KaliVir, Astellas Pharma forms a licensing deal for VET2-L2 oncolytic virus

KaliVir Immunotherapeutics and Astellas Pharma entered into a worldwide exclusive licensing agreement for the development, research, and commercialization of VET2-L2 to widen the horizon of therapeutic approaches available in the Immuno-Oncology market. 

As its lead program, KaliVir is developing VET2-L2 leveraging its unique technology platform based on a genetically modified vaccinia virus. VET2-L2 is an oncolytic vaccinia virus that can be delivered intravenously to cancer patients. This will reduce the need for complicated procedures of the direct intra-tumoral administration and will be of huge convenience for patients. The therapy is in the preclinical stage.

The deal brings together KaliVir’s expertise in the development of oncolytic viruses with Astellas’ capabilities in advanced drug development. Under the terms of the agreement, Astellas is going to shell out an upfront sum up to USD 56 million in addition to the payments supporting the ongoing research, development, and pre-clinical activities surrounding VET2-L2 as well as the Second Product. KaliVir may also receive up to US$307 million and up to US$271 million for the development, regulatory, and commercialization of VET2-L2 and Second Product, respectively, and royalty payments on net sales of each licensed product.

AbCellera Biologics readies to raise up to USD 391 million in IPO

Canadian antibody-drug discovery platform AbCellera Biologics is setting the groundwork for a massive Initial public offering worth USD 391 million. 

The company made a mark when it struck a deal with the pharmaceutical engine, Eli Lilly, to work on its COVID 19 therapy – human antibody bamlanivimab – which managed to secure EUA with the USFDA. Not to lose sight of AbCellera’s AI-powered antibody discovery platform that speeds up the process of finding antibodies that can be developed into drugs. Further, the company has the support of PayPal founder and tech/life sciences investor Peter Thiel, German entrepreneur Christian Angermayer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Viking Global Investors, and healthcare investment firm OrbiMed Advisors LLC in addition to a grant of USD 175.6 million from the Canadian government. 

The company is offering 23 million shares priced between USD 14 and USD 17 each. It is being estimated that this IPO if successful, will be the biggest debut on record for Canadian biotech.

Bayer collaborates with Atara Biotherapeutics for off-the-shelf CAR T-Cell Therapy 

Germany-based life sciences titan, Bayer, has set out on a collaborating spree to explore CAR-T cell gene therapy and oncology. Not long ago, the acquisition of an N.C.-based gene therapy company AskBio by Bayer made headlines. Last year, Bayer had got its hands on another cell and gene therapy company, BlueRock Therapeutics

And now the next step towards bolstering its strategic presence in the cell & gene therapy market, Bayer has collaborated with Bay Area-based Atara Biotherapeutics.

The doubleton through collaboration will focus on developing off-the-shelf T-cell immunotherapy for high mesothelin-expressing tumors. It covers Atara’s two developmental candidates, ATA3271, an armored allogeneic T-cell immunotherapy, and an autologous version, and ATA2271, for high mesothelin-expressing tumors such as malignant pleural mesothelioma and non-small-cell lung cancer.

While ATA3271, the allogeneic version of this CAR-T, leverages Atara’s EBV T-cell platform and is currently in IND-enabling studies, ATA2271, the autologous version has enrolled the first patient in an open-label, single-arm Phase 1 clinical study in November 2020.

Aligos Therapeutics, Merck team up to discover and develop an Oligonucleotide Therapy for NASH

Aligos Therapeutics has entered into an exclusive license and research collaboration agreement with Merck with a motive to get rid of the hassle due to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) by developing oligonucleotide therapies. 

Under the terms of the deal, the duo plans to leverage Aligos’ oligonucleotide platform technology to discover, research, optimize and develop oligonucleotides directed against a NASH target as well as another additional target of interest in the cardiometabolic/fibrosis space. In exchange for its platform, Aligos will receive an upfront payment as well as additional milestone payments. 

Aligos will be committed to designing, preparing, and evaluating the oligonucleotide molecules and delivering optimized lead molecules, Merck, on the other hand, will lead in the research, clinical development, and commercialization efforts.

While the NASH market seems lucrative, the past failures and setbacks faced by the therapies and their pharma owners have nothing but a dejection. After Gilead, InterceptGenfit, and Albireo – all reported disappointing results in their respective NASH programs, the market picture was a bit grim. However, it seems the potential and opportunity the NASH market landscape has up its sleeves outweighs the risks.