Quickfire megarounds tee Passage Bio up for gene therapy trials

FierceBiotech | September 05, 2019

Passage Bio has raised its second megaround of 2019. Months after breaking cover with a $115.5 million series A, the James Wilson-founded gene therapy startup has reeled in another $110 million to take several assets into the clinic while hustling other programs through preclinical studies. The series B, which comes seven months after the series A, was led by Access Biotechnology, the life science investment arm of Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries. OrbiMed, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Versant Ventures and other top-tier investors that powered Passage Bio to the series A round also returned for the latest fundraising. Passage Bio plans to use the money to move two gene therapies into the clinic in the first half of next year, hewing closely to the strategy it sketched out in February. Those programs target rare pediatric disease GM1 gangliosidosis and the neurodegenerative disorder frontotemporal dementia.

Spotlight

The benefit of therapeutic antibodies is their ability to be inherently more selective than traditional small-molecule pharmaceuticals through specific binding activities, lower toxicity, and higher efficacy. And the proof of their benefits is in the numbers: The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved 68 such therapeutics by the beginning of 2017, and more than 50 are being evaluated in late-stage clinical studies for a range of indications.

Spotlight

The benefit of therapeutic antibodies is their ability to be inherently more selective than traditional small-molecule pharmaceuticals through specific binding activities, lower toxicity, and higher efficacy. And the proof of their benefits is in the numbers: The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved 68 such therapeutics by the beginning of 2017, and more than 50 are being evaluated in late-stage clinical studies for a range of indications.

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MEDTECH

Bionaut Labs Closes $43M in Series B Led by Khosla Ventures to Advance First-in-Class Micro-Robotic Technology and Remove Barriers

Bionaut Labs | November 29, 2022

Bionaut Labs, the company that uses microscale robots to revolutionize the treatment of central nervous system diseases and disorders, announced $43.2M in a Series B round of financing led by Khosla Ventures, bringing the company’s total financing raised to date to $63.2 million. Also participating in the round are new investors Deep Insight, OurCrowd, PSPRS, Sixty Degree Capital, Dolby Family Ventures, GISEV Family Ventures, What if Ventures, Tintah Grace and Gaingels, along with all existing investors - Upfront Ventures, BOLD Capital Partners, Revolution VC, and Compound. Many diseases of the brain and central nervous system are hard to treat because it is difficult to deliver therapeutics beyond the blood-brain barrier and reach deep locations in the midbrain with precision. Through magnetic propulsion, Bionauts™ can navigate the depths of the human body to deliver drugs locally, generating efficacy and avoiding side effects and toxicity from systemically delivered drugs. By reaching the midbrain safely through novel routes, Bionaut Labs aims to develop solutions to treat the most debilitating conditions including Parkinson’s disease and Huntington's disease, malignant glioma and hydrocephalus. Funds will be used to advance clinical development of the company’s lead programs against malignant glioma brain tumors and Dandy-Walker Syndrome (a rare pediatric neurological disorder). Funds will also support further development of its proprietary Bionaut™ treatment platform, allowing future expansion of clinical targets and progression through Bionaut’s two accelerated FDA designations. Bionaut Labs will release major pre-clinical data packages from IDE and IND enabling studies in 2023, with the goal of initiating human clinical trials in 2024. “There has been a dearth of innovation around treatments for conditions that cause tremendous suffering, in large part because past failures have discouraged even the best of researchers. Bionaut Labs remains committed to finding new ways to treat these devastating diseases, which are long overdue for a breakthrough.” Michael Shpigelmacher, co-founder and CEO, Bionaut Labs Bionaut Labs is co-founded by two robotics entrepreneurs, Michael Shpigelmacher and Aviad Maizels, who previously co-founded PrimeSense, the company that developed the facial recognition tech behind iPhone’s FaceID. Its leadership and medical team consists of experts across robotics, neuroscience, biology and drug development. “We are extremely excited about the transformative potential Bionaut presents in treating debilitating neurological disorders,” said Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures. “Anatomically precise treatment will make traditionally-used methods seem archaic, and Bionaut is at the forefront of this movement.” “Bionaut Labs tackles a complex pharmaceutical problem which many companies have failed to address in the past,” said Giammaria Giuliani, director of the GISEV Family Office. “As pioneers of micro-robotics for CNS treatment, the company enjoys a strong first-mover advantage and carries great promise.” As neurodegeneration continues to grow in prevalence in the aging global population, Bionaut Labs offers unprecedented therapeutic access to the brain and other hard-to-reach locations in the body, diagnosing and treating diseases that were previously unreachable. Bionaut Labs will transform the way the biopharmaceutical industry develops treatments by offering a mechanism to engineer the therapeutic index for optimal efficacy and safety. About Bionaut Labs Bionaut Labs is a biotech company pioneering precision micro-technology with the deployment of microscale robots to remove the barriers of localized treatment and detection of diseases. Magnetic propulsion-controlled Bionauts navigate to deep locations in the human body and brain safely and precisely through non-linear 3D trajectories, making Bionaut Labs the first to access the midbrain through previously inaccessible anatomical routes. Bionauts can perform localized treatment, detection and precise medical procedures to deliver outcomes that were previously unattainable. The FDA has granted Bionaut Labs a Humanitarian Use Device designation for BNL-201, a micro-robot design to treat Dandy Walker Malformation, and an Orphan Drug Designation for BNL 101, a drug-device combination for treatment of malignant glioma.

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CELL AND GENE THERAPY

Rocket Pharmaceuticals to Acquire Renovacor, Extending Leadership in AAV-based Cardiac Gene Therapy

Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc. | September 21, 2022

Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a leading late-stage, clinical biotechnology company advancing an integrated and sustainable pipeline of genetic therapies for rare childhood disorders with high unmet need, and Renovacor, Inc. a biotechnology company focused on delivering innovative precision therapies to improve the lives of patients and families battling genetically-driven cardiovascular and mechanistically-related diseases, today announced a definitive agreement under which Rocket will acquire Renovacor in an all-stock transaction for an implied value of approximately $2.60 per share, based on the volume weighted average trading price of Rocket shares of $15.51 for the 30 trading days through and including Monday, September 19, 2022. The boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the transaction, which is currently expected to close by the first quarter of 2023. “The acquisition of Renovacor aligns with our strategy to expand our leadership position in AAV-based gene therapy for cardiac disease and gives us a perfect opportunity to continue on our mission to transform the lives of heart failure patients through the power of gene therapy. Building on our success in Danon Disease to date, I am particularly excited to expand our cardiology focus and capabilities and address a clear unmet medical need in BAG3-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. By combining Renovacor’s compelling preclinical work with our joint clinical, regulatory and CMC expertise, we believe we will be well-positioned to bring the highest impact gene therapy with the best chance for success to these patients in the most productive and efficient manner possible.” Gaurav Shah, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of Rocket Dr. Shah continued, “Given the positive pediatric safety data previously announced from our Phase 1 RP-A501 Danon Disease program, and the upcoming pediatric efficacy data and longer-term adult cohort data we anticipate presenting at the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) Scientific Meeting at the end of this month, this strategic acquisition gives us what we believe is the broadest platform in the field to address these devastating rare cardiac diseases. Furthermore, the acquisition will bring to Rocket key personnel, namely a team of leading cardiology drug development experts, critical capabilities, and valuable IP to support continued development of the BAG3 as well as other potential cardiac programs, including a gene therapy research collaboration for arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy.” Renovacor’s most advanced program, REN-001, is an AAV-based gene therapy targeting BAG3-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a severe form of heart failure. BAG3-DCM represents a significant unmet medical need in a patient population with rapidly progressive cardiac dysfunction in whom no treatments targeting the underlying mechanism of disease exist. Renovacor has deep technical expertise in the development of precision therapies that address genetically driven cardiac diseases. Further, Renovacor is supported by world-class scientific collaborators, a robust intellectual property portfolio and personnel with expertise in BAG3-DCM. These assets and capabilities, all together, represent tremendous value and will enhance Rocket’s leading position in cardiac AAV-based gene therapy. “Renovacor has made tremendous progress in advancing targeted gene therapies to address the high unmet medical needs of patients living with genetically driven forms of heart disease,” said Magdalene Cook, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Renovacor. “Our experienced team is excited to join Rocket in a shared vision of broadening patient access to precision medicines for cardiovascular disease and addressing common barriers jointly. We look forward to combining the considerable resources and expertise of Renovacor and Rocket in creating a category leader in the precision cardiology field. As a result of this combination, we will be suspending current guidance regarding preclinical and clinical timelines for our programs as we evaluate these items with the Rocket team.” It is currently anticipated that the transaction will close by the first quarter of 2023, subject to approval by Renovacor and Rocket shareholders, receipt of any required customary regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions. RTW Investments, LP, a significant shareholder of both Rocket and Renovacor, has entered into a voting agreement with Renovacor, pursuant to which they have agreed, among other things, and subject to the terms and conditions of the agreement, to vote in favor of the Renovacor acquisition as a Rocket stockholder. SVB Securities is serving as exclusive financial advisor and Goodwin Procter LLP is serving as legal counsel to Rocket. Wells Fargo Securities is serving as exclusive financial advisor and Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP is serving as legal counsel to Renovacor. About Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is advancing an integrated and sustainable pipeline of genetic therapies that correct the root cause of complex and rare childhood disorders. The Company’s platform-agnostic approach enables it to design the best therapy for each indication, creating potentially transformative options for patients afflicted with rare genetic diseases. Rocket's clinical programs using lentiviral vector (LVV)-based gene therapy are for the treatment of Fanconi Anemia (FA), a difficult to treat genetic disease that leads to bone marrow failure and potentially cancer, Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency-I (LAD-I), a severe pediatric genetic disorder that causes recurrent and life-threatening infections which are frequently fatal, and Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKD), a rare, monogenic red blood cell disorder resulting in increased red cell destruction and mild to life-threatening anemia. Rocket’s first clinical program using adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy is for Danon Disease, a devastating, pediatric heart failure condition. About Renovacor Renovacor is a biotechnology company focused on delivering innovative precision therapies to improve the lives of patients and families battling genetically-driven cardiovascular and mechanistically-related diseases. The company’s lead program in BAG3-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) uses gene transfer technology to address the monogenic cause of this severe form of heart failure. Renovacor’s vision is to bring life-changing therapies to patients living with serious genetic cardiovascular and related diseases, by developing medicines that target the underlying cause of disease and provide a transformative benefit and significant improvement to quality of life.

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CELL AND GENE THERAPY

Eiger BioPharmaceuticals Provides Update on Plans for Emergency Use Authorization Application Following FDA Feedback

Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, Inc. | October 06, 2022

Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, Inc. a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of innovative therapies for hepatitis delta virus and other serious diseases, today announced that, following feedback from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the company will not submit an emergency use authorization application of peginterferon lambda for the treatment of patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. Following Eiger's press release on September 6, 2022, the company submitted a pre-EUA meeting request to FDA, as well as additional morbidity and mortality outcomes data and analyses from the investigator-sponsored TOGETHER study. This included further statistical modeling and efficacy analyses of the study's primary and secondary endpoints and long-term follow-up data that the company believes continue to support the initial positive topline outcomes reported in March. In response, FDA denied the request for a pre-EUA meeting. Citing its concerns about the conduct of the TOGETHER study, FDA concluded that any authorization request based on these data is unlikely to meet the statutory criteria for issuance of an EUA in the current context of the pandemic. FDA suggested that, given peginterferon lambda's mechanism of action and the ongoing need for improved COVID-19 therapeutics, Eiger consider requesting an end-of-Phase 2 meeting to discuss a company-sponsored pivotal trial that could support an eventual Biologics License Application. Eiger is evaluating next steps for this program, in the U.S., as well as ex-U.S. emergency use authorization pathways and strategic options for continued development of peginterferon lambda for COVID-19 and other respiratory viral infections. "While we are disappointed that FDA will not consider an EUA application based on results generated from the TOGETHER study, we continue to have strong conviction in the potential of peginterferon lambda to confer a meaningful benefit for patients with COVID-19 and other respiratory viral infections. COVID-19 related deaths remain alarmingly high around the globe, including in the U.S. where, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 400 people die every day from this disease." David Cory, President and CEO, Eiger Eiger is advancing a late-stage pipeline of multiple FDA Breakthrough Therapy designated programs in Phase 3, including lonafarnib and peginterferon lambda for hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection, and avexitide for congenital hyperinsulinism. The company expects to report topline data from D-LIVR, Eiger's landmark Phase 3 study of lonafarnib-based regimens for HDV, by year end. About TOGETHER Study TOGETHER is an independent multi-center, investigator-sponsored, randomized, placebo-controlled adaptive platform Phase 3 study evaluating therapeutics in newly diagnosed, high-risk, non-hospitalized patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. TOGETHER is the largest placebo-controlled study in COVID-19 and has evaluated 11 different therapeutic agents for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The study was ongoing at the time the peginterferon lambda arm was added. The evaluation of peginterferon lambda versus placebo was the second largest study to date of a COVID-19 therapeutic of > 1,900 patients. Eligibility criteria required that all patients had laboratory-confirmed mild or moderate COVID-19 and were randomized within seven days of symptom onset. The study enrolled patients regardless of vaccination status or variant strain of SARS-CoV-2. The primary endpoint was a reduction in risk of clinical outcome comparing hospitalizations or emergency room visits greater than six hours after a single subcutaneous injection of peginterferon lambda versus placebo through Day 28. A key secondary endpoint was reduction in risk of hospitalizations or death in patients when dosed within three days of symptom onset. The TOGETHER study recruited from 12 sites in Brazil and 5 sites in Canada. About Peginterferon Lambda Peginterferon lambda is an investigational late-stage, first-in-class, type III interferon that stimulates immune responses that are critical for the development of host protection during viral infections and has been well-tolerated in clinical studies. Eiger is developing peginterferon lambda for the treatment of HDV infection. Peginterferon lambda has been administered to over 4,000 subjects in 28 clinical trials of HBV, HCV, HDV and COVID-19. Peginterferon lambda is an investigational agent and not yet approved for any indication. Eiger has received Orphan Designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency, and Fast Track and Breakthrough Therapy Designation by FDA for peginterferon lambda in HDV. About Eiger Eiger is a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of innovative therapies for hepatitis delta virus (HDV) and other serious diseases. The Eiger HDV platform includes two first-in-class therapies in Phase 3 that target critical host processes involved in viral replication.

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