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Pfizer makes first investments through ‘breakthrough growth’ fund

Pharma giant invested $120m in four biotechs in the second half of 2020

Pfizer announced yesterday that it has invested $120m in four biotech companies – the first investments made through its newly-established ‘breakthrough growth’ fund.

The ‘Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative’ (PBGI), established in June 2020, is a funding programme created to invest up to $500m across a number of clinical-stage biotech companies.

The PBGI’s primary focus is on biotechs operating across a variety of therapeutic categories that line up with Pfizer’s core areas of focus – including internal medicine, inflammation & immunology, oncology, rare disease, vaccine and hospital.

The first $120m was invested during the second half of 2020, Pfizer announced in a statement, and went to four biotechs developing therapies ranging from immunotherapies to rare genetic disease.

The largest investment sum was handed to clinical-stage genetic medicines company Homology Medicines, which is developing treatments for rare genetic diseases with high unmet clinical need.

Its most advanced asset – a gene therapy for adults phenylketonuria (PKU) – is currently in phase 2 development, and has also been granted orphan drug designations in both the US and the EU.

In addition, Trillium Therapeutics and Vedanta Biosciences each received $25m, respectively, from the PBGI to advance their most ‘promising clinical development programmes’.

Trillium Therapeutics has a number of immunotherapies currently being investigated in early-stage clinical and preclinical trials.

This includes early-stage trials investigating its CD47-targeting immunotherapies – TTI-622 and TTI-621 – in lymphoma, multiple myeloma and haematologic malignancies.

Meanwhile, Vedanta Biosciences is developing a ‘new category’ of therapies for immune-mediated diseases.

The Pfizer investment will help to fund a phase 2 study of its lead candidate VE202 in inflammatory bowel disease, which is expected to launch this year.

VE202 is an orally administered live biotherapeutic product, consisting of a defined bacterial consortium. Phase 1 data showed that the treatment was generally safe and well-tolerated and demonstrated durable and dose-dependent colonisation in the targeted patient population.

As part of the investment, Pfizer’s senior vice president and chief scientific officer of its inflammation & immunology research unit Michael Vincent will join Vedanta’s scientific advisory board.

Lastly, a $10m investment went to ESSA Pharma, a clinical-stage pharma company focused on developing novel therapies for prostate cancer.

For ESSA Pharma this funding is likely to go toward the development of EPI-7386, an oral small molecule inhibitor designed for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC).

This investigational treatment has already been granted a fast track designation from the US Food and Drug Administration, and the first mCRPC patient started treatment in a phase 1 trial in July 2020.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

13th January 2021

From: Research

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