Gary Glick, Odyssey Therapeutics founder

Al­ways busy, Gary Glick re­cruits Or­biMed in a mas­sive $218M Se­ries A for enig­mat­ic da­ta sci­ence biotech

Gary Glick is back at it again, found­ing yet an­oth­er biotech com­pa­ny. And by the sheer size of its first raise, this may be the biggest one yet.

Glick has as­sem­bled what he calls an all-star ros­ter and re­cruit­ed one of the biggest health­care in­vestors in Or­biMed to put to­geth­er a mas­sive $218 mil­lion Se­ries A for his newest ven­ture, Odyssey Ther­a­peu­tics. The launch, an­nounced Tues­day morn­ing and co-led by SR One Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, comes not three months af­ter Glick sold First Wave Bio to Azur­Rx for $229 mil­lion.

David Pom­pli­ano

But Glick has had Odyssey on his mind since at least ear­ly this year, first craft­ing the vi­sion back in March with co-founder David Pom­pli­ano, with whom Glick did his post­doc at Je­re­my Knowles’ Har­vard lab. Liken­ing Odyssey to one of his ear­li­er com­pa­nies, IFM Ther­a­peu­tics, Glick said the new biotech is plac­ing a sim­i­lar bet on en­sur­ing the best peo­ple are in­volved.

“What’s oc­cur­ring at Odyssey is just some­thing on a much larg­er scale, with a con­sid­er­able amount more depth in many of those sort of drug dis­cov­ery dis­ci­plines,” Glick tells End­points News. “The fi­nanc­ing al­lows us to sup­port not on­ly a larg­er num­ber of pro­grams, but quite a bit of tech­nol­o­gy de­vel­op­ment and in­te­gra­tion to cre­ate the plat­form.

“It’s a recipe for suc­cess that’s worked across all my com­pa­nies,” he added.

So what ex­act­ly is Odyssey all about? No one re­al­ly wants to say. Glick de­clined to elab­o­rate on any of the de­tails about the biotech’s foun­da­tion­al sci­ence, on­ly briefly di­vulging the com­pa­ny’s dis­ease ar­eas as in­flam­ma­tion and on­col­o­gy. He vague­ly de­scribed Odyssey as open to a va­ri­ety of plat­forms that are “fused” to­geth­er and re­spond­ed to a ques­tion about the sci­ence be­hind the biotech with a rhetor­i­cal quip: “Imag­ine ask­ing that to the CEO of No­var­tis or Mer­ck.”

There’s al­so a short men­tion in Odyssey’s press re­lease about how the com­pa­ny will build on the “past ap­proach­es” of an­ti-TNF an­ti­bod­ies, JAK in­hibitors and tar­get­ed can­cer im­munother­a­pies, go­ing “be­yond the lim­i­ta­tions” of these treat­ments. It’s not ex­act­ly clear, how­ev­er, what that means at this stage.

What we can re­port is near­ly a third of Odyssey’s 100-ish em­ploy­ees are da­ta sci­en­tists. Glick placed a huge em­pha­sis on da­ta sci­ence and AI at the biotech, out­lin­ing a broad view of how he hopes “physics based mol­e­c­u­lar sim­u­la­tions” and “quan­tum ma­chine learn­ing” will set Odyssey apart. As an ex­am­ple, Glick de­scribed some of the ad­vances in com­pu­ta­tion­al chem­istry since he was a grad stu­dent in the 1980s.

“A lot of the in­tense in­ter­est re­cent­ly has been around what mol­e­c­u­lar sim­u­la­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly for small mol­e­cules, can ac­com­plish giv­en the in­creased com­put­ing pow­er,” Glick said. “That’s just one of the foun­da­tion­al pieces that we’ve made an in­vest­ment in, but da­ta sci­ence is much broad­er than that.”

Lead­ing this charge will be chief da­ta of­fi­cer Joe Mc­Don­ald, a 30-year bio­phar­ma vet who led ma­chine learn­ing and physics-based sim­u­la­tion ef­forts at Cel­gene and then Bris­tol My­ers Squibb. For Mc­Don­ald, even though these fields have hit their stride and seen a lot of hype — some­times to oth­er com­pa­nies’ cha­grin — it’s more about putting the tech­nol­o­gy in the hands of the right peo­ple.

Part of that process in­volves a quan­tum ma­chine learn­ing pro­gram Odyssey will have to train. Giv­en the na­ture of the tech­nol­o­gy, Mc­Don­ald said it would on­ly re­quire a small frac­tion of da­ta rel­a­tive to what would be nec­es­sary for a more tra­di­tion­al al­go­rithm. But at the end of the day, it’s how the teams of sci­en­tists solve the prob­lem to­geth­er that mat­ters more.

“What I want to stress is, it is the ex­pe­ri­ence of the sci­en­tists that guide the strat­e­gy,” Mc­Don­ald said. “The ma­chine learn­ing meth­ods are there as add-on ca­pa­bil­i­ties that give our sci­en­tists the op­por­tu­ni­ty to make a de­ci­sion and ef­fec­tive de­ci­sions. But we re­al­ly trust the sci­en­tists at Odyssey to make great, great de­ci­sions.”

Oth­er mem­bers of Odyssey’s start­ing line­up in­clude for­mer Vi­vid­ion CSO Robert Abra­ham as ex­ec­u­tive VP of can­cer bi­ol­o­gy; Na­tal­ie Dales, ex-No­var­tis di­rec­tor of port­fo­lio and strat­e­gy for chem­istry dis­cov­ery, as se­nior VP of of chem­istry and drug dis­cov­ery; Shifeng Pan, an­oth­er No­var­tis chem­istry vet from its ge­nomics in­sti­tute, as head of dis­cov­ery; Pom­pli­ano as chief in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer; and Stephen Sois­son, a Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries vet who will head up the pro­tein ther­a­peu­tics di­vi­sion.

Carl Gor­don

Or­biMed man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Carl Gor­don, who earns him­self an Odyssey board seat, said that while many have at­tempt­ed mar­ry­ing drug dis­cov­ery with ma­chine learn­ing, he can’t re­call an­oth­er com­pa­ny that’s got­ten off the ground so quick­ly. That, cou­pled with the peo­ple Glick as­sem­bled, will prove a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor, he said.

“It’s in­creas­ing­ly a sell­er’s mar­ket in re­cruit­ing,” Gor­don said. “So I think it says a lot in re­gard to the vi­sion of the com­pa­ny. And it’s grat­i­fy­ing to see some of the peo­ple that have cho­sen to work with us.”

Up first are sev­en pipeline pro­grams in those in­flam­ma­tion and on­col­o­gy ar­eas, both small mol­e­cules and pro­tein ther­a­peu­tics for “large mar­ket in­di­ca­tions,” Glick said. If every­thing goes ac­cord­ing to plan, the first can­di­dates will hit the clin­ic in late 2023 or ear­ly 2024.

It will take even longer for Odyssey to re­port its first batch of clin­i­cal da­ta, when in­vestors will be­gin to re­al­ize whether this biotech is worth the mas­sive raise or large­ly hype. Many com­pa­nies have gar­nered big rais­es — in­creas­ing­ly fol­lowed by IPOs with just pre­clin­i­cal da­ta — and ul­ti­mate­ly flopped once they be­gan putting their drugs in hu­mans.

But Glick be­lieves the com­bi­na­tion of Odyssey’s tech­nol­o­gy and peo­ple won’t give him a rea­son to sweat.

“Many things in drug dis­cov­ery and clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment ul­ti­mate­ly wind up not work­ing,” Glick said. “And it’s the peo­ple, ul­ti­mate­ly. It’s great teams that are able to suc­ceed. And so it’s when you have great tech­nol­o­gy in the hands of great peo­ple. That’s re­al­ly the bet here.”

In ad­di­tion to Or­biMed and SR One Cap­i­tal, oth­er in­vestors in­clud­ed Fore­site Cap­i­tal, Wood­line Part­ners LP, Lo­gos Cap­i­tal, HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, Colt Ven­tures, Crea­cion Ven­tures, and oth­er in­sti­tu­tion­al in­vestors.

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis de­tails plans to axe 8,000 staffers as Narasimhan be­gins sec­ond phase of a glob­al re­org

We now know the number of jobs coming under the axe at Novartis, and it isn’t small.

The pharma giant is confirming a report from Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that it is chopping 8,000 jobs out of its 108,000 global staffers. A large segment will hit right at company headquarters in Basel, as CEO Vas Narasimhan axes some 1,400 of a little more than 11,000  jobs in Switzerland.

The first phase of the work is almost done, the company says in a statement to Endpoints News. Now it’s on to phase two. In the statement, Novartis says:

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Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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Pearl Huang, Dunad Therapeutics CEO (Ken Richardson, PR Newswire)

Long­time biotech leader Pearl Huang takes the reins as CEO of No­var­tis-backed up­start

It has only been a few months since Pearl Huang exited the top seat at Cygnal Therapeutics, but now she’s back at the helm of another biotech.

After taking a few months off — passing an exam in that time to get her captain’s license from the US Coast Guard — she’s been named CEO of Dunad Therapeutics, a biotech focused on developing a small molecule covalent therapies that was founded in 2020. Huang told Endpoints News that two factors attracted her to going back to the c-suite: the company’s technology and its co-founders.

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(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Some phar­ma com­pa­nies promise to cov­er abor­tion-re­lat­ed trav­el costs — while oth­ers won't go that far yet

As the US Department of Health and Human Services promises to support the millions of women who would now need to cross state lines to receive a legal abortion, a handful of pharma companies have said they will pick up employees’ travel expenses.

GSK, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, BeiGene, Alnylam and Gilead have all committed to covering abortion-related travel expenses just four days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked women’s constitutional right to an abortion.

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Aurobindo Pharma co-founders P. V. Ram Prasad Reddy (L) and K. Nityananda Reddy

Au­robindo Phar­ma re­ceives warn­ing let­ter from In­di­a's SEC fol­low­ing more FDA ques­tion marks

Indian-based generics manufacturer Aurobindo Pharma has been in the crosshairs of the FDA for several years now, but the company is also attracting attention from regulators within the subcontinent.

According to the Indian business news site Business Standard, a warning letter was sent to the company from the Securities Exchange Board of India, or SEBI.

The letter is related to disclosures made by the company on an ongoing FDA audit of the company’s Unit-1 API facility in Hyderabad, India as well as observations made by the US regulator between 2019 and 2022.

New Charles River Laboratories High Quality (HQ) Plasmid DNA Centre of Excellence at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. (Charles River)

Charles Riv­er Lab­o­ra­to­ries to start cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing at UK site in Sep­tem­ber

While Massachusetts-based Charles River Laboratories has been on an acquisition spree, they are not against planting their flag. The latest move by the company sees them crossing the pond to establish a manufacturing site in the UK.

The company on Tuesday opened its cell and gene therapy manufacturing center at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. The expansion follows Charles River’s acquisition of Cognate BioServices and Cobra Biologics in 2021 for $875 million. Cognate is a plasmid DNA, viral vector and cell therapy CDMO.

Bristol Myers Squibb (Alamy)

CVS re­sumes cov­er­age of block­buster blood thin­ner af­ter price drop fol­lows Jan­u­ary ex­clu­sion

Following some backlash from the American College of Cardiology and patients, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer lowered the price of their blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis, thus ensuring that CVS Caremark would cover the drug after 6 months of it being off the major PBM’s formulary.

“Because we secured lower net costs for patients from negotiations with the drug manufacturer, Eliquis will be added back to our template formularies for the commercial segment effective July 1, 2022, and patient choices will be expanded,” CVS Health said in an emailed statement. “Anti-coagulant therapies are among the non-specialty products where we are seeing the fastest cost increases from drug manufacturers and we will continue to push back on unwarranted price increases.”