Geoff McDonough, Generation Bio

With $110M to add to the bankroll, Gen­er­a­tion Bio sets its sights on en­gi­neer­ing a rev­o­lu­tion in the gene ther­a­py field

Who­ev­er comes out on top of the cur­rent race to gain pi­o­neer­ing ap­provals for new AAV-de­liv­ered gene ther­a­pies will have to look over their shoul­ders to watch the next tech wave form­ing on the hori­zon for gene ther­a­py 2.0.

One of those next-gen play­ers, Gen­er­a­tion Bio, just brought in $110 mil­lion of ven­ture cash to cov­er the cost of the rest of their pre­clin­i­cal jour­ney to­ward some­thing com­plete­ly new in the field. The lat­est round brings the biotech — which now has about 80 staffers — up to $235 mil­lion in to­tal since its in­cep­tion about 3 years ago. That will fu­el the rest of its pre­clin­i­cal stage of de­vel­op­ment as it looks to break in­to hu­man stud­ies in the back half of 2021.

That kind of 4-plus year time­line be­fore the first hu­man dos­ing could test the en­durance lev­el of a ven­ture play­er. But Gen­er­a­tion CEO Ge­off Mc­Do­nough looks over the past 2 years ad­vanc­ing a new lipid nanopar­ti­cle de­liv­ery sys­tem for their closed-end DNA ther­a­pies — work­ing to the day when gene ther­a­pies can be pro­duced and sold for far less than the $2 mil­lion-or-so price tag to­day — and sees lots of fast-paced ad­vances.

“I think the re­al­i­ty is we didn’t have an ex­pec­ta­tion at the out­set (on time­lines),” Mc­Do­nough tells me. Rec­og­niz­ing the nov­el work need­ed to build the plat­form, the in­vestors knew it would take time and mon­ey to bring them up to a GMP lev­el.

“I would say for a 40-year prob­lem,” adds the CEO, “2 years seems pret­ty good.”

The found­ing tech at Gen­er­a­tion was de­signed to do what AAV treat­ments do in the nu­cle­us, of­fer­ing en­dur­ing ex­pres­sion, while al­low­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing at a bi­o­log­ic scale with a more eco­nom­i­cal, cap­sid-free pro­duc­tion method. Tak­ing a page from the tech hand­books at com­pa­nies like Al­ny­lam and Mod­er­na, they’re build­ing a gene ther­a­py that they be­lieve can do much bet­ter than the frag­ile, one-time-on­ly pi­o­neers. And with­out the $1 mil­lion pro­duc­tion cost that keeps whole­sale prices in the low 7-fig­ure range.

They’re look­ing for much greater econ­o­my, even­tu­al­ly tak­ing these ther­a­pies to much broad­er ail­ments and out of the realm of rare dis­eases with a new ap­proach that they be­lieve can be in­fi­nite­ly re­dos­able — on an as-need­ed ba­sis.

That’s the big pic­ture.

Gen­er­a­tion’s team is work­ing on 2 lead pro­grams for he­mo­phil­ia A and phenylke­tonuria (PKU) to go in­to IND-en­abling stud­ies. They’ve now iden­ti­fied Wil­son dis­ease and Gauch­er dis­ease as like­ly start­ing points for the next steps as they move past the liv­er to skele­tal mus­cle and the reti­na and then oth­er tis­sues. And Mc­Do­nough — the for­mer CEO at So­bi — is look­ing down the road 12 to 18 months when he’d like to turn to the pub­lic mar­kets with an IPO to fund the first clin­i­cal-stage work.

In the mean­time, he’d like to con­cen­trate on open­ing an­oth­er new chap­ter of the com­pa­ny on the deal­mak­ing side.

“It felt very im­por­tant not to part­ner” ini­tial­ly,  says Mc­Do­nough. The in­vestors want­ed to re­tain own­er­ship of plat­form. “We just had tremen­dous good for­tune we didn’t need to do that for fi­nance rea­sons.” But now that they have a bet­ter grasp of the tech­nol­o­gy and what needs to be done, it’s time to part­ner — prob­a­bly lat­er in the year.

T. Rowe Price funds and ac­counts led the round, with Far­al­lon and Welling­ton Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny jump­ing in along­side. Ex­ist­ing in­vestors At­las Ven­ture, Fi­deli­ty, In­vus, Cas­din, Deer­field, Fore­site Cap­i­tal and an en­ti­ty as­so­ci­at­ed with SVB Leerink came back to stay in the syn­di­cate. Cowen served as ex­clu­sive place­ment agent for the of­fer­ing.

2019 Trin­i­ty Drug In­dex Eval­u­ates Ac­tu­al Com­mer­cial Per­for­mance of Nov­el Drugs Ap­proved in 2016

Fewer Approvals, but Neurology Rivals Oncology and Sees Major Innovations

This report, the fourth in our Trinity Drug Index series, outlines key themes and emerging trends in the industry as we progress towards a new world of targeted and innovative products. It provides a comprehensive evaluation of the performance of novel drugs approved by the FDA in 2016, scoring each on its commercial performance, therapeutic value, and R&D investment (Table 1: Drug ranking – Ratings on a 1-5 scale).

How to cap­i­talise on a lean launch

For start-up biotechnology companies and resource stretched pharmaceutical organisations, launching a novel product can be challenging. Lean teams can make setting a launch strategy and achieving your commercial goals seem like a colossal undertaking, but can these barriers be transformed into opportunities that work to your brand’s advantage?
We spoke to Managing Consultant Frances Hendry to find out how Blue Latitude Health partnered with a fledgling subsidiary of a pharmaceutical organisation to launch an innovative product in a
complex market.
What does the launch environment look like for this product?
FH: We started working on the product at Phase II and now we’re going into Phase III trials. There is a significant unmet need in this disease area, and everyone is excited about the launch. However, the organisation is still evolving and the team is quite small – naturally this causes a little turbulence.

Aymeric Le Chatelier, Ipsen

A $1B-plus drug stum­bles in­to an­oth­er big PhI­II set­back as FDA hold re­mains in ef­fect for Ipsen

David Meek

At the time Ipsen stepped up last year with more than a billion dollars in cash to buy Clementia and a late-stage program for a rare bone disease that afflicts children, then CEO David Meek was confident that he had put the French biotech on a short path to a mid-2020 launch.

Instead of prepping a launch, though, the company was hit with a hold on the FDA’s concerns that a therapy designed to prevent overgrowth of bone for cases of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva might actually stunt children’s growth. So they ordered a halt to any treatments for kids 14 and under. Meek left soon after to run a startup in Boston. And today the Paris-based biotech is grappling with the independent monitoring committee’s decision that their Phase III had failed a futility test.

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Roche's check­point play­er Tecen­triq flops in an­oth­er blad­der can­cer sub­set

Just weeks after Merck’s star checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda secured FDA approval for a subset of bladder cancer patients, Swiss competitor Roche’s Tecentriq has failed in a pivotal bladder cancer study.

The 809-patient trial — IMvigor010 — tested the PD-L1 drug in patients with muscle-invasive urothelial cancer (MIUC) who had undergone surgery, and were at high risk for recurrence.

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UP­DAT­ED: Eli Lil­ly’s $1.6B can­cer drug failed to spark even the slight­est pos­i­tive gain for pa­tients in its 1st PhI­II

Eli Lilly had high hopes for its pegylated IL-10 drug pegilodecakin when it bought Armo last year for $1.6 billion in cash. But after reporting a few months ago that it had failed a Phase III in pancreatic cancer, without the data, its likely value has plunged. And now we’re getting some exact data that underscore just how little positive effect it had.

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Ku­ra co-founder heads to Asian mul­ti-na­tion­al as biotech eyes the goal posts for lead drug

Six years after Kura Oncology snagged a farnesyl transferase inhibitor from J&J and leapt straight into clinical development, one of the biotech’s founders is leaving to start a new chapter in his career.

CMO and development chief Antonio Gualberto is exiting the company, and Kura — led by longtime biotech entrepreneur Troy Wilson — is on the hunt for a replacement. Wilson credited the CMO for some key biomarker work, including the discovery of the CXCL12 pathway as a target of their lead drug tipifarnib. Those biomarkers are being relied on to define the patient population most likely to benefit from the drug.

FDA waves Epizyme's $186K rare can­cer drug through to mar­ket — now get ready for the sec­ond act

After winning the hearts of the expert panel convened by the FDA despite a bleak in-house review and a checkered development history, Robert Bazemore has steered Epizyme to its first-ever OK for a rare cancer drug.

The approval in epithelioid sarcoma sets tazemetostat, now Tazverik, up nicely for a quick expansion to follicular lymphoma — a much bigger indication for which the biotech has just submitted an NDA.

2019 a 'trans­for­ma­tive year' for phar­ma M&A. Is that a good thing?

Big Pharma keeps getting bigger.

Fueled by the mega-mergers between Bristol-Myers Squibb and Celgene and between Allergan and AbbVie, the industry last year saw $350 billion worth of M&A, according to the new year-end report from the consultants at PwC.  That’s a more than 50% increase on 2018.

“I kind of look at 2019 as a transformational year,” report author Glen Hunzinger told Endpoints News. 

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Drug-drug in­ter­ac­tions: FDA is­sues guid­ance on clin­i­cal, in vit­ro stud­ies

The FDA on Thursday finalized two guidances providing recommendations to drugmakers on evaluating potential drug-drug interactions (DDIs) for new drugs through clinical and in vitro testing.

“Together, the two final guidances describe a systematic risk-based approach to evaluation and communication of DDIs,” the FDA writes.

The two guidances finalize draft versions released in 2017 and have been revised to clarify their scope, provide additional considerations for conducting prospective studies and to explain “when DDI studies are needed for drugs identified as transporter substrates from in vitro studies.” Both guidances have been renamed from their draft versions to reflect an emphasis on investigating the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzyme and transporter-mediated drug interactions.