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.

ZS Per­spec­tive: 3 Pre­dic­tions on the Fu­ture of Cell & Gene Ther­a­pies

The field of cell and gene therapies (C&GTs) has seen a renaissance, with first generation commercial therapies such as Kymriah, Yescarta, and Luxturna laying the groundwork for an incoming wave of potentially transformative C&GTs that aim to address diverse disease areas. With this renaissance comes several potential opportunities, of which we discuss three predictions below.

Allogenic Natural Killer (NK) Cells have the potential to displace current Cell Therapies in oncology if proven durable.

Despite being early in development, Allogenic NKs are proving to be an attractive new treatment paradigm in oncology. The question of durability of response with allogenic therapies is still an unknown. Fate Therapeutics’ recent phase 1 data for FT516 showed relatively quicker relapses vs already approved autologous CAR-Ts. However, other manufacturers, like Allogene for their allogenic CAR-T therapy ALLO-501A, are exploring novel lymphodepletion approaches to improve persistence of allogenic cells. Nevertheless, allogenic NKs demonstrate a strong value proposition relative to their T cell counterparts due to comparable response rates (so far) combined with the added advantage of a significantly safer AE profile. Specifically, little to no risk of graft versus host disease (GvHD), cytotoxic release syndrome (CRS), and neurotoxicity (NT) have been seen so far with allogenic NK cells (Fig. 1). In addition, being able to harness an allogenic cell source gives way to operational advantages as “off-the-shelf” products provide improved turnaround time (TAT), scalability, and potentially reduced cost. NKs are currently in development for a variety of overlapping hematological indications with chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-Ts) today, and the question remains to what extent they will disrupt the current cell therapy landscape. Click for more details.

Graphic: Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

What kind of biotech start­up wins a $3B syn­di­cate, woos a gallery of mar­quee sci­en­tists and re­cruits GSK's Hal Bar­ron as CEO in a stun­ner? Let Rick Klaus­ner ex­plain

It started with a question about a lifetime’s dream on a walk with tech investor Yuri Milner.

At the beginning of the great pandemic, former NCI chief and inveterate biotech entrepreneur Rick Klausner and the Facebook billionaire would traipse Los Altos Hills in Silicon Valley Saturday mornings and talk about ideas.

Milner’s question on one of those mornings on foot: “What do you want to do?”

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Hal Barron (GSK via YouTube)

GSK R&D chief Hal Bar­ron jumps ship to run a $3B biotech start­up, Tony Wood tapped to re­place him

In a stunning switch, GlaxoSmithKline put out word early Wednesday that R&D chief Hal Barron is exiting the company after 4 years — a relatively brief run for the man chosen by CEO Emma Walmsley in late 2017 to turn around the slow-footed pharma giant.

Barron is being replaced by Tony Wood, a close associate of Barron’s who’s taking one of the top jobs in Big Pharma R&D. He’ll be closer to home, though, for GSK. Barron has been running a UK and Philadelphia-based research organization from his perch in San Francisco.

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FDA+ roundup: FDA's neu­ro­science deputy de­parts amid on­go­ing Aduhelm in­ves­ti­ga­tions; Califf on the ropes?

Amid increased scrutiny into the close ties between FDA and Biogen prior to the controversial accelerated approval of Aduhelm, the deputy director of the FDA’s office of neuroscience has called it quits after more than two decades at the agency.

Eric Bastings will now take over as VP of development strategy at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, the company said Wednesday, where he will provide senior clinical and regulatory leadership in support of Ionis’ pipeline.

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Chamath Palihapitiya and Pablo Legorreta

Bil­lion­aires Chamath Pal­i­hapi­tiya and Pablo Legor­re­ta hatch an $825M SPAC for cell ther­a­py biotech

Three years after Royalty Pharma chief Pablo Legorreta led a group of investors to buy up a pair of biotechs and create a new startup called ProKidney, the biotech is jumping straight into an $825 million public shell created by SPAC king and tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya.

ProKidney was founded 6 years ago but really got going at the beginning of 2019 with the $62 million acquisition of inRegen, which was working on an autologous — from the patient — cell therapy for kidney disease. After extracting kidney cells from patients, researchers expand the cells in the lab and then inject them back into patients, aiming to restore the kidneys of patients suffering from CKD.

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Sec­ondary patents prove to be key in biosim­i­lar block­ing strate­gies, re­searchers find

While the US biosimilars industry has generally been a disappointment since its inception, with FDA approving 33 biosimilars since 2015, just a fraction of those have immediately followed their approvals with launches. And more than a handful of biosimilars for two of the biggest blockbusters of all time — AbbVie’s Humira and Amgen’s Enbrel — remain approved by FDA but still have not launched because of legal settlements.

CBO: Medicare ne­go­ti­a­tions will ham­per drug de­vel­op­ment more than pre­vi­ous­ly thought

As President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — and, with it, potentially the Democrats’ last shot at major drug pricing reforms in the foreseeable future — remains on life support, the Congressional Budget Office isn’t helping their case.

The CBO last week released a new slide deck, outlining an update to its model on how Medicare negotiations might take a bite out of new drugs making it to market. The new model estimates a 10% long-term reduction in the number of new drugs, whereas a previous CBO report from August estimated that 8% fewer new drugs will enter the market over 30 years.

Joshua Brumm, Dyne Therapeutics CEO

FDA or­ders DMD tri­al halt, rais­ing ques­tions about a whole class of promis­ing drugs

Dyne Therapeutics’ stock took a nasty hit this morning after the biotech put out word that the FDA had slapped a clinical hold on their top program for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. And now speculation is bouncing around Biotwitter that there could be a class effect at work here that would implicate other drug developers in the freeze.

Dyne execs didn’t have a whole lot to say about why the FDA sidelined their IND for DYNE-251 in DMD while “requesting additional clinical and non-clinical information for” the drug.

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Martin Shkreli (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Mar­tin Shkre­li re­ceives life­time in­dus­try ban, forced to re­turn al­most $65M in prof­its af­ter an­ti­com­pet­i­tive scheme

Martin Shkreli will have to find a new nickname.

A federal judge banned the former biotech CEO and “Pharma Bro” from the drug industry on Friday, ordering him to pay nearly $65 million in illicit profits. Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud in 2017 and is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence, though he originally gained notoriety for raising the price of the antiparasitic drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 in 2015.