Unum Ther­a­peu­tics stum­bles on its Nas­daq de­but, rais­ing $69M and some trans­paren­cy is­sues

Unum Ther­a­peu­tics is limp­ing out on­to Nas­daq this morn­ing af­ter rais­ing close to $70 mil­lion from the sale of its stock.

Unum priced 5.8 mil­lion shares $UM­RX at $12 each, the bot­tom end of the range. That’s not a de­feat, but it’s no big win, ei­ther.

The Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech at­tract­ed a flur­ry of at­ten­tion when it filed for its IPO, but not for the rea­sons it would have liked. The com­pa­ny re­vealed in its S-1 fil­ing a few weeks ago that two pa­tients in the high-dose arm of a clin­i­cal tri­al for their lead can­cer drug died, forc­ing the FDA to slap a clin­i­cal hold on the tri­al which was dropped just be­fore they made their bid to go pub­lic.

Chuck Wil­son, Unum CEO

The then pri­vate com­pa­ny may not have vi­o­lat­ed any rules in the process, but they didn’t im­press any­one with a com­mit­ment to trans­paren­cy, ei­ther. It al­so like­ly didn’t help that this all played out just af­ter Sol­id Bio­sciences kept a par­tial hold for their lead drug on the down low right up un­til they sold shares — and then got ham­mered af­ter an ad­verse re­ac­tion trig­gered a full hold soon af­ter.

That sud­den about-face trig­gered a rout of Sol­id’s share price and a flur­ry of law­suits — un­der­scor­ing the dan­gers of go­ing pub­lic with one strike against you.

Unum — one of many that has built a rep around a top team and re­li­able ven­ture back­ers — has been build­ing a new cell ther­a­py that en­gi­neers pa­tient’s T cells in­to a dou­ble wham­my on can­cer cells. The cells are first de­signed to ex­press AC­TR, a chimeric pro­tein en­com­pass­ing pro­teins from T cells and nat­ur­al killer cells, then com­bined with an­oth­er tu­mor-spe­cif­ic drug, whip­ping up a cy­to­tox­ic as­sault on can­cer cells. The lead drug is AC­TR087, and Unum com­pares it to Gilead’s Yescar­ta and No­var­tis’ Kym­ri­ah, the two pi­o­neer­ing CAR-Ts on the mar­ket.

See­ing sim­i­lar tox­i­c­i­ty is­sues as the ear­ly CAR-Ts, though, wasn’t on the agen­da.

Re­searchers con­clud­ed that there were two cas­es of AC­TR087-re­lat­ed se­vere CRS — one fa­tal — and one pa­tient died from AC­TR087-re­lat­ed neu­ro­tox­i­c­i­ty. There was one fa­tal case of en­te­ro­coc­cal sep­sis con­sid­ered re­lat­ed to AC­TR087 and “one pa­tient sub­se­quent­ly ex­pe­ri­enced a fa­tal case of sep­sis con­sid­ered not re­lat­ed to AC­TR087,” ac­cord­ing to the S-1.

Mor­gan Stan­ley and Cowen are act­ing as joint book-run­ning man­agers for the of­fer­ing. Sun­Trust Robin­son Humphrey and Wed­bush Pac­Grow are act­ing as lead man­agers.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.