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.

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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Adam Russell, ARPA-H's incoming acting deputy director

NI­H's new, in­de­pen­dent break­through drug ac­cel­er­a­tor ARPA-H gets its first em­ploy­ee

Despite the controversy of housing it in NIH, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday afternoon formally announced the establishment of the Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H) as an independent entity within the NIH, as HHS had previously stipulated that “NIH may not subject ARPA-H to NIH policies.”

Becerra also announced the appointment of ARPA-H’s inaugural employee, Adam Russell, who will serve as acting deputy director.

ProFound Therapeutics founding team

Flag­ship's lat­est biotech could turn some of the thou­sands of new pro­teins it dis­cov­ered in­to ther­a­pies — and it has $75M to start

Flagship Pioneering, the incubator of Moderna and dozens of other biotechs, says it has landed upon tens of thousands of previously undiscovered human proteins. The VC shop wants to potentially turn them into therapeutics.

Like other drug developers that have turned proteins into therapeutics (think insulin for diabetes), Flagship’s latest creation, ProFound Therapeutics, wants to tap into this new trove of proteins as part of its mission to treat indications ranging from rare diseases to cancer to immunological diseases.

Richard Silverman, Akava Therapeutics founder and Northwestern professor

This time around, Lyri­ca's in­ven­tor is de­vel­op­ing his North­west­ern dis­cov­er­ies at his own biotech

Richard Silverman was left in the dark for the last five years of clinical development of the drug he discovered. The Northwestern University professor found out about the first approval of Lyrica, in the last few days of 2004, like most other people: in the newspaper.

What became one of Pfizer’s top-selling meds, at $5 billion in 2017 global sales before losing patent protection in 2019, started slipping out of his hands when Northwestern licensed it out to Parke-Davis, one of two biotechs that showed interest in developing the drug in the pre-email days, when the university’s two-person tech transfer team had to ship out letters to garner industry appetite.

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David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

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Up­dat­ed: US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

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FDA spells out the rules and re­stric­tions for states seek­ing to im­port drugs from Cana­da

The FDA is offering more of an explanation of the guardrails around its program that may soon allow states to import prescription drugs in some select circumstances from Canada, but only if such imports will result in significant cost reductions for consumers.

While the agency has yet to sign off on any of the 5 state plans in the works so far, and PhRMA’s suit to block the Trump-era rule allowing such imports is stalled, the new Q&A guidance spells out the various restrictions that states will have to abide by, potentially signaling that a state approval is coming.

Simba Gill, CEO of Evelo Biosciences

While down 87% YOY, Evelo gets Flag­ship and oth­ers to in­fuse new cap­i­tal for come­back hope

Just four years after Flagship spinout Evelo Biosciences went public in an IPO worth $85 million, the biotech has seen its share price tank from $13 a share this time last year (ultimately reaching a peak of over $17) to now under $1.50. And today, it looks like Flagship still thinks the fledging biotech, in a down market, is still worth something after initial pre-IPO backing from the likes of Google’s GV, Celgene, Mayo Clinic and Alexandria Venture.

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