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Pancreatic Cancer Battle Boosted by $200M VC Firm
News provided byUSA News Group
Sep 19, 2023, 12:54 PM ET
FN Media Group Presents USA News Group News Commentary
VANCOUVER, BC, Sept. 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- USA News Group - A new cancer-focused venture capital firm is making headlines, having debuted with $200 million in funding from prominent individuals and institutions such as MIT, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Rockefeller University. Led by 31-year old Reed Jobs, the new firm dubbed 'Yosemite' appears to be an extension of the legacy left by the founder's father, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, who died in 2011 from a rare form of pancreatic cancer at the age of only 56. From an investment standpoint, the Global Pancreatic Cancer Market is expected to surpass US$7.4 billion by 2032, growing at a health CAGR of 13.7% along the way. Among the biotech sector's most promising developers of treatments for pancreatic cancer are Oncolytics Biotech Inc. (NASDAQ:ONCY) (TSX:ONC), Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:MACK), Incyte Corporation (NASDAQ:INCY), Mirati Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRTX), and BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:BNTX).
According to the American Cancer Society in its Cancer Facts & Figures 2023 report, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer increased by 1% from the previous year to 12%. Back when his father passed away in 2011, Reed Jobs was studying at Stanford University to become a doctor. However, after the loss, Reed went on to join his mother at the impact investing and philanthropic organization formed by his mother called Emerson Collective. Unlike that organization, Yosemite will run as a for-profit business while also maintaining a donor-advised fund which will make grant money available to scientists.
"I had never ever wanted to be a venture capitalist," said Reed Jobs in an interview with the New York Times' Dealbook. "But I realized that when you're actually incubating something and putting it together, you can make a tremendous difference in what assets are part of that, what direction it's going to take, and what the scientific focus is going to be."
In terms of targeting pancreatic cancer, the efforts align with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), which has been urging advocates from all 50 US states to call on Congress to increase federal funding for pancreatic cancer research.
PanCAN has been active itself, having recently selected pelareorep, the flagship asset of Oncolytics Biotech Inc. (NASDAQ:ONCY) (TSX:ONC) to be included in its pivotal Phase 3 trial, with promising prospects for approval as a first-line treatment. With the potential to reduce Phase 3 costs by around 50% compared to traditional trials and to accelerate late-stage development, pelareorep's selection heralds a new era of cost-efficient and effective clinical studies.
Upon the announcement of pelareorep's inclusion, the market responded immediately in favour of ONCY. Garnering the significant support of an institutional investor, Oncolytics Biotech raised another US$15 million to continue the advancement of its pelareorep clinical programs in both pancreatic and metastatic breast cancers. On a pro forma basis, including the net proceeds from the public offering, the company's cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities as of June 30, 2023, in the company's latest Q2 2023 financial results and operational highlights, was $42.7 million, which provides a projected runway into H2 2024.
"Our core programs in pancreatic and breast cancer are both progressing rapidly towards registrational studies on the back of the impressive clinical data showing the potential of pelareorep as a backbone immunotherapy," said Dr. Matt Coffey, President and CEO of Oncolytics Biotech. "Precision Promise, created by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, provides us with the opportunity to reduce the time and costs needed for a potential approval, and we are honored to have been selected for participation in this novel and exclusive trial."
In late 2022, pelareorep was granted Fast Track Designation (FTD) from the FDA for the treatment of advanced/metastatic pancreatic cancer.
This came almost immediately on the heels of an update on the GOBLET study, which is a critical investigation into pelareorep's effectiveness when combined with atezolizumab and chemotherapy. What's been unveiled so far is nothing short of remarkable: an impressive 69% response rate in the initial batch of evaluated patients. Among the 13 evaluated patients, one experienced a complete response - a rare and exceptional outcome in the field of cancer treatment. Compared to the usual 25% response rate observed with chemotherapy, the 69% response rate skyrockets way above the norm, nearly tripling the success rate.
"With a five-year survival rate of 12%, pancreatic cancer patients cannot afford to wait for new treatment options," said Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, President and CEO of PanCAN. "This urgent unmet need was the driving inspiration behind the Precision Promise platform trial, which was designed specifically to identify, accelerate, and de-risk the development of promising pancreatic cancer treatments. We are thrilled to be bringing pelareorep into Precision Promise as a new investigational therapy to study against the current standard of care."
Shortly before pelareorep received its FDA nod in late 2022, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:MACK) surged upon the news its partner Ipsen's cancer therapy Onivyde met the primary endpoint in a late-stage trial for a form of pancreatic cancer. Ipsen had acquired the US commercialization rights for Onivyde from Merrimack in 2017 in a potential $1 billion deal.
By June, Ipsen had announced the FDA's acceptance of a submission for a New Drug Application for Onivyde in first-line metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
"The FDA's decision to accept the sNDA for this Onivyde-based regimen in treatment-naïve patients with metastatic disease represents an important milestone in the potential treatment of this complex form of cancer," said Howard Mayer, Executive Vice President and Head of Research and Development at Ipsen. "We're committed to developing therapies which have the potential to make a meaningful difference to the lives of people living with cancer and look forward to working with FDA as they review this application."
Another cancer treatment partnership that's made progress since late 2022 is that of Incyte Corporation (NASDAQ:INCY) and Mirati Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRTX). Incyte made the deal to start and pay for the first tests of a mix of drugs. These tests will be for people who have certain kinds of lung cancer, bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other solid tumors, with Mirati providing Incyte with a drug called Adagrasib to use in the study.
"We are pleased to enter into this agreement with Incyte, supplying Adagrasib for evaluation in combination with INCB99280," said Dr. Charles Baum, president, founder and head of research and development at Mirati Therapeutics. "This agreement is part of our rational combination strategy for Adagrasib and further demonstrates our focus to evaluate this asset in a broad range of combinations, including with novel approaches to checkpoint inhibition, to benefit people living with difficult-to-treat cancers."
While Reed Jobs's Yosemite has received backing from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, so too has BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:BNTX) which is embarking on the next phase of a new mRNA pancreatic cancer vaccine trial, after promising results. The tailored neoantigen pancreatic cancer vaccine from BioNTech invoked an immune response in 50% of patients and prevented relapse.
"We are excited to move this trial forward into the next phase and test personalized mRNA vaccines in more pancreatic cancer patients," said MSK pancreatic cancer surgeon-scientist Vinod Balachandran, MD, who led the phase 1 trial in collaboration with BioNTech, and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.
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