesday voted 17-0, with one panelist abstaining, that the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outweigh the risks for children between the ages of five and 12.

The vote will likely trigger a process that could allow the shots to begin rolling out as early as next week.

The vaccine, which is one-third of the adult Pfizer dose, proved to be about 90% effective in a placebo-controlled trial in which about 1,500 kids in this age range received the vaccine, and only about 12% of those receiving the vaccine had any adverse event. All serious adverse events in the trial were unrelated to the vaccine.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Mod­er­na chips in fur­ther on African vac­cine sup­ply — but ad­vo­cates are call­ing for even more

In a sign of its growing commitment to the continent, Moderna will supply up to 110 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the African Union, the company announced Tuesday. And CEO Stéphane Bancel said it’s just the first step.

“We believe our vaccine can play an important role in addressing the needs of low-income countries given its combination of high Phase 3 efficacy against COVID-19, strong durability in the real-world evidence, and superior storage and handling conditions. We recognize that access to COVID-19 vaccines continues to be a challenge in many parts of the world and we remain committed to helping to protect as many people as possible around the globe,” Bancel said in a statement.

An image of Alzheimer's brain tissue. The red show gingipains, a protein from P. gingivalis, intermixing with neurons (yellow) and glial cells (green)

An Alzheimer's dark­horse fails its first big tri­al, but of­fers hope for a long-over­looked hy­poth­e­sis

Three years ago, Cortexyme emerged out of obscurity with some big-name backers and an unorthodox approach to treating Alzheimer’s.

They moved their drug into a pivotal study the next year, offering one of the first major tests for a hypothesis that has fluttered on the outskirts of Alzheimer’s research for decades: that, in many cases, the disease is driven by infectious agents — the havoc they wreak in the brain and the inflammation the body uses to try to fend them off. And that quashing the infection could slow patients’ cognitive decline.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ugur Sahin, AP Images

As pres­sure to share tech­nol­o­gy mounts, BioN­Tech se­lects Rwan­da for lat­est vac­cine site

BioNTech’s first mRNA-based vaccine site in Africa will call Rwanda home, and construction is set to start in mid-2022, the company announced Tuesday at a public health forum.

The German company signed a memorandum of understanding, after a meeting between Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Daniel Ngamije, Senegal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall, and senior BioNTech officials. Construction plans have been finalized, and assets have been ordered. The agreement will help bring end-to-end manufacturing to Africa, and as many as several hundred million doses of vaccines per year, though initial production will be more modest.