PHARMA TECH

BlackRock and QLS Advisors Partner Through BlackRock Systematic to Invest in Biomedical Innovation

BlackRock and QLS Advisors | July 19, 2022 | Read time : 49:11 min

BlackRock and QLS
BlackRock and QLS Advisors LLC, a life sciences technology and advisory firm, have announced a partnership through BlackRock Systematic to develop data-driven investment solutions to help accelerate biomedical innovation. The partnership will leverage the firms’ combined Research and Development and investment experience, directing funding toward public and private companies that have the potential to create transformative therapies while seeking to earn attractive investment returns for clients.

Biomedicine is at an inflection point: breakthrough therapies—with the potential to extend longevity and improve quality of life—are emerging at an ever-increasing pace. Funding these therapeutic development programs has the potential to deliver attractive investment returns, but as biomedicine has grown more complex, so have the risks to investors.

QLS has developed proprietary technology for estimating the probability of success of clinical trials, a key driver of financial performance, and systematically incorporating these forecasts into fundamental valuation models and portfolio construction algorithms. Their approach applies machine learning techniques to a multitude of predictive factors including therapeutic characteristics, clinical trial design features, disease-specific characteristics, and drug company track records.

This methodology, coupled with BlackRock Systematic’s global platform, proprietary analytics, and more than 35 years1 of data-driven investment experience, presents a differentiated approach to investing in life sciences companies.

BlackRock’s partnership with QLS applies sophisticated quantitative investment technologies to the intersection of finance, academia, and life sciences. QLS brings an industry-leading approach to investing in life sciences that complements the work that BlackRock Systematic is doing in our actively managed portfolios. We expect this will create compelling, differentiated solutions that can deliver attractive returns for our clients while providing funding for life-changing therapies.”

Rich Kushel, Head of the Portfolio Management Group BlackRock 

Andrew Lo, QLS Co-founder and Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management commented: “We founded QLS to improve the way financial resources are allocated to emerging therapies, with the goal of lowering the cost of capital in this important sector. With BlackRock, we gain a partner who is a recognized leader in data-driven investing and shares our passion for delivering investment returns with positive outcomes for society. We’re thrilled and honored to join forces with a firm that has such a strong and trusted global brand, broad network, and access to world-class investment resources.”

BlackRock and QLS have also assembled a Scientific Advisory Council comprising renowned academics, medical doctors, and inventors. The Council will support sourcing, due diligence, and value creation through the members’ vast networks and decades of experience as industry leaders in their respective fields. The Council is expected to include

  • Dr. Robert Langer, Institute Professor, MIT Department of Chemical Engineering, and founder of over 40 biotechnology companies including Moderna.
  • Ms. Lita Nelsen, retired director of the MIT Technology Licensing Office; now consultant in technology licensing.
  • Dr. Larry Norton, Senior Vice President, Norna S. Sarofim Chair in Clinical Oncology and Medical Director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Past President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, ASCO David Karnofsky Awardee, FASCO, FAACR.
  • Dr. Richard H. Scheller, Chairman of Research and Development BridgeBio. Board of Directors BridgeBio, Alector, 23andMe, DICE and others. Former Executive Vice President Research and Early Development Genentech and former HHMI Investigator and Professor Stanford University Medical School.
  • Dr. Phillip A. Sharp, Institute Professor, MIT Department of Biology, geneticist and molecular biologist who co-discovered RNA splicing, co-founded Biogen and Alnylam, and the recipient of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

About BlackRock Systematic
BlackRock’s systematic investment platform brings together BlackRock’s community of systematic investors across equity, fixed income, and factor-based strategies. Systematic portfolios combine cutting-edge technology, scientific research, and human insight in the relentless pursuit of investment performance. With over 35 years of experience and nearly 200 professionals across the globe managing over US$200 bn in client assets as of March 31, 2022, BlackRock Systematic partners with clients to deliver quantitative alpha-seeking and factor-based investment solutions for the whole portfolio.

About QLS Advisors LLC
QLS Advisors LLC is a life sciences technology and advisory company based in Cambridge, MA, dedicated to fostering biomedical innovation. QLS employs a unique blend of fundamental and quantitative tools to help clients manage risk, assess reward, and develop investment and financing strategies for portfolios of healthcare-related assets. 

Spotlight

The pharmaceutical industry is globalizing. Conducting global clinical trials to get a broader and more diverse participant base and expanding into less-saturated developing markets are two significant drivers of globalization. However, this expansion creates the unique and very real logistical challenge of connecting a global network of employees, researchers, clinicians, customers, suppliers, distributors, and manufacturing sites to foster collaboration both inside and outside the organization.

Spotlight

The pharmaceutical industry is globalizing. Conducting global clinical trials to get a broader and more diverse participant base and expanding into less-saturated developing markets are two significant drivers of globalization. However, this expansion creates the unique and very real logistical challenge of connecting a global network of employees, researchers, clinicians, customers, suppliers, distributors, and manufacturing sites to foster collaboration both inside and outside the organization.

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Septerna Strengthens Leadership Team to Advance Novel Small Molecule GPCR Medicines

Septerna | July 29, 2022

Septerna, a biotechnology company discovering and advancing novel small molecule medicines targeting G protein-coupled receptors announced the addition of Liz Bhatt, MS, MBA, as Chief Operating Officer, and Ran Xiao as Vice President of Finance and Business Operations to its leadership team. Septerna launched in January 2022 and is growing a pipeline of differentiated products using its GPCR Native Complex™ platform to unlock the vast untapped potential of GPCR drug targets for a wide range of diseases. We are thrilled to welcome Liz and Ran as we continue to build our exceptional team. Together, they bring deep experience in corporate, commercial, and business strategy. They also have significant operational expertise building and supporting both private and public companies,” said Jeffrey Finer, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Septerna and Venture Partner at Third Rock Ventures. “Since our launch in January, we’ve made rapid progress advancing our platform and early discovery programs, and now expanding our focus to strategic growth and operational excellence is absolutely critical so that we can fully realize the untapped opportunity space for new GPCR medicines.” “Septerna launched with the ambitious plan to expand the GPCR target landscape by developing and industrializing new drug discovery technologies and processes that can convert this target-rich superfamily of proteins into impactful new therapies for patients across a range of therapeutic areas. I’m excited to be working with a team of talented GPCR scientists and drug hunters and look forward to using my experience leading teams and developing corporate and product strategies to build Septerna into a robust company poised for long-term growth.” Ms. Bhatt Liz Bhatt brings more than 25 years of strategy, deal-making and company-building experience across a range of biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Liz was previously Chief Business & Strategy Officer at Applied Molecular Transport where she oversaw corporate development, portfolio and project management, and commercial strategy. Prior to AMT, Liz was Chief Operating Officer at Achaogen where she held various strategic and operational roles. Liz spent over a decade at Gilead Sciences as VP, Corporate Development leading deals across all therapeutic areas and as Senior Director, Commercial Strategy leading long-term global commercial and strategic planning, and supporting the launch of several products. Liz also held management roles at Eli Lilly and Maxygen and started her career in research at Affymax. She currently serves as an independent director on the board of eFFECTOR Therapeutics. Liz earned a BA in chemistry from Pomona College, an MS in biomedical sciences from the University of California San Diego, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Ran Xiao has more than 20 years of experience in corporate accounting, finance, and business operations in the biotech industry. Prior to Septerna, Ran was the VP of Finance and Corporate Controller at Ambys Medicines, Inc, where she supported the company launch and managed various general and administrative functions through a rapid growth period. Before joining Ambys, Ran was the Corporate Controller at Corvus Pharmaceuticals, where she played a key role in the company’s initial public offering. Prior to Corvus, Ran held various managerial positions at Intermune, Natus Medical, Celera Genomics and CV Therapeutics. Ran has a BS in accounting from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and an MBA from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Ran is a Chartered Financial Analyst. About GPCRs G protein-coupled receptors are the largest and most diverse family of cell membrane receptors, and humans have hundreds of different GPCRs, each involved in controlling specific biological functions. GPCRs on the surface of each cell bind a wide range of external signaling molecules from throughout the body, and the GPCR transmits the signal across the cell membrane to drive internal cellular mechanisms. GPCRs have been widely studied as drug targets and are the largest family of proteins targeted by approved drug products. An estimated 700 approved drugs target GPCRs, representing approximately one-third of all currently approved drugs. Despite the pharmacological success of GPCRs as a drug class to date, the large majority of potential therapeutic GPCR targets remain undrugged. About Septerna Septerna, Inc., is a biotechnology company creating broad new drug discovery opportunities across many disease areas for the abundant drug target class of G protein-coupled receptors. The company’s Native Complex™ Platform recapitulates GPCRs with their native structure, function, and dynamics outside of the cellular environment to enable new technologies for industrial-scale drug discovery for the entire GPCR target class for the first time. Septerna has an emerging pipeline of GPCR-targeted small molecule drug discovery programs, along with growth potential to reach many GPCRs that have been undruggable and unexploited to date. Septerna was launched in 2022 by scientific founders who have made groundbreaking GPCR discoveries and by founding investor Third Rock Ventures.

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KiOmed Pharma and Hansoh Pharma Announce License Agreement for KiOmedinevsOne in China’s Mainland, Macau and Taiwan

KiOmed Pharma and Hansoh Pharma | September 27, 2022

KiOmed Pharma, a Belgian biotechnology company with a focus on the development, manufacture and distribution of safe and effective medical devices based on a medical-grade highly pure natural chitosan-derivative, and Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group Company Limited a leading biopharmaceutical company in Asia, today announced a license agreement for the development and commercialization of KiOmedinevsOne, a carboxymethyl chitosan injection that has been launched in Europe for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis, in China’s mainland, Macau and Taiwan. Under the terms of the agreement, KiOmed will receive an upfront payment and will be eligible to receive development, regulatory and commercial milestones of up to € 66 million, as well as tiered royalties on future product sales. Hansoh will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize KiOmedinevsOne and its future extensions in the territory. KiOmed retains the right to develop and commercialize KiOmedinevsOne in all other global markets. Osteoarthritis is a progressive and disabling disease affecting about 250 million people worldwide. According to a recent epidemiology report, the prevalence of knee osteoarthritis in China is 8.1%. As the population in China is aging rapidly, disease burden caused by knee osteoarthritis continues to rise while safe and effective treatment options are still lacking. “We are very excited to partner with Hansoh Pharma, one of the largest biopharmaceutical entities in Greater China. We believe that with Hansoh’s impactful presence in China, their support will be essential to bring this long-acting treatment to the large population of patients suffering from osteoarthritis in China. We launched KiOmedinevsOne last year in several regions of Europe, and the feedback we continue to receive from osteoarthritis patients and physicians is great. With just one single injection to the knee, it can provide symptoms relief including pain, stiffness, and function improvement for more than 6-month. It is the world-first next generation non-animal sourced chitosan injection with a potential safety advantage over animal-sourced chitosan,” added Dr. Houtaï Choumane, CEO and Managing Director of KiOmed. Mr. François Blondel, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board of KiOmed Pharma “KiOmed is a leader and an expert in developing natural chitosan products to fulfill unmet medical needs in different spaces. Osteoarthritis negatively impacts an individual’s quality of life and creates a large burden for the patients and their families. We are very glad to see KiOmed’s product (KiOmedinevsOne) will help to solve this problem,” said Eliza Sun, Executive Director of the Board of Hansoh Pharma. “We are also very excited to partner with them and bring this unique product to much needed patients in China.” About KiOmedinevsOne KiOmedinevsOne is a new generation single injection for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis based on world-first exclusive animal free KiOmedine® CM-Chitosan. KiOmedine® CM-Chitosan is a highly purified polysaccharide derived from Agaricus Bisporus (button mushroom) and a patented technology made in Belgium, resulting from years of research and innovation. Different from hyaluronic acid, KiOmedinevsOne has dual mechanism of action to tackle osteoarthritis discomfort and other symptoms by reducing oxidative stress and enhancing joint lubrication. Clinical studies have shown that after a single injection of KiOmedinevsOne, significant pain reduction was observed within 2 weeks and the WOMAC pain score was reduced by 66%, with a long-lasting osteoarthritis symptom reduction for at least 6 months. KiOmedinevsOne is a regulated health product which bears the CE mark under this regulation. It has been launched in Europe in 2021. About KiOmed Pharma Based in Belgium, KiOmed Pharma has a history of innovation and expertise in exclusive natural chitosan chemistry. The company develops a unique pipeline of medical devices that address unmet medical needs in high impact pathologies and major social burdens such as osteoarthritis, skin aging and ophthalmology. KiOmed Pharma's innovative pipeline is based on a solid building block exclusive technology: KiOmedine®, a medical-grade highly pure natural chitosan-derivative. About Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group Hansoh Pharma one of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in China, is committed to discovering and developing life-changing medicines to help patients conquer serious diseases and disorders.

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Novavax Submits Application to the U.S. FDA for Emergency Use Authorization for Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine,

Novavax, Inc. | August 16, 2022

Novavax, Inc. a biotechnology company dedicated to developing and commercializing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, announced that it submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authorization of its protein-based COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted for active immunization to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 as a homologous and heterologous booster in adults aged 18 and older. "It's important for people to have a choice as they evaluate how to stay protected against COVID-19, and boosters are an invaluable tool to build upon immunity obtained from previous vaccinations. Based on the data presented to the FDA's VRBPAC and the CDC ACIP, we believe our vaccine offers a broad, long-lasting immune response against a range of variants." Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer, Novavax Authorized Use The Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted is authorized for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to provide a two-dose primary series for active immunization to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in individuals 18 years of age and older. About the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted (NVX-CoV2373) The Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted is a protein-based vaccine engineered from the genetic sequence of the first strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. The vaccine was created using Novavax' recombinant nanoparticle technology to generate antigen derived from the coronavirus spike (S) protein and is formulated with Novavax' patented saponin-based Matrix-M™ adjuvant to enhance the immune response and stimulate high levels of neutralizing antibodies. The Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted contains purified protein antigen and can neither replicate, nor can it cause COVID-19. The Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted is packaged as a ready-to-use liquid formulation in a vial containing ten doses. The vaccination regimen calls for two 0.5 ml doses (5 mcg antigen and 50 mcg Matrix-M adjuvant) given intramuscularly 21 days apart. The vaccine is stored at 2°- 8° Celsius, enabling the use of existing vaccine supply and cold chain channels. Use of the vaccine should be in accordance with official recommendations. About Matrix-M™ Adjuvant Novavax' patented saponin-based Matrix-M adjuvant has demonstrated a potent and well-tolerated effect by stimulating the entry of antigen-presenting cells into the injection site and enhancing antigen presentation in local lymph nodes, boosting immune response. About Novavax Novavax, Inc. is a biotechnology company that promotes improved health globally through the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative vaccines to prevent serious infectious diseases. The company's proprietary recombinant technology platform harnesses the power and speed of genetic engineering to efficiently produce highly immunogenic nanoparticles designed to address urgent global health needs. The Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted, the company's COVID-19 vaccine, has received authorization from multiple regulatory authorities globally, including in the U.S., European Union and with the World Health Organization. The vaccine is currently under review by multiple regulatory agencies worldwide, including for additional indications and populations such as adolescents and as a booster. In addition to its COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax is also currently evaluating a COVID-seasonal influenza combination vaccine candidate in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial, which combines the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted and NanoFlu*, its quadrivalent influenza investigational vaccine candidate, and is also evaluating an Omicron strain-based vaccine as well as a bivalent format Omicron-based / original strain-based vaccine. These vaccine candidates incorporate Novavax' proprietary saponin-based Matrix-M adjuvant to enhance the immune response and stimulate high levels of neutralizing antibodies.

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