Bid­ding to be the go-to ge­nomics and da­ta part­ner for drug de­vel­op­ment, Sophia Ge­net­ics rais­es $100M

Ju­r­gi Cam­b­long has spent the last decade go­ing from mi­nor fund­ing round to mi­nor fund­ing round for his start­up, Sophia Ge­net­ics, adding hos­pi­tals in the UK, US, and Latin Amer­i­ca and ex­pand­ing the plat­form to han­dle more and more da­ta. Now, Cam­b­long says, the com­pa­ny has spread far enough and has now raised plen­ty of cash to clear one of its last hur­dles.

In the sixth and largest fund­ing round in their 9-year his­to­ry, Sophia Ge­net­ics has raised $110 mil­lion to push for­ward its AI-based plat­form for ge­net­ic med­i­cine with a re­newed fo­cus on tak­ing their es­tab­lished in­fra­struc­ture and us­ing it help bio­phar­ma col­lect ev­i­dence and de­sign tri­als. The round was led the Is­raeli firm aMoon and the Japan­ese firm Hi­tachi Ven­tures.

Ju­r­gi Cam­b­long

The goal is “to be in the po­si­tion of Google,” Cam­b­long told End­points. “You see many com­pa­nies are build­ing tech­nolo­gies for bio­phar­ma and then try­ing to de­ploy them first in the US and then in Eu­rope, right? And that’s some­thing we’re do­ing com­plete­ly in re­verse.”

Sophia’s pitch is one biotechs and Big Phar­ma re­ceive of­ten these days: There’s all this new ge­net­ic in­for­ma­tion out there and all these tech­nolo­gies to track how pa­tients do in­side and out­side clin­i­cal tri­als; we have the plat­form that can ag­gre­gate all that da­ta and spit out an­swers on every­thing from how your drug is per­form­ing to how to best de­sign those tri­als.

Ae­tion, one of the hottest US star­tups, at­tract­ed for­mer FDA chief Scott Got­tlieb to its board and scored part­ner­ships with the agency on the promis­ing of us­ing re­al-world da­ta to trans­form drug de­vel­op­ment. Chica­go-based Tem­pus, which al­so added Got­tlieb to its board last year, has raised over $600 mil­lion and racked up a string of high-pro­file aca­d­e­m­ic part­ner­ships on a promise more di­rect­ly sim­i­lar to Sophia Ge­net­ics.

Cam­b­long, though, says that it has an ad­van­tage: the size it’s slow­ly ac­crued over the last 9 years. The com­pa­ny’s list­ed 1,000 hos­pi­tals as al­ready us­ing their plat­form to track pa­tients, sev­er­al hun­dred of them in the US, and claims to screen 17,000 genomes per day. Be­cause they have al­ready gath­ered that much da­ta and en­tered that many hos­pi­tals, they say they can pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion than oth­er com­pa­nies might. And al­though they’ve long been fo­cused pri­mar­i­ly on ge­nom­ic da­ta — hence the name — they say they can al­so use this in­fra­struc­ture to gath­er re­al-world da­ta to show whether a drug is per­form­ing bet­ter than an­oth­er post-ap­proval.

“Our plat­form is the most used world­wide,” he said. “Now that we’re in the po­si­tion we are, we can lever­age on these as­sets.”

Still, Sophia Ge­net­ics is hard­ly alone in boast­ing about size. Tem­pus claims to have the “largest li­brary of clin­i­cal and mol­e­c­u­lar da­ta.” And Cam­b­long ac­knowl­edges the com­pa­ny is still “very new” to bio­phar­ma, hav­ing on­ly launched that branch of the busi­ness last year.

So far they count 10 dif­fer­ent drug de­vel­op­ment part­ners, in­clud­ing CROs, biotechs and Big Phar­ma com­pa­nies. That in­cludes a part­ner­ship with the well-heeled Swiss biotech ADC Ther­a­peu­tics to dis­cov­er bio­mark­ers for their lead an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate, AD­CT-402, by track­ing free-float­ing DNA in the blood. They’ve helped de­sign 4 dif­fer­ent tri­als, Cam­b­long said.

Cam­b­long is con­fi­dent, though, that plat­forms like his will on­ly grow in im­por­tance, a trend ac­cel­er­at­ed by the pan­dem­ic. A slew of ge­nom­ic and re­al world da­ta com­pa­nies have worked since Jan­u­ary to rapid­ly an­a­lyze im­mune re­spons­es, mon­i­tor coro­n­avirus mu­ta­tions and track what drug pa­tients are re­ceiv­ing and whether those drugs are work­ing. Right now, the com­pa­ny is col­lect­ing vi­ral and pa­tient da­ta in Brazil in a bid to track what they call “Covid-19 dis­ease evo­lu­tion.”

Sophia now has 350 em­ploy­ees spread across of­fices in Switzer­land and Boston. Their goal now is to get the com­pa­ny to $100 mil­lion in an­nu­al rev­enue by 2022, with $20 mil­lion com­ing from bio­phar­ma, Cam­b­long said. In the process, he al­so plans to take the com­pa­ny to Nas­daq.

“For us, the IPO will not be a neg­a­tive event,” he said. “It is re­al­ly in­tend­ed to po­si­tion Sophia as the win­ner in that space glob­al­ly.”

So­cial im­age: Ju­r­gi Cam­b­long, Sophia Ge­net­ics via YouTube

Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL lands FDA ap­proval for he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py, sets $3.5M list price

The FDA has approved the world’s first gene therapy for hemophilia B, ushering into the market a treatment that’s historic in both what it promises to do and how much it will cost.

CSL will be marketing the drug, Hemgenix, at a list price of $3.5 million — which sets a new record for the most expensive single-use gene therapy in the US.

In a statement provided to Endpoints News, the Australian company noted that the current costs of treating people with moderate to severe hemophilia B can be significant over a lifetime. By some estimates, healthcare systems could spend more than $20 million per person.

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Image: Shutterstock

MIT re­searchers re­veal DNA "Paste" tech be­hind lat­est gene edit­ing start­up

MIT scientists have developed a tool that they say can insert large gene sequences where they want in the genome.

In a paper published Thursday in Nature Biotechnology, MIT fellows Omar Abudayyeh, Jonathan Gootenberg and colleagues detail a technology they call PASTE, which they say can potentially be used to insert long strands of DNA and treat genetic diseases caused by many different mutations, such as cystic fibrosis and Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare eye disorder that causes blindness.

Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Biggest drug com­pa­nies halt­ed Twit­ter ad buys af­ter Lil­ly in­sulin spoof

Almost all of the drug industry’s biggest advertisers cut their spending on Twitter to zero or near-zero over the last two weeks amid worries about impersonation of their brands by pranksters and the future of the social media company.

Among 18 of the biggest pharmaceutical advertisers in the US market, 12 cut their Twitter ad spending to nothing for the week beginning Nov. 14, according to Pathmatics, which tracks data on prescription drug ad spending as well as general corporate advertising. The list of drugmakers cutting spending to zero includes Merck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer and others.

Rob Davis, Merck CEO

Up­dat­ed: No Seagen here: 'Do more' means a small $1.35B pur­chase of Ima­go for Mer­ck

Merck is making an acquisition, the Big Pharma announced before Monday’s opening bell. No, Seagen is not entering the fold, as had been speculated for quarters.

Folding under Merck’s wings will be Pfizer-backed Imago BioSciences. For nearly a year, Merck CEO Rob Davis has been saying the pharma giant needs to “do more” on the business development front after its 2021 $11.5 billion acquisition of Acceleron.

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Andrew Phillips, Nexo Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Ver­sant, NEA launch new biotech helmed by ex-CEO of pro­tein de­grad­er C4 Ther­a­peu­tics

Long-time biotech venture firms Versant and New Enterprise Associates are backing a new startup run by former C4 Therapeutics chief executive Andrew Phillips.

The fledgling biotech has raised at least $30 million so far, according to paperwork filed with the SEC this week. The round could balloon to $60 million.

Phillips, who left protein degradation startup C4 in 2020 to be a managing director at Cormorant Asset Management, is running the show of the new venture as president, the SEC filing outlines. He also served as interim CEO of Cormorant-backed and Hansoh Pharmaceutical-partnered Blossom Bioscience last year.

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Szabolcs Nagy, Turbine co-founder and CEO

Sim­u­la­tions for ex­per­i­ments: Bay­er-backed start­up lands $20M to test out its tech

How do you get the attention of Big Pharma when you’re a small biotech startup working out of Budapest, Hungary?

For Szabolcs Nagy and his co-founders at Turbine, the golden ticket came through Bayer’s grant program for digital health, G4A, for which the company was selected a few years back.

“We roamed around the building and sort of just knocked on a whole bunch of doors after a lot of introductions,” Nagy told Endpoints News.

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J&J's Spra­va­to pulls a PhI­II win against Sero­quel XR in treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion

A day before Thanksgiving, J&J’s Janssen has a new cut of Phase III Spravato data to be grateful for.

The pharma giant announced on Wednesday that its nasal spray, also known as esketamine, beat extended-release quetiapine, previously sold by AstraZeneca as Seroquel XR, in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Of 676 adults, a significantly higher number of patients on Spravato were able to achieve remission and avoid relapse after 32 weeks, according to J&J.

Dermavant Sciences' first consumer TV ad for its Vtama psoriasis med shows people ready for a new topical treatment.

Roivant’s Der­ma­vant de­buts first-ever TV com­mer­cial for pso­ri­a­sis cream Vta­ma

Dermavant Sciences has been marketing its first product, psoriasis med Vtama, to dermatologists for months, but on Tuesday it rolled out its first consumer campaign. The debut DTC effort including a streaming TV commercial encourages patients to a “Topical Uprising” in a nod to Vtama being a topical cream.

In the new commercial, a swell of people discards scarves and jacket coverings, gathering in the street to converge on a pharmacy to demand a steroid-free prescription. A moment of levity follows when a pharmacist says, “You know you can just talk to your doctor, right?” The gathered crowds collectively says, “Oh.”

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