CEO Evan Feinberg (Boris Feldman)

A Genen­tech-part­nered Vi­jay Pande fa­vorite nabs $52M to ad­vance an AI pipeline

Evan Fein­berg could have picked a bet­ter time to launch his AI biotech, Gen­e­sis. He an­nounced a $4.1 mil­lion round last No­vem­ber; by March, South San Fran­cis­co, Cal­i­for­nia was un­der lock­down.

Still, a year lat­er, he can look back at his ear­ly tenure with a cer­tain de­gree of sat­is­fac­tion.

“To see the things we’ve ac­com­plished, all from my couch?” Fein­berg told End­points News. “It’s re­al­ly bizarre.”

As with most ear­ly-stage biotechs, it’s dif­fi­cult to ver­i­fy pre­cise­ly what they’ve ac­com­plished, but Gen­e­sis Ther­a­peu­tics has man­aged to check some key box­es: They’ve ex­pand­ed the team from 5 mem­bers to 12. In Oc­to­ber, James Sabry and Aviv Regev at Genen­tech tapped them to help dis­cov­er new mol­e­cules. And with some in­ter­nal proof-of-con­cept da­ta to show in­vestors, they an­nounced to­day a $52 mil­lion Se­ries A round to help them land more big-name part­ners and ad­vance an in­ter­nal pipeline of small mol­e­cule drugs.

The round was led by Rock Springs, with old pals at An­dreessen Horowitz and Fe­li­cis Ven­tures, among oth­ers, chip­ping in.

Gen­e­sis be­longs to a raft of biotechs now try­ing to use ma­chine learn­ing and neur­al net­works to sift through bil­lions of small mol­e­cules and find the best ones to hit a giv­en tar­get. The $52 mil­lion raise is a size­able start­ing round, al­though not out of step with the cash that has re­cent­ly be­gun to flow in­to the space; Atom­wise, ar­guably the flashiest name in the field, re­cent­ly raised a $123 mil­lion Se­ries B.

Atom­wise and oth­ers have al­so no­tably at­tract­ed crit­i­cism for over-hyp­ing what their al­go­rithms can do and how quick­ly they can speed up drug de­vel­op­ment.

Vi­jay Pande

Fein­berg and a16z’s Vi­jay Pande, who men­tored Fein­berg when he was a grad­u­ate stu­dent at Pande’s Stan­ford lab, have sought to dis­tin­guish them­selves by point­ing to the team that has been as­sem­bled. It’s not just soft­ware en­gi­neers, Fein­berg said, but al­so dyed-in-the-wool med­i­c­i­nal chemists — the tra­di­tion­al hu­man al­go­rithms of drug dis­cov­ery — such as CSO Pep­pi Pr­a­sit, a Ver­sant ad­vi­sor and vet­er­an of Mer­ck and Ami­ra Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and VP Nick Scott, an­oth­er Ami­ra vet­er­an.

“They don’t re­al­ly have pa­tience for the sort of neb­u­lous claims that of­ten pro­lif­er­ate in the com­pu­ta­tion­al space,” Fein­berg said. “They want to see da­ta, they want to see ex­per­i­ments in the lab­o­ra­to­ry ver­i­fy­ing com­pu­ta­tion­al pre­dic­tions be­ing use­ful for re­al drug tar­gets, oth­er­wise it’s just not in­ter­est­ing to them.”

Fein­berg al­so points to their al­go­rithms, the ba­sis of which has been pub­lished in promi­nent chem­istry jour­nals, and which he says has im­proved sub­stan­tial­ly over the past years.

The com­pa­ny is one of just a hand­ful in the AI small mol­e­cule space look­ing to build an in­ter­nal pipeline. For now, what those can­di­dates are and what they will tar­get re­main en­tire­ly un­der wraps.

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In­no­v­a­tive MedTech De­mands Spe­cial­ist Clin­i­cal Tri­al Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs and De­sign

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His­toric drug pric­ing re­forms pass; Pfiz­er ac­quires GBT; The long search for non-opi­oid pain drugs; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

The Endpoints Weekly has officially crossed the 60,000 mark on subscribers — thanks to all of your support. As the editorial team grows, we’ve been able to do a lot more, with many of those on display this week. Be sure to check out Lei Lei Wu’s deep dive on pain R&D. If you missed it, you may also rewatch her companion panel here.

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Gold for adults, sil­ver for in­fants: Pfiz­er's Pre­vnar 2.0 head­ed to FDA months af­ter Mer­ck­'s green light

Pfizer was first to the finish line for the next-gen pneumococcal vaccine in adults, but Merck beat its rival with a jab for children in June.

Now, two months after Merck’s 15-valent Vaxneuvance won the FDA stamp of approval for kids, Pfizer is out with some late-stage data on its 20-valent shot for infants.

Known as Prevnar 20 for adults, Pfizer’s 20vPnC will head to the FDA by the end of this year for an approval request in infants, the Big Pharma said Friday morning. Discussions with the FDA will occur first and more late-stage pediatric trials are expected to read out soon, informing the regulatory pathway in other countries and regions.

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Seagen interim CEO Roger Dansey and Daiichi Sankyo CEO Sunao Manabe

Paving the way for Mer­ck­'s buy­out, Seagen los­es ar­bi­tra­tion dis­pute with Dai­ichi over ADC tech

As Seagen awaits a final buyout offer from Merck that could be in the territory of $40 billion, Seagen revealed Friday afternoon that it lost an arbitration dispute with Daiichi Sankyo relating to the companies’ 2008 collaboration around the use of antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology.

But that loss likely won’t matter much when it comes to Merck’s deal.

After breaking off its pact with Daiichi in mid-2015, the two companies battled over “linker” tech — a chemical bridge between an ADC’s antibody component and the cytotoxic payload — that Seagen claims Daiichi would improve upon and implement in its current generation of ADCs.

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Tony Coles, Cerevel CEO

Cerev­el takes the pub­lic of­fer­ing route, with a twist — rais­ing big mon­ey thanks to ri­val da­ta

As public biotechs seek to climb out of the bear market, a popular strategy to raise cash has been through public offerings on the heels of positive data. But one proposed raise Wednesday appeared to take advantage not of a company’s own data, but those from a competitor.

Cerevel Therapeutics plans to raise $250 million in a public offering and another $250 million in debt, the biotech announced Wednesday afternoon, even though it did not report any news on its pipeline. However, the move comes days after rival Karuna Therapeutics touted positive Phase III data in schizophrenia, a field where Cerevel is pursuing a similar program.

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House pass­es his­toric drug pric­ing re­forms, lin­ing up decades-in-the-mak­ing win for Biden and De­moc­rats

The US House of Representatives today voted along party lines (all Dems voted for it), 220-207 to pass new, wide-ranging legislation that will allow Medicare drug price negotiations for the first time ever, and cap seniors’ drug expenses to $2,000 per year and seniors’ insulin costs at $35 per month.

Setting up a major victory for President Joe Biden, representatives returned from their summer recess to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, even as many noted the bill would only modestly reduce inflation.

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Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO via AP Images)

Sen­ate Fi­nance chair con­tin­ues his in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to phar­ma tax­es with re­quests for Am­gen

Amgen is the latest pharma company to appear on the radar of Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is investigating the way pharma companies are using subsidiaries in low- or zero-tax countries to lower their tax bills.

Like its peers Merck, AbbVie and Bristol Myers Squibb, Wyden notes how Amgen uses its Puerto Rico operations to consistently pay tax rates that are substantially lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate of 21%, with an effective tax rate of 10.7% in 2020 and 12.1% in 2021.

FDA ap­proves sec­ond in­di­ca­tion for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi's En­her­tu in less than a week

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu scored its second approval in less than a week, this time for a subset of lung cancer patients.

Enhertu received accelerated approval on Thursday to treat adults with unresectable or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have activating HER2 (ERBB2) mutations, and who have already received a prior systemic therapy.

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J&J to re­move talc prod­ucts from shelves world­wide, re­plac­ing with corn­starch-based port­fo­lio

After controversially spinning out its talc liabilities and filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to settle 38,000 lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson is now changing up the formula for its baby powder products.

J&J is beginning the transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio, the pharma giant announced on Thursday — just months after a federal judge ruled in favor of its “Texas two-step” bankruptcy to settle allegations that its talc products contained asbestos and caused cancer. An appeals court has since agreed to revisit that case.