Here is Labiotech’s weekly roundup of the latest biotech news. Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter for direct updates to your inbox.
Table of contents
The latest biotech news in fundraising
Xenon Pharmaceuticals closes $345 million upsized public offering
On December 4, Xenon Pharmaceuticals announced the closing of its previously announced underwritten public offering of 9,846,157 common shares. This includes 1,384,615 shares sold upon the full exercise of the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares, and pre-funded warrants to purchase up to 769,230 common shares. The common shares were offered at a public offering price of $32.50 per share, and the pre-funded warrants were offered at a price of $32.4999 per warrant, with each pre-funded warrant having an exercise price of $0.0001. The aggregate gross proceeds to Xenon from the offering were approximately $345 million.
Verve Therapeutics’ $125 million public offering
On November 28, cardiovascular company Verve Therapeutics announced the pricing of an underwritten public offering of 12,500,000 shares of its common stock at a public offering price of $10 per share, which would give the company total gross proceeds of $125 million. Verve has also granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to 1,875,000 additional shares of its common stock at the public offering price. Additionally, concurrent with the public offering, Verve has agreed to sell 2,296,317 shares of its common stock in a private placement to Eli Lily and Company for total gross proceeds of $23 million.
Seismic Therapeutics raises $121 million in series B round
On Monday, Seismic Therapeutics announced that it had closed a $121 million series B financing, bringing the total capital raised by the company to date to $222 million. The proceeds from the series B round will help to advance through phase 1 proof-of-mechanism trials with Seismic’s two lead programs: a pan‑immunoglobulin (Ig) G protease sculpting (Sc) enzyme candidate (S-1117) and a PD-1 agonist:Fc gamma receptor IIb selective Dual-cell Bidirectional (DcB) antibody candidate (S-4321). The fundraising will also allow Seismic to further expand its proprietary machine learning-enabled IMPACT platform.
Odyssey Therapeutics announces $101 million series C financing round
Odyssey Therapeutics announced on Tuesday the closing of a $101 million series C financing round, bringing the total capital raised since its founding to $487 million. The proceeds will be used to support the advancement of multiple programs into clinical studies and the continuation of investment in discovery to build a sustainable model for therapeutic innovation. Odyssey has already built a comprehensive drug discovery and development platform merging both computational and experimental technologies, allowing the company to identify drug targets with the highest clinical potential in a modality-agnostic fashion.
ArrivoBio secures $45.25 million to advance pipeline
Last week, ArrivoBioVentures said it had closed an oversubscribed series B preferred financing round, in which it managed to raise $45.25 million. This brought its total fundraising to date to $100 million. Arrivo will use the funds to advance its first-in-class treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD), SP-624 – a small molecule that selectively activates the SIRT6 enzyme – through the completion of a phase 2b/3 clinical trial. The funds will also help it to complete a phase 2 proof-of-concept study of its other novel treatment – which is a small molecule inhibitor called RABI-767 – to prevent patients with pancreatitis advancing to severe acute pancreatitis.
Eligo Bioscience raises $30 million in series B financing
On Tuesday, gene-editing company Eligo Biosciences announced a successful $30 million series B funding round. The company is focused on addressing diseases driven by the expression of bacterial genes from the microbiome, and the money raised will go towards accelerating the development of its flagship program, EB005, which targets moderate to severe acne vulgaris – an inflammatory disease that affects about 3% of the global population. The investment will fuel pre-IND and IND activities to achieve early human data readouts in a phase 1b/2a clinical trial. Furthermore, the proceeds will also facilitate Eligo’s expansion into other chronic diseases, including oncology.
Tharimmune closes $11 million public offering
Tharimmune announced last week that it had closed its previously announced public offering of an aggregate of 11,000,000 shares of its common stock, with each share of common stock being sold at a public offering price of $1.00 per share. All of the shares and pre-funded warrants in the offering were sold by the company and the total gross proceeds from the offering were approximately $11 million. The company has also granted the underwriters a 45-day option to purchase up to 1,500,000 additional shares of its common stock and/or pre-funded warrants. Tharimmune intends to use the net proceeds for the advancement of the phase 2 trial of its candidate TH104, which is expected to happen in 2024, as well as for working capital and other general corporate purposes.
Biolexis secures $10 million to advance metabolic drug development
On November 29, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven drug discovery company Biolexis said that it had successfully closed a $10 million series A funding round. The funding will advance Biolexis’ development pipeline, which includes a range of metabolic drug candidates. These drugs have the potential to tackle various metabolic disorders that affect millions of people worldwide and are linked to significant health complications such as obesity and diabetes.
Aperiam Bio emerges from stealth with $9 million
Aperiam Bio announced last week that it had emerged from stealth with a $9 million seed round. The protein engineering company applies a patented, 3D computer vision algorithm that is akin to ‘facial recognition for proteins’ in order to identify succinct, targeted improvements to proteins that make them more effective and durable than they are in nature. The algorithm allows scientists to bypass existing methods of protein engineering – which can be cumbersome – and deliver shelf-stable proteins with novel applicability across a wide range of human problems, from consumer applications to pulmonary therapeutics.
Oncovita wins €4.5 million ($4.8 million) and raises €3.5 million ($3.8 million)
Last week, it was announced that Oncovita had won €4.5 million ($4.8 million) in funding under the France 2030 investment plan, and had also completed a €3.5 million ($3.8 million) round of financing from private investors to support the development of its immunotherapeutic cancer vaccine, MVdeltaC. The MVdeltaC vaccine candidate is based on MeasovirR technology using the measles vaccine virus. This technology has already been successfully used to develop six prophylactic vaccines tested in human clinical trials, notably for immunogenicity.
Perpetual Medicines completes $8 million seed round
Towards the end of last week, Perpetual Medicines announced that it had closed an $8 million seed financing round, from which the money will be used to advance its integrated computational design and synthesis platform for peptide drug discovery. The company’s platform allows it to virtually iterate through millions of peptide sequences using physics-based computations to predict binding and drug-like properties followed by integration with experimental data to discover and optimize product candidates. This approach has the potential to accelerate peptide drug discovery, reduce cost, and increase the quality of drug candidates.
Osivax receives over $1.5 million grant from NIAID
Osivax announced on December 5 that it had received a grant of more than $1.5 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). This grant will support preclinical studies evaluating the breadth of protection and immune response induced by the company’s lead, broad-spectrum influenza vaccine candidate, OVX836, against two pandemic influenza A-strains: the once pandemic but now seasonal pH1N1, and the highly pathogenic variant with pandemic potential, H5N1.
The latest biotech news in mergers, acquisitions, and strategic partnerships
AbbVie to acquire ImmunoGen
Last week, AbbVie and ImmunoGen announced a definitive agreement under which AbbVie will acquire ImmunoGen, and its flagship cancer therapy ELAHERE® (mirvetuximab soravtansine-gynx), a first-in-class antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) approved for platinum-resistant ovarian cancer (PROC). The terms state that AbbVie will acquire all outstanding shares of ImmunoGen for $31.26 per share in cash. The transaction values ImmunoGen at a total equity value of approximately $10.1 billion, and is expected to close in the middle of 2024, subject to ImmunoGen shareholder approval, regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions. The acquisition accelerates AbbVie’s commercial and clinical presence in the solid tumor space, and ImmunoGen’s follow-on pipeline of promising next-generation ADCs also complements AbbVie’s ADC platform and existing programs.
Carmot Therapeutics and Roche enter into definitive merger agreement
On Sunday, Carmot Therapeutics announced that it had entered into a definitive merger agreement for Roche to acquire Carmot at a purchase price of $2.7 billion upfront and the potential for $400 million in milestone payments. Carmot’s clinical pipeline includes subcutaneous and oral incretins with best-in-class potential to treat obesity in patients with and without diabetes.
Ascendis Pharma announces startegic partnership with Teijin Limited
Last week, Ascendis Pharma announced that it had entered into an exclusive license agreement with Teijin Limited for the further development and commercialization of TransCon hGH, TransCon PTH, and TransCon CNP for endocrinology rare disease in Japan. Under the terms of the agreement, Ascendis will receive an upfront payment of $70 million, with additional development and regulatory milestones of up to $175 million, transfer pricing, and commercial milestones. Ascendis Pharma is also eligible to receive royalties on net sales in Japan, of up to mid-20’s percent, which will vary by product.
AQEMIA announces multi-year $140 million collaboration with Sanofi
AQEMIA announced on Sunday a multi-year research collaboration with Sanofi, which is aimed at discovering small molecule drug candidates across several therapeutic areas. AQEMIA will leverage its unique platform that combines deep physics with generative AI at scale to identify the right chemical molecules for therapeutic targets of interest to Sanofi. As part of the agreement, AQEMIA will be eligible to potentially receive up to $140 million based on an upfront payment and the successful completion of research and development milestones on a number of specific therapeutic targets. This deal further emphasizes Sanofi’s plans to become the first pharma company powered by AI at scale.
AbbVie and BigHat Biosciences collaborate to leverage AI
On Sunday, AbbVie and BigHat Biosciences announced that they would enter into a research collaboration to discover and develop next-generation therapeutic antibodies in oncology and neuroscience. Working closely with AbbVie, BigHat will utilize its Milliner platform, a suite of machine learning technologies integrated with a high-speed wet lab, to guide the design and selection for high quality antibodies for multiple therapeutic targets. Under the agreement, BigHat will receive an upfront payment of $30 million, and may be eligible to receive up to approximately $325 million in aggregate research and development milestones, with potential for further commercial milestones as well as tiered royalties on net sales.
Phenomic enters into strategic collaboration with Boehinger Ingelheim
On November 29, Phenomic AI announced that it had entered into a strategic collaboration and licensing agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim to discover targets important in stroma-rich cancers. The collaboration will leverage Phenomic’s expertise in target identification and stromal biology based on its scTx single-cell transcriptomics platform. In turn, this will greatly enhance Boehringer’s efforts to develop first-in-class medicines to transform the lives of people with cancer by delivering meaningful advances with the ultimate goal to cure a range of cancers. The agreement states that Phenomic will receive upfront and near-term payments of approximately $9 million including research funding and collaboration milestones, and is also eligible to receive more than $500 million in licensing fees as well as clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones, in addition to royalties on future product sales.
PRISM BioLab and Lilly collaborate on drug discovery
Last week, PRISM BioLab said that it had entered into a license and collaboration agreement with Eli Lilly and Company. Under the agreement, PRISM and Lilly will collaborate to discover small molecule inhibitors of a PPI target selected by Lilly utilizing PRISM’s proprietary PepMetics technology. Furthermore, Lilly has the option to add up to two more targets to the collaboration and is responsible for the clinical development and commercialization of resulting products. PRISM will receive upfront payments, and is eligible to receive up to $660 million in pre-clinical, clinical and commercial development milestones payments, as well as royalties on product sales.
Absci and AstraZeneca collaborate to advance AI-driven oncology candidate
On Monday, Absci announced that it would collaborate with AstraZeneca to deliver an AI-designed antibody against an oncology target, combining Absci’s Integrated Drug Creation platform with AstraZeneca’s expertise in oncology, with the goal of accelerating the discovery of a potential new cancer treatment candidate. The agreement includes an upfront commitment, research and development (R&D) funding and milestone payments, in addition to royalties on product sales.
The latest biotech news in clinical trials
Primary efficacy endpoint misses statistical significance in BioVie’s trial of Alzheimer’s disease treatment
Last week, BioVie announced positive analysis of unblinded, topline efficacy data from its phase 3 clinical trial of NE3107 in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The results showed that NE3107’s treatment advantage compared to placebo may be equal to or greater than the benefit from approved Alzheimer’s disease monoclonal antibodies. Patients treated with NE3107 also experienced a 4.66-year advantage in age deceleration vs. placebo as measured by epigenetics/DNA methylation Skin Blood Clock. However, issues were identified relating to significant GCP violations and protocol deviations, which allowed for data from only a subset of enrolled patients to be included in the efficacy analysis. Due to these exclusions, the primary efficacy endpoint missed statistical significance.
EyePoint Pharmaceuticals announces positive topline data for wet AMD candidate
On Monday, EyePoint Pharmaceuticals announced positive topline results of its phase 2 trial of EYP-1901, which is an investigational sustained delivery maintenance treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD). The trial met its primary endpoint, as both EYP-1901 doses demonstrated statistical non-inferiority change in best corrected visual acuity compared to aflibercept control, as well as a favorable safety profile with no serious adverse events taking place. The key secondary endpoints were also achieved with both doses of the treatment, including a more than 80% reduction in treatment burden, almost two-thirds of eyes supplement-free up to six months, and more than 80% receiving only zero or one supplement up to six months.
BiomX announces positive topline results for chronic pulmonary infections treatment
Last week, BiomX announced positive safety and efficacy results from part 2 of its phase 1b/2a trial, which evaluated the company’s novel phage cocktail, BX004, for the treatment of chronic pulmonary infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) in patients with cystic fibrosis. In a predefined subgroup of patients with reduced lung function, BX004 showed clinically meaningful improvement in pulmonary function compared to placebo, as measured by relative FEV1 improvement (5.67% at Day 17 – one week after the end of treatment) and Cystic Fibrosis Questionnaire-Revised (CFQ-R) respiratory domain (8.87 points at Day 17).
The latest biotech news in science
Modular chimeric cytokine receptors found to improve CAR-T therapy for solid tumors
Findings from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, published last week in Nature Biomedical Engineering, showed that adding a modular chimeric cytokine receptor to CAR-T cells increased their efficacy in multiple solid tumor models. Solid tumors generate anti-immune signals that turn CAR-T cells off, meaning CAR-T cell therapy is generally less effective in solid tumors. To address this problem, scientists combined CAR-T cells with the injection of cytokines, which can cause significant unintended toxicities. But, now, the St. Jude system allows scientists to deliver the pro-immune signaling of cytokines only to the CAR-T cells, eliminating systemic toxicity.
Scientists find gene therapy reduces liver cancer in animal model
In a study published in Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B, researchers at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center have shown that inhibiting the galectin 1 (Gal1) protein using gene therapy can shrink hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in mice. Silencing Gal1, which is often over-expressed in HCC, also improved the anti-cancer immune response and increased the number of killer T cells inside tumors. In order to inhibit Gal1, the lab used a short interfering RNA (siRNA), called Lgals1. The siRNA was packaged for delivery into adeno-associated virus 9, which prefers to land in the liver. Once in and around the tumor, Lgals1 effectively silenced Gal1 in both the cancer and stroma, the supporting tissues in and around the tumor.
Immunotherapy added to first-line standard therapy improves survival in cervical cancer
The results of a randomized phase 3 BEATcc academic trial – published in The Lancet – showed that adding the immune checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab to standard-of-care with bevacizumab and chemotherapy, significantly improves progression-free survival and overall survival in patients with metastatic or recurrent cervical cancer who are not candidates for curative-intent surgery and/or radiotherapy. The study is the first to add a PD-L1 inhibitor to standard-of-care with bevacizumab plus platinum-based doublet chemotherapy, in this setting.
Partnering 2030: The Biotech Perspective 2023