Af­ter sell­ing to Genen­tech, the old Je­cure team is back at an RNA-fo­cused start­up — and more en­thu­si­as­tic than ever

When Genen­tech swooped in to buy NASH-fo­cused Je­cure Ther­a­peu­tics back in 2018, a hand­ful of the start­up’s ex­ec­u­tives weren’t quite ready to dis­perse.

It had been just three years since Je­cure launched with a pre­clin­i­cal port­fo­lio of NL­RP3 in­hibitors — and the takeover came soon­er than any­one, in­clud­ing CEO Jeff Stafford, had ex­pect­ed. So he got talk­ing with James Veal and Gretchen Bain, two se­r­i­al en­tre­pre­neurs in charge of Je­cure’s R&D.

“We want­ed to do some­thing to­geth­er again,” Stafford told End­points News. “All of us share a high en­thu­si­asm for ear­ly stage drug dis­cov­ery, and had some ideas.”

Jeff Stafford

A year lat­er, they launched 858 Ther­a­peu­tics — named af­ter the San Diego area code — to fo­cus on the bur­geon­ing field of RNA mod­u­la­tion and the role it plays in can­cer. Right away, they snapped up Gotham Ther­a­peu­tics, a New York-based start­up that was cre­at­ing med­i­cines to drug key pro­teins that mod­u­late mR­NA, for an undis­closed amount.

And on Tues­day, they emerged from stealth mode with a $60 mil­lion Se­ries A round led by Ver­sant Ven­tures. NEA, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment and Lo­gos Cap­i­tal chipped in­to the round.

“We just found that space to be in­cred­i­bly dy­nam­ic where there have been, over the last few years, just a whole host of break­through dis­cov­er­ies,” Ver­sant part­ner Car­lo Riz­zu­to said.

Car­lo Riz­zu­to

While the in­dus­try was ini­tial­ly laser-fo­cused on mod­i­fy­ing DNA, ev­i­dence be­gan pil­ing up years ago that RNA mod­i­fi­ca­tions could help de­ter­mine to which de­gree genes are trans­lat­ed in­to pro­teins. The mod­i­fi­ca­tions play a big role in some can­cers — but un­til re­cent­ly, sci­en­tists have strug­gled to ad­dress those tar­gets due to a dearth of as­says and chal­lenges in cre­at­ing chem­i­cal mat­ter with drug-like prop­er­ties, Stafford said.

858’s plat­form re­volves around “spe­cial­ized know-how and spe­cial­ized as­says,” ac­cord­ing to Stafford. The Se­ries A mon­ey should be enough to get the team in­to the clin­ic by 2023 — but the CEO was care­ful not to dis­close the team’s tar­gets just yet. He says the com­pa­ny should be able to tack­le three to five pro­grams at a giv­en time.

Veal and Bain are on board as CSO and VP of bi­ol­o­gy, re­spec­tive­ly — the same roles they held at Je­cure. All three ex­ecs have ex­pe­ri­ence at Ver­sant-backed biotechs, in­clud­ing Quan­ti­cel and Ami­ra Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which were bought by Cel­gene and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb, re­spec­tive­ly.

Stafford says he’s look­ing to ex­pand the 25-per­son team to 40 in the next 18 months, with head­quar­ters in San Diego and op­er­a­tions in New York.

“(It’s) I think very rare in this busi­ness to get to work with the same team over mul­ti­ple suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies,” Riz­zu­to said. “There are not many, you know, three-times suc­cess­ful teams that are do­ing their fourth com­pa­ny and so I think that’s a very clear point of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.”

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; 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.

With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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Raymond Stevens, Structure Therapeutics CEO

Be­hind Fri­day's $161M IPO: A star sci­en­tist, GPCR drug dis­cov­ery and a plan to chal­lenge phar­ma in di­a­betes

What does it take to pull off a $161 million biotech IPO these days?

In Structure Therapeutics’ case, it means having a star scientist co-founder paired with the computational drug discovery company Schrödinger, $198 million in private funding from blue-chip investors, almost six years of research work on G protein-coupled receptors and a slate of oral, small-molecule drugs, with an eye on the huge and growing diabetes and weight-loss market.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.

Af­ter 13 years, Ramy Mah­moud steps in­to CEO seat at Opti­nose; Ru­pert Vessey set to ex­it Bris­tol My­ers in Ju­ly

After 13 years as president and COO at Optinose, Ramy Mahmoud has stepped into a new role as its CEO. He is taking the place of Peter Miller, who stepped down earlier this week, though Miller is still staying with the company as a consultant.

In 2010, the two business partners joined Optinose to take it in a new direction, transforming it from a delivery platform to product company. They previously worked together at Johnson & Johnson, when Miller was president at Janssen and Mahmoud headed medical affairs. Miller said after he learned about Optinose, “I did what I always do, which is find people smarter than me to talk with about the idea. And the first person I called was Ramy … and I said, ‘Hey, Ramy, what do you think of this technology?’”

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Te­va drops out of in­dus­try trade group PhRMA

Following in AbbVie’s footsteps, Teva confirmed on Friday that it’s dropping out of the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Teva didn’t give a reason for its decision to leave, saying only in a statement to Endpoints News that it annually reviews “effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated.”

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Sanofi CFO Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon (L) and CEO Paul Hudson (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi sees downtick in flu sales as it preps for launch of RSV an­ti­body

Sanofi expects its RSV antibody jointly developed with AstraZeneca will be available next season, executive VP of vaccines Thomas Triomphe announced on the company’s quarterly call.

Beyfortus, also known as nirsevimab, was approved in the EU back in November and is currently under FDA review with an expected decision coming in the third quarter of this year. The news comes as the FDA plans to hold advisory committee meetings over the next couple months to review RSV vaccines from Pfizer and GSK.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Photographer: Shoko Takayasu/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Take­da fo­cus­es on ‘di­verse’ pipeline prospects on heels of two ac­qui­si­tions

After a whopping $4 billion asset buy from Nimbus Therapeutics, along with a $400 million deal with Hutchmed for a colorectal cancer drug, Takeda executives touted pipeline optimism on its latest earnings call this week.

That’s because the TYK2 inhibitor for psoriasis Takeda is getting from Nimbus, along with the Hutchmed fruquintinib commercialization outside of China, are just two of what it reports are 10 late-stage development programs of promising candidates.

Regeneron CSO George Yancopoulos (L) and CEO Len Schleifer at a groundbreaking for its new Tarrytown, NY facility, June 2022 (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In show­down with Roche, Re­gen­eron gears up for po­ten­tial Eylea ex­pan­sion amid Covid de­cline

Regeneron faced a substantial slump in overall revenue last year, but the focus still remains on some of its biggest blockbusters.

The pharma with several high-profile partnerships — Sanofi and Bayer among them — said Friday that Q4 revenue was down 31% for the quarter, and down 24% for the entire year. However, that won’t stop blockbuster expansion plans.

One of those is Eylea, the Bayer-partnered eye disease drug that has been in major competition with Roche’s Vabysmo. While Eylea is currently only approved in a 2 mg dose, the company recently filed for approval to give a 8 mg dose, in hopes of making a longer-lasting treatment.