Syncona Ltd, the evergreen investment group, announced on 8 February that its portfolio company Autolus Therapeutics Plc is to collaborate with BioNTech SE to develop new therapies in oncology. The project will aim to advance both companies’ CAR T cell programmes towards commercialisation. These include BioNTech’s cell therapy for solid tumours, BNT211, and Autolus’ two CAR T cell therapy programmes, AUTO1/22, and AUTO6NG, for oncology indications. Under the terms of the agreement, BioNTech has agreed to purchase $200 million of Autolus’ American Depositary Shares in a private placement.
Finance, Grants, Deals
Alys Pharmaceuticals Inc, a new company with a preclinical pipeline of candidate drugs for immune-related disorders, was launched on 12 February with $100 million of capital. The company was co-founded by the venture capital group Medicxi and a group of six scientists specialising in immuno-dermatology. The scientific founders are based at institutions in the US, Germany and France and include Craig Mello, professor at the UMass Chan Medical School, US, and winner of a Nobel Prize in 2006 for the discovery of RNA interference.
Germany-based TVM Capital Life Science has co-led a $16 million Series A financing for Vektor Medical Inc, a US medical technology company that has developed a device for the non-invasive analysis of arrhythmias, a condition characterised by irregular or abnormal heartbeats. The co-investor was Solas BioVentures of the US.
The US Food and Drug Administration is to give a priority review to Arexvy, a vaccine for the prevention of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disease, in the new indication for adults from the ages of 50 to 59 years. Developed by GSK Plc, the vaccine is currently approved for adults 60 years and above. If authorised, Arexvy would be the first vaccine to help protect the new age group against lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV.
Novartis is to acquire MorphoSys AG for €2.7 billion in cash in order to gain access to pelabresib, a late-stage drug for the treatment of myelofibrosis, a blood cancer caused by genetic abnormalities in bone marrow stem cells. The deal, announced on 5 February, unites two companies with a long history of collaboration in the development of antibody therapeutics.
IMU Biosciences Ltd, a two-year old UK company, has raised £11.5 million from private investors to create a map of the human immune system using artificial intelligence. The goal is be able to monitor the presence of immune disorders early and guide the development of targeted drugs, also known as precision medicines. The Series A financing was announced on 24 January and led by Moulton Ventures Plc. It also included LifeX Ventures and several individuals.
BlueRock Therapeutics LP has exercised an option and gained exclusive rights to a cell therapy derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) for the treatment of primary photoreceptor diseases. The product, OpCT-001, was developed in collaboration with Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics Inc, a manufacturer of human iPSCs and iPSC-derived cells, and Opsis Therapeutics LLC.
Sanofi SA is to acquire an experimental biologic for the treatment of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), a rare disease of the lungs and liver, in a deal valued at up to $2.2 billion. The asset is currently being developed by Inhibrx Inc, a Nasdaq-listed company in the US, which has a pipeline of four main assets. Sanofi will acquire INBRX-101, a recombinant fusion protein which is in a registrational trial for patients with AATD. The deal was announced on 23 January.
A group of European venture funds led by Forbion of the Netherlands has raised €75 million in Series A financing to support the launch of a new biotech company based in Oslo Norway. Calluna Pharma AS will develop antibody therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory and fibrotic diseases. It has been created from a merger of Oxitope Pharma BV of the Netherlands and Arxx Therapeutics AS of Norway. Besides Forbion, the financing syndicate includes the Norwegian funds Sarsia Management, p53 Invest AS and Investinor AS. The venture finance was announced on 23 January.
An experimental chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy intended for the treatment of multiple sclerosis received a fast track designation from the US Food and Drug Administration on 19 January, indicating its potential to address a major medical need. The therapy is being developed by Kyverna Therapeutics Inc, a biotech company incorporated in 2018 and located in Emeryville, California, US.