Atavistik president and CSO Marion Dorsch (L) and acting CEO John Josey (Atavistik Bio)

For­mer Blue­print and Pelo­ton vets team up to take on big play­ers in grow­ing hunt for a new type of small mol­e­cule

Drug dis­cov­ery is a his­tor­i­cal­ly painstak­ing process, but an­oth­er biotech has im­pressed in­vestors with its plan to make sci­en­tists’ jobs a bit eas­i­er.

Atavis­tik Bio un­cloaked on Tues­day morn­ing with a $60 mil­lion Se­ries A round led by The Col­umn Group and a new high-through­put screen­ing plat­form to iden­ti­fy al­losteric mod­u­la­tors of pro­teins. A small group of co-founders got se­ri­ous about form­ing the com­pa­ny about eight months ago. And, led by for­mer Pelo­ton CEO John Josey and for­mer Blue­print Med­i­cines CSO Mar­i­on Dorsch, the team se­cured their own lab space in Cam­bridge, MA last month.

Al­losteric mod­u­la­tors are sub­stances that bind to a pro­tein, and in­duce a con­for­ma­tion­al change that af­fects the bind­ing affin­i­ty of that pro­tein for oth­er mol­e­cules.

“We know from evo­lu­tion and many, many years of bio­chem­i­cal study that meta­bol­ic path­ways are very of­ten reg­u­lat­ed by sub­strates and prod­ucts of the path­way,” Josey, act­ing CEO, told End­points News. “And it’s not un­com­mon for a sub­strate or prod­uct to bind in an al­losteric man­ner to reg­u­late a pro­tein’s func­tion.”

Atavis­tik’s plat­form comes from Uni­ver­si­ty of Utah bio­chem­istry pro­fes­sor Jared Rut­ter. His screen­ing process starts with metabo­lites, which are pooled based on mol­e­c­u­lar weight. Then an affin­i­ty screen is con­duct­ed to look for small mol­e­cule metabo­lites that bind to pro­teins of in­ter­est.

“What you’re look­ing for are not on­ly things that bind, but did they bind in an al­losteric man­ner?” Josey said.

So in­stead of pick­ing a tar­get and con­duct­ing tests one by one to find an al­losteric mod­u­la­tor, Atavis­tik is turn­ing the process “up­side down,” said Dorsch, who’s now pres­i­dent and CSO. “It al­lows you to re­al­ly cast a very wide net,” she added.

Josey says the goal is to even­tu­al­ly de­vel­op an in-house pipeline for meta­bol­ic dis­eases and can­cer. But for now, he’ll use the Se­ries A funds to build out the team and the plat­form. The goal is to hire 15-20 peo­ple by the end of this year, and a sim­i­lar amount next year, Dorsch said.

“There are many dif­fer­ent ways that you could pos­si­bly do these types of high-through­put screens,” Josey said. One ex­am­ple is HotSpot Ther­a­peu­tics, which reeled in $65 mil­lion last May for its com­put­er plat­form that us­es a slew of dif­fer­ent al­go­rithms to search for al­losteric sites.

“This is just a very ro­bust sys­tem,” Josey said of Atavis­tik’s plat­form.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Jay Bradner (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

Div­ing deep­er in­to in­her­it­ed reti­nal dis­or­ders, No­var­tis gob­bles up an­oth­er bite-sized op­to­ge­net­ics biotech

Right about a year ago, a Novartis team led by Jay Bradner and Cynthia Grosskreutz at NIBR swooped in to scoop up a Cambridge, MA-based opthalmology gene therapy company called Vedere. Their focus was on a rather narrow market niche: inherited retinal dystrophies that include a wide range of genetic retinal disorders marked by the loss of photoreceptor cells and progressive vision loss.

But that was just the first deal that whet their appetite.

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FDA hands ac­cel­er­at­ed nod to Seagen, Gen­mab's so­lo ADC in cer­vi­cal can­cer, but com­bo stud­ies look even more promis­ing

Biopharma’s resident antibody-drug conjugate expert Seagen has scored a clutch of oncology approvals in recent years, finding gold in what are known as “third-gen” ADCs. Now, another of their partnered conjugates is ready for prime time.

The FDA on Monday handed an accelerated approval to Seagen and Genmab’s Tivdak (tisotumab vedotin-tftv, or “TV”) in second-line patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer who previously progressed after chemotherapy rather than PD-(L)1 systemic therapy, the companies said in a release.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Time for round 2: Il­lu­mi­na-backed VC snags $325M for its next fund

Illumina Ventures closed off its second investment fund with a total commitment of $325 million, offering fresh fuel to back a slate of startups that have already included a smorgasbord of companies, covering everything from diagnostics to biotech drug development and genomics.

Fund II brings the total investment under Illumina Ventures’ oversight to $560 million, which has been focused on early-stage companies. And it has a transatlantic portfolio that includes SQZ, Twist and Encoded Therapeutics.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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