Andrew Radin, Aria Pharmaceuticals CEO (Aria)

An­drew Radin or­ches­trates his AI dis­cov­ery plat­for­m's piv­ot to R&D with a har­mo­nious name change and eyes on the clin­ic

An­drew Radin was a straight A stu­dent. So when he stopped turn­ing in as­sign­ments in Nigam Shah’s class at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, the pro­fes­sor knew some­thing was up.

“If you don’t hand in as­sign­ments, you’re gonna fail,” Radin re­calls Shah say­ing one day af­ter class. “Every­thing al­right at home?”

Vi­jay Pande

Lit­tle did Shah know that a project Radin did for an­oth­er class had piqued the in­ter­est of An­dreessen Horowitz’s Vi­jay Pande, who al­so taught at the uni­ver­si­ty. As a bio­med­ical in­for­mat­ics stu­dent, Radin was look­ing at how tech­nol­o­gy could be used to comb through large swaths of da­ta and find drug-tar­get match­es — and Pande of­fered him the first in­vest­ment from his new $200 mil­lion biotech fund to turn the plat­form in­to a com­pa­ny.

So Radin dropped his stud­ies, and in 2015 of­fi­cial­ly launched AI-fo­cused twoXAR. Shah, who’s now on the sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board, called it the “best F ever.”

The com­pa­ny now boasts mul­ti­ple biotech part­ner­ships and near­ly as many pro­grams as it has em­ploy­ees (19 staffers ver­sus 18 pro­grams) — all ac­com­plished with a mod­est $14 mil­lion in VC funds. And as it tran­si­tions from part­ner­ing on drug dis­cov­ery re­search to ad­vanc­ing its own pipeline, it’s chang­ing its name to Aria Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

“An aria, it’s this cap­stone of the mu­si­cal piece that’s typ­i­cal­ly re­served for a very tal­ent­ed per­former,” Radin, the firm’s CEO, told End­points News. “And yet, the aria doesn’t stand alone. It works with­in the con­text of a larg­er piece of mu­sic.”

The “aria” in this case, is the com­pa­ny’s drug dis­cov­ery plat­form, he said: “ex­cep­tion­al­ly gift­ed in its own right,” but more pow­er­ful when cou­pled with ex­per­tise and the right team to bring drugs to pa­tients.

To date, Aria has iden­ti­fied 18 po­ten­tial can­di­dates for com­plex dis­eases like lu­pus, glioblas­toma, chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease and glau­co­ma, four of which are be­ing de­vel­oped with part­ners. No can­di­dates have reached the clin­ic, but the team is prepar­ing for INDs in sev­er­al pro­grams.

Us­ing AI tech­nol­o­gy, Aria has been able to com­plete pre­dic­tions, se­lect hits and be­gin in vi­vo test­ing in an av­er­age of four weeks — a process which nor­mal­ly takes years us­ing tra­di­tion­al dis­cov­ery meth­ods,  ac­cord­ing to Radin.

The ma­chine learn­ing space is packed with play­ers look­ing to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the way new drugs are found and de­vel­oped. Just last week, Ex­sci­en­tia raised a fresh half-bil­lion dol­lars for its AI plat­form and pipeline. Mi­crosoft backed a new AI start­up called 1910 Ge­net­ics back in March. And ear­li­er that month, Daphne Koller pulled in $400 mil­lion for her ma­chine learn­ing start­up, in­sitro.

“What’s spe­cial about our method­olo­gies, is … peo­ple will typ­i­cal­ly use one type of da­ta or maybe, you know, a few types of da­ta to­geth­er in con­cert to try to make a dis­cov­ery,” Radin said. “We in­cor­po­rate dozens of un­re­lat­ed datasets in our pre­dic­tion sys­tems, and what that does is give us a very wide swath of in­for­ma­tion to ba­si­cal­ly un­cov­er new mod­els of patho­gen­e­sis.”

To lead the charge, Aria re­cent­ly tapped Mark Eller, for­mer head of R&D at Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, as se­nior VP of R&D; and An­jali Pandey, who was most re­cent­ly CSO at Bridge­Bio sub­sidiaries TheRas and Fer­ro, as se­nior VP of non­clin­i­cal R&D and chem­istry.

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; 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.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.