Viswa Colluru, Enveda Biosciences

A Re­cur­sion vet­er­an is map­ping plant life to chart a course to new ther­a­pies — and in­vestors like what they see

One of the ear­li­est em­ploy­ees at AI biotech Re­cur­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is lead­ing a new com­pa­ny, and he’s just closed a hefty Se­ries A to get things mov­ing.

Enve­da Bio­sciences pulled in $51 mil­lion in the raise, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Tues­day morn­ing, with the goal of push­ing some of its pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams fur­ther along. Led by CEO Viswa Col­lu­ru, Enve­da aims to re­search how ma­chine learn­ing can uti­lize nat­ur­al bi­ol­o­gy to cre­ate new ther­a­pies for Wil­son’s Dis­ease, NASH and Parkin­son’s dis­ease, among oth­ers.

Tues­day’s fi­nanc­ing was led by Lux Cap­i­tal.

Col­lu­ru got his start at Re­cur­sion back in 2016 when the now-IPO’ed biotech was still a fledg­ling play­er. Though he tells End­points News he’s al­ways had a cu­rios­i­ty for plant bi­ol­o­gy, work­ing with Chris Gib­son gave him “the fastest crash course” in biotech one can get.

That cu­rios­i­ty led him to what he feels is the cen­tral prob­lem Enve­da is now try­ing to solve: Hu­mans have been cre­at­ing med­i­cines from plants across cul­tures for more than 50,000 years, but plant chem­i­cal space is still vast­ly un­der­ex­plored.

“I got the op­por­tu­ni­ty to learn every­thing from build­ing and scal­ing a com­pa­ny to en­ter­ing biotech with a new idea,” Col­lu­ru said. “I feel like I’ve been prepar­ing for it my whole life. What Re­cur­sion did was en­able the skill sets to try some­thing new and be OK if it failed.”

Now with Enve­da, Col­lu­ru set his sights on map­ping out na­ture’s bi­ol­o­gy. One of Enve­da’s biggest un­der­tak­ings has been cre­at­ing a high-res­o­lu­tion map to study the chem­istry of plants and learn how to ex­tract po­ten­tial new med­i­cines. High­light­ing how as­pirin, statins and mor­phine all came from the nat­ur­al world, Col­lu­ru says Enve­da us­es this map to speed along such dis­cov­ery process­es.

The com­pa­ny says it has the largest in­te­grat­ed dataset of plant chem­istry out there, one that’s con­stant­ly be­ing fed back in­to their al­go­rithms to con­tin­ue dis­cov­ery work. These ma­chine learn­ing process­es func­tion like a search en­gine, Col­lu­ru says, read­ing the “lan­guage of chem­istry” through mass spec­tra. It al­lows Enve­da to cat­a­log, an­no­tate and an­a­lyze plant bi­ol­o­gy in or­der to more ful­ly un­der­stand po­ten­tial links for drug R&D.

It’s here where the pipeline comes in­to play, as Enve­da preps two of its four pro­grams, one for Wil­son’s Dis­ease and NASH and the oth­er for Parkin­son’s, to con­tin­ue pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. Col­lu­ru isn’t putting a time­line on when these can­di­dates might hit the clin­ic, but not­ed Tues­day’s raise gives Enve­da enough run­way for the next 24 months.

But the biotech is seek­ing to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it­self by hon­ing in on this in­ter­sec­tion be­tween ma­chine learn­ing, metabolomics and nat­ur­al prod­ucts. It’s all thanks to the map and search en­gine com­bo, which has dri­ven the in­vestor ex­cite­ment be­hind Enve­da, Col­lu­ru says.

“We’re unique in terms of po­si­tion­ing that way, but al­so in terms of ac­tu­al work,” he said. “A lot of ma­chine learn­ing com­pa­nies, orig­i­nal­ly the learn­ing was with their own cus­tom datasets. Now, there are new and unique ways to gen­er­ate those datasets. We’re us­ing our li­brary to probe new re­gions of chem­istry.”

In ad­di­tion to Lux, Enve­da saw new in­vest­ment from Two Sig­ma Ven­tures, Hum­ming­bird VC, Catalio Cap­i­tal, Life­force Cap­i­tal and Matthew De Sil­va of No­table Labs, along with ex­ist­ing in­vestors True Ven­tures, Wire­frame Ven­tures, Vil­lage Glob­al and Chris Gib­son of Re­cur­sion.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Geoffrey Porges, new Schrödinger CFO

Long­time an­a­lyst Ge­of­frey Porges de­parts SVB to lead fi­nances at a drug dis­cov­ery shop

Geoffrey Porges has ended his two-decade run as a biotech analyst, as the former SVB Securities vice chair began as CFO of Schrödinger on Thursday.

The long-running analyst, who previously headed up vaccines marketing at Merck before the turn of the millennium, will lead the financial operations of the 700-employee company as Schrödinger broadens its focus from a drug discovery partner to also building out an in-house pipeline, with clinical trial No. 1 set to begin next quarter.

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FDA ap­proves one of the prici­est new treat­ments of all time — blue­bird's gene ther­a­py for be­ta tha­lassemia

The FDA on Wednesday approved the first gene therapy for a chronic condition — bluebird bio’s new Zynteglo (beti-cel) as a potentially curative treatment for those with transfusion-dependent thalassemia.

The thumbs-up from the FDA follows a unanimous adcomm vote in June, with outside experts pointing to extraordinary efficacy, with 89% of subjects with TDT who received beti-cel having achieved transfusion independence.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Bosch Health Campus)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs since 2020.

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James Sabry, Roche global head of pharma partnering

Roche, Genen­tech plunk down $60M up­front to part­ner with Chi­nese phar­ma on PRO­TAC-based prostate can­cer drug

Roche and Genentech are always on the hunt for deals, and on Thursday they found their newest partner.

The pair will team up with the Chinese pharma company Jemincare to push forward a new program for prostate cancer, the companies announced. Roche is ponying up $60 million upfront to get its hands on the candidate and promising up to $590 million in biobucks, plus royalties, down the line.

In return, Genentech will get a worldwide license to develop the program, known as JMKX002992, and bring it to market.

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Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

Ex­sci­en­tia ter­mi­nates Bay­er pact half a year ear­ly, col­lect­ing small por­tion of €240M promised

Bayer and Exscientia are winding down their three-year collaboration, leaving the big German pharma to take the AI-designed compounds born out of the pact further.

London-based Exscientia revealed in its Q2 update that the partners have “mutually agreed to end” their collaboration, which kicked off in early 2020, after recently achieving a drug discovery milestone. In an SEC filing, Exscientia said it terminated the pact on May 30, about six months early.

Atomwise CEO and co-founder Abraham Heifets (left) and co-founder Izhar Wallach

A cou­ple bil­lion for Ex­sci­en­tia was on­ly part of Sanofi's AI am­bi­tions, as the Big Phar­ma adds Atom­wise to the ta­ble

Sanofi made clear its AI ambitions were real at the beginning of this year when the Big Pharma took its drug discovery collaboration with Exscientia to the next level, inking a pact that could birth 15 drugs and deliver $5.3 billion to the UK partner.

Seven months later, the AI blueprint is far from over at the French Big Pharma, as another of the much-hyped drug discovery startups is coming to the table in a five-drug deal. Sanofi will pay Atomwise $20 million to kick off the hunt for up to five targets, which are aimed at leading to the creation of new small molecules. Another $1 billion is on the line — as are royalties — and the companies kept mum on the specific diseases or broader therapeutic areas of interest.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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