Call it the calm before the storm. All eyes in biotech this weekend will turn to the year’s big cancer meeting, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual bash in Chicago. There’ll be plenty of data to parse through over the next few days, as cancer immunotherapy once again takes center stage and hordes of companies jostle for the spotlight. But before that, take a breather and roll through this week’s East Coast biotech headlines, which are all rounded up below.
—There was a milestone for the microbiome this week, as Seres Therapeutics (the Cambridge, MA-based startup formerly known as Seres Health) became the first company developing microbiome therapies in the U.S. to file for an IPO. Alex Lash has more on the filing, and its implications for the field.
—While promising, the cellular immunotherapy technique known as CAR-T is in its early days, and several companies in the field are now looking for ways to help the technology take its next steps. Witness two such deals this week. First, Cambridge-based Bluebird Bio (NASDAQ: BLUE) cut a deal with Five Prime Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FPRX) to try to come up with antibodies against an undisclosed cancer target. Then, Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JUNO) collaborated with Cambridge startup Editas Medicine to use the gene editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to help soup up its own immunotherapy programs.
—What started as Pronutria is now Pronutria Biosciences, indicative of the sharpening focus the Cambridge startup now has on developing drugs, as opposed to medical foods and dietary supplements. I spoke with CEO Robert Connelly about the transition, and the company’s latest news—it’s raised $39 million and brought in Fidelity Management & Research as a new investor. Pronutria is exploring the links between amino acids and disease, and has built a database of over 1 billion sequences of proteins in the human diet.
—Boston-based startup creator PureTech filed for an IPO in London this week, aiming to sell 25 percent of its shares and raise $160 million.
—New York and San Diego, CA-based Retrophin (NASDAQ: RTRX) has quickly turned a small deal for Baltimore, MD-based Asklepion Pharmaceuticals into a big payday from Sanofi. Retrophin sold a priority review voucher it got in acquiring Asklepion back in March to the French drugmaker for $245 million. As a result, Retrophin has already made its money back on the Asklepion deal—and has a new FDA approved drug as well. Retrophin paid $28.4 million in cash and 661,279 of its shares for Asklepion in March, and could add another $42.2 million in payments down the road.
—Cambridge startup Padlock Therapeutics licensed some intellectual property and other assets from GlaxoSmithKline related to protein-arginine deiminases, or “PAD” enzymes—the focus of Padlock’s drug development efforts. GSK got an undisclosed equity stake in Padlock and a board observer seat in exchange for the assets. For more on PAD enzymes and Padlock, an Atlas Venture-incubated startup led by former Biogen research executive and Stromedix CEO Michael Gilman, check out this story from December.
—Cranbury, NJ-based Amicus Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FOLD) said that European regulators will give its experimental Fabry disease treatment, migalastat, an “accelerated assessment”—in other words, a speedier review than it would have gotten otherwise. Amicus will file an application in the second quarter to approve the drug in Europe.
—Citing unnamed sources, the Financial Times reported Thursday that New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) was considering bidding for cellular immunotherapy player Cellectis (NASDAQ: CLLS). Pfizer and Cellectis cut a wide-ranging licensing deal last year. The French firm also recently opened up a U.S. base in Manhattan, at the Alexandria Center for Life Science.