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.

Adap­tive De­sign Meth­ods Of­fer Rapid, Seam­less Tran­si­tion Be­tween Study Phas­es in Rare Can­cer Tri­als

Rare cancers account for 22 percent of cancer diagnoses worldwide, yet there is no universally accepted definition for a “rare” cancer. Moreover, with the evolution of genomics and associated changes in categorizing tumors, some common cancers are now characterized into groups of rare cancers, each with a unique implication for patient management and therapy.

Adaptive designs, which allow for prospectively planned modifications to study design based on accumulating data from subjects in the trial, can be used to optimize rare oncology trials (see Figure 1). Adaptive design studies may include multiple cohorts and multiple tumor types. In addition, numerous adaptation methods may be used in a single trial and may facilitate a more rapid, seamless transition between study phases.

Matt Gline (L) and Pete Salzmann

UP­DAT­ED: Roivant bumps stake in Im­muno­vant with a $200M deal. But with M&A off the ta­ble, shares crater

Roivant has worked out a deal to pick up a chunk of stock in its majority-owned sub Immunovant $IMVT, but the stock buy falls far short of its much-discussed thoughts about buying out all of the 43% of shares it doesn’t already own.

Roivant, which recently inked a SPAC move to the market at a $7 billion-plus valuation, has forged a deal to boost its ownership in Immunovant by 6.3 points, ending with 63.8% of the biotech’s stock following a $200 million injection. That cash will bolster Immunovant’s cash reserves, giving it a $600 million war chest to fund a slate of late-stage studies for its big drug: the anti-FcRn antibody IMVT-1401.

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Sanofi preps a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar buy­out of an mR­NA pi­o­neer af­ter falling be­hind in the race for a Covid-19 jab — re­port

It looks like Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson is dead serious about his intention to vault directly into contention for the future of mRNA vaccines.

A year after paying Translate Bio a whopping $425 million in an upfront and equity payment to help guide the pharma giant to the promised land of mRNA vaccines for Covid-19, Sanofi is reportedly ready to close the deal with a buyout.

Translate’s stock $TBIO soared 78% after the market closed Monday. A spokesperson for Sanofi declined to comment on the report, telling Endpoints News that the company doesn’t comment on market rumors.

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Anthony Sun, Zentalis and Zentera CEO (Zentalis)

With clin­i­cal tri­als lined up for Zen­tal­is drugs, Chi­na's Zen­tera sets its sights on more deal­mak­ing and an IPO

As Zentalis geared up for an AACR presentation of early data on its WEE1 inhibitor earlier this year, its Chinese joint venture Zentera wasn’t idle, either.

Zentera, which has headquarters in Shanghai, had already nabbed clearance to start clinical trials in China for three of the parent company’s drugs. In May — just a month after Zentalis touted three “exceptional responses” out of 55 patients for their shared lead drug, ZN-c3 — it got a fourth CTA approval.

Thomas Soloway, T-knife CEO

What hap­pens when you give a mouse a hu­man self-anti­gen? In­vestors bet $110M to find out

T-knife Therapeutics launched last August on a mission to isolate T cell receptors not from human donors, but from mice. Now, with a new CEO and a candidate bound for the clinic, the Versant-backed company is reloading with a fresh $110 million.

“What we are trying to do for the field of TCR therapy and solid tumor therapy is very analogous to what the murine platforms have done in antibody development,” CEO Thomas Soloway told Endpoints News. 

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UP­DAT­ED: Watch out Glax­o­SmithK­line: As­traZeneca's once-failed lu­pus drug is now ap­proved

Capping a roller coaster journey, AstraZeneca has steered its lupus drug anifrolumab across the finish line.

Saphnelo, as the antibody will be marketed, is the only treatment that’s been approved for systemic lupus erythematosus since GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta clinched an OK in 2011. The British drugmaker notes it’s also the first to target the type I interferon receptor.

Mirroring the population that the drug was tested on in late-stage trials, regulators sanctioned it for patients with moderate to severe cases who are already receiving standard therapy — setting up a launch planned for the end of August, according to Ruud Dobber, who’s in charge of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceuticals business unit.

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Not all mR­NA vac­cines are cre­at­ed equal. Does it mat­ter?; Neu­ro is back; Pri­vate M&A af­fair; 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.

As part of our broader and deeper drive, Endpoints has been pairing webinars with our special reports to cover more angles on a given topic. In conjunction with Max Gelman’s neuroscience feature, Kyle Blankenship moderated an insightful panel to discuss where the field is headed. You can register to watch it on demand here.

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Bris­tol My­ers pulls lym­phoma in­di­ca­tion for Is­to­dax af­ter con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al falls flat

Amid an industrywide review of cancer drugs with accelerated approval, Bristol Myers Squibb had to make the tough call last month to yank an approval for leading I/O drug Opdivo after flopping a confirmatory study. Now, a second Bristol Myers drug is on the chopping block.

Bristol Myers has pulled aging HDAC inhibitor Istodax’s indication in peripheral T cell lymphoma after a Phase III confirmatory study for the drug flopped on its progression-free survival endpoint, the drugmaker said Monday.

Rick Pazdur (via AACR)

FDA's on­col­o­gy head Rick Paz­dur de­fends the ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval path­way, claim­ing it is 'un­der at­tack'

The FDA is sounding the alarm over its accelerated approval pathway as backlash continues over the recent nod in favor of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, and an ODAC meeting on six such approvals that could potentially be pulled from the market — two of which already have.

“Do you think accelerated approval is under attack? I do,” Rick Pazdur, head of FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, said at a Friends of Cancer Research webinar on Thursday.

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