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25 January, 2021 - 00:37 By Tony Quested

Hands across the water as bio bonds stand test of time

Boris Johnson’s doomed reliance on Donald Trump to deliver a massive US trade deal for the UK is in stark contrast to the biotechnology bonds that continue to endure with massive commercial payback across the Atlantic.

Cambridge-US life science collaborations and investments have hit record levels in the last year and seemed destined to gather further pace through 2021 and beyond.

The Cluster now has GW Pharma and Bicycle Therapeutics under their own steam, Horizon Discovery (courtesy its acquisition by PerkinElmer),  F-star (via its merger with Spring Bank) and Kymab (through its acquisition by Sanofi) quoted on Nasdaq, the US technology exchange. So let’s delve deeper into the special relationship between UK and US biotechs that is not sullied by political fluctuations.

We reported in February 2020 that Bicycle Therapeutics clinched a $30 million upfront payment from Roche Group business Genentech as part of a strategic technology collaboration that could haul in up to $1.7 billion. 

Bicycle will also be eligible to receive tiered royalties on Bicycle-based medicines commercialised by Genentech. Bicycle will be exploring its technology on a wider range of immuno-oncology targets, combining the expertise of both companies. 

Bicycle will contribute its proprietary discovery platform, which allows rapid screening of novel targets to identify Bicycles and the ability to readily conjugate these together to create novel molecules that may overcome the potential limitations of other modalities.  Genentech brings to the table its knowledge of immuno-oncology drug discovery and emerging target biology, as well as its development and commercialisation expertise.

In April 2020 – and in another world first for a Cambridge life science business – CellCentric revealed that it had developed CCS1477 – the first p300/CBP inhibitor of its kind – for use in the treatment of multiple cancer types.

Expanding on its UK-based clinical activities, the company disclosed that it was set to open US clinical sites for patient recruitment and had signed a milestone agreement with the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial Consortium, LLC headquartered in New York to help select and manage US sites for the ongoing evaluation of CCS1477. 

Also last April, Mogrify in the UK and Sangamo in the US agreed a collaboration and exclusive licence agreement for Mogrify’s iPSC and ESC-derived regulatory T cells. It is a fistful of dollars play for startup business Mogrify which aims to transform the development of cell therapies by the systematic discovery of novel cell conversions; Nasdaq-quoted Sangamo Therapeutics is a genomic medicine company.

The deal allows Sangamo to develop allogeneic cell therapies from Mogrify’s proprietary induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells and Sangamo’s zinc finger protein gene-engineered chimeric antigen receptor regulatory T cell (CAR-Treg) technology. 

In May, global food nutrition gamechanger Cargill – headquartered in Minneapolis – and Cambridge-based Eagle Genomics agreed a multi-year platform engagement to enable the digital transformation of microbiome and life sciences R & D across Cargill’s international territories. The deployment of the Eagle Genomics e[datascientist] platform will initially enable Cargill’s Health Technologies business to organise and synthesise additional insights from microbiome data amassed by the company over the past decade. 

We announced in June that a young but big hitting US life science player was growing a UK team from a new base at Granta Park in Cambridge. Alloy Therapeutics, formed in Massachusetts in 2017, is dedicated to empowering global scientists with foundational drug discovery platforms and services. It is hiring fresh talent at its new UK home at Granta’s McLintock Building.

The executive team is power-packed with business builders and money magnets. Led by founder, CEO and chairman Errik Anderson, the company is pioneering technology in a key growth area of the life sciences. Its specialist Discovery Services teams in Boston, MA and Cambridge, UK do immunisations every day while working to refine and improve the company’s groundbreaking Alloy-Gx platform. 

The sister Alloy Discovery Services business enables Alloy to ensure that all its partners are successful in their antibody discovery projects. 

Also in June, Sosei Heptares set up a potential $409m exclusive discovery collaboration deal with New York-quoted AbbVie – and there could be more cash cream to pour on top.

Sosei Heptares is eligible to receive up to $32m in upfront and near-term milestone payments as well as potential option, development and commercial milestones of up to $377m – plus tiered royalties on global commercial sales.

Inivata, a Cambridge UK leader in liquid biopsy, reported in July that NeoGenomics, Inc – its strategic commercialisation partner in the United States for the InVisionFirst®-Lung liquid biopsy – had commercially launched the test in the US. 

InVisionFirst-Lung is a ctDNA next-generation sequencing liquid biopsy assay testing 37 genes relevant to the care of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Nasdaq-quoted NeoGenomics, based in Florida, is a leading US-based cancer diagnostics and services company anchored in Florida.

July was also a seminal month for Acacia Pharma as the FDA approved its BYFAVO™ (remimazolam) for injection for the induction and maintenance of procedural sedation in adults undergoing surgical procedures lasting 30 minutes or less.

Acacia in-licensed the commercial rights to BYFAVO for the US from Cosmo Pharmaceuticals NV in January. 

Avacta Group revealed in August that it could earn anything from $1/2bn to $1bn from an extended partnership with LG Chem Life Science, the Massachusetts-based subsidiary of the South Korean LG Group. The windfall stems from additional drug development programmes utilising Avacta’s Affimer® XT technology.

Also in August, a US company personalising immune therapies for solid tumour cancers raised further capital to complete the Phase 1 buildout of a UK manufacturing facility in Sawston, Cambridge. 

Northwest Biotherapeutics in Maryland raised $5 million growth capital and topped this up by securing a special purpose competitive loan of $1.77m  from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Northwest is developing DCVax® personalised immune therapies for solid tumour cancers and is pursuing an intensive program of manufacturing preparations and planning as it approaches top line data from its Phase III trial. 

In September, PhoreMost, the Cambridge biopharma company dedicated to drugging ‘undruggable’ disease targets, and XtalPi Inc., a leading algorithm-driven AI-based pharmaceutical technology company, entered into a drug discovery collaboration agreement. 

PhoreMost and Massachusetts-based XtalPi intend to rapidly identify and develop compounds to advance a drug discovery program against targets that epigenetically regulate tumour progression, and have been previously classified as ‘undruggable’. 

A collaboration between Cambridge business Evonetix and Massachusetts company Analog Devices Inc was unveiled in September to fast-track the development and scale-up of the UK innovator’s desktop DNA writer. The technology will help facilitate the rapidly growing multibillion-dollar synthetic biology industry, Evonetix says.

Sosei Heptares earned more megabucks in September from its ongoing collaboration with $52 billion turnover New York-rooted pharma giant Pfizer. Pfizer reported that the first subject in a clinical trial had been dosed with a new drug candidate nominated from the multi-target drug discovery collaboration between the companies. 

The milestone triggered a payment of $5 million to Sosei Heptares. The candidate was nominated for advancement by Pfizer in June 2019 generating a $3m milestone payment at that time. 

Abzena pumped $60m into a new San Diego manufacturing hub in October – a move that created 125 additional jobs with more to come.

Also last autumn, Cambridge biopharma business Arecor announced that it was partnering with global big-hitter Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC to co-create a ready-to-administer injectable medicine in the US.

The breakthrough technology is being delivered through the quoted UK giant’s affiliate Hikma Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. 

In December, Abcam opened a new 16,000 sq ft purpose-fitted facility in Fremont, CA, which will serve as a major new site for its specialist cell engineering team. 

Also before Christmas, Owlstone Medical revealed that it was establishing a permanent office on the North Carolina Research Triangle Park and was hiring on both sides of the Atlantic.

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