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.”

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

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US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

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FDA spells out the rules and re­stric­tions for states seek­ing to im­port drugs from Cana­da

The FDA is offering more of an explanation of the guardrails around its program that may soon allow states to import prescription drugs in some select circumstances from Canada, but only if such imports will result in significant cost reductions for consumers.

While the agency has yet to sign off on any of the 5 state plans in the works so far, and PhRMA’s suit to block the Trump-era rule allowing such imports is stalled, the new Q&A guidance spells out the various restrictions that states will have to abide by, potentially signaling that a state approval is coming.

Simba Gill, CEO of Evelo Biosciences

While down 87% YOY, Evelo gets Flag­ship and oth­ers to in­fuse new cap­i­tal for come­back hope

Just four years after Flagship spinout Evelo Biosciences went public in an IPO worth $85 million, the biotech has seen its share price tank from $13 a share this time last year (ultimately reaching a peak of over $17) to now under $1.50. And today, it looks like Flagship still thinks the fledging biotech, in a down market, is still worth something after initial pre-IPO backing from the likes of Google’s GV, Celgene, Mayo Clinic and Alexandria Venture.

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Peter Thompson, Terremoto Biosciences interim CEO

For­mer Prin­cip­ia team looks to shake up co­va­lent small mol­e­cules again, this time at 'earthquake' scale

Terremoto Biosciences goes back a long ways, in a sense, to about a dozen years ago when Principia Biopharma was founded by UCSF professor Jack Taunton. Peter Thompson initially helmed the biotech.

The company helped expand covalent small molecule inhibitors beyond oncology and into autoimmune disease by targeting cystine. But that amino acid is uncommon in a lot of proteins, offering fewer drug targets than, say, lysine, which is present in most proteins of interest. So, over the years, Taunton went back to the drawing board to check out that second amino acid.

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at the World Economic Forum (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP Images)

All about ac­cess: Pfiz­er moves to a non-prof­it mod­el for drug sales in 45 low­er-in­come coun­tries

Leading the way to increase access to cheaper drugs worldwide, Pfizer said Wednesday it will provide all current and future patent-protected medicines and vaccines available in the US or EU on a not-for-profit basis to about 1.2 billion people in 45 lower-income countries.

Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda are the first five countries to sign on to this accord, which will also seek to blaze new paths for quick and efficient regulatory and procurement processes to reduce the usual delays in making new medicines and vaccines available in these countries.

Almirall is tapping artificial intelligence on behalf of its sales force for insights and efficiencies. (via Shutterstock)

Almi­rall rolls out sales rep ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sys­tem, cut­ting pre-call prep and 'wind­shield time'

Dermatology specialty pharma Almirall is making its sales reps smarter. Not with extra training or educational courses, but instead with artificial intelligence tools.

It began a soft launch of a sales rep AI and machine learning platform it calls Polaris last August in one of its 7 US coverage regions. The platform from Aktana gathers information from across Almirall internal sources and external ones – such as claims and prescribing data – to generate insights for reps. Now, instead of spending hours prepping for a sales call, Polaris can generate details about a physician’s preferences, past behaviors and prescription habits for reps in minutes, said Almirall head of commercial operations Vincent Cerio.

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