EuroBiotech: More Articles of Note

Mereo BioPharma opened its doors with $119 million (€108 million) from investors including Neil Woodford, three clinical-phase drugs from Novartis ($NVS), a strategic partnership with CRO Icon ($ICLR) and a mission to buy and develop mid-stage assets. The chairman of the London, U.K.-based upstart is Peter Fellner--the former CEO of British biotech pioneer Celltech--and the CEO is Denise Scots-Knight. Woodford joined with his former employer Invesco to bankroll the company, which also gave Novartis an equity stake in the deal to acquire three assets. FierceBiotech

Avraham Pharmaceuticals began preparing for a pre-IND meeting with FDA after posting an interim update on its Phase IIb trial in patients with mild cognitive impairment. Yavne, Israel-based Avraham is testing its drug--a molecule it thinks has neuroprotective properties--in a three-year trial at sites in Europe to assess its ability to stop mild cognitive impairment developing into Alzheimer's disease.  To date, the interim data has yielded "a positive trend." A full analysis will follow after the study wraps up next year, but Avraham has seen enough to start preparations for Phase III. Release

Merck ($MRK) struck a $605 million (€548 million) deal to acquire cCAM Biotherapeutics. Misgav, Israel-based cCAM is pocketing $95 million in cash upfront, with the rest of the sum tied to clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones. The deal represents a success for Israel's Office of the Chief Scientist's incubators program and its attempts to attract VC shops to the country. CCAM got going in 2010 with the help of the incubator program and two years later picked up $5 million from investors including OrbiMed Israel Partners, the fund the VC set up with the support of the Chief Scientist. FierceBiotech

RedHill Biopharma ($RDHL) tried to reassure investors about the status of RHB-106. The drug is partnered with Salix Pharmaceuticals, which Valeant ($VRX) bought for $11 billion (€10 billion) earlier this year. On a conference call with investors, Valeant referred to a bowel purgative product as a failed toxicology screen, leading to speculation that RHB-106 was the unnamed drug. RedHill quashed the speculation this week, issuing a press release to state the drug in question is not RHB-106. Salix is continuing to develop the drug. Release

Roche ($RHHBY) backed out of the CHF 1 billion ($1 billion) cancer partnership it entered into with Molecular Partners in 2013. Molecular Partners framed the setback as a result of a pipeline rethink at Roche, in particular its decision to walk away from research into Pseudomonas exotoxin. Zurich, Switzerland-based Molecular Partners is now assessing whether it can salvage any of the programs from the collaboration but its days of working with its compatriot are over. "This way, we can avoid working on potentially competing pathways," Molecular Partners CEO Christian Zahnd said in a statement. FierceBiotech

Almirall (BME:ALM) stepped up the expansion of its interest in dermatology with a $15 million (€13.5 million) investment in Suneva Medical. The deal gives Barcelona, Spain-based Almirall an undisclosed stake in the seller of a FDA-approved dermal filler as it tries to rebuild its business in the wake of the offloading of its respiratory franchise to AstraZeneca ($AZN) for $875 million upfront. "Almirall is looking for attractive business development opportunities in the dermatology field. This partnership will also allow us to further build our understanding of the performance of the aesthetics dermatology market in the U.S.," Almirall CEO Eduardo Sanchiz said in a statement. Release

> A combination of Sanofi's ($SNY) Lantus and Zealand Pharma's (CPH:ZEAL) Lyxumia met its primary endpoint in a Phase III trial, edging it ahead of Novo Nordisk ($NVO) in the race to bring such a drug product to market in the U.S. Novo Nordisk won approval for its GLP-1-insulin combination in Europe last year but has yet to win over FDA. The delay means Zealand--which is contributing a once-daily prandial GLP-1 receptor agonist to the combination--could come to market in the U.S. before its compatriot. Sanofi plans to file for approval in the U.S. in the fourth quarter. FierceBiotech