With bucks from Pfiz­er added to their new round, Am­plyx steers a tricky course through PhII and a glob­al pan­dem­ic

Af­ter beef­ing up its pipeline last year with an in-li­cens­ing deal from No­var­tis, San Diego-based Am­plyx has lined up an ex­ten­sion of their C round, de­signed to pay their way through a slate of mid-stage tri­als putting their ex­per­i­men­tal drugs to the test in hu­mans. And this time they’re get­ting some bucks from Pfiz­er to pay for the next leg in the de­vel­op­ment process.

The new mon­ey — a $53 mil­lion add to the first tranche in 2017 — brings their C round to­tal to $90 mil­lion-plus, with Pfiz­er join­ing a syn­di­cate that in­cludes Sofinno­va Ven­ture Part­ners, with par­tic­i­pa­tion from ex­ist­ing in­vestors in­clud­ing New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates, Lund­beck­fonden Ven­tures, Ar­ix Bio­science, Pap­pas Cap­i­tal, River­Vest Ven­ture Part­ners, 3×5 Part­ners and Bio­Med Ven­tures. Adage Cap­i­tal was an­oth­er new in­vestor in the round, with Pfiz­er, which brings the biotech’s to­tal raise to date to $140 mil­lion.

The re­cent raise will back a planned tri­al launch for the an­ti-BK virus drug they got from No­var­tis, dis­patched af­ter the phar­ma gi­ant shut down its an­ti-in­fec­tives unit. That study had to be de­layed, says CEO Cia­ra Kennedy, as it in­volves im­mune-com­pro­mised pa­tients in need of a treat­ment like this. And right now, with the pan­dem­ic ham­per­ing all sorts of tri­al starts, re­cruit­ing im­mune-com­pro­mised pa­tients for a study is no sim­ple mat­ter.

Their lead pro­gram is for fos­man­ogepix, an an­ti-fun­gal in Phase II stud­ies for Can­di­da in­fec­tions. They’ve of­fered a pos­i­tive snap­shot of da­ta from 10 pa­tients to help demon­strate po­ten­tial to in­vestors, with ad­di­tion­al mid-stage stud­ies in pa­tients with As­pergillus and oth­er mold in­fec­tions, as well as in­fec­tions caused by mul­ti-drug-re­sis­tant Can­di­da au­ris.

“The mon­ey will see us in­to sec­ond half of ’21, through im­por­tant da­ta read­outs,” says Kennedy.

Pfiz­er is a par­tic­u­lar­ly good get for the syn­di­cate, she adds. The phar­ma gi­ant shep­herd­ed the last an­ti-fun­gal that made it to the mar­ket — 5 years ago. And the biotech has been craft­ing a strat­e­gy that keeps them fo­cused on dis­eases with “few­er treat­ment op­tions, where mor­tal­i­ty is high­er, so the will­ing­ness to use ex­pen­sive drugs is much high­er.”

That way Kennedy feels they can steer an an­ti-fun­gal course that takes them well clear of the an­tibi­ot­ic wreck­age that has been pil­ing up over the past year.

Kennedy isn’t mak­ing any spe­cif­ic pre­dic­tions for where the com­pa­ny goes from Phase II to raise ad­di­tion­al cash. That can still be de­cid­ed lat­er, af­ter they get a chance to re­view their op­tions on an IPO, a deal maybe, or more ven­ture cash.

First, though, they have to get much more Phase II da­ta to show in­vestors.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.