AI start­up En­tos looks to one-up the rest of the field by fold­ing quan­tum me­chan­ics in­to its dis­cov­ery plat­form

Imag­ine pre­dict­ing mol­e­c­u­lar prop­er­ties 1,000 times faster with 100 times less train­ing da­ta. That’s the fu­ture that co-founders Tom Miller and Fred Man­by en­vi­sion at En­tos. On Wednes­day, the team un­veiled a $53 mil­lion Se­ries A round and a new 16,000 square-foot San Diego head­quar­ters to get start­ed.

En­tos came to­geth­er last April with tech de­rived from Miller and Man­by’s labs at Cal­tech and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bris­tol, re­spec­tive­ly. The two aca­d­e­mics had been op­er­at­ing in the same cir­cles for a while be­fore they of­fi­cial­ly met at a con­fer­ence in East Lans­ing, MI.

Tom Miller

“Over the course of that year, it’s just been an ex­plo­sion of progress. It’s been in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing,” Miller, now CEO, told End­points News, adding that the team has grown from two to 30.

Their plat­form, dubbed Orb­Net, us­es quan­tum me­chan­ics to en­code and map chem­i­cal space. In ad­di­tion to as­sist­ing with hit iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, Miller says the tech­nol­o­gy could be used for “those very cost­ly, and there­fore very valu­able lat­er stages” as­so­ci­at­ed with lead op­ti­miza­tion and get­ting a drug all the way to the clin­ic. And they’ve con­vinced Frances Arnold — who won the No­bel Prize a cou­ple years back for her work on the evo­lu­tion of en­zymes — to sign on as a sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­sor.

“The chal­lenge of any ma­chine learn­ing ap­pli­ca­tion is to go from a mol­e­c­u­lar struc­ture to a par­tic­u­lar prop­er­ty,” he said. “So that is a map­ping prob­lem and Orb­Net us­es a rep­re­sen­ta­tion that is fun­da­men­tal­ly con­nect­ed to quan­tum me­chan­ics that leads to far greater ef­fi­cien­cy in terms of the re­quired da­ta to ac­cu­rate­ly per­form that map­ping, and far greater trans­fer­abil­i­ty through chem­i­cal space.”

Fred Man­by

The Se­ries A funds will al­low “rapid progress” in the com­pa­ny’s hir­ing ac­tiv­i­ty, Miller said, and has al­ready helped fund its new San Diego lab­o­ra­to­ry. While the com­pa­ny has a “grow­ing port­fo­lio” of part­ner­ships in the works, the fo­cus is on in­ter­nal de­vel­op­ment pro­grams, the CEO added.

The ma­chine learn­ing space is packed with play­ers look­ing to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the way new drugs are found and de­vel­oped. Last month, In­sil­i­co’s Alex Zha­voronkov pulled in a $225 mil­lion Se­ries C round. Ex­sci­en­tia raised a fresh half-bil­lion dol­lars for its AI plat­form and pipeline ear­li­er this year. And in March, Daphne Koller hooked $400 mil­lion for her ma­chine learn­ing start­up, in­sitro.

“Drug de­vel­op­ment is a high­ly com­plex en­deav­or that is plagued by both cost and time in­ef­fi­cien­cy, and we be­lieve that in­cor­po­rat­ing En­tos’ im­pres­sive tech­nol­o­gy in­to the process will re­sult in faster time­lines and vast­ly im­proved ther­a­peu­tics,” said Aaron Wein­er, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and head of health­care at Coat­ue, which co-led En­tos’ Se­ries A round with Catalio Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment.

Or­biMed, Se­quoia Cap­i­tal, Nexus Ven­tures and Freeflow al­so con­tributed to the round.

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.

Matt Gline (L) and Pete Salzmann

UP­DAT­ED: Roivant bumps stake in Im­muno­vant with a $200M deal. But with M&A off the ta­ble, shares crater

Roivant has worked out a deal to pick up a chunk of stock in its majority-owned sub Immunovant $IMVT, but the stock buy falls far short of its much-discussed thoughts about buying out all of the 43% of shares it doesn’t already own.

Roivant, which recently inked a SPAC move to the market at a $7 billion-plus valuation, has forged a deal to boost its ownership in Immunovant by 6.3 points, ending with 63.8% of the biotech’s stock following a $200 million injection. That cash will bolster Immunovant’s cash reserves, giving it a $600 million war chest to fund a slate of late-stage studies for its big drug: the anti-FcRn antibody IMVT-1401.

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Sanofi preps a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar buy­out of an mR­NA pi­o­neer af­ter falling be­hind in the race for a Covid-19 jab — re­port

It looks like Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson is dead serious about his intention to vault directly into contention for the future of mRNA vaccines.

A year after paying Translate Bio a whopping $425 million in an upfront and equity payment to help guide the pharma giant to the promised land of mRNA vaccines for Covid-19, Sanofi is reportedly ready to close the deal with a buyout.

Translate’s stock $TBIO soared 78% after the market closed Monday. A spokesperson for Sanofi declined to comment on the report, telling Endpoints News that the company doesn’t comment on market rumors.

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Anthony Sun, Zentalis and Zentera CEO (Zentalis)

With clin­i­cal tri­als lined up for Zen­tal­is drugs, Chi­na's Zen­tera sets its sights on more deal­mak­ing and an IPO

As Zentalis geared up for an AACR presentation of early data on its WEE1 inhibitor earlier this year, its Chinese joint venture Zentera wasn’t idle, either.

Zentera, which has headquarters in Shanghai, had already nabbed clearance to start clinical trials in China for three of the parent company’s drugs. In May — just a month after Zentalis touted three “exceptional responses” out of 55 patients for their shared lead drug, ZN-c3 — it got a fourth CTA approval.

Thomas Soloway, T-knife CEO

What hap­pens when you give a mouse a hu­man self-anti­gen? In­vestors bet $110M to find out

T-knife Therapeutics launched last August on a mission to isolate T cell receptors not from human donors, but from mice. Now, with a new CEO and a candidate bound for the clinic, the Versant-backed company is reloading with a fresh $110 million.

“What we are trying to do for the field of TCR therapy and solid tumor therapy is very analogous to what the murine platforms have done in antibody development,” CEO Thomas Soloway told Endpoints News. 

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UP­DAT­ED: Watch out Glax­o­SmithK­line: As­traZeneca's once-failed lu­pus drug is now ap­proved

Capping a roller coaster journey, AstraZeneca has steered its lupus drug anifrolumab across the finish line.

Saphnelo, as the antibody will be marketed, is the only treatment that’s been approved for systemic lupus erythematosus since GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta clinched an OK in 2011. The British drugmaker notes it’s also the first to target the type I interferon receptor.

Mirroring the population that the drug was tested on in late-stage trials, regulators sanctioned it for patients with moderate to severe cases who are already receiving standard therapy — setting up a launch planned for the end of August, according to Ruud Dobber, who’s in charge of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceuticals business unit.

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Not all mR­NA vac­cines are cre­at­ed equal. Does it mat­ter?; Neu­ro is back; Pri­vate M&A af­fair; 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.

As part of our broader and deeper drive, Endpoints has been pairing webinars with our special reports to cover more angles on a given topic. In conjunction with Max Gelman’s neuroscience feature, Kyle Blankenship moderated an insightful panel to discuss where the field is headed. You can register to watch it on demand here.

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Bris­tol My­ers pulls lym­phoma in­di­ca­tion for Is­to­dax af­ter con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al falls flat

Amid an industrywide review of cancer drugs with accelerated approval, Bristol Myers Squibb had to make the tough call last month to yank an approval for leading I/O drug Opdivo after flopping a confirmatory study. Now, a second Bristol Myers drug is on the chopping block.

Bristol Myers has pulled aging HDAC inhibitor Istodax’s indication in peripheral T cell lymphoma after a Phase III confirmatory study for the drug flopped on its progression-free survival endpoint, the drugmaker said Monday.

Rick Pazdur (via AACR)

FDA's on­col­o­gy head Rick Paz­dur de­fends the ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval path­way, claim­ing it is 'un­der at­tack'

The FDA is sounding the alarm over its accelerated approval pathway as backlash continues over the recent nod in favor of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, and an ODAC meeting on six such approvals that could potentially be pulled from the market — two of which already have.

“Do you think accelerated approval is under attack? I do,” Rick Pazdur, head of FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, said at a Friends of Cancer Research webinar on Thursday.

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