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.”

Bio­mark­er 'roadmap­s' and the fu­ture of can­cer R&D; Cur­tain rais­es on #AS­CO22; Pfiz­er, No­var­tis tack­le drug ac­cess; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

While this was not a week for earth-shattering news, there were certainly a lot of interesting tidbits. If you found this recap helpful, please recommend it to your friends and colleagues. We’ll see you on the other side of the long weekend.

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Keep­ing pres­sure on Am­gen, Mi­rati draws mixed re­views on lat­est cut of KRAS da­ta

As the close runner-up to Amgen’s Lumakras in the KRAS race, any data cut from Mirati’s adagrasib continues to draw scrutiny from analysts. And the latest batch of numbers from ASCO is a decidedly mixed bag.

While a quick comparison suggests that adagrasib spurred slightly more responses and led to a longer overall survival than Lumakras among a group of non-small cell lung cancer patients, its duration of response appears shorter and the safety profile continues to spark concern.

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Ann is one of ViiV Healthcare's newest spokespeople as the retired school administrator speaks up about her HIV status.

GSK's Vi­iV de­buts next evo­lu­tion in HIV med Dova­to cam­paign with new spokes­peo­ple and new mes­sage

When Ann saw the first TV commercials for HIV medicine Dovato, she didn’t see herself represented. So the 74-year-old retired school administrator who’s been living with HIV since 1998, reached out to GSK’s ViiV Healthcare and asked why not?

Now Ann is one of three people starring in ViiV’s latest Dovato campaign called “Detect This.” The next-step evolution in the branded campaign plays on the word “detect” — often used in describing HIV status under control as undetectable — but in this case, uses the word as a directive for people to understand they can use fewer medicines.

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Tran­si­tion to new Eu­ro­pean clin­i­cal tri­als in­fo sys­tem starts slow­ly

At the end of January, the European Medicines Agency officially launched its new clinical trials info system (CTIS), although the migration to the new platform has only really just begun, and sponsors have until the end of January 2023 before all initial trial applications must be submitted through CTIS.

Overall, 56 clinical trial applications have been submitted in CTIS during the first 3 months since the launch of the system on Jan. 31, according to new data posted by the EMA. By comparison, about 4,000 new trials are authorized each year across Europe.

Switzer­land to de­stroy over 600,000 ex­pired dos­es of Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine

As concerns related to uptake and distribution continue to linger, Switzerland is among the first countries that plans to destroy hundreds of thousands of expired and unused Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The European country said it plans to destroy more than 600,000 doses of Moderna’s Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine as the doses have reached their expiration date.

However, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he’s in the process of throwing 30 million doses in the garbage, exclaiming, “We have a big demand problem.”

Lanny Sun, co-founder, CEO and chairman of Full-Life Technologies

Se­quoia Chi­na leads $37M in­fu­sion in­to ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals play­er set­ting up shop in Chi­na and Bel­gium

It’s not just American startups that are tuning into the rising interest in radiopharmaceuticals.

Sequoia China is leading a $37 million Series A into Full-Life Technologies, a biotech headquartered in Shanghai with offices in Brussels, Belgium, to develop a pipeline of radioactive cancer therapies.

The idea isn’t new: As clinicians started routinely deploying radiation to kill cancer cells, scientists and drugmakers have long been exploring ways to limit that powerful effect only to cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. But recent progress in the production of radioisotopes — coupled with big investments from Big Pharma, most notably Novartis and Bayer — has inspired a new wave of startups.

Nassim Usman, Catalyst Biosciences CEO

Af­ter $60M Ver­tex deal, group of Cat­a­lyst share­hold­ers claims biotech could’ve sold as­sets three years ago

Catalyst Biosciences was down to five employees in March, and the biotech needed to do something after two rounds of layoffs, a nixed collaboration and a culling of its hemophilia program.

In came Vertex, with $60 million to buy up the South San Francisco biotech’s preclinical complement drugs, which target the system that bridges the body’s innate and adaptive immune response and a class most known for Ultomiris and Soliris. The deal includes CB 2782-PEG, the dry AMD drug that Biogen no longer wanted in March.

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Lina Khan, FTC chair (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP Images)

Pile-on over PBMs con­tin­ues with FTC com­ments and a new bi­par­ti­san Sen­ate bill

More than 500 stakeholders sent comments to the FTC on whether the commission should look further into pharma middlemen, known as PBMs, with many of the commenters calling for more federal oversight.

Similar to the critical open comment period in a deadlocked FTC session last February, pharmacies and pharmacy groups are continuing to call out the lack of transparency among the top 3 PBMs, which control about 80% of the market.

Pharma brands are losing their shine with US consumers who are now thinking about the economy and inflation instead of Covid. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Phar­ma brands fade in an­nu­al Har­ris con­sumer vis­i­bil­i­ty poll: Mod­er­na drops off and Pfiz­er dips

As Covid-19 concerns are fading in the US, so is biopharma visibility. The annual Axios Harris Poll survey to determine and rank the 100 most top-of-mind brands in the US finds Moderna, which was No. 3 last year, not on the list at all for 2022, and Pfizer sinking 37 spots.

However, it’s not that Moderna or Pfizer did anything wrong, it’s just that Americans have moved on to other worries beyond Covid.

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