Backed by Big Phar­ma VCs, Palleon ramps up a new ap­proach to im­muno-on­col­o­gy with a $48M start­up round

A cou­ple of years ago, GSK’s ven­ture arm SR One brought in Jim Brod­er­ick as its first-ever en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence. And to­day, they’re back­ing his new can­cer R&D play, help­ing bankroll a $47.6 mil­lion start­up round for his up­start biotech Palleon.

Jim Brod­er­ick

These past two years have in­clud­ed an ed­u­ca­tion in the con­verg­ing roles of gly­co­science and hu­man im­munol­o­gy, Brod­er­ick tells me. Start­ing with ob­ser­va­tions on the vary­ing role of gly­cans in ei­ther ac­ti­vat­ing or brak­ing the im­mune sys­tem, his search in­volved bring­ing to­geth­er some of the top sci­en­tists in the field.

“I got in­trigued with this,” says Brod­er­ick. “It was an un­der-ex­plored area.”

Now Palleon and Brod­er­ick plan to re­solve all that.

The com­pa­ny has been hatch­ing what it’s dubbed Gly­coim­mune Check­points, bind­ing to the sug­ar mol­e­cules found on cell sur­faces, which have evolved as tu­mors de­vel­oped dif­fer­ent means of hid­ing from an im­mune sys­tem as­sault. That ap­proach of­fers a new, much broad­er path­way to mount­ing an im­mune sys­tem at­tack on can­cer cells, which Palleon in­tends to ex­ploit.

In par­tic­u­lar, Brod­er­ick is pumped by the prospect that unique pat­terns of gly­cans can be used to iden­ti­fy which pa­tients are most like­ly to re­spond, of­fer­ing a more tar­get­ed de­vel­op­ment strat­e­gy.

Brod­er­ick has been in­volved in a slate of biotech star­tups, in­clud­ing his role as chair­man and co-founder at Ra Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. There are two key sci­en­tif­ic co-founders in his cor­ner now: Howard Hugh­es in­ves­ti­ga­tor Car­olyn Bertozzi at Stan­ford and Paul Crock­er, pro­fes­sor of gly­coim­munol­o­gy and head of the di­vi­sion of cell sig­nal­ing and im­munol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Dundee, Scot­land. That gives you an idea of the glob­al na­ture be­hind the small, Waltham, MA-based biotech.

Along the way, Brod­er­ick says he’s be­come en­am­ored with the ap­proach of the big cor­po­rate ven­ture arms in the in­dus­try. That helps ex­plain his syn­di­cate: SR One, Pfiz­er Ven­tures, Ver­tex Ven­tures HC (out of Sin­ga­pore), Take­da Ven­tures and Ab­b­Vie Ven­tures.

SR One pres­i­dent Jens Eck­stein said:

We are very ex­cit­ed about the launch of Palleon. With­in the dy­nam­ic field of im­muno-on­col­o­gy, Palleon has forged an en­tire­ly new path­way for tar­get­ing the im­mune sys­tem. The unique fea­tures of Gly­coim­mune Check­points will make pos­si­ble a much wider range of ra­tio­nal com­bi­na­tion ther­a­pies to treat can­cer.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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So what hap­pened with No­var­tis' gene ther­a­py group? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Af­ter sell­ing to Genen­tech, the old Je­cure team is back at an RNA-fo­cused start­up — and more en­thu­si­as­tic than ever

When Genentech swooped in to buy NASH-focused Jecure Therapeutics back in 2018, a handful of the startup’s executives weren’t quite ready to disperse.

It had been just three years since Jecure launched with a preclinical portfolio of NLRP3 inhibitors — and the takeover came sooner than anyone, including CEO Jeff Stafford, had expected. So he got talking with James Veal and Gretchen Bain, two serial entrepreneurs in charge of Jecure’s R&D.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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Lat­est news: It’s a no on uni­ver­sal boost­ers; Pa­tient death stuns gene ther­a­py field; In­side Tril­li­um’s $2.3B turn­around; and more

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