Vivek Ra­maswamy strikes again, this time launch­ing a Bei­jing-based biotech play­er with a pipeline

An­oth­er day, an­oth­er start­up at Vivek Ra­maswamy’s Roivant. And this time he’s un­der­scor­ing the glob­al na­ture of the in­dus­try and his busi­ness strat­e­gy, as Chi­na’s biotech scene ex­plodes with fresh cash and some fa­mil­iar drugs.

Vivek Ra­maswamy

This morn­ing Roivant un­veiled Sino­vant along with CITICPE, a Chi­nese pri­vate eq­ui­ty group. This com­pa­ny is based in Bei­jing and Shang­hai, and it’s been as­sem­bling an ex­ec­u­tive crew and pipeline for to­day’s an­nounce­ment.

Sino­vant has been tak­ing some of Roivant’s cash re­serves to build up a pipeline of 11 drugs, fol­low­ing an in-li­cens­ing strat­e­gy that is all the rage these days. And it comes with a spe­cial Ra­maswamy twist, as the com­pa­ny looks to get start­ed in Phase III on a slate of ther­a­pies that can be po­si­tioned for a rel­a­tive­ly quick Asian launch.

The biotech has three top drugs:

  • De­r­azan­ti­nib, a fi­brob­last growth fac­tor re­cep­tor (FGFR) in­hibitor in glob­al Phase III de­vel­op­ment for the treat­ment of a liv­er can­cer — a big mar­ket in Chi­na — called in­tra­hep­at­ic cholan­gio­car­ci­no­ma.
  • Lefa­mulin, a late-stage an­tibi­ot­ic that has been stud­ied for com­mu­ni­ty-ac­quired bac­te­r­i­al pneu­mo­nia.
  • And RVT-802, brought in from sis­ter com­pa­ny En­zy­vant af­ter that Roivant sub­sidiary filed for an FDA ap­proval for a rare dis­ease called Di­Ge­orge Anom­aly.
Can­wen Jiang

Sino­vant al­so just gained the rights to de­vel­op naron­apride, a drug in­tend­ed to treat ir­ri­ta­ble bow­el syn­drome with con­sti­pa­tion.

In an­oth­er clas­sic Roivant move, Ra­maswamy has re­cruit­ed top tal­ent for this lat­est biotech ven­ture. No­var­tis vet Can­wen Jiang — who ran glob­al R&D groups for the phar­ma gi­ant — will run the op­er­a­tion af­ter years in the bio­phar­ma trench­es, work­ing on a slate of piv­otal tri­als.

The com­pa­nies aren’t talk­ing num­bers to­day, but Roivant doesn’t starve its com­pa­nies of cash. Ra­maswamy’s first big drug at Ax­o­vant — the orig­i­nal vant in what is now a grow­ing group with 13 com­pa­nies — was a no­to­ri­ous flop, but he has the best con­nec­tions in the world­wide in­dus­try and a keen un­der­stand­ing for lin­ing up bil­lions in cash re­serves.

The busi­ness plan here, says a Roivant spokesper­son, is to find clin­i­cal-stage drugs at small­er biotechs and in-li­cens­ing them for de­vel­op­ment for the Chi­nese drug mar­ket. And there are more deals to come.

The co-founder is Xi­nan Chen, who’s been work­ing on build­ing new star­tups at Roivant.


Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bacteria are ruthless.

Some soil bacteria have evolved tiny, but deadly injection systems that attach to insect cells, perforate them and release toxins inside — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Scientists, on the other hand, want to leverage that system to deliver medicines.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, MIT CRISPR researcher Feng Zhang and his lab describe how they engineered these syringes made by bacteria to deliver potential therapies like toxins that kill cancer cells and gene editors. With the help of an AI program, they developed syringes that can load proteins of their choice and selectively target human cells.

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Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

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See­los Ther­a­peu­tics 'tem­porar­i­ly' stops study in rare neu­ro dis­or­der for busi­ness rea­sons

Microcap biotech Seelos Therapeutics is halting enrollment of its study in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (also known as Machado-Joseph disease) because of “financial considerations,” and in order to focus on other studies, the company said today, adding that the pause would be temporary.

The study will continue with the patients who have already enrolled, and the data from them will be used to decide whether to continue enrolling others in the future.

Alec­tor cuts 11% of work­force as it dou­bles down on late-stage neu­ro pro­grams part­nered with GSK, Ab­b­Vie

A month after revealing plans to concentrate on its late-stage immuno-neurology pipeline, Alector is trimming its headcount by 11%.

The layoffs will impact around 30 employees across the organization, the company disclosed in an SEC filing, adding that the plan will “better align the company’s resources” with the new strategy. With $712.9 million in cash, cash equivalents and investments as of the end of 2022, Alector believes the reserves will now get it through 2025.

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Hugo Peris, Spiral Therapeutics CEO

Hear­ing-fo­cused biotech grabs trio of pro­grams from Oton­o­my's fire sale

Otonomy may be shutting down, but the lessons learned there will live on at another biotech working on new treatments for hearing loss.

San Francisco-based Spiral Therapeutics has bought certain assets related to three of Otonomy’s programs, ranging from data, patent rights, and know-how to inventory. That includes data around Otonomy’s twice-failed lead program, OTO-104 (Otividex), a sustained-exposure formulation of dexamethasone.

CSL CEO Paul McKenzie (L) and CMO Bill Mezzanotte

Q&A: New­ly-mint­ed CSL chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul McKen­zie and chief med­ical of­fi­cer Bill Mez­zan­otte

Paul McKenzie took over as CEO of Australian pharma giant CSL this month, following in the footsteps of long-time CSL vet Paul Perreault.

With an eye on mRNA, and quickly commercializing its new, $3.5 million-per-shot gene therapy for hemophilia B, McKenzie and chief medical officer Bill Mezzanotte answered some questions from Endpoints News this afternoon about where McKenzie is going to take the company and what advances may be coming to market from CSL’s pipeline. Below is a lightly edited transcript.

Boehringer re­ports ro­bust sales led by type 2 di­a­betes and pul­monary drugs, promis­es more to come high­light­ing obe­si­ty

Boehringer Ingelheim reported human pharma sales of €18.5 billion on Wednesday, led by type 2 diabetes and heart failure drug Jardiance and pulmonary fibrosis med Ofev. Jardiance sales reached €5.8 billion, growing 39% year over year, while Ofev took in €3.2 billion, notching its own 20.6% annual jump.

However, Boehringer is also looking ahead with its pipeline, estimating “In the next seven years the company expects about 20 regulatory approvals in human pharma.”