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 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.

$DNA is once again on NYSE; FDA clears Soliris chal­lenger for the mar­ket; Flag­ship’s think­ing big again with eR­NA; 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.

I still remember the uncertainty in the air last year when nobody was sure whether ASCO would cancel their in-person meeting. But it’s now back again for the second virtual conference, and Endpoints News is here for it. Check out our 2-day event reviewing the landscape of cancer R&D and send news our way.

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Gene ther­a­py from Bio­gen's $800M buy­out flops in mid-stage study, deal­ing blow to new am­bi­tions

The #2 candidate from Biogen’s $800 million ocular gene therapy buyout has failed in a mid-stage trial, dealing an early blow to the big biotech’s plans to revitalize its pipeline with new technologies.

Biogen announced that the candidate, an experimental treatment for a rare and progressive form of blindness called X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP), failed to sufficiently improve vision in patients’ treated eye — patients only received an injection in one eye — after a year, on a standard scale, compared to their untreated eye. The company said they saw “positive trends” on several secondary endpoints, including visual acuity, but declined to say whether the trial actually hit any of those endpoints.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis whiffs on En­tresto study af­ter heart at­tacks — but that does­n't mean it's go­ing down qui­et­ly

If Novartis learned one thing from its interaction with the FDA over its latest heart failure approval for Entresto, it was that missing a primary endpoint may not be the nail in the coffin. Now, Entresto has missed again on a late-stage study in high-risk heart patients, and it’s already sowing the seeds for a path forward regardless.

Novartis’ Entresto couldn’t best standard-of-care ramipril in staving off a composite of deaths and heart failure events in patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction and/or pulmonary congestion who have had a prior heart attack, according to topline data from the Phase III PARADISE-MI study revealed Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.

Michael Dell (Richard Drew, AP Images)

'Dude, you're get­ting a Del­l' — as a new deep-pock­et biotech in­vestor

What happens when you marry longtime insiders in the global biotech VC game with the family fund of tech billionaire Michael Dell, a synthetic biology legend out of MIT and Harvard and the former director of the NCI?

Today, the answer is a newly financed, $200 million biotech SPAC now cruising the industry for a top player interested in finding a short cut to Nasdaq.

Orion Biotech Opportunities priced their blank check company today, raising $200 million with Dell’s multibillion-dollar MSD group’s commitment on investing another $20 million in a forward-purchase agreement.

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BAR­DA slows its $9B en­gine for new Covid-19 ther­a­peu­tics

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is cooling its jets in looking for new, potential Covid-19 treatments, at least in the near term.

An HHS spokesperson told Endpoints News via email, “to date, BARDA has obligated more than $9 billion for the development and/or purchase of 13 therapeutics, beginning in February 2020 with support to develop Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody therapeutic. Therapeutics are an important element of the COVID-19 response, and we are focused on the programs currently underway and/or in negotiation using the funds available to us.”

Bris­tol My­ers backs up its case for heart drug mava­camten as FDA weighs app in car­diomy­opa­thy

When Bristol Myers Squibb signed off on its $13 billion acquisition of MyoKardia back in October, it was making a big bet that lead drug mavacamten could prove a game changer in cardiac myopathy. Now, with the drug up for FDA review, Bristol Myers is backing up its case with new quality of life data.

Patients dosed with myosin inhibitor mavacamten posted a clinically significant increase in scores on the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire, a catch-all summary of symptoms and quality of life markers, over placebo at 30 weeks, according to data from the Phase III EXPLORER-HCM study presented Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.

UP­DAT­ED: Apel­lis bags FDA nod for Soliris chal­lenger with a dif­fer­ent path­way to PNH — but can it slay the gi­ant?

With a blockbuster rare disease giant in its sights in Alexion’s Soliris, small biotech Apellis has reason to think its competitor is worthy of the spotlight. Now, with the FDA on its side, Apellis will get its chance to be the David to Alexion’s Goliath.

The FDA on Friday approved Empaveli (pegcetacoplan), a C3 complement inhibitor the biotech thinks can prove a worthy challenger to Alexion’s C5 inhibitors Soliris and follow-up drug Ultomiris in rare disease paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).

Jason Kelly (Photographer: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Gink­go nabs $DNA, biotech's most sought af­ter tick­er, for free in sweet­en­er from NYSE

When Ginkgo went comparison shopping for a financial market to list their now $15 billion company, the New York Stock Exchange had a back-pocket sweetener the Nasdaq couldn’t offer: The most sought-after ticker in biotech, $DNA.

DNA — the most famous three letters in biology and the ticker for the world’s first biotech, Genentech, from 1999 until it was bought out by Roche for $48 billion in 2009 — will now be the ticker for Ginkgo, a 12-year-old synthetic biology startup with grand ambitions to change not only how drugs, but also everyday products like meat and perfumes, are made.

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