Gerhard Müller, Birgit Zech (Anavo)

An EU biotech looks to rewrite the ug­ly his­to­ry of phos­phatases, and it's tak­ing $24M in fund­ing to get off the ground

Long a lame duck in drug de­vel­op­ment, phos­phatase en­zymes are gain­ing some re­newed in­ter­est af­ter the suc­cess of a suite of Big Phar­mas in hit­ting tar­gets pre­vi­ous­ly thought un­drug­gable. Now, an EU biotech with some se­ri­ous sci­en­tif­ic back­ers is look­ing to bust the doors on phos­phatases wide open.

Lean­ing on sci­en­tif­ic know-how from two “Mr. Phos­phatases” in the EU and US, Dutch biotech Ana­vo Ther­a­peu­tics launched Thurs­day with $24 mil­lion in seed fund­ing and the mis­sion to de­vel­op mod­u­la­tors to rewrite the en­zyme class’ ug­ly his­to­ry of fail­ure.

Math­ieu Bollen

The sci­en­tif­ic mas­ter­minds in ques­tion are Math­ieu Bollen, a pro­fes­sor of mol­e­c­u­lar cell bi­ol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Leu­ven, and Nicholas Tonks, a pro­fes­sor of can­cer re­search at Cold Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­to­ry. Their work has con­tributed to a grow­ing body of re­search in­di­cat­ing that phos­phatases, a ki­nase coun­ter­part re­spon­si­ble for adding or sub­tract­ing phos­phate groups from pro­teins and oth­er mol­e­cules, could be a ripe tar­get for ther­a­peu­tics, CSO Ger­hard Müller told End­points News.

Once con­sid­ered un­drug­gable af­ter a suite of fail­ures in the late 1990s and ear­ly 2000s, phos­phatases most­ly lan­guished as a tar­get giv­en how dif­fi­cult it is to cre­ate a small mol­e­cule in­hibitor for their ac­tive bind­ing sites. But re­cent in­ter­est in the SHP2 phos­phatase — As­traZeneca, Am­gen, No­var­tis and Mer­ck among oth­ers are crammed in there — has re­newed hopes that the rest of the en­zyme class could spin out gold.

The team is led by Müller and CEO Bir­git Zech, who pre­vi­ous­ly col­lab­o­rat­ed as co-founders of Gotham Ther­a­peu­tics, which spe­cial­izes in cre­at­ing ther­a­pies to tar­get RNA tran­scrip­tion. But the pair have known each longer than that, work­ing to­geth­er at a com­pa­ny called Axxi­ma Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals back in the ear­ly 2000s. Their shared ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with ki­nas­es point­ed the two to­ward phos­phatases, which they found de­serv­ing of a sec­ond look af­ter the class’s “Wa­ter­loo mo­ment” about two decades ago, Müller said.

Nicholas Tonks

Ana­vo will fo­cus on al­losteric re­cep­tor mod­u­la­tors for a range of phos­phatase tar­gets, some of which the biotech thinks are lan­guish­ing on Big Phar­ma’s shelf.

“Phar­ma is there, they have an in­ter­est in the tar­get class, but they re­al­ly don’t want to touch them be­cause they burnt their fin­gers heav­i­ly,” Zech said.

Like the ki­nas­es, nov­el phos­phatase tar­gets could have broad im­pli­ca­tions in a range of ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas. Over­ex­pres­sion of SHP2, for in­stance, has a down­stream sig­nal­ing ef­fect on tu­mor cell growth. That known path­way ef­fect means Ana­vo will tar­get on­col­o­gy first with the po­ten­tial to ex­pand out in­to a range of au­toim­mune con­di­tions and rare dis­ease.

“We re­al­ly are sit­ting on a trea­sure box of high­ly val­i­dat­ed tar­gets,” Müller said.

Named for the Greek word for “to ig­nite” — think phos­pho­rus’ spon­ta­neous com­bus­tion at room tem­per­a­ture – Ana­vo is ac­tive­ly seek­ing sites for its team in the EU, Zech said. The team is hop­ing to en­ter an es­tab­lished biotech hub as it adds em­ploy­ees.

How Pa­tients with Epilep­sy Ben­e­fit from Re­al-World Da­ta

Amanda Shields, Principal Data Scientist, Scientific Data Steward

Keith Wenzel, Senior Business Operations Director

Andy Wilson, Scientific Lead

Real-world data (RWD) has the potential to transform the drug development industry’s efforts to predict and treat seizures for patients with epilepsy. Anticipating or controlling an impending seizure can significantly increase quality of life for patients with epilepsy. However, because RWD is secondary data originally collected for other purposes, the challenge is selecting, harmonizing, and analyzing the data from multiple sources in a way that helps support patients.

Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gink­go Bioworks re­sizes the de­f­i­n­i­tion of go­ing big in biotech, rais­ing $2.5B in a record SPAC deal that weighs in with a whop­ping $15B-plus val­u­a­tion

Ginkgo Bioworks execs always thought big. But today should redefine just how big an upstart biotech player can dream.

In the largest SPAC deal to clear the hurdles to Nasdaq, the biotech that envisioned everything from remaking synthetic meat to a whole new approach to developing drugs has joined forces with one of the biggest disruptors in biotech to slam the Richter scale on dealmaking.

Soon after becoming the darling of the VC crew and clearing the bar on a $4 billion valuation, Ginkgo — a synthetic biotech player out to reprogram cells with industrial efficiency — has now struck a deal to go public in the latest leviathan SPAC that sets its pre-money valuation at $15 billion. In one swift vault, Ginkgo will combine with Harry Sloan’s Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp. and leap into the public markets.

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Chris Garabedian (Xontogeny)

Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors, Xon­toge­ny bring the band back and then some with a $515M sec­ond fund sniff­ing out lead com­pounds

When Perceptive Advisors and startup accelerator Xontogeny initially teamed up on an early-stage VC round in 2019, the partners hoped to prove their investments could be a force multiplier for early-stage companies. Now, with that proof of concept behind them, the pair have closed a second VC round worth more than double the money.

Dubbed PXV Fund II and headed by Xontogeny CEO and former Sarepta head Chris Garabedian, the $515 million fund will target 10 to 12 early-stage preclinical companies with Series A rounds in the $20 million to $40 million range with opportunities for Series B follow-ups. The oversubscribed fund is bringing the band back with initial investors from PXVI as well as new investors that include “top-tier” asset managers, endowments, foundations, family offices, and individual investors.

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Stephen Squinto, Gennao Bio CEO (Gennao)

Alex­ion co-founder Stephen Squin­to is back in the game as CEO, this time for a small gene ther­a­py play­er

With his name already behind a rare disease success story in Alexion, Stephen Squinto was looking for a great story to drive him to jump back into the biotech game. He found that in a fledging non-viral gene therapy company, and now he’s got a few backers on board as well.

On Tuesday, Gennao Bio launched with a $40 million Series A co-led by OrbiMed and Logos Capital with participation by Surveyor Capital. The biotech, which is looking to use its cell-penetrating antibody platform to deliver nucleic acid “payloads” during into the nucleus, had to rush for its initial series — and had a name change along the way.

FDA un­veils six ICH guide­lines ahead of meet­ing with Health Cana­da

A sign that the FDA’s non-Covid-related processes are beginning to normalize: The release of six guidelines from the International Council of Harmonisation.

Years in development, the ICH documents offer an international perspective on drug development, with these latest guidelines covering everything from recommendations to support the classification of drug substances, featured in the M9 guidance, to standards for nonclinical safety studies for pediatric medicines in the S11 guideline.

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Sanofi, Glax­o­SmithK­line, Boehringer ac­cused of play­ing games, de­stroy­ing emails re­lat­ed to law­suit over con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed Zan­tac

A recent court filing raises new questions about how major pharma companies like Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and Boehringer Ingelheim have dealt with a lawsuit related to recalls of certain over-the-counter heartburn drugs due to the presence of a potentially cancer-causing substance found in them.

More than 70,000 people who took Sanofi’s Zantac and other heartburn drugs containing ranitidine, which have been recalled over the past two years, have sued the manufacturers, including generic drugmakers, and other retailers and distributors as part of a consolidated suit before US District Court Judge Robin Rosenberg in Florida.

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Dan Vahdat, Huma CEO (Yang Guanyu/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

With back­ing from Bay­er, a Lon­don firm will pitch its 'hos­pi­tals at home' con­cept for de­cen­tral­ized tri­als

Money is flying for companies promising to revolutionize the way clinical trials are conducted. Leaps by Bayer is the latest to get behind one of these players, leading a $200 million venture round for Huma Therapeutics and its digital “hospital at home” tech.

London-based Huma unveiled a $130 million Series C on Wednesday, which it will use to expand its digital platform in the US, Asia and the Middle East. As part of the round, the company can exercise another $70 million commitment later on.

David Halbert, Caris Life Sciences CEO (Caris via Twitter)

The grow­ing liq­uid biop­sy field sees a uni­corn en­trant as Caris pulls in $830M megaround

Caris Life Sciences has pulled in another massive raise, and this time they’re reportedly one step closer to launching their IPO.

The AI-focused Caris pulled in an $830 million growth equity round, the company announced Tuesday afternoon, earning a valuation of about $7.83 billion. Tuesday’s raise also brings their total financing amount to $1.3 billion since 2018 and $1.14 billion since last October. According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the raise, Caris expects to complete their IPO sometime within the next 12 months.

A clos­er look at the FDA’s more than 700 pan­dem­ic-re­lat­ed record re­quests to re­place on­site in­spec­tions

As the pandemic constrained the FDA’s ability to travel for onsite manufacturing inspections, the agency increasingly turned to requesting records to fill the gap, even for hundreds of US-based facilities.

FDA explains in its guidance on manufacturing inspections during the pandemic that the agency can request records (not to be confused with the FDA’s remote interactive evaluations) directly from facilities “in advance of or in lieu of” certain onsite inspections. Companies are legally required to fulfill those requests because a denial may be considered limiting an inspection, which could lead to the FDA deeming a drug made at that site to be adulterated.

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