At­las, F-Prime pro­vide launch mon­ey for Akre­via — a lit­tle biotech with big plans to de­sign bet­ter drugs

Tim Clack­son

A cou­ple of vet­er­an drug de­vel­op­ers are guid­ing a stealthy start­up dubbed Akre­via Ther­a­peu­tics out in­to the open to­day af­ter a pair of high-pro­file biotech in­vestors blessed the op­er­a­tion with a $30 mil­lion launch round.

Akre­via is head­ed by sci­en­tist Tim Clack­son, whose last role was run­ning the R&D shop at Ari­ad un­til Take­da came in and bought it, and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Nes­san Berming­ham, whose last gig was CEO of the gene edit­ing com­pa­ny In­tel­lia.

The tech­nol­o­gy they’re us­ing was in-li­censed from Thomas Jef­fer­son Uni­ver­si­ty and City of Hope, where John Williams, a pro­fes­sor of mol­e­c­u­lar med­i­cine, has been play­ing with the atom­ic struc­tures of mol­e­cules. That is be­ing built in­to the plat­form.

Nes­san Berming­ham

The big idea at lit­tle Akre­via — a 13-per­son shop with plans to quick­ly bring that num­ber up to 20 — is that their found­ing sci­en­tists’ work on drug struc­tures gave them the in­sights they need­ed to take a set of an­ti­bod­ies, cy­tokines and chemokines that are ei­ther too dan­ger­ous to be used or plagued with tox­i­c­i­ty is­sues and re­design them so they can be made in­to best-in-class drugs.

“We have been in full work­ing mode for just a few months af­ter hav­ing built the seed­ed ver­sion of the com­pa­ny,” Clack­son tells me.

One of their first projects will be on CT­LA-4, the orig­i­nal im­muno-on­col­o­gy drug that has a well un­der­stood ef­fi­ca­cy pro­file and a big prob­lem with side ef­fects. They won’t be the on­ly play­er in this field, though, as Cy­tomX has al­so been at work with Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb on re­mak­ing Yer­voy in­to a much safer drug with­out los­ing its po­ten­cy.

“There are some in­ter­est­ing echoes of Ari­ad here,” says Clack­son. His for­mer em­ploy­er al­so liked “val­i­dat­ed, high val­ue tar­gets.” And imm­no-on­col­o­gy makes a lot of sense if you con­sid­er the hand­ful of pi­o­neers that have made it to the mar­ket de­spite be­ing ham­pered with some se­vere safe­ty is­sues.

Ro­nan O’Ha­gan

The team’s main goal now is to start prep­ping for the clin­i­cal work ahead, while build­ing a pipeline of pre­clin­i­cal ther­a­pies and con­tin­u­ing the hunt for part­ners who want to come in and join Akre­via on its quest.

Says Clack­son: “Giv­en the breadth and num­ber of tar­gets, we do see our­selves en­gag­ing with one or more part­ners who would share that vi­sion.”

At­las and F-Prime have bought in, pro­vid­ing the launch mon­ey while lead­ing the round. 

Mar­garet Karow

Mer­ck vet Ro­nan O’Ha­gan is SVP of Dis­cov­ery while Mar­garet Karow — with stints at Am­gen and Re­gen­eron — is SVP of Pre­clin­i­cal De­vel­op­ment. Thomas Beck and Ben Aus­pitz of F-Prime Cap­i­tal will serve on the board along­side David Grayzel and Michael Glad­stone of At­las Ven­ture. 

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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.

With the busiest days of June now behind us, we’re starting to think seriously about the second half of the year. In August, we have scheduled a special report where Endpoints will compile a list of the 20 most influential R&D executives in biopharma. Know a luminary who should definitely be included? Nominate them now.

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In­side Track: Be­hind the Scenes of a Ma­jor Biotech SPAC

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In biopharma, driving a drug to market is the ultimate goal — but none of that happens without a strong research and development program. At the most successful companies, those R&D efforts are spearheaded by true innovators in the field who are always looking for that next novel mechanism of action or breakthrough safety profile.

Now, Endpoints News is asking you to tell us who those guiding lights are.

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Now, with a massive check in hand, the drugmaker is willing to put its intuition to the test.

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Michael Chambers (L) and John Ballantyne

Dana­her strikes deal to buy boom­ing next-gen man­u­fac­tur­er Alde­vron for $9.6B

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Buyout talks set the stage for Danaher to settle on a $9.6 billion cash pact to acquire the private Fargo, ND-based company — a key supplier for a disruptive new Covid vaccine as well as a host of gene and cell therapy and CRISPR gene editing players — founded by Michael Chambers and CSO John Ballantyne as a crew of 2 back in 1998.

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Christian Hogg, Hutchmed CEO

Hutchmed files for $600M+ IPO in Hong Kong as lead on­col­o­gy drug su­r­u­fa­tinib awaits FDA's good graces

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Hutchmed — recently renamed from Chi-Med, or Hutchison China MediTech — will look to raise $603 million as part of a Hong Kong IPO that serves as a homecoming of sorts for the Chinese-based oncology player, which has listed on Nasdaq since 2016.

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Eef Schimmelpennink, Lenz CEO (Business Wire)

A re­place­ment for read­ing glass­es? An RA, Ver­sant-backed start­up thinks its eye­drops could solve far­sight­ed­ness

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Lenz Therapeutics launched its rebrand from Presbyopia Therapies with a $47 million Series A and backing from RA and Versant to advance its late-stage-ready small molecule for farsightedness, a market where the biotech thinks it could have a shot at 120 million US patients and 2 billion around the world, the company said.

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The FDA’s controversial approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm drug for Alzheimer’s disease has been met with fierce resistance from all corners of the biopharma industry, but few seem to be as upset with the decision as ALS patients and advocacy groups.

For all that’s already been written and discussed about the agency’s announcement, from the drug’s exorbitantly high price of $56,000 per year to criticism over lowered standards, ALS patients see something more. ALS patients and associations say they largely regarded Aduhelm’s approval as a bittersweet double standard: happy that those with Alzheimer’s have a new drug available, but questioning how the FDA evaluated Biogen’s drug compared to the experimental programs being studied for their own disease.

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