Bil­lion­aire-backed Ju­ve­nes­cence spins out an­ti-ag­ing, AI start­up Na­pa Ther­a­peu­tics

The bil­lion­aire-backed start­up Ju­ve­nes­cence — best known for its big plans to tack­le ag­ing — is spin­ning out a new com­pa­ny to de­vel­op re­search out of the Buck In­sti­tute for Re­search on Ag­ing.

Er­ic Verdin

The new­ly formed ven­ture, called Na­pa Ther­a­peu­tics, is de­vel­op­ing tech from the labs of Er­ic Verdin, the Buck In­sti­tute’s pres­i­dent and CEO. The work is in nicoti­namide ade­nine din­u­cleotide (NAD+) me­tab­o­lism, with Na­pa hold­ing rights to the tech and IP from the in­sti­tute.

The duo is work­ing with In­sil­i­co, an AI com­pa­ny and port­fo­lio part­ner of Ju­ve­nes­cence’s, to iden­ti­fy mol­e­c­u­lar tar­gets and find nov­el com­pounds for Na­pa to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize.

“This is a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty to use cut­ting-edge AI to ac­cel­er­ate drug dis­cov­ery,” Verdin said in a state­ment.

In­sil­i­co stands to earn $100 mil­lion in mile­stones should the pro­gram be suc­cess­ful.

Greg Bai­ley

When Ju­ve­nescene got start­ed a year ago, the an­ti-ag­ing biotech laid out goals to de­vel­op sev­er­al pro­grams in the field. The com­pa­ny is guid­ed by some big names in biotech, in­clud­ing De­clan Doogan and Greg Bai­ley. You might know Bai­ley as one of the ear­ly back­ers of Medi­va­tion, where he was a board di­rec­tor for 7 years be­fore Pfiz­er stepped in to buy the biotech for $14 bil­lion. And Doogan, a for­mer top Pfiz­er ex­ec, came in as a prin­ci­pal at Ju­ve­nes­cence along­side bil­lion­aire Jim Mel­lon.

De­clan Doogan

So far, the com­pa­ny has raised at least $63 mil­lion to de­vel­op up its pipeline and spin­outs, but Bai­ley told End­points last year that he ex­pects to raise hun­dreds of mil­lions to achieve his goals. The com­pa­ny has fund­ed Na­pa’s launch, but they aren’t say­ing how much cap­i­tal was in­fused.

Bai­ley had this to say of their lat­est ven­ture:

To me this is an­oth­er big step in the evolv­ing process of us­ing AI with HI (hu­man in­tel­li­gence) to ex­tract the best of both sys­tems. Na­pa Ther­a­peu­tics lets Ju­ve­nes­cence deep­en our col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Buck In­sti­tute and with In­sil­i­co Med­i­cine. We hope to short­en the time re­quired to iden­ti­fy mol­e­cules that can be brought to the clin­ic and most im­por­tant­ly help pa­tients.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

So — that pig-to-hu­man trans­plant; Po­ten­tial di­a­betes cure reach­es pa­tient; Ac­cused MIT sci­en­tist lash­es back; and more

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.

We’re incredibly excited to welcome Beth Bulik, seasoned pharma marketing reporter, to the team. You can find much of her work in our new Marketing channel — and in her weekly newsletter, Endpoints PharmaRx, which will launch in early November. Add it to your subscriptions here.

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NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

No, sci­en­tists are not any clos­er to pig-to-hu­man trans­plants than they were last week

Steve Holtzman was awoken by a 1 a.m. call from a doctor at Duke University asking if he could put some pigs on a plane and fly them from Ohio to North Carolina that day. A motorcyclist had gotten into a horrific crash, the doctor explained. He believed the pigs’ livers, sutured onto the patient’s skin like an external filter, might be able to tide the young man over until a donor liver became available.

UP­DAT­ED: Agenus calls out FDA for play­ing fa­vorites with Mer­ck, pulls cer­vi­cal can­cer BLA at agen­cy's re­quest

While criticizing the FDA for what may be some favoritism towards Merck, Agenus on Friday officially pulled its accelerated BLA for its anti-PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab as a potential second-line treatment for cervical cancer because of the recent full approval for Merck’s Keytruda in the same indication.

The company said the BLA, which was due for an FDA decision by Dec. 16, was withdrawn “when the window for accelerated approval of balstilimab closed,” thanks to the conversion of Keytruda’s accelerated approval to a full approval four months prior to its PDUFA date.

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How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data are messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data are exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.

No­vo CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen on R&D risk, the deal strat­e­gy and tar­gets for gen­der di­ver­si­ty

 

I kicked off our European R&D summit last week with a conversation involving Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo is aiming to launch a new era of obesity management with a new approval for semaglutide. And Jørgensen had a lot to say about what comes next in R&D, how they manage risk and gender diversity targets at the trendsetting European pharma giant.

John Carroll: I’m here with Lars Jørgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk. Lars, it’s been a really interesting year so far with Novo Nordisk, right? You’ve projected a new era of growing sales. You’ve been able to expand on the GLP-1 franchise that was already well established in diabetes now going into obesity. And I think a tremendous number of people are really interested in how that’s working out. You have forecast a growing amount of sales. We don’t know specifically how that might play out. I know a lot of the analysts have different ideas, how those numbers might play out, but that we are in fact embarking on a new era for Novo Nordisk in terms of what the company’s capable of doing and what it’s able to do and what it wants to do. And I wanted to start off by asking you about obesity in particular. Semaglutide has been approved in the United States for obesity. It’s an area of R&D that’s been very troubled for decades. There have been weight loss drugs that have come along. They’ve attracted a lot of attention, but they haven’t actually ever gained traction in the market. My first question is what’s different this time about obesity? What is different about this drug and why do you expect it to work now whereas previous drugs haven’t?

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Luc Boblet, Egle Therapeutics CEO

A new Treg play­er emerges with $46M and back­ing from Take­da

In recent years, the chorus of biotechs and Big Pharma backers targeting regulatory T cells — also known as “Tregs” — for cancer and autoimmune diseases has only grown louder.

The newest voice is from Egle Therapeutics, which sang out a $46.4 million Series A round on Friday led by LSP and Bpifrance through their InnoBio 2 fund. Takeda’s venture arm also chipped in, about a year after the pharma struck a research pact with the Paris-based upstart.

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Suresh Katta, Saama CEO (via YouTube)

As AI con­tin­ues to en­tice Big Phar­ma, a Car­lyle-led drug­mak­er syn­di­cate shells out $430M for cloud com­put­ing play­er

The AI revolution permeating Big Pharma took a big financial step forward Wednesday, with VCs and major drugmakers coming together to acquire a cloud-focused company.

Led by the Carlyle Group, the investors will put up $430 million for a majority stake in Saama, a company that collects patient data to help speed along the drug development process. The investment arms of Pfizer, Merck, Amgen and McKesson all participated in the financing, in addition to other prominent life sciences VCs like Northpond.

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