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Biotech Developments to Watch

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Antibiotics, Gut Bacteria and Liver Disease


This week there was a pretty interesting development which was published, linking the gut microbiome to liver disease. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute looked at a number of different models of cancer in the liver of mice. They found that giving these mice an antibiotic called vancomycin got rid of the gut micro bacteria and as a result the mice had smaller and fewer liver tumors than mice that didn't received the antibiotic. Essentially, these researchers illustrated that the antibiotic administered regulates a specific protein in the liver’s capillaries. This regulation boosts the amount of natural killer T (NKT) cells in the liver, leading to a decrease in tumor growth.


The headline here is that the gut microbiome is something which has been studied extensively over the past couple of years, and it seems that there is a causal link to the modulation of the changes in the gut microbiome (that's basically bugs living in the gut), This is another instance of interesting data in terms of publications illustrating that there is a connection between the gut in oncology and specifically in liver cancer. Read More


Biotech IPO’s to Watch


People in the biotech industry often like to talk about the ability of companies to raise capital both from public and private sources. More money has been raised for biotech companies during the beginning of 2018 than in just about any other historical period, and there has been a fair amount of money that has gone into cancer immunotherapy. Interestingly, in the past week there is a company, Neon Therapeutics, that is looking to launch a $115 million IPO to move from a start up to the proof of concept phase. Neon’s approach to cancer therapy is unique as it is custom designed for each patient, to target the neoantigens resulting from genetic mutations causing the cancer. It will be interesting to see how this specific company will perform in the capital markets given the fact that it is very early and it is taking an approach to therapy which is fairly unique and challenging. I think it will be a good company to watch in terms of how the market for financing of companies is going to develop and where the market may go in the next few months.


Two additional companies which are looking to go through the IPO chute are Eidos Therapeutics and Avrobio. Eidos Therapeutics is focused on treating the ATTR family of diseases through stabilizing TTR. They are searching for $115 million, although they are competing with Alnylam, Ionis and Pfizer. Avrobio is looking for $86 million in funding, despite having little human data, for gene therapy to treat lysosomal storage disorders with a single dose. These deals may act as a barometer of where the markets are and where they will potentially go for the balance of 2018. Read More


Biotech Firm Raises $1.5 Billion


Biotech firm, Grail has recently raised another $300 million in funding, bringing their total to $1.5 billion since 2016. They are developing DNA-based blood tests for early cancer detection. This is a very interesting company to watch as an indicator of how the broader markets for funding companies in the sector will react as Grail continues to raise capital. It gives hope to other entities in the space to be able to raise funds. Grail’s investors and the amount they raised are overwhelmingly fantastic relative to the dollar's size. Read More

An Amazing Cancer Immunotherapy


A Merck drug which is called Keytruda is turning out to be an amazing drug. This cancer immunotherapy specifically targets the PD-1 pathway. Merck revealed data at ASCO showing that this drug is doing better than chemotherapy alone in a number of metastatic cancers. Survival rates increased for patients with some forms of lung cancer, and this is exceptionally good. Here we have at least in one area of cancer with hope or promise that we are developing drugs that not only can fight cancer but also treat its progression. This truly interesting data shows that we may have a chance. Read More


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At Katan we create strategies that permit technology based companies to achieve their full commercial value. Katan is not a traditional strategic consulting firm. Because we work with a carefully selected group of clients each year, our role with our client companies goes far beyond a simple evaluation or the completion of a single transaction. We invest the time needed and effort required to know management, to understand the business, and most importantly, to shape the implications of the strategies which we help to implement. Overall, we seek to build long-term relationships through our value contribution. Katan's operational and capitalization strategies for Life Sciences companies have been delivered on a successful basis for over a decade.