Biopharma deal-making activity continues to keep the same pace as 2020, but the value of completed mergers and acquisitions is still painfully languishing in comparison with other recent years. The second quarter (Q2) posted 468 deals, which is a slowdown from recent quarters, but still could bring 2021 into the record books or second only to 2020. At $40.9 billion, the value is the lowest for a quarter since Q1 of 2020. A total of 31 M&As were completed during Q2. The number is in line with several other quarters and the $20 billion value is a 71% rise above last quarter, yet the first half of 2021 represents the lowest value for a first half in the past six years. And while pandemic partnerships appear to be falling, there are more billion-dollar deals than ever before. Oncology and cell and gene therapies continue to drive the high-money deals and preclinical efforts also are making their mark, while up-front payments keep climbing.

Oncosec and Merck to collaborate in phase III metastatic melanoma study

Oncosec Medical Inc.’s DNA-plasmid interleukin-12 (IL-12) Tavo (tavokinogene telseplasmid) will be combined with Merck & Co.'s anti-PD-1 therapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in a randomized, global phase III study to treat late-stage metastatic melanoma. The patient population comprises those who did not respond to initial checkpoint inhibitor therapy or have developed progressive disease and have no additional treatment options. Tavo is delivered intratumorally using electroporation to produce localized IL-12 expression in the tumor microenvironment. Each company will pay their own internal costs while Oncosec will cover the third-party costs. No further terms were released. Oncosec’s stock (NASDAQ:ONCS) rallied strongly on the collaboration as shares had added about 25% to their value in midday trading.

UK adjusts to ‘the new norm’ with updated life sci policies, £1B commitment

LONDON – The U.K. intends to take the positives from its response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a blueprint for developing treatments for a range of other diseases and the basis for a new 10-year strategy for the life sciences. The aim will be to build on the response of the sector in the discovery and development of vaccines, repurposing existing drugs and discovering new ones to treat COVID-19, the way in which the unified National Health Service was able to quickly set up and run clinical trials at a scale not achieved anywhere else in the world, and the lead taken in viral genome sequencing.

Gadeta and Apeiron head to clinic with next-gen cell therapies, aimed at solid tumors

Getting cell therapies to work against solid tumors is proving difficult – but two biopharma firms have begun early stage studies with technologies that aim to crack this tough nut. Gadeta B.V. and Apeiron Biologics AG are using two different approaches to cell therapy that they hope will be effective against tough-to-treat solid tumors.

Nerre raises $27.6M to develop treatment for disabling cough

LONDON – Nerre Therapeutics Ltd. will have another go at delivering proof of efficacy for its chronic cough treatment, after raising £20 million (US$27.6 million) in a series B2 round. That allows the company to run a second phase II trial of its neurokinin1 antagonist orvepitant, with a different, patient-focused primary outcome, in the new indication of chronic cough caused by idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Needlework: Cygenica advancing protein-based intercellular delivery of CRISPR editing components

DUBLIN – Bacteriophage, like other viruses, can be viewed as complex molecular machines with two essential functions: infection and replication. The first involves the efficient injection into the host cell of their genomic payload. The second involves hijacking the host’s nucleic acid replication machinery to generate the functional and structural proteins needed to give rise to progeny viruses.

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Abeona, Akari, Altesa, Alx Oncology, Arbutus, Athira, Beigene, Biocytogen, Bioeq, Biofrontera, Biohaven, Bold, Dare, Eisbach, Eloxx, Epimab, Eucure, HCW, Hemostemix, Impel Neuropharma, Jazz, Kymera, Levo, Mallinckrodt, Mindset, Moderna, Neurana, Nextcure, NGM, Nrx, Nuvalent, Opiant, Pathios, Polpharma Biologics, Puretech, Regeneron, Replicel, Reset, Scisparc, Silverback, Sorrento, Tenax, Tetherex, Trevena, Tryp, Vaxart, Verge Genomics, Xenon