Peter Luo. Adagene

WuXi-backed Ada­gene scores $69M round led by Gen­er­al At­lantic to push an­ti­bod­ies where Bris­tol-My­ers strug­gled

Back when Pe­ter Luo found­ed Ada­gene in 2012, much of Chi­na was still fo­cused on biosim­i­lars and con­tract ser­vices as the in­dus­try strug­gled to bring man­u­fac­tur­ing qual­i­ty up to glob­al stan­dards. But the Stan­ford-trained sci­en­tist and bat­tle-test­ed en­tre­pre­neur — to­geth­er with long­time friend and WuXi founder Ge Li — saw an op­por­tu­ni­ty to be­gin build­ing a plat­form play cen­tered around en­gi­neer­ing bet­ter an­ti­bod­ies.

Ge Li

Now Gen­er­al At­lantic has joined some top-tier Chi­nese in­vestors in­clud­ing WuXi Ven­tures, Eight Roads and Se­quoia for a $69 mil­lion Se­ries D, bring­ing the to­tal haul to $150 mil­lion just as Ada­gene be­gins to see some ear­ly clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion.

“We be­lieve Chi­na is a ris­ing, vi­brant hub for glob­al life sci­ences in­no­va­tion,” Lefei Sun, head of health­care for Chi­na at Gen­er­al At­lantic, said in a state­ment.

Ada­gene’s two lead as­sets both tar­get well known can­cer-dri­ving im­mune check­points: ADG106 ag­o­nizes CD137, or 4-1BB, and ADG116 blocks CT­LA-4.

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb, which pi­o­neered the first and on­ly CT­LA-4 in­hibitor Yer­voy, al­so tried de­vel­op­ing a 4-1BB ag­o­nist an­ti­body dubbed ure­lum­ab, but hopes for a monother­a­py were dashed af­ter liv­er tox­i­c­i­ties emerged. And the use of Yer­voy it­self has been lim­it­ed due to safe­ty con­cerns.

Leifei Sun

By ze­ro­ing in on some “tricky epi­topes,” Luo said, they were able to find a su­pe­ri­or can­di­date that ac­ti­vates 4-1BB in a na­tive lig­and-like fash­ion. And part­ner­ing with WuXi, ar­guably the most pow­er­ful CRO in Chi­na, has saved lots of headaches in pro­duc­tion.

“There are all kinds of ways to make an­ti­bod­ies,” Luo ex­plained to End­points News. “But to do it con­sis­tent­ly and dis­cov­er some­thing un­usu­al […] you re­al­ly have to fig­ure out a nov­el li­brary of an­ti­bod­ies, such as our Dy­nam­ic Pre­ci­sion Li­brary, which will be able to hit and cov­er very ex­ten­sive epi­topes of that tar­get, and that al­low you to ask some fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about mech­a­nism of ac­tions if that an­ti­body en­gages on that unique epi­tope of a giv­en tar­get.”

The Dy­nam­ic Pre­ci­sion Li­brary, al­so called Neo­body in­ter­nal­ly, is on­ly one of three plat­forms up­hold­ing Ada­gene’s busi­ness. Short­ly af­ter it an­nounced a takeover by Bris­tol-My­ers, Cel­gene inked a deal with the biotech to dis­cov­er an­ti­bod­ies against tar­gets of their choice. And a Chi­nese part­ner, San­jin, has li­censed an­oth­er com­pound se­lect­ed from the li­brary.

Then there’s SAFEbody, which al­lows Ada­gene to mask the an­ti­body bind­ing sites such that they are on­ly ac­ti­vat­ed in tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ments. It has at­tract­ed ADC Ther­a­peu­tics as the Swiss com­pa­ny searched for ways to lim­it sys­tem­at­ic ex­po­sure of their armed an­ti­bod­ies.

“In this case they can by­pass those on-tar­get, off-tu­mor tox­i­c­i­ty is­sues,” Luo said.

As he push­es for­ward for co­hort ex­pan­sions in glob­al tri­als of Ada­gene’s first as­sets, he’s al­so look­ing to de­but a third tech dubbed Power­body, de­signed to en­hance ef­fi­ca­cy.

Ada­gene has two head­quar­ters in Suzhou and San Fran­cis­co, with a heavy BD pres­ence in the US. Luo — who co-found­ed an­oth­er an­ti­body de­vel­op­er (Ab­max­is) that was ul­ti­mate­ly ac­quired by Mer­ck — is bank­ing on the sci­ence that’s hap­pen­ing in be­tween.

“So I think this is the most in­ter­est­ing part of the whole in­dus­try,” he said. “Doesn’t mat­ter how big a po­si­tion fi­nan­cial­ly in the in­dus­try. In terms of true in­no­va­tion it is still rare and it comes in a very un­ex­pect­ed way. There­fore, you can com­bine the glob­al tech­nol­o­gy in­no­va­tion with the scale of op­er­a­tion in Chi­na for the in­creased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty that al­lows you to hit the serendip­i­ty that we are look­ing for.”

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Capitol Hill, Feb. 8, 2023 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

FDA com­mis­sion­er floats ideas on how to bet­ter han­dle the pan­dem­ic

FDA Commissioner Rob Califf joined the heads of the CDC and NIH in the hot seat today before a key House subcommittee, explaining that there needs to be a much faster, more coordinated way to oversee vaccine safety, and that foreign biopharma inspections, halted for years due to the pandemic, are slowly ramping up again.

Califf, who stressed to the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health that the CDC also needs better data, made clear that the FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of vaccines “would also benefit greatly by a coordinated federal public health data reporting authority.”

Sanofi is renewing its #VaccinesForDreams campaign with more stories, such as Juan's in Argentina (Sanofi)

Sanofi re­news so­cial cam­paign to re­mind that vac­cines let peo­ple ‘Dream Big’

Sanofi is highlighting people’s dreams — both big and small — to make the point that vaccines make them possible.

The renewed “Dream Big” global social media campaign’s newest dreamer is Juan, a teacher in the Misiones rainforest in Argentina whose story is told through videos on Instagram and Sanofi’s website with the hashtag #VaccinesForDreams.

The campaign ties to Sanofi’s broader umbrella initiative “Vaccine Stories” to promote the value of vaccines and drive awareness of the need for improved vaccination coverage.

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