2023-01-12| Special

JPM23: More Deals as JP Morgan Healthcare Conference 2023 Enters the Third Day

by Joy Lin
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As JP Morgan’s 41st annual Healthcare Conference continues, Big Pharma and small biotechs continue to seek each other’s services and assets, paving the way for more collaborations and licenses. Meanwhile, others are taking the opportunity to share their latest clinical findings. The following are some of the latest announcements from the participants. 

AbbVie Taps Anima to Discover mRNA Biology Modulators

AbbVie is collaborating with Anima Biotech over small molecule mRNA biology modulators for three immuno-oncology targets. Under the deal, Anima will receive $42 million upfront and may receive up to $540 million in option fees and milestones, with potential for future milestones and sales royalties. 

Anima will use its mRNA platform to discover mRNA biology modulators against specified targets, which AbbVie could choose to license and further advance. 

Related Article: JPM23: Development and Strategic Updates from JP Morgan Healthcare Conference 2023 Day Two

Lilly Licenses Treg Candidates from TRexBio

TRexBio is building on a previous collaboration with Eli Lilly with the start of a new multi-year research collaboration with the drug giant. Under the new partnership, TRexBio will use its Deep Biology platform to map the behavior of T-regulatory cells (Treg) in human tissue to disease. 

Lilly will be granted a global license to advance candidates from three programs and will be responsible for further clinical development and commercialization costs. 

TRexBio will receive $55 million upfront, up to $1.1 billion in milestones and tiered royalties on product sales. 

Takeda, Sequoia Say Phase 2 Topline for Fazirsiran is “Highly Encouraging”

Takeda and Sequoia have announced topline results from their Phase 2 Sequoia clinical study of fazirsiran in liver disease associated with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD-LD). 

Patients receiving 25 mg, 100 mg, or 200 mg of fazirsiran with baseline fibrosis showed dose-dependent mean reduction in serum mutant AAT (Z-AAT) at week 48 at 74%, 89%, and 94%. The three doses led to a dramatic reduction in total liver Z-AAT with a median reduction of 94% at the postbaseline liver biopsy visit. The drug improved portal inflammation in 42% of  patients, while only 7% showed worsening. 50% of patients achieved an improvement in fibrosis, according to an assessment. 

Fazirsiran was granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation (BTD) in July 2021 and Orphan Drug Designation in February 2018 for the treatment of AATD-LD from the US FDA.

STALICLA In-Licenses Novartis’s Mavoglurant, Promises $270 Million 

STALICLA, a clinical-stage neurobiology biotech, is betting over $270 million to take Novartis’ mavoglurant into the clinic and beyond. The licensing deal includes upfront fees, equity, up to $270 million in milestones, and potential royalties in exchange for worldwide rights to mavoglurant for substance use disorders, neurodevelopment disorders, and other indications.

Mavoglurant is a selective negative-allosteric modulator of the glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5). MGluR5 has been linked to mood disorders, addiction, and forms of autism. In Phase 2 studies, mavoglurant has induced abstinence in cocaine-use disorder (CUD) through inhibition of mGluR5 without withdrawal liability. Based on the positive results, STALICLA is now preparing to advance the drug into Phase 3 for CUD. 

STALICLA will also leverage its precision neurobiology drug development platform (DEPI) to detect subgroups of patients who may respond well to mavoglurant. 

Astellas Buys Rights to Selecta’s Xork for $340 Million in Biobucks

Astellas is licensing Selecta’s immunoglobulin G (IgG) protease, IdeXork (Xork), as a pre-treatment for AT845, Astellas’ AAV-based treatment for Late-Onset Pompe disease (LOPD) in adults. Under the deal, Selecta will receive $10 million upfront and up to $340 million in milestones plus royalties on sales of Xork when the drug is used as a pre-treatment for Astellas products. 

AAV gene therapies come with several limitations. Many patients are ineligible for such treatments due to naturally occurring antibodies against the AAV gene therapy capsids. IgG proteases, also known as IgG-degrading enzymes, help AAV transduction take place in individuals with pre-existing neutralizing antibodies. However, there is also a high prevalence of pre-existing antibodies to IgG proteases themselves as they are derived from common pathogens. 

Xork is designed to improve on current IgG proteases through low cross-reactivity to pre-existing antibodies. “Xork has the potential to expand access to life-changing gene therapies by addressing pre-existing immunity to AAV,” said Carsten Brunn, CEO of Selecta.

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