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.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Efren Landaos/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Pfiz­er makes an­oth­er bil­lion-dol­lar in­vest­ment in Eu­rope and ex­pands again in Michi­gan

Pfizer is continuing its run of manufacturing site expansions with two new large investments in the US and Europe.

The New York-based pharma giant’s site in Kalamazoo, MI, has seen a lot of attention over the past year. As a major piece of the manufacturing network for Covid-19 vaccines and antivirals, Pfizer is gearing up to place more money into the site. Pfizer announced it will place $750 million into the facility, mainly to establish “modular aseptic processing” (MAP) production and create around 300 jobs at the site.

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Yuling Li, Innoforce CEO

In­no­force opens new man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Chi­na

Innoforce is off to the races at its new site in the city of Hangzhou, China.

The Chinese CDMO announced last week that it has started manufacturing at the new facility, which was built to offer process development and manufacturing operations for RNA, plasmid DNA, viral vectors and other cell therapeutics. It will also serve as Innoforce’s corporate HQ.

The company said it’s investing more than $200 million in the 550,000-square-foot manufacturing base for advanced therapies. The GMP manufacturing facility features space for producing plasmids with three 30-liter bioreactors. For viral vector manufacturing, Innoforce also has 200- and 500-liter bioreactors at its disposal, along with eight suites to make cell therapies. The site also includes several labs and warehouse spaces.

Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Thibault Camus/AP Images, Pool)

No­var­tis bol­sters Plu­vic­to's case in prostate can­cer with PhI­II re­sults

The prognosis is poor for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients. Novartis wants to change that by making its recently approved Pluvicto available to patients earlier in their course of treatment.

The Swiss pharma giant unveiled Phase III results Monday suggesting that Pluvicto was able to halt disease progression in certain prostate cancer patients when administered after androgen-receptor pathway inhibitor (ARPI) therapy, but without prior taxane-based chemotherapy. The drug is currently approved for patients after they’ve received both ARPI and chemo.

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Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

FDA grants or­phan drug des­ig­na­tion to Al­ger­non's ifen­prodil, while ex­clu­siv­i­ty re­mains un­clear

As the FDA remains silent on orphan drug exclusivity in the wake of a controversial court case, the agency continues to hand out new designations. The latest: Algernon Pharmaceuticals’ experimental lung disease drug ifenprodil.

The Vancouver-based company announced on Monday that ifenprodil received orphan designation in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic lung condition that results in scarring of the lungs.  Most IPF patients suffer with a dry cough, and breathing can become difficult.

Pfiz­er-backed Me­di­ar Ther­a­peu­tics ropes in an­oth­er Big Phar­ma in­vestor

A biotech centered on treating fibrosis — born out of Mass General and Brigham and Women’s Hospital — has received a financial boost.

According to an SEC filing, the company has raised $31,761,186 in its latest funding round, which includes 17 investors. The filing lists six names attached to the company, including Meredith Fisher, a partner at Mass General Brigham Ventures and Mediar’s acting CEO.

Ken Greenberg, SonoThera CEO

Gene ther­a­py goes acoustic as ARCH-backed biotech launch­es with ul­tra­sound gene de­liv­ery plat­form

After co-founding two biotechs off virus-based therapies, one for pain and one for cancer, Ken Greenberg decided to go in a different direction for his newest biotech, SonoThera.

Based out of San Francisco, SonoThera announced Monday morning that it raised $60.75 million to develop new gene therapies — but delivered by ultrasound, which Greenberg says can address the major challenges facing more conventional viral gene therapies.

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