While Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb grab global headlines with treatments designed to make it harder for cancer to hide from the immune system, Cambridge, MA's Jounce Therapeutics is coming at it from the other end, crafting a therapy that revs up the body's natural defenses to attack tumors. And the promise of that idea helped the biotech rope in a massive $56 million B round, cash that will help get its top prospect into clinical trials.
Biogen turned heads around the industry last month with early data in which its plaque-destroying Alzheimer's treatment had a significant effect on patients' cognition, bucking a vexing trend for such antibodies. Among those paying close attention was Roche, which is now re-examining a pair of once-failed treatments.
Two years after going down in flames in a Phase III study for CD22-positive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Pfizer has helped resurrect hopes for top drug prospect inotuzumab ozogamicin, saying the drug hit its first primary endpoint for spurring hematologic remission in patients with CD22-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The diagnostics industry will play a significant role in the Obama administration's just-released national action plan to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as CRE, which was implicated in the recent death of at least two patients in Los Angeles and many illnesses nationwide.
An oncologist at the University of Minnesota has devised a "homegrown" bispecific antibody that binds to both CD19 and CD22, proteins found on the surface of B-cell blood cancers, and drops a toxic payload on the targeted cells. In a Phase I trial with 10 evaluable patients with treatment resistant pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, two had a durable response, with one complete remission. And that is setting the stage for a mid-stage study of a drug that has been pushed this far largely with private donations.
Incyte is jumping aboard Agenus' antibody discovery platform, signing up to partner on new immuno-oncology drugs with $60 million in cash and promises of up to $350 million in milestones. And the deal news quickly drove up Agenus' shares by more than 30% in premarket trading.
Cerus is up almost 40% in the last month on news of a couple of approvals for its Intercept Blood System to treat blood products. The small cap took advantage of that upswing to raise $70 million to help finance commercialization of the system.
South San Francisco oncology specialist CytomX raised a $20 million C round to advance its in-house pipeline of novel cancer treatments, with partner Pfizer pouring in the lion's share of the new cash.
One of the drug cocktails now in preclinical development for Ebola, ZMapp, has been used for a small group of emergency cases. And now two Scripps investigators have come up with a 3-D model to show where its three antibodies stick to the virus, pointing to new and better therapies as well as informing work on other such cocktail therapies.
The Geneva Foundation, along with partner BioFactura, received a grant of more than $3 million from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to develop an antibody drug to combat the Sudan strain of the ebolavirus.