EuroBiotech Report: Genentech-BioNTech, $33M Series A, Alnylam, I/O and Prexton


Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly EuroBiotech Report. In a week in which the British biotech scene was peppered with upbeat news from companies, Germany’s BioNTech trumped them all by unveiling a $310 million (€278 million) tie-up with Genentech. The deal gives Genentech a stake in BioNTech’s messenger RNA-based personalized cancer vaccine platform. That agreement dragged eyeballs away from the United Kingdom, which enjoyed a rare week of back-to-back positive news stories. Abingworth got the ball rolling by unveiling GammaDelta, a solid tumor-focused immuno-oncology startup it is seeding and incubating. Alnylam kept things going by committing to locating its European drug development and commercial headquarters in post-Brexit Britain. And Artios Pharma capped the week off by wrapping up a $33.2 million Series A that attracted the support of SV Life Sciences and the VC wings of AbbVie and Merck KGaA. Merck Serono spinout Prexton Therapeutics plotted a path into Phase II for its Parkinson’s program. And more. Nick Taylor

1. Genentech lays $310M wager on BioNTech’s mRNA cancer vaccine platform

Genentech has bought a leading position in the race to realize the potential of messenger RNA-based personalized cancer vaccines. The deal sees the Roche ($RHHBY) subsidiary commit $310 million (€278 million) in upfront and near-term payments to BioNTech to partner on its mRNA cancer vaccine platform.

2. Abingworth seeds I/O startup to exploit advance in solid tumor targeting T cells

Abingworth is seeding a British immuno-oncology startup based on the work of gamma-delta T cell pioneer Adrian Hayday. The startup, GammaDelta Therapeutics, is focused on turning a breakthrough in the extraction and amplification of tissue-resident gamma-delta T cells into a pipeline of programs that can invade solid tumors more effectively than existing options.

3. Brushing off Brexit, Alnylam commits to opening EU hub in U.K., hiring 100 people

Alnylam ($ALNY) has delivered a post-Brexit boost to the British biopharma sector by committing to housing its European clinical trials and operations headquarters in Maidenhead. The decision flies in the face of concerns about Britain’s attractiveness to overseas drugmakers in the wake of the referendum, although there are reasons to think Alnylam may be the exception rather than the rule.

4. Star-studded syndicate pumps $33M into preclinical DNA repair cancer startup

SV Life Sciences has joined with the VC wings of AbbVie ($ABBV) and Merck KGaA to funnel $33.2 million (€29.8 million) into a DNA damage repair (DDR) startup. The money will enable a team with a track record of breaking new ground with PARP inhibitors to go after other, larger classes of enzymes involved in DNA repair.

5. Armed with PhI data, Serono spinout plots path forward for Parkinson’s drug

Prexton Therapeutics has brought its mGluR4-positive allosteric modulator through a first-in-human trial. And, with the Merck Serono spinout viewing safety data from the trial of 64 healthy volunteers favorably, it is set to advance into a Phase II study in Parkinson’s disease patients in the first half of next year.

And more articles of note>>