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.

What Will it Take to Re­al­ize the Promise and Po­ten­tial of Im­mune Cell Ther­a­pies?

What does it take to get to the finish line with a new cancer therapy – fast? With approvals in place and hundreds of immune cell therapy candidates in the pipeline, the global industry is poised to create a fundamental shift in cancer treatments towards precision medicine. At the same time, unique challenges associated with cell and process complexity present manufacturing bottlenecks that delay speed to market and heighten cost of goods sold (COGS) — these hurdles must be overcome to make precision treatments an option for every cancer patient. This series of articles highlights some of the key manufacturing challenges associated with the production of cell-based cancer therapies as well as the solutions needed to transcend them. Automation, process knowledge, scalability, and assured supply of high-quality starting material and reagents are all critical to realizing the full potential of CAR-based therapies and sustaining the momentum achieved in recent years. The articles will highlight leading-edge technologies that incorporate these features to integrate across workflows, accelerate timelines and reduce COGS – along with how these approaches are enabling the biopharmaceutical industry to cross the finish line faster with new treatment options for patients in need.

The biggest ques­tions fac­ing gene ther­a­py, the XLMTM com­mu­ni­ty, and Astel­las af­ter fourth pa­tient death

After three patients died last year in an Astellas gene therapy trial, the company halted the study and began figuring out how to safely get the program back on track. They would, executives eventually explained, cut the dose by more than half and institute a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Then tragically, Astellas announced this week that the first patient to receive the new regimen had died, just weeks after administration.

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President Biden and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

Chaot­ic ad­comm sees Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech boost­ers re­ject­ed for gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion, but rec­om­mend­ed for old­er and high-risk pop­u­la­tions

With just days before President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 booster rollout is set to go into effect, an FDA advisory committee appeared on the verge of not recommending boosters for anyone in the US before a last-minute change of wording laid the groundwork for older adults to have access to a third dose.

The FDA’s adcomm on Vaccines and Related Biological Products (VRBPAC) roundly rejected Pfizer/BioNTech booster shots for all individuals older than 16 by a 16-2 vote Friday afternoon. Soon after, however, the agency posed committee members a new question limiting booster use to the 65-and-older population and individuals at high risk of disease due to occupational exposure or comorbidities.

Multiple antibiotic resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium

A new way to in­fil­trate (and de­stroy) some of the dead­liest drug-re­sis­tant bugs

About four years ago, Ruben Tommasi, the gregarious scientific chief of antibiotics startup Entasis, walked into a meeting with his top chemist and top biologist to chew over another batch of unchanging results.

“It felt like we were running the same experiment over and over,” Tommasi told Endpoints News. “We had all sort of come to that point in time where we felt like we were banging our heads against the wall.”

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Take­da scores a win for a rare type of lung can­cer, gear­ing up for a show­down with J&J

Four months after J&J’s infused drug Rybrevant scored the industry’s first win in a rare type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), Takeda is following up with an oral option for the small but desperate patient population.

The FDA granted an accelerated approval to Takeda’s oral TKI inhibitor Exkivity (mobocertinib) in metastatic NSCLC patients with EGFR exon 20 gene mutations who had previously undergone platinum-based chemotherapy, the company announced on Wednesday.

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Ali Tehrani, Zymeworks CEO

Zymeworks squares up with Her­ceptin af­ter HER2 bis­pe­cif­ic aces mid-stage test in esophageal can­cer

Roche’s Herceptin has long stood as standard of care across multiple advanced cancers, but a suite of next-gen players are looking to beat the aging giant at its own game. In HER2-expressing esophageal cancer, BeiGene partner Zymeworks thinks its bispecific antibody could have the juice to get it done.

Zymeworks’ bispecific antibody zanidatamab, combined with one of two chemotherapy regimens, posted an overall response rate of 75% in patients with advanced gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma (GEA) who had not previously received a HER2-targeted cancer therapy, the Vancouver-based biotech said Thursday.

Amgen VP of R&D David Reese

Am­gen rolls out da­ta for KRAS in­hibitor com­bo study in col­orec­tal can­cer, hop­ing to move on from ug­ly ear­ly re­sults

With the first win for its KRAS inhibitor sotorasib in hand, Amgen is pushing ahead with an aggressive clinical plan to capitalize on its first-to-market standing. The drugmaker thinks combinations — in-house or otherwise — could offer a path forward, and one early readout from that strategy is bearing fruit.

A combination of Amgen’s sotorasib and its EGFR inhibitor Vectibix posted an overall response rate of 27% in 26 patients with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) with the KRAS-G12C mutation, according to data from the larger Phase Ib/II CODEBREAK 101 study set to present at this weekend’s virtual ESMO Congress.

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Skin tu­mors in mice force Pro­tag­o­nist to halt lead pro­gram, crush­ing stock

Protagonist Therapeutics just can’t catch a break.

Six months after the Newark, CA-based biotech unveiled grand plans to launch its lead candidate for blood disorders into a Phase III trial, the FDA has slapped the program with a clinical hold. The halt — which applies to all trials involving the candidate, rusfertide — comes after skin tumors were discovered in mice treated with the drug, according to Protagonist.

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Chi­nese biotech Ever­est signs $550M+ li­cens­ing deal for BTK in­hibitors on heels of Covid-19 pact

Everest Medicines is on a roll with two licensing deals in one week.

The Shanghai-based biotech has paid Sinovent and SinoMab $12 million upfront for the rights to a BTK inhibitor for renal diseases, the company announced Thursday. The deal comes just days after Everest came away with rights to a Covid-19 vaccine in China, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

Everest will pay Sinovent and SinoMab up to $549 million in milestone payments and royalties. The agreement includes tech transfer of Sinovent and SinoMab’s manufacturing process for the candidate, named XNW1011.