Ali Ansary, Ozette Technologies CEO

A new AI start­up, launched with a trio of Fred Hutch vets, wants to give a 'zoomed-in' view of can­cer cells

Ali Ansary, a trained physi­cian, had re­al­ized by 2018 that can­cers would no longer be treat­ed just with tra­di­tion­al chemother­a­py and ra­di­a­tions. Im­munother­a­py was be­com­ing big, and yet there was no way for doc­tors to get a com­plete pic­ture of how im­mune cells worked at the cel­lu­lar lev­el when used for can­cer ther­a­py, he says.

“How do we get to know more in­for­ma­tion about this sys­tem that is more than in­flam­ma­to­ry mark­ers?” he won­dered.

Then, through a Seat­tle ven­ture cap­i­tal com­mu­ni­ty, he met three Fred Hutch re­searchers in Greg Fi­nak, Raphael Got­tar­do and Evan Green. Af­ter sev­er­al con­ver­sa­tions about the prob­lems they saw in the space, Ozette Tech­nolo­gies was born the next year.

This Seat­tle-based start­up wants to au­to­mate analy­sis of da­ta col­lect­ed from a sin­gle cell and do away with the tra­di­tion­al way of do­ing it man­u­al­ly, join­ing the cadre of AI biotechs jump­ing in­to the space re­cent­ly. It re­ceived a $26 mil­lion Se­ries A fund­ing, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Thurs­day.

“The (cel­lu­lar) da­ta is so com­plex that we miss a lot of in­for­ma­tion when done man­u­al­ly,” says Ansary, Ozette’s CEO. “In fact, 90% of the da­ta is sit­ting on the ta­ble and a lot of peo­ple say we do not even know how to look at this kind of da­ta. It is so com­plex.”

Re­sults from cel­lu­lar ex­per­i­ments are typ­i­cal­ly an­a­lyzed man­u­al­ly, he says, with a process look­ing some­thing like com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gists go­ing over the da­ta be­fore send­ing it to da­ta sci­en­tists, who would in turn send it to sta­tis­ti­cians and so forth. But Ozette claims it has de­vised a ma­chine learn­ing-based plat­form that com­pletes months of analy­sis in a mat­ter of days.

“We are us­ing ma­chine learn­ing to un­cov­er all the dif­fer­ent parts of the da­ta that comes out of ex­per­i­ments,” he said.

The com­pa­ny saw one of its ini­tial suc­cess­es when it an­a­lyzed the tu­mor cells of skin can­cer pa­tients tak­ing PD-1 in­hibitors, Ansary said. The Ozette re­search team was able to give a zoomed-in pic­ture of the tu­mor en­vi­ron­ment and pub­lished their find­ings in the jour­nal Pat­terns. The re­search showed that some as­pects of the tu­mors were repli­cat­ed in the blood­stream, which led to the dis­cov­ery of nov­el bio­mark­ers spe­cif­ic to pa­tients who re­spond to the treat­ment, Ansary said.

“Imag­ine all the peo­ple in the world who have a tu­mor,” Ansary said. “You can­not go and al­ways do biop­sies on the tu­mor. In that case, you can ex­tract valu­able in­for­ma­tion around what the im­mune sys­tem is do­ing in that tu­mor, by just look­ing at the blood.”

The fund­ing was led by Madrona Ven­tures with oth­er par­tic­i­pat­ing in­vestors such as Cer­cano Man­age­ment (for­mer­ly Vul­can Cap­i­tal), M12, Mi­crosoft’s ven­ture fund, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, OCV Part­ners and Duke Uni­ver­si­ty. The new fund­ing will go to­wards ex­pand­ing the lab space that the com­pa­ny re­cent­ly launched and hir­ing more da­ta sci­en­tists and web lab sci­en­tists.

“The mar­ket is still at an ear­ly stage, be­cause it is on­ly in that last hand­ful of years, we have been able to get down to the sin­gle-cell lev­el and dis­tin­guish a par­tic­u­lar cell from an­oth­er cell,” said Matt McIl­wain, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Madrona Ven­tures, which had al­so poured in $6 mil­lion in seed fund­ing in 2020.

“Ul­ti­mate­ly,” Ansary says, “whether some­one is healthy or sick, we want Ozette to be a key part in giv­ing in­sights in­to what’s hap­pen­ing.”

MedTech clinical trials require a unique regulatory and study design approach and so engaging a highly experienced CRO to ensure compliance and accurate data across all stages is critical to development milestones.

In­no­v­a­tive MedTech De­mands Spe­cial­ist Clin­i­cal Tri­al Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs and De­sign

Avance Clinical is the Australian CRO for international biotechs providing world-class clinical research services with FDA-accepted data across all phases. With Avance Clinical, biotech companies can leverage Australia’s supportive clinical trials environment which includes no IND requirement plus a 43.5% Government incentive rebate on clinical spend. The CRO has been delivering clinical drug development services for international biotechs for FDA and EMA regulatory approval for the past 24 years. The company has been recognized for the past two consecutive years with the prestigious Frost & Sullivan CRO Best Practices Award and a finalist in Informa Pharma’s Best CRO award for 2022.

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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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.

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.

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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CSL is gathering its four business units under a unified brand identity strategy (Credit: CSL company site)

CSL brings Se­qirus, Vi­for un­der par­ent um­brel­la brand in iden­ti­ty re­vamp

CSL is gathering its brands under the family name umbrella, renaming its vaccine and newly acquired nephrology specialty businesses with the parent initials.

CSL Seqirus and CSL Vifor join CSL Plasma and CSL Behring as the four now uniformly branded business units of the global biopharma. The Seqirus vaccine division was formed in 2015 with the combination of bioCSL and its purchase of Novartis’ flu vaccine business. CSL picked up Vifor Pharma late last year in an $11.7 billion deal for the nephrology, iron deficiency and cardio-renal drug developer.

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Ab­bott pumps $450M+ in­to new Ire­land-based man­u­fac­tur­ing site project and hir­ing spree

As Ireland continues to see more investments and building projects from pharma companies, another contender is looking to place more investment in the Emerald Isle.

According to a report from The Irish Times on Friday, Abbott Laboratories is investing €440 million, or about $451 million, to build a new manufacturing plant in Kilkenny, located in the country’s southeast, to make more of its glucose monitors.

Tony Coles, Cerevel CEO

Cerev­el's Tony Coles is still count­ing his mon­ey as a ri­val's boost helps fu­el a po­ten­tial $609M wind­fall

These days in biotech, you never want to miss a chance to raise money for public companies. As much money as possible.

That survival strategy was in full view over the last 24 hours as Cerevel $CERE announced a major stock/debt raise, then upped the ante with a bigger debt load than initially planned.

The tally: $238 million – net — with a shot at boosting that to $274 million from the stock sale, provided the underwriters come back for more. And there’s $335 million from the debt, provided their first round buyers come back for an added bite. Rounding up, that’s $609 million with the add-on. Even without the add-ons, though, it’s still $530 million in the bank.

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Benjamin Oakes, Scribe Therapeutics CEO

CEO of Doud­na spin­out: With­in five years, genome ed­i­tors will have a 're­al­ly big im­pact' on pa­tients' lives

“CRISPR-by-design” is the idea behind Scribe Therapeutics, a company spun out from Jennifer Doudna’s Nobel-winning lab that’s competing in a closely-tracked field of genome editor companies just starting to make their way to the clinic.

After nabbing $100 million last March for its Series B funding round, Scribe is taking a different tack from some of its competitors, crafting a new enzyme isolated from bacteria called CasX, which has now been tweaked extensively and may be targeted to a range of genome-related diseases, offering a plethora of therapeutic options.

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