Roche bets USD 120 Million on UCB’s anti-tau Alzheimer’s antibody

The Swiss pharma, Roche, is handing over USD 120 million upfront for the right of UCB’s anti-tau antibody development. If everything goes according to plan, milestone payments and royalties could bring the deal’s total near to USD 2 billion.

The drug, UCB0107, is designed to impede or decrease the buildup of tau proteins in the brain, which leads to nerve cell damage and death. UCB is already developing it for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), an uncommon neurodegenerative disorder, which affects movement, gait, balance, speech, vision, mood and behaviour.

Under the agreement, UCB will fund and carry out a proof-of-concept study in Alzheimer’s disease. Once that is done and the data readout, Roche may choose to take over development or hand the rights to the asset back to UCB.

‘Genome-tuning’ biotech Omega Therapeutics snags USD 85 Million 

Omega Therapeutics is getting a USD 85 million cash boost. It will push a pipeline of treatments toward the clinic as well as bankroll the recognition of new targets for genomic medicines.

Omega’s platform is designed to adjust gene expression to healthy levels rather than switching genes on and off.

The work of the company is based on the genes and their regulatory elements found in loops of DNA called Insulated Genomic Domains (IGDs). These loops occur due to long strands of DNA that need to fit into the cell’s nucleus.  

The epigenomic controllers of Omega Therapeutics are designed to target the right place on specific IGDs to restore the function of a gene at the right level.

ExeVir bags USD 27 million to take llama-derived COVID-19 drug into the clinic

ExeVir Bio has raised USD 27 million to advance a llama-derived antibody against COVID-19. The financing that attracted the support of Fund+ and UCB follows research displaying an approach similar to that used by Ablynx can yield single-domain antibodies (VHHs) that neutralize SARS-CoV-2.

The notable people of Belgian biopharma has come together to get the project underway. VIB, the institute that spawned VHH biotechs Ablynx, Biotalys and Confo Therapeutics, contributed to a paper about the generation of VHHs against SARS-CoV-2. UCB helped make a lead asset based on VIB research and produce clinical batches. And Fund+, which backed Ogeda on route to its €500 million takeovers by Astellas, led the series A with assists from UCB Ventures, VIB and the Belgian government.

The result is ExeVir, biotech with technology spun off from VIB and €23 million to take a lead drug into the clinic by the end of the year. That timeline puts ExeVir well behind the front-runners in the race to get an anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody to market, but the startup and its backers think their VHH approach has advantages.

GSK culls a host of pipeline meds after failures, prioritization

GlaxoSmithKline, the U.S. Big Pharma is selecting five experimental drugs in all, each targeting a different area and for a mixture of reasons.

First up, its chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) vaccine that is in initial data from its proof-of-concept study showed the primary endpoint was not meeting, and while GSK informed about the work was ongoing to understand the data better and no progression to phase 3 is planned. It is a similar story for GSK’078 (SARM) for COPD muscle weakness that has been killed off as the data did not bolster the progression in this indication. 

And then there are the victims of “portfolio prioritization,” namely: GSK’557 for PI3K delta syndrome, GSK’394 (combinectin) for HIV and GSK’091 (a TLR4 agonist) for cancer.