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.”

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Look­ing for 'ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion,' Boehringer In­gel­heim re­serves $500M+ for new Shang­hai hub

Now that Boehringer Ingelheim’s bet on contract manufacturing in China has paid off, the German drugmaker is anteing up more to get into the research game.

Boehringer has set aside $507.9 million (€451 million) for a new External Innovation Hub to be built in Shanghai over five years. The site will become one of its “strategic pillars” as the team strives to get 71 approvals — either for new products or indications — by 2030, said Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim China.

Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Patrick Straub/​EPA-EFE/​Shutterstock)

No­var­tis pays $678M for kick­back scheme as Vas Narasimhan tries to dis­tance phar­ma gi­ant from shady be­hav­ior

Novartis has reached another large settlement to resolve misconduct allegations, agreeing to pay more than $678 million to settle claims that it had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lavish dinners, so-called speaking fees and expensive alcohol “that were nothing more than bribes” to get doctors to prescribe Novartis medications.

The top-shelf alcohol and lavish meals included a $3,250 per person night at Nobu in Dallas, a $672-per person dinner at Washington DC’s Smith & Wollensky and a $314 per person meal at Sushi Roku in Pasadena, according to the Justice Department complaint. There were at least 7 trips to Hooters and fishing trips in Alaska and off the Florida coast. Each of these events were supposed to be “speaker programs” where doctors educated other doctors on a drug, but the DOJ alleged many were “bogus” wine-and-dine events where the drug was barely mentioned, if at all.  (“Nobody presented slides on the fishing trips,” the complaint says.)

Douglas Love, Annexon CEO (Annexon)

IPO bound? A Bay Area biotech grabs a mega-round on the road to a piv­otal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion pro­gram

South San Francisco-based Annexon has added $100 million to its cash reserves, along with a new roster of marquee investors backing their play on the classical complement pathway involved in neurodegeneration. And that may well fit the profile for an IPO — though right now everything seems to be working on that score.

Eighteen months after Bain and their syndicate partners put up $75 million to fuel clinical work, Annexon is back at the trough. And this time they’re adding Redmile Group for the lead role, with supporting investments from these new arrivals: BlackRock, Deerfield Management Company, Eventide Asset Management, Farallon Capital Management, Janus Henderson Investors and Logos Capital.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Randy Schatzman, Bolt CEO (Bolt Biotherapeutics)

Bolt Bio­ther­a­peu­tics nabs $93.5M to push Provenge in­ven­tor's new idea deep­er in the clin­ic

A cancer-fighting concept from the inventor of the first cancer vaccine is nearing prime time, and its biotech developer has received a significant new infusion of cash to get it there.

Bolt Biotherapeutics announced a $93.5 million Series C round led by Sofinnova Investments and joined by more than 9 others, including Pfizer Ventures and RA Capital Management. That money will go toward pushing the San Francisco biotech’s platform of innate immune-boosting warheads through its first trial on metastatic solid tumors and into several more.