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.

MedTech clinical trials require a unique regulatory and study design approach and so engaging a highly experienced CRO to ensure compliance and accurate data across all stages is critical to development milestones.

In­no­v­a­tive MedTech De­mands Spe­cial­ist Clin­i­cal Tri­al Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs and De­sign

Avance Clinical is the Australian CRO for international biotechs providing world-class clinical research services with FDA-accepted data across all phases. With Avance Clinical, biotech companies can leverage Australia’s supportive clinical trials environment which includes no IND requirement plus a 43.5% Government incentive rebate on clinical spend. The CRO has been delivering clinical drug development services for international biotechs for FDA and EMA regulatory approval for the past 24 years. The company has been recognized for the past two consecutive years with the prestigious Frost & Sullivan CRO Best Practices Award and a finalist in Informa Pharma’s Best CRO award for 2022.

His­toric drug pric­ing re­forms pass; Pfiz­er ac­quires GBT; The long search for non-opi­oid pain drugs; 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.

The Endpoints Weekly has officially crossed the 60,000 mark on subscribers — thanks to all of your support. As the editorial team grows, we’ve been able to do a lot more, with many of those on display this week. Be sure to check out Lei Lei Wu’s deep dive on pain R&D. If you missed it, you may also rewatch her companion panel here.

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Gold for adults, sil­ver for in­fants: Pfiz­er's Pre­vnar 2.0 head­ed to FDA months af­ter Mer­ck­'s green light

Pfizer was first to the finish line for the next-gen pneumococcal vaccine in adults, but Merck beat its rival with a jab for children in June.

Now, two months after Merck’s 15-valent Vaxneuvance won the FDA stamp of approval for kids, Pfizer is out with some late-stage data on its 20-valent shot for infants.

Known as Prevnar 20 for adults, Pfizer’s 20vPnC will head to the FDA by the end of this year for an approval request in infants, the Big Pharma said Friday morning. Discussions with the FDA will occur first and more late-stage pediatric trials are expected to read out soon, informing the regulatory pathway in other countries and regions.

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Seagen interim CEO Roger Dansey and Daiichi Sankyo CEO Sunao Manabe

Paving the way for Mer­ck­'s buy­out, Seagen los­es ar­bi­tra­tion dis­pute with Dai­ichi over ADC tech

As Seagen awaits a final buyout offer from Merck that could be in the territory of $40 billion, Seagen revealed Friday afternoon that it lost an arbitration dispute with Daiichi Sankyo relating to the companies’ 2008 collaboration around the use of antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology.

But that loss likely won’t matter much when it comes to Merck’s deal.

After breaking off its pact with Daiichi in mid-2015, the two companies battled over “linker” tech — a chemical bridge between an ADC’s antibody component and the cytotoxic payload — that Seagen claims Daiichi would improve upon and implement in its current generation of ADCs.

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House pass­es his­toric drug pric­ing re­forms, lin­ing up decades-in-the-mak­ing win for Biden and De­moc­rats

The US House of Representatives today voted along party lines (all Dems voted for it), 220-207 to pass new, wide-ranging legislation that will allow Medicare drug price negotiations for the first time ever, and cap seniors’ drug expenses to $2,000 per year and seniors’ insulin costs at $35 per month.

Setting up a major victory for President Joe Biden, representatives returned from their summer recess to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, even as many noted the bill would only modestly reduce inflation.

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Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO via AP Images)

Sen­ate Fi­nance chair con­tin­ues his in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to phar­ma tax­es with re­quests for Am­gen

Amgen is the latest pharma company to appear on the radar of Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is investigating the way pharma companies are using subsidiaries in low- or zero-tax countries to lower their tax bills.

Like its peers Merck, AbbVie and Bristol Myers Squibb, Wyden notes how Amgen uses its Puerto Rico operations to consistently pay tax rates that are substantially lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate of 21%, with an effective tax rate of 10.7% in 2020 and 12.1% in 2021.

FDA ap­proves sec­ond in­di­ca­tion for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi's En­her­tu in less than a week

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu scored its second approval in less than a week, this time for a subset of lung cancer patients.

Enhertu received accelerated approval on Thursday to treat adults with unresectable or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have activating HER2 (ERBB2) mutations, and who have already received a prior systemic therapy.

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J&J to re­move talc prod­ucts from shelves world­wide, re­plac­ing with corn­starch-based port­fo­lio

After controversially spinning out its talc liabilities and filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to settle 38,000 lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson is now changing up the formula for its baby powder products.

J&J is beginning the transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio, the pharma giant announced on Thursday — just months after a federal judge ruled in favor of its “Texas two-step” bankruptcy to settle allegations that its talc products contained asbestos and caused cancer. An appeals court has since agreed to revisit that case.

CSL is gathering its four business units under a unified brand identity strategy (Credit: CSL company site)

CSL brings Se­qirus, Vi­for un­der par­ent um­brel­la brand in iden­ti­ty re­vamp

CSL is gathering its brands under the family name umbrella, renaming its vaccine and newly acquired nephrology specialty businesses with the parent initials.

CSL Seqirus and CSL Vifor join CSL Plasma and CSL Behring as the four now uniformly branded business units of the global biopharma. The Seqirus vaccine division was formed in 2015 with the combination of bioCSL and its purchase of Novartis’ flu vaccine business. CSL picked up Vifor Pharma late last year in an $11.7 billion deal for the nephrology, iron deficiency and cardio-renal drug developer.

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