US sells Wu-Tang Clan album to cover Shkreli debt; OrbiMed backs GSK vets' Chinese startup
Martin Shkreli became a top target for ridicule and anger in the mid-2010s when he and his biotech Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of a life-saving medicine from $13.50 to $750 per pill. But he also gained notoriety around that time for purchasing a one-of-a-kind album from rap group the Wu-Tang Clan at auction for about $2 million.
Now, the album is on the move again.
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it has sold the album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” to an undisclosed buyer to help cover Shkreli’s $7.36 million debt when he was convicted for defrauding investors in 2017. The sale of the album accounted for the remainder of Shkreli’s balance, the department said in a news release.
Prosecutors had seized the album back in 2018 and the new buyer is a group of people, rather than an individual, per a New York Times report. The identities of the purchasers remain undisclosed, as does the sale price.
The album was perceived as akin to a fine art piece as the purchasing agreement from the original auction contained several restrictions, including barring the owner from releasing any of the songs commercially for 88 years. Only one copy of the album was made, and the new owners are bound to the same restrictions.
A lawyer for the group, Peter Scoolidge, listened to the album as part of the sale arrangement, per the NYT, saying, “It’s a banger, man. It’s a banger.”
The move to sell the album came the same day that DoJ seized a tablet bearing part of the epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest surviving pieces of literature. Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, it was forfeited by the owners of retail chain Hobby Lobby, who were accused of smuggling more than 5,500 artifacts out of Iraq to display at their Museum of the Bible. Hobby Lobby paid a $3 million fine in 2018 in the scandal. — Max Gelman
OrbiMed backs GSK vets’ take on brain-penetrant breast cancer drugs
Three years after launching Zion Pharma with a unique take on small molecule cancer drugs, a pair of GlaxoSmithKline vets have bagged their second round.
Jack Cheng and Ding Zhou, who had both worked at GSK’s Shanghai hub, had centered the pitch around their deep grasp of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, or DMPK. Whereas Zhou spent close to two decades as a chemistry lead at the British pharma, Cheng held a stint as head of DMPK at AstraZeneca before reuniting with his former colleague.
OrbiMed led the $40 million Series B, which is designed to fuel a hiring drive on top of R&D.
Staying on a straight and narrow path, Zion’s lead candidate is a breast cancer drug that can get into the brain, in hopes of treating the metastases that affect between 30% to 50% of newly diagnosed patients. Current treatments like surgery or radiation have too many side effects and don’t help patients live too much longer, according to the company.
“Designing chemical entities that can pass through the blood-brain barrier and the ability to predict and assess the entities’ DMPK attributes are core to the Zion team’s competitiveness,” OrbiMed partner Dasong Wang said in a statement. “Zion’s breast cancer program for brain metastases showed PK, toxicology and efficacy results in Phase I that aligned very well with preclinical predictions.”
Existing investors at Qiming, Sherpa Venture Capital, Ming Bioventures and Med-Fine Capital also joined the financing. — Amber Tong
Mycovia wins priority review in quest to shake up yeast infection market
Pulling up behind Scynexis in the race to develop oral antifungals against yeast infections, Mycovia is speeding toward a priority review.
The Durham, NC-based biotech announced Wednesday the FDA has accepted its NDA for oteseconazole and granted the compound a speedy look-see. Regulators have set the PDUFA date for Jan. 27, 2022.
Mycovia is aiming to win an OK in an area that Scynexis hasn’t won approval yet: recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis, or chronic yeast infection defined as at least three episodes per year. Scynexis gained approval in vulvovaginal candidiasis for its Brexafemme pill last month.
Mycovia says data from three Phase III studies are backing the NDA, including two global trials and one US-based trial. The drugmaker says oteseconazole showed superior efficacy to Pfizer’s fluconazole, currently the market’s standard-bearer.
“RVVC is a different condition from yeast infections, simply known as VVC, so it requires a different treatment. Research shows that fluconazole, the standard of care for VVC, is more than 90% effective in treating an initial episode of VVC, but in studies of patients with RVVC, greater than 50% of women experience a recurrence following maintenance therapy discontinuation,” Mycovia CEO Patrick Jordan said in a statement. — Max Gelman
On the heels of a $363M Parkinson’s deal, Ipsen places a big bet on a new cancer target
It’s been a couple of weeks since Ipsen bet $363 million on IRLAB’s levodopa-induced dyskinesia (LID) candidate — but the Paris-based company isn’t quite done making deals.
Ipsen has promised up to $852 million to collaborate on BAKX Therapeutics’ preclinical BAX activator in leukemia, lymphoma and solid tumors, the companies said on Tuesday. Ipsen will shell out $14.5 million of that upon closing, and the partners will split the costs and profits.
“This partnership brings together Ipsen’s excellent clinical development and commercial capabilities with our industry-leading knowledge of the BAX protein and our unique computational platform,” BAKX CEO Sree Kant said in a statement.
The program, dubbed BKX-001, is the result of pioneering work around apoptosis by BAKX’s scientific co-founders Loren Walensky and Evripidis Gavathiotis. When deregulated, apoptosis — the naturally occurring process of programmed cell death — can lead to uncontrolled cell division and tumor development. BAX is a new target in the apoptosis cell-signaling pathway, downstream of other anti-apoptotic proteins like BCL-2, BCL-XL, and MCL-1, the company said.
BAKX has another two undisclosed candidates in the discovery stage, according to its website. — Nicole DeFeudis
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that BAKX’s candidate is a BAX inhibitor. A correction has been made.