EuroBiotech Report: Germany plans €300M startup fund


Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly EuroBiotech Report. We start this week in Germany, where government-backed seed fund High-Tech Gründerfonds outlined plans to put together a €300 million investment vehicle. The situation is less rosy for one of Germany’s long-running biotechs, Mologen, which committed to deep cuts at its research operation to free up funds for its lead candidate. Fellow German company Merck KGaA, no stranger to cuts itself, teamed up with Pierre Fabre and Array BioPharma to test its colorectal cancer drug Erbitux in combination with BRAF and MEK inhibitors. That news emerged at ASCO, where Genmab presented some of the more eye-catching data of the event. In London, Novartis-backed Mereo BioPharma listed on AIM ahead of a planned expansion of its pipeline. And more. Nick Taylor

1. State-backed German startup investment vehicle plans new €300M fund

High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), a seed investor backed by the German government, has revealed plans to raise €300 million ($341 million) for its third fund. The money is intended to enable HTGF to continue the startup-backing remit that has already seen it help 440 companies get off the ground.

2. Mologen cuts research, shelves programs to enable advance of lead candidate

Mologen (ETR:MGN) is halting most of its in-house research activities and shelving development of a clutch of programs to free up money for the advance of its lead candidate, lefitolimod. The revised strategy ties the fate of Mologen to the success of lefitolimod, a TLR9 agonist that is being tested in a late-phase colorectal cancer trial.

3. Pierre Fabre, Merck KGaA team up for MEK-BRAF-Erbitux cancer combo trial

Pierre Fabre, Merck KGaA and Array BioPharma ($ARRY) have teamed up to trial a triple combination therapy in a hard-to-treat subpopulation of colorectal cancer patients. The Phase III trial will test the BRAF and MEK inhibitors Pierre Fabre licensed from Array last year in combination with Merck KGaA’s Erbitux.

4. Genmab hits new highs as ASCO data bolster case for J&J-partnered cancer drug

Investors have driven Genmab’s (CPH:GEN) stock price to new highs once again on the back of more positive data on its Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)-partnered cancer drug, Darzalex. The latest data drop came at ASCO, where the addition of Darzalex to a combination of Velcade and dexamethasone was shown to have a significant effect on outcomes in multiple myeloma patients.

5. Novartis-backed Mereo raises £15M, starts trading on AIM

Mereo BioPharma has raised £14.8 million ($21.6 million) and listed its stock on the AIM exchange in London. The listing and injection of capital come nearly 12 months after Mereo first emerged with £76.5 million in investment from Neil Woodford’s fund and Invesco Perpetual, plus a pipeline of three midphase candidates from Novartis ($NVS).

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