Sam Truex (file photo)

Af­ter wind­ing down Quench Bio with a bold dose of hon­esty, Sam Truex finds 'per­fect fit' at At­las Ven­ture

When Sam Truex turned out the lights at Quench Bio, she is­sued a heart­felt post out­lin­ing the rea­sons be­hind why the for­mer in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­ease play­er closed its doors. That bold hon­esty was ap­pre­ci­at­ed some­where as Truex will now jump aboard a fa­mil­iar team at At­las Ven­ture to give star­tups the best pos­si­ble chance at suc­cess.

At­las has tapped Truex as its newest ven­ture part­ner, the firm an­nounced on Mon­day. To­day is her first of­fi­cial day on the team. And her first as­sign­ment? Lead­ing a stealthy At­las-backed start­up that em­ploys most of the team from Quench.

“We built a team at Quench Bio that I was quite proud of build­ing to­geth­er with the oth­er lead­ers, and that team has want­ed to stay to­geth­er for the most part,” she said, adding that she’ll lead the plat­form com­pa­ny un­til they find a long-term CEO.

Quench said it was wind­ing down op­er­a­tions in ear­ly March, af­ter a cou­ple failed at­tempts at tar­get­ing the gene Gas­der­min D to treat in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases. The Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech said the gene proved “un­drug­gable” with their tech­nol­o­gy, and auc­tioned off its re­search to keep oth­er Gas­der­min pro­grams mov­ing for­ward.

Truex told End­points News that she ful­ly in­tends to take the helm at an­oth­er biotech — but for now, she’ll help At­las get oth­er com­pa­nies off the ground while choos­ing the one that’s a good fit for her.

“What I’m hop­ing to do next is work in a com­pa­ny where the ther­a­pies that we’re work­ing on are al­ready in or near the clin­ic,” she said. “I would like to get back to a fo­cus that’s more heav­i­ly on pa­tients and clos­er to de­liv­er­ing ther­a­pies to pa­tients.”

While this marks the first time Truex has been em­ployed by At­las, she’s worked with the VC firm in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties since 2014, when she be­came CBO of au­toim­mune-fo­cused Pad­lock Ther­a­peu­tics. Be­fore that, she spent rough­ly eight years each at Gen­zyme and Bio­gen.

Michael Gilman

Michael Gilman, who found­ed and helmed Pad­lock, said he was “thrilled to con­vince Sam to come on­board.” Two years lat­er, she led the com­pa­ny through a $600 mil­lion buy­out by Bris­tol My­ers Squibb, which was at­tract­ed by the biotech’s pro­tein/pep­tidyl argi­nine deim­i­nase (PAD) in­hibitor dis­cov­ery pro­gram.

“Sam is smart, strate­gic, fo­cused, and has a tremen­dous ca­pac­i­ty for work. Most im­por­tant­ly, she’s moral­ly ground­ed, with a strong sense of right and wrong and deep pas­sion for the caus­es she be­lieves in,” Gilman told End­points in an email. He’s now in Waltham, MA, lead­ing Ar­rakis Ther­a­peu­tics’ pur­suit of small mol­e­cule med­i­cines that di­rect­ly tar­get RNA.

Truex went on to serve as COO and head of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment at Syn­log­ic, be­fore start­ing at Quench Bio in 2018. The Dart­mouth grad said there were oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ties she could have tak­en af­ter Quench, but none seemed like the “per­fect fit.”

Bruce Booth

“So I thought: Why not work with the peo­ple I know and al­ready re­spect to start some­thing that will be the per­fect fit?” she said.

Bruce Booth, an At­las part­ner who’s worked with Truex at both Pad­lock and Quench, called the new hire a “great leader and ex­pe­ri­enced se­r­i­al en­tre­pre­neur.”

“Hav­ing worked with her across mul­ti­ple star­tups, she’s proven her­self to be an ac­com­plished ex­ec­u­tive who leads with in­tegri­ty,” Booth said. “She al­so in­spires all of us with her com­mit­ment to giv­ing back to the com­mu­ni­ty. It’s a re­al priv­i­lege to have her join At­las to help us build the next gen­er­a­tion of star­tups.”

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.

Tadataka Yamada (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sci­ence pi­o­neer, phar­ma re­search chief, glob­al health ad­vo­cate and biotech en­tre­pre­neur Tadata­ka ‘Tachi’ Ya­ma­da has died

Tadataka Yamada, a towering physician-scientist who made his name in academia before transforming drug development at GlaxoSmithKline and developing vaccines for malaria and meningitis at the Gates Foundation, died unexpectedly of natural causes at his home in Seattle Wednesday morning.

He was 76. Frazier Healthcare Partners’ David Socks confirmed his death.

Known widely by the mononym “Tachi,” Yamada had a globetrotting career and arrived in industry relatively late in life. A 2004 Independent article noted GSK had asked Yamada to stay on beyond his approaching 60th birthday, the company’s usual retirement age. Yamada would continue working for the next 17 years, steering the Gates Foundation’s global health division for 6 years, funding Jim Wilson’s gene therapy work when few would touch it, launching Takeda Vaccines and co-founding a series of high-profile biotechs.

Marianne De Backer (L) and Jeff Hatfield

Bay­er nabs star biotech Vi­vid­ion with a $2B buy­out and an ‘arms-length’ pact, pulling a part­ner out of the IPO con­ga line

Vividion is canceling that IPO it filed. Instead of following the industry-wide migration to Nasdaq, the biotech that has captured considerable attention for its still-preclinical work finding cryptic pockets to bind to on proteins is going to work for Bayer now.

The pharma giant is putting out word today that it has bought out Vividion for $1.5 billion in cash and another half-billion dollars in milestones.

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Josh Hoffman, outgoing Zymergen CEO (Zymergen)

UP­DAT­ED: Syn­bio uni­corn Zymer­gen jet­ti­sons found­ing CEO, cuts guid­ance as cus­tomers re­port lead prod­uct does­n't work

Zymergen, just months off a $500 million IPO that put the synthetic bio firm in rarified air, has now ejected its founding CEO and downgraded its revenue forecasts after customers reported its lead film product doesn’t work as advertised, the company said Tuesday afternoon.

CEO Josh Hoffman will leave his role and sacrifice his board seat immediately in favor of Jay Flatley, the former CEO of Illumina who will take the lead role on an interim basis as the company conducts a search for its next leader.

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UK re-in­ves­ti­gates Pfiz­er's eye-pop­ping price goug­ing on an epilep­sy drug

When a drugmaker raises the price of a drug in the US by more than 2,000% overnight, and without any particular reason for that increase, nothing typically happens to the company. No fines, no court orders, just business as usual.

Martin Shkreli’s decades-old anti-parasitic drug Daraprim was the perfect example — massive price spike on an old drug, lots of media attention, public outcry, Congressional committees dragging his former company through multiple hearings, and at the end of it? Nothing happened to the price or the company (until generic competition came).

Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva CEO

A small vac­cine de­vel­op­er fa­vored by the UK gov­ern­ment in Covid-19 touts a PhI­II first in chikun­gun­ya

Before Valneva garnered the favor of the UK government as a potential supplier of Covid-19 vaccines, the French biotech prided itself on being the first company to bring a chikungunya vaccine into Phase III.

It now has positive pivotal results to back up the breakthrough therapy designation the FDA granted just weeks ago.

There are currently no approved jabs to prevent chikungunya virus infection despite decades of R&D efforts, a fact that underscores just how arduous traditional vaccine development can be, particularly for neglected tropical disease. In a absence of a major commercial market, the US government and NGOs such as CEPI have deployed various grants and incentives to spur on a small crew of academics and industry players, with Merck, via its acquisition of Themis, claiming a spot in that race.

Jeffrey Bluestone, Sonoma CEO (Photo credit: Steve Babuljak)

Jeff Blue­stone just raised $265M to de­vel­op cu­ra­tive cell ther­a­pies. We asked him how

Jeff Bluestone had some big goals in mind when he decided to make a switch from a decades-long career in academia and non-profit research to a biotech startup CEO. And now — 18 months after the $40 million launch party — he has a whole lot more money on hand to pay for the considerable amount of work ahead at Sonoma Biotherapeutics.

This morning Bluestone is taking the wraps off a $265 million B round after boosting the core syndicate of A-list investors he started with. Even by today’s standards, that sum dwarfs the kind of $100 million-plus megarounds that have become standard fare in biotech over the last 2 years.

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Zymergen co-founders Zach Serber, Josh Hoffman, and Jed Dean (Zymergen via website)

Zymer­gen's sud­den im­plo­sion shocked biotech. A lin­ger­ing loan could make things even worse

As former synbio unicorn Zymergen picks up the pieces from its spectacular implosion Tuesday, an outstanding loan from Perceptive Advisors — the only blue-chip biotech crossover investor to touch Zymergen’s fundraising efforts — could make the situation worse, according to public documents.

In December 2019, more than a year before Zymergen filed for what would eventually become a $500 million IPO, the “biofacturing” firm signed a $100 million credit facility with Perceptive to help supplement the nearly $700 million the company had raised across four VC rounds.

Bio­gen, Ei­sai are push­ing for an­oth­er ac­cel­er­at­ed Alzheimer's OK — this time for BAN2401

Now that the door at the FDA has been opened wide for Alzheimer’s drugs that can demonstrate a reduction in amyloid, Biogen and its partners at Eisai are pushing for a quick OK on the next drug to follow in the controversial path of aducanumab.

In a presentation to analysts, Eisai neurology chief Ivan Cheung outlined some bullish expectations for their newly-approved treatment and set the stage for what he believes will be a fast follow for BAN2401 (lecanemab) — after a dry spell in new drug development that’s lasted close to 20 years.

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