12:00 AM
Nov 10, 2008
 |  BioCentury  |  Finance

Ebb & Flow

In the largest biotech venture financing this year, cancer stem cell antibody company OncoMed received the $93 million final tranche of a B round that totaled $154 million.

New investor Nomura Phase4 participated in the financing along with existing investors. Adams Street Partners led the round, with participation from U.S. Venture Partners; Latterell Venture Partners; The Vertical Group; Morgenthaler Ventures; De Novo Ventures; Bay Partners; and GlaxoSmithKline (LSE:GSK; NYSE:GSK).

Nomura Phase4's Denise Pollard-Knight, who joined OncoMed's board, told Ebb & Flow that the round should get two antibodies through several Phase II trials.

OMP-21M18 is in Phase I testing to treat advanced solid tumors, with data expected next year. The human mAb targeting an undisclosed cancer stem cell pathway is partnered with GSK. The other antibody is undisclosed.

The 2007 pharma partnership is part of what brought Nomura Phase4 to the table. OncoMed received an undisclosed upfront payment and an equity investment from GSK, and is eligible for $1.4 billion in milestones, plus double-digit royalties.

OncoMed is using its xenograft cancer models to identify mAbs against cancer stem cells and develop them through Phase II in multiple cancer indications. GlaxoSmithKline has an exclusive option to further develop and commercialize four of the mAbs(see BioCentury, Dec. 17, 2007).

Pollard-Knight said the deal provided validation of at least one pathway, adding that the company is working on several other unpartnered pathways. "The combination of targeting these pathways and targeting them with antibodies seemed to us quite a promising approach," she said.

"We wanted to make sure there was enough cash in the kitty to progress against several pathways," Pollard-Knight added.

In July, cardiovascular company Portola raised the second largest venture round of 2008 with a tranched C round of $130 million.

Telaprevir boost

Vertex (NASDAQ:VRTX) got a boost from last week's American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) meeting in San Francisco, as data presentations lifted hopes for the biotech's telaprevir HCV candidate while introducing doubts for a potential competitor, boceprevir from Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP).

Additional data from the open-label Phase IIa C208 study of the Vertex compound showed that 1,125 mg of twice-daily telaprevir plus Copegus ribavirin and either Pegasys peginterferon alfa-2a or PEG-Intron peginterferon alfa-2b produced 83% and 85% rates of undetectable HCV RNA at week 12.

The rates for 750 mg of telaprevir three times daily plus Copegus and either Pegasys or PEG-Intron were both 93% (see B15).

In current combination therapy, ribavirin is dosed twice daily orally along with peginterferon once weekly via subcutaneous injection for 24-48 weeks.

Four-week data had been announced in September, and on the company's earnings call on Oct. 27, Vertex EVP of Medicines Development Freda Lewis-Hall said that, based on the data, "further evaluation of twice-daily dosing regimens is supported."

Since the earnings call, Vertex has gained $6.53 (31%). Last week, the stock added $1.53 to $27.74.

Kurt von Emster of MPM Capital agreed that twice-daily dosing versus three-times daily dosing "actually looked reasonable."

Meanwhile, additional data from the open-label Phase II SPRINT-1 study of the pharma's compound in 595 patients showed that patients receiving boceprevir (SCH 503034) had higher rates of anemia, neutropenia and dysgeusia compared with control patients receiving PEG-Intron and Rebetol ribavirin for 48 weeks (see B15).

Boceprevir "looks to have an...

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