Building on a deal first struck in 2019, artificial intelligence (AI) specialist Exscientia Ltd. has agreed to take responsibility for a multitarget drug discovery collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb Co. that could be worth more than $1.2 billion in all. The expanded collaboration, originally with BMS-acquired Celgene Corp., includes $50 million in up-front funding, up to $125 million in near to mid-term potential milestones, and additional clinical, regulatory and commercial payments. It remains focused on small-molecule drug candidates in areas including oncology and immunology.

Reata skips the type C and head for pre-NDA in FA

Following a preliminary review of briefing materials for a type C meeting, the FDA told Reata Pharmaceuticals Inc. that a pre-NDA meeting is instead the next best step in the development of omaveloxolone (RT-408) for treating Friedreich’s ataxia. In August, the FDA asked for more evidence that “lends persuasiveness” to results from part 2 of the phase II Moxie study. Omaveloxolone is an oral, once-daily Nrf2 activator designed to induce molecular pathways to resolve inflammation by restoring mitochondrial function, reduce oxidative stress and inhibit pro-inflammatory signaling. Shares of the Plano, Texas-based company’s stock (NASDAQ:RETA) surged 22% on the news at midday.

COVID-19 R&D drives sector’s research spending in Q1

The top 100 public biopharmaceutical companies with market caps greater than $1 billion, and excluding big pharma companies, spent a total of almost $12 billion on R&D in the first quarter of 2021, compared to $9.4 billion invested last year. A BioWorld analysis of the quarterly filings of this group of companies found that the 24% year-over-year increase in spending was driven, in part, by companies involved in developing COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

Antengene, Calithera reach deal for CD73 inhibitor

BEIJING, China and SANTANDER, Spain – Antengene Corp. and Calithera Biosciences Inc. entered a worldwide exclusive license agreement to develop and market the CD73 inhibitor CB-708 (ATG-037), as part of a push to use the small-molecule inhibitor to grab significant market share in Asia Pacific and global markets.

Reneo, Astellas in PPAR-delta race against PMM

Reneo Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s $93.8 million IPO last month brought renewed attention to in primary mitochondrial myopathy (PMM), a genetic disorder that impairs oxidative phosphorylation, affecting mainly muscles. The firm has a phase IIb trial ongoing with its PPAR delta agonist, REN-001, in PMM. Also busy in the same class for the indication is Astellas Pharma Inc., with a phase II/III study underway to test ASP-0367. Both companies’ experiments are potentially registrational, and both are expected to read out in 2023. In November 2017, under the terms of its mitochondrial research collaboration with Mitobridge Inc., Astellas took over the firm for $450 million.

Pandemic efforts dominate with 76% of the nonprofit deal and grant value

Although more than a third of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 and society moves closer to normalcy in many parts of the world, the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to dramatically impact biopharma dealmaking with nonprofit entities, as well as grant awards. Combined, nonprofit deals and grants focused on the pandemic account for 26% of the total, with 76% of the disclosed funding earmarked for those projects. Last year by this point, COVID-19-focused deals and grants covered 42% of the volume and 48% of the value.

Also in the news

Acceleron, Acepodia, Achilles, Allarity, Amerimmune, Apeiron, Astrazeneca, Atyr, Autolomous, Avidity, Basilea, Beigene, Biomarin, Bioray, Bioxcel, CNS, Cytokinetics, Cytoreason, Eloxx, Ethypharm, Ferring, Galapagos, Genetx, Hibercell, Histogen, Idera, Immunocore, Iovance, Isofol, Lifearc, Maia, Moderna, Myovant, Nascent, Organicell, Pfizer, Polypid, Postera, Quercis, Reata, Replicel, Sapience, Silence, Sosei Heptares, Synaptogenix, Teneobio, Thinkcyte, Ultragenyx, Veru