With $500M-plus, a buy­out and two new bil­lion-dol­lar pacts, up­start Vir is ready to roll on in­fec­tious dis­eases

George Scan­gos has been busy since leav­ing Bio­gen’s helm and jump­ing to the start­up Vir Biotech­nol­o­gy in San Fran­cis­co. Now it’s time for the com­ing out par­ty, which in­volves de­vel­op­ment al­liances with two of the biotechs back at his for­mer base in Cam­bridge, MA. And ac­cord­ing to Scan­gos, Vir is still just get­ting start­ed in build­ing a whole new com­pa­ny.

To­day Scan­gos un­veiled a biotech buy­out, two bil­lion-dol­lar drug de­vel­op­ment deals to build the pipeline, more than $500 mil­lion in fi­nanc­ing from some high-rolling tech gam­blers and four aca­d­e­m­ic part­ner­ships at Vir, which has set out to cre­ate a new pipeline for in­fec­tious dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment.

Let’s kick this off with the part­ner­ships.

Robert Nelsen, Arch Ven­tures

Al­nyam gets it start­ed with a pact cov­er­ing RNAi drugs for in­fec­tious dis­eases, with Vir bag­ging de­vel­op­ment rights for a next-gen he­pati­tis B drug along with rights to four oth­er pro­grams that go in­to the pack­age. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, Al­ny­lam si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly said it’s ax­ing its orig­i­nal ear­ly-stage hep B pro­gram for ALN-HBV and re­plac­ing it with an amped up suc­ces­sor dubbed ALN-HBV02.

In the Al­ny­lam pact, Vir will pick up the pro­gram for the first hu­man proof-of-con­cept study, with the part­ners co-fund­ing the work. Vir takes con­trol in Phase II and Al­ny­lam has an op­tion to jump in­to a prof­it-shar­ing pact ahead of Phase III.

Al­ny­lam gets an un­spec­i­fied up­front in cash and stock in Vir, with $1 bil­lion-plus in mile­stones.

Then there’s Vis­ter­ra. This biotech has built a plat­form us­ing an epi­tope-tar­get­ing tech that can be used for pre­ci­sion an­ti­body de­vel­op­ment.

Vir has bagged an op­tion on mi­nor­i­ty rights to VIS410 for in­fluen­za A hos­pi­tal cas­es with a shot at a re­gion­al co-pro­mo­tion li­cense, plus pro­grams for RSV, fun­gal in­fec­tions and two oth­er pro­grams to be de­cid­ed on. Vis­ter­ra al­so gets more than a bil­lion dol­lars in po­ten­tial mile­stones.

Build­ing its own plat­form, Vir has ac­quired Switzer­land’s Hum­abs Bio­Med SA for an un­spec­i­fied amount, adding its op­er­a­tions and staff, who will re­main in Eu­rope.

The four new aca­d­e­m­ic deals cov­er an AI col­lab­o­ra­tion for drug dis­cov­ery with Stan­ford; a part­ner­ship with Har­vard that will give Vir an in-li­cens­ing edge for fu­ture pro­grams; an ex­pand­ed pact with OHSU and an al­liance with the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter for cell ther­a­pies.

Pay­ing for all this is a syn­di­cate that was led by Arch Ven­tures’ Robert Nelsen, who seed­ed the com­pa­ny, along with the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, Al­ti­tude Life Sci­ence Ven­tures and Al­ta Part­ners. They’re joined by Soft­Bank Vi­sion Fund, Temasek, Bail­lie Gif­ford, the Alas­ka Per­ma­nent Fund, and se­lect sov­er­eign wealth funds, pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­ly of­fices and in­sti­tu­tion­al in­vestors.

Scan­gos calls Vir a sci­ence-dri­ven com­pa­ny, but it’s very much fo­cused on clin­i­cal stage de­vel­op­ment. In a state­ment, he not­ed:

“We ex­pect to move sev­er­al com­pounds in­to clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in the next 18 months and we have an op­tion to ac­quire a por­tion of a Phase II com­pound tar­get­ing flu. We al­so con­tin­ue to eval­u­ate sev­er­al near-term op­por­tu­ni­ties to ac­quire ad­di­tion­al mid- and late-stage clin­i­cal com­pounds, as well as ex­pand our tech­nol­o­gy base even fur­ther. We have hired an ex­pe­ri­enced man­age­ment team and built in­ter­nal tech­nol­o­gy de­vel­op­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­quired for the pro­duc­tion of bi­o­log­i­cal prod­ucts. I am pleased that in our first year we have been able to align lead­ing ideas, tech­nol­o­gy, and ex­per­tise fo­cused on trans­form­ing the care of peo­ple with se­ri­ous in­fec­tious dis­eases and pro­vid­ing a re­turn to our in­vestors.”

George Scan­gos pic­tured dur­ing a TV in­ter­view on Jan­u­ary 12, 2016. David Paul Mor­ris/Bloomberg via Get­ty Im­ages

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

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The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

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Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.