Vow­ing to spark a rev­o­lu­tion in small mol­e­cule R&D, Vi­vid­ion equips it­self with an ex­tra $82M for the fi­nal stretch to the clin­ic

Vi­vid­ion Ther­a­peu­tics has come a long way in the lit­tle more than 2 years since the com­pa­ny of­fi­cial­ly launched with a $45 mil­lion A round in ear­ly 2017. CEO Diego Mi­ralles has been build­ing his San Diego-based team and bank­ing cash along the way, adding a $101 mil­lion deal with Cel­gene — in­clud­ing a $97 mil­lion up­front — for a soon-to-be-ac­quired biotech play­er with a big ap­petite for ex­ter­nal dis­cov­ery al­liances.

Last fall they brought in a pair of ex­pe­ri­enced biotech vets — Fred Aslan as pres­i­dent and head busi­ness guy and Lar­ry Burgess to run chem­istry — and to­day they’re tak­ing the wraps off a meaty $82 mil­lion B round that takes their to­tal raise to $228 mil­lion. 

They just don’t have any drugs in the clin­ic. But they do have plans to rec­ti­fy that in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.


Im­age: Diego Mi­ralles. VI­VID­ION

There are 3 pro­grams in the lead op­ti­miza­tion stage right now fo­cused on an adap­tor pro­tein, a tran­scrip­tion fac­tor and an E3 lig­ase which are cen­tered on im­munol­o­gy and on­col­o­gy. Mi­ralles is still keep­ing a lot of the de­tails about time­lines and such to him­self, but he sug­gests that any­one fa­mil­iar with small mol­e­cule R&D work should fig­ure that one out fair­ly re­li­ably.

I’ll leave that one to our read­ers. I’ve seen too much vari­abil­i­ty to think there’s a uni­ver­sal av­er­age here. But I could be wrong.

Vi­vid­ion’s claim to biotech fame rests on a broad and bold boast:

They say they can screen every pro­tein in a cell in ways that re­veal pre­vi­ous­ly un­known pock­ets of op­por­tu­ni­ty. These tar­gets can be used to in­hib­it pro­teins, de­grade them, and more with small mol­e­cules spot­light­ed by their tech, li­censed from the lab of Scripps’ Ben Cra­vatt. And they’re not talk­ing about nar­row win­dows of op­por­tu­ni­ty, but in­stead plan to open up a broad swath of R&D ter­ri­to­ry that can ex­pand small mol­e­cules’ reach far be­yond the rel­a­tive­ly nar­row scope they’ve been lim­it­ed to.

“The com­pa­ny was spun out as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary tech­nol­o­gy idea,” says the CEO, and they’ve been gain­ing speed fast, grow­ing from a hand­ful of staffers to a group of 70 now in­tent on noth­ing less than spark­ing a re­nais­sance in small mol­e­cule drug de­vel­op­ment. 

Fred Aslan

Aslan and Mi­ralles both give Cel­gene top marks for step­ping up as col­lab­o­ra­tors, and they’re ready to make the shift to Bris­tol-My­ers af­ter that ac­qui­si­tion deal comes through. Aslan is an ex­pe­ri­enced start­up ex­ec, with a stint as co-founder at Re­cep­tos. And he says that the biotech will like­ly bide its time in com­ing up with new col­lab­o­ra­tions. 

They have the mon­ey to wait for the right ones.

What about an IPO? Mi­ralles de­clined to com­ment on that one, but he says there’s am­ple cash to get at least one of the 3 to the proof-of-con­cept stage, which is the next stage they want to hit on the way to the rev­o­lu­tion. And they have a glob­al syn­di­cate at their back.

The on­col­o­gy spe­cial­ists at Nex­tech In­vest — which likes to get in ahead of an IPO — led the round, with new in­vestors BVF Part­ners, Cas­din Cap­i­tal, Mubadala Ven­tures, Trini­tas Cap­i­tal, Mi­rae As­set Cap­i­tal, Al­ti­tude Life Sci­ence Ven­tures and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments jump­ing on board. Ex­ist­ing in­vestors ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners, Ver­sant Ven­tures, Car­di­nal Part­ners and Cel­gene all came back for the ride as well.

Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

Daniel O'Day [via AP Images]

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead un­leash­es a $5B late-stage cash al­liance with Gala­pa­gos — lay­ing out O'­Day's R&D strat­e­gy

Daniel O’Day is executing his first major development deal since taking over as CEO of Gilead $GILD. And he’s going in deep to ally himself with a longstanding partner.

O’Day announced today that he is spending $5 billion in cash to add new late-stage drugs to Gilead’s pipeline, picking up rights to Galapagos’ $GLPG Phase III IPF drug GLPG1690 alongside adoption of the biotech’s Phase IIb drug GLPG1972 for osteoarthritis. And Gilead is also putting billions more on the table for milestones, gaining options for everything else in Galapagos’ pipeline, with a shot at all rights outside of Europe.

Altogether, Gilead is gaining rights to 6 clinical-stage assets, 20 preclinical programs and everything else being hatched in translation.

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Alk­er­mes adds bipo­lar I dis­or­der to its FDA wish­list; Con­go con­firms first Ebo­la case in large city

→ An ever-ambitious Alkermes $ALKS team plans to add bipolar I disorder to its list of conditions for ALKS-3831, which it plans to pitch to the FDA in Q4. Alkermes says they were persuaded to add bipolar I disorder after a pre-NDA meeting with the agency, which came about 7 months after the biotech reported positive data for schizophrenia. The drug is a combo using olanzapine/samidorphan, which they hope will be shown to be as effective as olanzapine without the substantial increase in the risk of weight gain.

Pe­ter Kolchin­sky and Raj Shah raise a $300M fund de­vot­ed to biotech star­tups

Peter Kolchinsky and Raj Shah have another $300 million-plus to play with on the biotech venture side of their investment business. 

The two announced Monday morning that they’ve put together their first pure-play venture fund at RA Capital Management, which has been known to bet on just about every angle in healthcare investing — from rounds to follow-on investments at public companies. This new fund of theirs arrives well into a go-go era of new startup financing, with a particular focus on building new biotechs.

Hal Barron [File photo]

Hal Bar­ron's team at GSK scores a win with pos­i­tive Ze­ju­la PhI­II front­line study — now comes the hard part

Score one for Hal Barron and the new R&D team steering GlaxoSmithKline’s pipeline.

The pharma giant reported this morning that its recently acquired PARP, Zejula (niraparib), hit the primary endpoint on progression-free survival in a frontline maintenance setting for women suffering ovarian cancer — following chemo and regardless of their BRCA status.

GSK bet $5 billion on the Tesaro buyout primarily to get this drug, drawing the shaking heads of biopharma. Why pay a big premium for a drug like this when AstraZeneca was going from strength to strength with Lynparza, ran the argument, having won a hugely important accelerated approval to jump out ahead — way ahead — of the rest of the PARP players? Lynparza — now co-owned by a powerhouse cancer team at Merck — won the first approval in frontline maintenance in ovarian cancer.

Boehringer buys Swiss biotech in its lat­est M&A deal, go­ing the next-gen can­cer vac­cine route

Boehringer Ingelheim has snapped up a Swiss biotech startup and added their group as a new platform for the oncology pipeline. 

The German biopharma company has bagged Geneva-based AMAL Therapeutics, paying out an unspecified upfront in a $358 million deal — cash, milestones and everything else, all in. Plus there’s 100 million euros on the line for commercial milestones.

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Ab­b­Vie beefs up the on­col­o­gy pipeline, bag­ging an up­start STING play­er with its own unique ap­proach

AbbVie isn’t letting its $63 billion buyout of Allergan stop its M&A/deals team from continuing their work.

Monday morning we learned that the pharma giant is snapping up tiny Mavupharma out of Seattle, a Frazier-backed startup that has its own unique take on STING — which is on the threshold of their first clinical trial.

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Billing it­self as the first AI biotech to launch hu­man tri­als, Re­cur­sion adds $121M C round

Billing itself as the first AI biotech with programs in the clinic, Salt Lake City-based Recursion now has a $121 million bankroll to start gathering human data to see if it’s on the right track. 

“We’re trying to build this discovery engine,” Recursion CEO Chris Gibson tells me ahead of the C round news. “We now have the first two programs in the clinic.” And that, he adds, qualifies as a first for any AI establishment “that actually have something in the clinic.”

FDA bats back As­traZeneca's SGLT di­a­betes drug for Type 1 di­a­betes — block­ing a class on safe­ty fears

The FDA has just fired its latest salvo at the SGLT class of diabetes drugs, blowing up some commercial opportunity at AstraZeneca as part of the collateral damage.

The pharma giant reported early Monday that the FDA has rejected its blockbuster drug Farxiga for Type 1 diabetes that can’t be controlled by insulin. And while the pharma giant maintained its usual grim silence in the face of a setback, this one should be easy to interpret.