Nessan Bermingham (file photo)

An­i­mal da­ta in hand, Nes­san Berming­ham banks $91.5M for At­las-backed RNA edit­ing play

Ko­r­ro Bio, the RNA edit­ing start­up that got start­ed on $4 mil­lion in seed fund­ing from At­las and some more cash from New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates, has brought in $91.5 mil­lion for its Se­ries A haul.

Un­der ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Nes­san Berming­ham, the biotech has racked up an­i­mal da­ta that he said show “pret­ty high tar­get­ed edit­ing straight out of the gate.” Off-tar­get ac­tiv­i­ty wasn’t an is­sue, and the OPERA plat­form ap­peared able to ze­ro in on mul­ti­ple types of RNA.

Now is the time to be­gin build­ing the team in earnest — and pave the path to the clin­ic, where Berming­ham hopes to ar­rive “well in ad­vance of” the fund­ing’s three-years-plus run­way.

“We val­i­dat­ed the tech­nol­o­gy, we val­i­dat­ed the ap­proach,” he told End­points News, “and now let’s take the time to be thought­ful as we think about the ap­pli­ca­tion from the clin­i­cal stand­point.”

That means pick­ing a lead can­di­date in a tar­get in­di­ca­tion — he’s not ready to di­vulge which — that fol­lows clear prece­dents in terms of clin­i­cal strat­e­gy, pa­tient strat­i­fi­ca­tion and end­points. But it is the sec­ond and third back­up pro­grams that will of­fer a win­dow to the new ther­a­peu­tic par­a­digm that OPERA opens up.

Josh Rosen­thal

At the core of the ap­proach is an en­doge­nous en­zyme fam­i­ly known as adeno­sine deam­i­nase act­ing on RNA, or ADAR. Co-founder Josh Rosen­thal elu­ci­dat­ed the mech­a­nism in squid and oc­to­pus through his work at the Ma­rine Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­to­ry, us­ing oligonu­cleotide guides to re­cruit these en­zymes to a spe­cif­ic site where they would con­vert an A to a G. That kind of change can make a world of dif­fer­ence for dis­or­ders like Rett syn­drome, Berming­ham not­ed.

Bor­row­ing heav­i­ly from es­tab­lished re­search on oligonu­cleotides, Ko­r­ro still lists the liv­er, eye and the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem as its ini­tial tar­get tis­sues. In the CNS, in par­tic­u­lar, a va­ri­ety of play­ers have been show­ing that they can go be­yond the spinal cord and cor­tex to deep­er brain re­gions.

Mus­cle, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and oth­er ar­eas are al­so in sight down the road.

It’s a com­ple­men­tary tool for the ge­net­ic med­i­cine tool­box, to use an anal­o­gy Berming­ham is fond of, as the de­liv­ery sys­tem might be able to avoid the safe­ty chal­lenges faced by gene ther­a­py de­vel­op­ers such as Sol­id and Au­dentes — not to men­tion the cost of goods and scal­a­bil­i­ty.

“I think it fur­ther ex­em­pli­fies or fur­ther high­lights the im­por­tance of try­ing to co-opt en­doge­nous sys­tems in cells that are al­ready there ver­sus hav­ing to de­liv­er or look­ing to de­liv­er much larg­er pay­loads in­to these cells,” he said.

There’s much work left to prove it. Hav­ing tak­en space at 1 Kendall Square, Ko­r­ro plans to dou­ble the head­count to 40 or 50 (per­haps in­clud­ing a CEO) by the end of the year.

Wu Cap­i­tal led the new fi­nanc­ing along­side new in­vestors: Qim­ing Ven­ture Part­ners USA, Sur­vey­or Cap­i­tal, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, MP Health­care Ven­ture Man­age­ment and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments.

At­las re­turned for the round, as did NEA, which al­so in­vest­ed in Shape Ther­a­peu­tics — a ri­val RNA edit­ing com­pa­ny that had its com­ing out par­ty last No­vem­ber, one month af­ter Ko­r­ro did.

“We ac­tu­al­ly came af­ter Shape, so they’d al­ready com­mit­ted to in­vest,” Berming­ham said. “Be­ing up­front about it, I think any tech­nol­o­gy and any area re­al­ly does need mul­ti­ple par­tic­i­pants in there. […] We’re on­ly bet­ter for that be­cause no one com­pa­ny frankly can do it all.”

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

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.

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