Daisy Robinton, Oviva Therapeutics co-founder and CEO

A new spin­out wades in­to ovar­i­an ag­ing, armed with a seed round and ex­per­i­men­tal drugs from Mass Gen­er­al

There aren’t many biotechs em­pha­siz­ing women’s health, but a new spin­out is try­ing to change that.

Ovi­va Ther­a­peu­tics, a pipeline com­pa­ny of New York-based Cam­bri­an Bio­phar­ma, emerged from stealth ear­li­er this week to dive in­to the idea of ex­tend­ing women’s “healthspans,” or what it says is the part of a per­son’s life spent in gen­er­al­ly good health, with a spe­cif­ic fo­cus on ovaries. The emer­gence comes both with a seed fi­nanc­ing worth $11.5 mil­lion from Cam­bri­an, and an in-li­cens­ing agree­ment with Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal for a trio of patents.

Co-founder Daisy Robin­ton, a Har­vard-trained mol­e­c­u­lar bi­ol­o­gist, will helm the spin­out as CEO.

She told End­points News that she came on board with Cam­bri­an as a sci­en­tist in res­i­dence in 2020, af­ter hav­ing a chat with CEO James Pey­er about how no one fo­cus­es on the ovaries, de­spite how it’s the first or­gan to de­cline with ag­ing. Robin­ton and Pey­er had known each oth­er since around 2014 due to be­ing in sim­i­lar cir­cles at con­fer­ences and the like.

“So when you think about in­ter­ven­ing on the ag­ing process, it’s such an ob­vi­ous thing to do. And be­cause of the lack of re­search around fe­male phys­i­ol­o­gy, there’s all this low-hang­ing fruit, so huge po­ten­tial for im­pact,” Robin­ton re­called telling Pey­er in 2019, which is how she ul­ti­mate­ly start­ed at Cam­bri­an af­ter the CEO asked if she could po­ten­tial­ly build a com­pa­ny around that idea.

When Robin­ton start­ed, though, it was March 2020, right as the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic came in­to full swing. The lock­downs took her at­ten­tion away from her orig­i­nal idea un­til the late sum­mer and fall of 2020, and Ovi­va of­fi­cial­ly launched in March and April of 2021.

Ovi­va is de­vel­op­ing an agent look­ing to lim­it fol­licu­lo­ge­n­e­sis, the process where­in fol­li­cles — hairs in the ovary that each have one egg — ma­ture to ul­ti­mate­ly ovu­late. This process even­tu­al­ly leads to the de­ple­tion of most of a woman’s eggs, reach­ing a low thresh­old that can sub­se­quent­ly trig­ger menopause. By lim­it­ing the process, the hope is that it can slow down de­ple­tion of the ovar­i­an re­serve, ex­tend­ing ovar­i­an func­tion and thus, the fe­male healthspan.

The first av­enue is look­ing at An­ti-Mül­ler­ian Hor­mone, or AMH — a hor­mone that plays a key role in sex dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion. This is where Ovi­va’s oth­er co-founders come in, two Har­vard pro­fes­sors who work out of Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal: Pa­tri­cia Don­a­hoe and David Pépin. Don­a­hoe heads up the famed hos­pi­tal’s pe­di­atric sur­gi­cal re­search lab­o­ra­to­ries, and is the Chief Emeri­ta of Pe­di­atric Sur­gi­cal Ser­vices. Pépin, an ovar­i­an phys­i­ol­o­gist, works out of the hos­pi­tal as an as­so­ciate mol­e­c­u­lar bi­ol­o­gist.

Don­a­hoe, 86, was among one of the ear­li­est re­searchers on AMH, pub­lish­ing as far back as the 1970s. While she fo­cused more on the hor­mone’s role in ovar­i­an can­cer over the decades, Pépin looked at the func­tion of the AMH gene in adult women, as they ex­press AMH. The three patents ob­tained in the li­cens­ing agree­ments were de­vel­oped at MGH by Don­a­hoe and Pépin, in­clud­ing ana­log ver­sions of AMH.

As for the biotech’s next steps, Robin­ton said Ovi­va is look­ing to start dis­cus­sions with the FDA lat­er this year and go straight for the IND stage with their first pro­gram, look­ing to mir­ror the el­e­va­tion of en­doge­nous AMH. As for more fi­nanc­ing, she added that it’s look­ing at clos­ing a Se­ries A late this year or some­time ear­ly next year.

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

FDA ad­vi­sors unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for Bio­gen's ALS drug

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA unanimously recommended that the agency grant accelerated approval to Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen despite the drug failing the primary goal of its Phase III study, an endorsement that could pave a path forward for the treatment.

By a 9-0 vote, members of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee said there was sufficient evidence that tofersen’s effect on a certain protein associated with ALS is reasonably likely to predict a benefit for patients. But panelists stopped short of advocating for a full approval, voting 3-5 against (with one abstention) and largely citing the failed pivotal study.

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Alaa Halawa, executive director at Mubadala’s US venture group

The ven­ture crew at Mubadala are up­ping their biotech cre­ation game, tak­ing care­ful aim at a new fron­tier in drug de­vel­op­ment

It started with a cup of coffee and a slow burning desire to go early and long in the biotech creation business.

Wrapping up a 15-year discovery stint at Genentech back in the summer of 2021, Rami Hannoush was treated to a caffeine-fueled review of the latest work UCSF’s Jim Wells had been doing on protein degradation — one of the hottest fields in drug development.

“Jim and I have known each other for the past 15 years through Genentech collaborations. We met over coffee, and he was telling me about this concept of the company that he was thinking of,” says Hannoush. “And I got immediately intrigued by it because I knew that this could open up a big space in terms of adding a new modality in drug discovery that is desperately needed in pharma.”

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Flare Therapeutics biochemists Yong Li (L) and Valerie Vivat

A $123M Flare will get Third Rock on­col­o­gy biotech in­to the clin­ic this year

Flare Therapeutics will start its first human trial this year with an investigational urothelial cancer drug after pulling together a $123 million Series B from Big Pharmas, VCs and its incubator, Third Rock Ventures.

Launched in 2021 on the idea that a biotech could finally succeed at drugging the much-sought-after but stubborn transcription factor, Flare Therapeutics said Wednesday it is now primed for the clinic after closing its large financing haul earlier this year. The raise is a relatively stark figure in a tough startup financing environment but further buoys the upbeat signals coming out of other Third Rock biotechs in recent weeks, including the $200 million CARGO Therapeutics and $100 million Rapport Therapeutics rounds.

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Sanofi, Re­gen­eron boast PhI­II win with Dupix­ent in COPD, clear­ing first bar for ex­pan­sion

Dupixent, the blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug from Sanofi and Regeneron, has cleared a high-stakes Phase III study in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the companies announced Thursday morning.

If they hold up in a second, identical trial, the data pave the way for Dupixent to become the first biologic to treat patients whose COPD remains uncontrolled despite being on maximal standard-of-care inhaled therapy — the patient population studied in the pivotal program. The companies had spotlighted this as a key readout as they look to expand the Dupixent franchise and explore its full potential.

Chat­G­PT with phar­ma da­ta de­buts for med­ical meet­ings, be­gin­ning with AACR

What do you get when you combine ChatGPT generative AI technology with specific pharma and clinical datasets? A time-saving tool that can answer questions about medical conference abstracts and clinical findings in seconds in one new application from ZoomRx called FermaGPT.

ZoomRx is debuting a public version of its generative AI product specifically for medical conferences beginning this week for the upcoming American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting that runs April 14-19.

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Quince Ther­a­peu­tics faces takeover bid from share­hold­er Echo Lake Cap­i­tal

A bid to take over the biotech Quince Therapeutics has been put forward by one of its shareholders.

On Tuesday, Echo Lake Capital sent a letter to Quince’s board of directors putting forth a proposal to acquire all the biotech’s stock for $1.60 per share, which would value a takeover at around $58 million.

In the letter, Echo Lake said that it believes Quince’s stock is severely undervalued and that no drugs are being actively marketed or developed that require cash expenditures. It’s trading below the value of its assets, Echo Lake said.

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Genen­tech to stop com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing at Cal­i­for­nia head­quar­ters

Genentech is halting commercial manufacturing at its California headquarters — and laying off several hundred employees.

The move is the result of a decision Genentech made in 2007 to relocate manufacturing operations from its South San Francisco headquarters location to other facilities or move the work to CDMOs, said Andi Goddard, Genentech’s SVP of quality and compliance for pharmaceutical technical operations, in an interview with Endpoints News. Genentech has made changes in capabilities and invested more in technology, so it doesn’t need as many large-scale manufacturing facilities as it did in the past, she said.

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Francesco Marincola, newly-appointed Sonata Therapeutics CSO

Kite's head of re­search leaves for Flag­ship start­up Sonata

Another leader is departing Kite Pharma, and will to spend the “last part” of his career exploring how cancer evades the immune system.

Kite’s senior VP and global head of cell therapy research Francesco Marincola left the Gilead CAR-T unit last week for Sonata Therapeutics. Flagship last May unveiled the startup, which was pieced together from two fledgling biotechs Inzen and Cygnal Therapeutics. As CSO, Marincola will lead Sonata’s push to reprogram cancer cells to make them more immunogenic.

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