What's big­ger than a uni­corn? Sa­mumed stuns yet again as an­ti-ag­ing pipeline draws $438M at $12B val­u­a­tion

Sa­mumed came out with a bang a cou­ple years ago, when it bold­ly an­nounced a cou­ple of an­ti-ag­ing pro­grams and a $12 bil­lion val­u­a­tion. The San Diego com­pa­ny, which op­er­at­ed in stealth through much of its first decade, had no late-stage pro­grams and no prod­ucts on the mar­ket at the time, caus­ing quite the hub­bub when it claimed uni­corn sta­tus.

To­day, that com­pa­ny has added $438 mil­lion of eq­ui­ty back­ing to its cof­fers, clos­ing a mega-round that adds to its pre­vi­ous­ly raised $212 mil­lion. And yet again, the com­pa­ny an­nounced its pre-mon­ey val­u­a­tion for the lat­est round at a whop­ping $12 bil­lion. Even in these go-go days of biotech, the dol­lars are eye-pop­ping.

The fig­ure will cer­tain­ly raise eye­brows, but that’s noth­ing new for Os­man Kibar, Sa­mumed’s pas­sion­ate and col­or­ful CEO. I met with Kibar back in 2016, tour­ing the rather qui­et halls of Sa­mumed’s head­quar­ters. His en­thu­si­asm for the com­pa­ny’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al os­teoarthri­tis drug left an im­pres­sion on me, as he fer­vent­ly sketched graphs on a white­board to help me un­der­stand the WNT path­way.

“We’re sit­ting on a gold­mine, and this is on­ly the tip of the ice­berg,” Kibar said at the time. “If our strat­e­gy was to sell, no one could af­ford us.”

Found­ed in 2008, Sa­mumed now has eight pro­grams in its pipeline: two Phase II drugs, five in Phase I, and one pre­clin­i­cal. Its late-stage pro­grams are in os­teoarthri­tis and an­dro­ge­net­ic alope­cia (hair loss).

The com­pa­ny’s Phase II tri­al in OA en­rolled 455 pa­tients and went for a year. This pa­tient pop­u­la­tion in­cludes over 20 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who suf­fer from car­ti­lage wear­ing away in their joints and the re­sult­ing pain as­so­ci­at­ed with move­ment. There’s no re­al treat­ment be­sides pain med­ica­tion, which can ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem (feel­ing less pain, pa­tients tend to move around more and fur­ther wear down that car­ti­lage). Af­ter re­ceiv­ing a sin­gle in­jec­tion, pa­tients showed car­ti­lage growth at the me­di­al joint.

But in Sa­mumed’s very brief press re­lease on this new round of fund­ing, the com­pa­ny did not men­tion where the mon­ey came from. That caught my at­ten­tion, be­cause when I first wrote about Sa­mumed, I thought the com­pa­ny’s lead in­vestors were odd choic­es: IKEA’s pri­vate ven­ture firm, anony­mous high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als and a sin­gle ven­ture cap­i­tal firm called Vick­ers Ven­ture Part­ners. The biggest in­vestors are a fur­ni­ture com­pa­ny and a ven­ture firm with no his­to­ry of drug dis­cov­ery in­vest­ments. How could they rec­og­nize a valu­able in­vest­ment when they saw one?

I reached out to Kibar this morn­ing to see who was in this new syn­di­cate. Kibar replied with this:

Our ex­ist­ing in­vestors par­tic­i­pat­ed about ~15-20% of this round, the rest are new. And we went with pri­vate cap­i­tal again (fam­i­ly of­fices, high net worth in­di­vid­u­als, and sov­er­eign funds), no VC/PE (ex­cept Vick­ers).

Fin­ian Tan, chair­man at Vick­ers, at the time ex­plained that Sa­mumed was the first of many in­vest­ments in drug dis­cov­ery. Tan him­self is no rook­ie in health­care. He’s served as ex­ec­u­tive deputy chair­man of Sin­ga­pore’s Na­tion­al Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Board, as well as on the boards of The Na­tion­al Can­cer Cen­ter of Sin­ga­pore, ven­ture firm Life Sci­ences In­vest­ment, and SingHealth, the biggest health care group in Sin­ga­pore.

Though not a sci­en­tist him­self, he ap­par­ent­ly has a knack for eye­ing good in­vest­ments. Tan was an ear­ly in­vestor of Baidu, known as the “Google of Chi­na” and cur­rent­ly val­ued at $80 bil­lion. Tan said his ven­ture firm made the biggest en­try in­vest­ment it’s ever made with Sa­mumed due to the com­pa­ny’s unique­ly high re­ward vs. risk pro­file. The last time he made a sim­i­lar in­vest­ment was Baidu it­self, Tan said.

Sa­mumed’s drug dis­cov­ery plat­form could be “a break­through of huge pro­por­tions,” Tan said in an email. “The im­pact on hu­mankind would be an or­der of mag­ni­tude we have not seen since (Alexan­der) Flem­ing’s dis­cov­ery of an­tibi­otics (in the 1920s).”

Time will tell.

Kibar said Sa­mumed is tar­get­ing its first ap­proval with­in the next few years.

“This round takes us there (in­clud­ing all our pro­grams, clin­i­cal and pre­clin­i­cal pipeline), plus launch cost, plus some ex­tra cush­ion,” Kibar wrote in an email.


Im­age: Os­man Kibar.

Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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Hal Barron. GSK

GSK's Hal Bar­ron her­alds their sec­ond pos­i­tive piv­otal for cru­cial an­ti-BC­MA ther­a­py, point­ing to a push for quick OKs in a crowd­ed field

Hal Barron has his second positive round of Phase III data in hand for his anti-BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916). And GSK’s research chief says the data paves the way for their drive in search of an FDA approval for treating multiple myeloma.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this drug for GSK, a cornerstone of Barron’s campaign to make a dramatic impact on the oncology market and provide some long-lost excitement for the pharma giant’s pipeline. They’re putting this BCMA program at the front of that charge — looking to lead a host of rivals all aimed at the same target.

We don’t know what the data are yet, but DREAMM-2 falls on the heels of a promising set of data delivered 5 months ago for DREAMM-1. There investigators noted that complete responses among treatment-resistant patients rose to 15% in the extra year’s worth of data to look over, with a median progression-free survival rate of 12 months, up from 7.9 months reported earlier. The median duration of response was 14.3 months.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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Video: Putting the AI in R&D — with Badhri Srini­vasan, Tony Wood, Rosana Kapeller, Hugo Ceule­mans, Saurabh Sa­ha and Shoibal Dat­ta

During BIO this year, I had a chance to moderate a panel among some of the top tech experts in biopharma on their real-world use of artificial intelligence in R&D. There’s been a lot said about the potential of AI, but I wanted to explore more about what some of the larger players are actually doing with this technology today, and how they see it advancing in the future. It was a fascinating exchange, which you can see here. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. — John Carroll

As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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Why would Am­gen want to buy Alex­ion? An­a­lysts call hot­ly ru­mored takeover un­like­ly, but seize the mo­ment

A rumor that Amgen is closing in on buyout deal for Alexion has sparked a guessing game on just what kind of M&A strategy Amgen is pursuing and how much Alexion is worth.

Mizuho analyst Salim Syed first lent credence to the report out of the Spanish news outlet Intereconomía, which said Amgen is bidding as much as $200 per share. While the source may be questionable, “the concept of this happening doesn’t sound too crazy to me,” he wrote.