There were several major deals signed ahead of the J.P Morgan Healthcare Conference that opened today. Although only $50 million up front, Taiho Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and Astex Pharmaceuticals Ltd. are joining Merck & Co. Inc. in an exclusive worldwide research collaboration and license agreement that could generate a potential $2.5 billion downstream as the companies work on developing small-molecule inhibitors against several cancer targets, including the KRAS oncogene.

Nurix Therapeutics Inc. signed its second big pharma collaboration in seven months, partnering with Sanofi SA to discover, develop and commercialize a pipeline of protein degradation therapies. Nurix receives $55 million up front and will be eligible for up to about $2.5 billion in total payments based on achieved milestones. To start, Nurix will design small molecules to induce degradation in three specific targets that could increase to five targets at Sanofi’s option. The pharma receives exclusive rights and will handle clinical development and commercialization, and Nurix retains the option to co-develop and co-promote up to two products in the U.S.

Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc. will use Aro Biotherapeutics Co.’s Centyrin technology to develop targeted cell- and tissue-specific delivery of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), aiming to make ASO-Centyrin pairings that achieve tissue-specific, therapeutically effective gene knockdown in extrahepatic tissues with systemic administration. The deal brings an up-front cash payment, funding for R&D efforts, and payments of up to $1.4 billion if development and commercial milestones are hit.

Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH is establishing a new effort in the antifibrosis area, promising Enleofen Bio Pte. Ltd. potential payouts of more than $1 billion per product from a preclinical interleukin-11 platform. The exclusive rights deal is aimed at developing monoclonal antibodies for multiple fibrotic disorders, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and interstitial lung diseases.

Shares in Targovax ASA rose last week on news of an option and license agreement in China involving its peptide-based KRAS-directed cancer vaccines, TG-01 and TG-02. Iovaxis Therapeutics is paying $250,000 up front for an exclusive option on the two vaccines.

Eli Lilly and Co.’s acquisition of Dermira Inc. for $1.1 billion in cash enlarges Lilly’s dermatology pipeline with the addition of lebrikizumab, a monoclonal antibody designed to bind IL-13 with high affinity, now in two phase III studies for treating moderate to severe atopic dermatitis in adolescent and adult patients, ages 12 and older.

Amunix Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Roche Holding AG has agreed to license its therapeutic half-life extension technology, XTEN, for an effort to discover and develop new non-oncology therapies. The deal, which includes $40 million up front, plus up to $1.5 billion in development and sales milestones, builds on a previous technology evaluation agreement the companies first inked in 2013.

Valuation

BioWorld conducted an analysis of 318 public companies whose shares were trading above $2 at the beginning of 2019, and found the group recorded an impressive average 42% gain in valuation for the year. Biopharma’s impressive overall gains, despite the mixed year for the sector, saw 57 companies recording a doubling or greater of their share prices. Also, according to BioWorld data, when the curtain closed on 2019, approximately $57.6 billion had been generated by global public and private companies. The total fell just $9.5 billion short of the 2018 total cash raised and was $10.8 billion off the $68.4 billion leading total generated in 2015, putting the amount firmly in third place in terms of totals raised in the history of the industry. 

Financial transactions

Apellis Pharmaceuticals Inc. priced its public offering of 9.5 million shares at $37 per share, grossing $351.5 million.

IPO runway: Black Diamond Therapeutics Inc. has filed to raise $100 million from an IPO. The planned offering follows closely on from the cancer drug developer’s oversubscribed series C financing of $85 million. I-Mab Biopharma Co. Ltd., which is focused on developing biologics targeting the therapeutic areas in immuno-oncology and autoimmune diseases, has filed to raise $100 million from an IPO of 7.4 million American depositary shares in a price range of $12 to $15. Arcutis Biotherapeutics Inc. has filed to raise up to $100 million in an IPO.

Private financing: Novo Repair has made new investments of $12 million, bringing the total invested by the specialist anti-infectives venture capital fund since it was set up two years ago to plug the gap in the early stage pipeline to $48 million. The largest investment is $8 million in Mutabilis SA, which is developing drugs against gram-negative infections.

Biointervene Inc. entered a $30 million series A financing, led by MPM Capital; Adagene Inc., an immuno-oncology company with operations in both the U.S. and China, has raised $69 million from a series D financing; Transcenta Holding Ltd. completed a series B+ financing round to secure $100 million to continue its efforts in developing oncology and bone disorder drugs and to prepare for an IPO.

With a newly raised $60 million series B financing, Tarsus Pharmaceuticals Inc. plans to start a phase IIb/III trial of its lead product, TP-03, for treating demodex blepharitis, and to jumpstart two other clinical programs.

Northsea Therapeutics BV has closed a $40 million series B, providing the means to complete the ongoing U.S. phase IIb trial of its lead product for treating nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and to launch clinical trials of two more products. Cerebral Therapeutics Inc. said it raised $35 million from a series B financing round. Novome Biotechnologies Inc., a startup developing a hyperoxaluria therapy based on controlled colonization of the gut with engineered bacteria, has landed a $33 million series A financing.


Word on the Street: BioWorld's favorite quotes of the week

“At the time we set up the fund, we saw a bit of a gap in taking promising early stage programs into early stage development and delivering early stage human data. I would characterize the market now as a desert of death – as opposed to a valley of death – because it is dry from one end to the other.”
Aleks Engel, director of Novo Repair, which made new investments of $12 million, bringing the total invested by the specialist anti-infectives venture capital fund since it was set up two years ago to plug the gap in the early stage pipeline to $48 million.

“One problem of AI is thinking of it as a magic black box that can solve any issue. If you take that approach, it won’t help.”
Deep Genomics Inc.’s founder and CEO, Brendan Frey, whose company announced a $40 million series B financing

"Because data are so essential to what we do, we are committed to ensuring that our mechanisms for collecting, reviewing and analyzing data are equally as sophisticated as the scientific advances that we are reviewing."
FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy. The agency will hold a public meeting March 27 to discuss possible approaches to modernizing its data strategy, including approaches to data quality, stewardship, exchange and analytics

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