With $58M in hand, the start­up team at Pan­dion sets their sights on a next-gen ap­proach to im­munol­o­gy

An­tho­ny Coyle start­ed Pfiz­er’s Cen­ters for Ther­a­peu­tic In­no­va­tion with an eye to chang­ing the way the phar­ma gi­ant went about the busi­ness of drug dis­cov­ery. And then af­ter leav­ing last sum­mer and join­ing the great mi­gra­tion out of Big Phar­ma, he switched in­to a new role as biotech CEO — where he gets to take a more hands-on role in that strug­gle.

Coyle is at the helm of a new start­up called Pan­dion Ther­a­peu­tics, one of the lat­est ar­rivals in the bustling Cam­bridge, MA hub, where Po­laris seed­ed a group of about 12 re­searchers who have been look­ing to take some of the many lessons learned from im­muno-on­col­o­gy and then re­verse en­gi­neer­ing the tech­nol­o­gy for an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry or au­toim­mune drugs.

Jo Viney

“There have been tremen­dous ad­vances in un­der­stand­ing how the im­mune sys­tem in­ter­plays with the tu­mor,” Coyle tells me. And Pan­dion’s ob­jec­tives, in­spired in part by co-founder and im­munol­o­gy ex­pert David Sachs, “res­onat­ed with (chief sci­en­tist) Jo Viney and my­self.”

Viney was pre­vi­ous­ly se­nior vice pres­i­dent of drug dis­cov­ery and VP of im­munol­o­gy re­search for Bio­gen, and had ear­li­er worked at Am­gen.

“It will be fas­ci­nat­ing if we can shift the par­a­digm on de­vel­op­ing new drugs,” says the CEO.

The big idea here is that the com­pa­ny be­lieves it can cre­ate a set of bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies that will al­low for tar­get­ed, lo­cal­ized mod­u­la­tion of the im­mune sys­tem, with one arm of the bis­pe­cif­ic bind­ing to mol­e­cules ex­pressed at the site of in­flam­ma­tion.

That kind of work has ap­pli­ca­tions for in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease as well as au­toim­mune dis­eases of the liv­er, to start with.

Alan Crane

Po­laris en­tre­pre­neur­ship part­ner Alan Crane helped arrange the seed mon­ey and gath­ered the syn­di­cate to­geth­er for to­day’s an­nounce­ment of the $58 mil­lion launch round. Po­laris is in the co-lead po­si­tion with Ver­sant Ven­tures and Roche Ven­ture Fund. Glax­o­SmithK­line’s SR One and BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal al­so chipped in on the round.

The mon­ey should be enough to get be­yond the first 2 or 3 years of the start­up phase, says Coyle, with enough cash to move pro­grams out of the pre­clin­i­cal stage and in­to the clin­ic. And he wouldn’t be sur­prised to see the first part­ner­ship come to­geth­er this year, as the team dou­bles up in size.

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

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

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

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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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.

The key dates for KRAS watch­ers through the end of the year — the trail is nar­row and risks are ex­treme

There’s nothing quite like a big patent win when it comes to burnishing your prospects in the pipeline. And for Amgen, which seems to have rescued Enbrel for a run to 2029, the cheering section on Wall Street is now fixed on AMG 510 and a key rival.

And it didn’t take much data to do it. 

There was the first snapshot of a handful of patients, with a 50% response rate. Then came word that Amgen researchers are also tracking responses in different cancers, at least one in colorectal cancer and appendiceal too. 

Bain's Or­ly Mis­han joins Pfiz­er's neu­ro spin­out Cerev­el; On­colyt­ic virus biotech taps Sil­la­Jen ex­ec He­le­na Chaye as CEO

→ Bain Capital is deploying one of its top investors to Cerevel Therapeutics, steering a $350 million-plus neuro play carved out of Pfizer. Orly Mishan — a co-founder and principal of Bain’s life sciences unit — was involved in the partnership that birthed the biotech spinout in the first place. As Cerevel’s first chief business officer, she is tasked with corporate development, program management as well as technical operations. 

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.