Biotech start­up grabs $27M launch round to pur­sue an R&D path blazed at Har­vard and Boston Chil­dren’s

For the past 8 years or so Bruce Bean and Clif­ford Woolf at Har­vard and Boston Chil­dren’s have been la­bor­ing in the lab to demon­strate how you could in­hib­it pain and itch sig­nal­ing in a tar­get­ed set of neu­rons. And now a VC syn­di­cate has as­sem­bled a team to take it in­to the clin­ic to see how it can per­form among hu­mans, hand­ing them a $27 mil­lion launch round.

Clif­ford Woolf

“We run a lit­tle vir­tu­al,” No­cion Ther­a­peu­tics CEO Richard Baty­cky tells me. Right now that means 5 peo­ple on the full-time team, with plans to grow even­tu­al­ly to a lean-and-mean 15.

A sci­en­tist with some deep ex­pe­ri­ence in res­pi­ra­to­ry R&D, Baty­cky was one of the lead­ers at Alk­er­mes spin­off Civ­i­tas, which was snapped up by Acor­da for $525 mil­lion. He left Acor­da last Au­gust to jump on­to the No­cion team, which was ex­plor­ing how sen­so­ry neu­rons re­spond to “nox­ious stim­uli.” And he’s keen­ly aware of the res­pi­ra­to­ry im­pli­ca­tions of their work.

Bruce Bean

The key to the sci­en­tif­ic work was the founders’ abil­i­ty to de­vel­op sodi­um chan­nel in­hibitors — no­cions — that could be pos­i­tive­ly charged to slip through large pores opened by pain and in­flam­ma­tion in­to their tar­get neu­rons. 

“We can use the large pore chan­nels opened up by painful stim­uli or in­flam­ma­to­ry me­di­a­tors as Tro­jan hors­es to de­liv­er drug mol­e­cules in­to the cells and stop their elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­i­ty,” says Bean. “The large pore chan­nels in­sti­gate the fir­ing of the cells, but they can al­so be used to quench it.”

Richard Baty­cky

Cough, itch, pain and in­flam­ma­tion are all on the radar. And the path­way al­so leads to asth­ma, in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease and more.

The Se­ries A was led by Canaan and F-Prime, with ad­di­tion­al cash from Part­ners In­no­va­tion Fund and BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal.

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.

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.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Ex­elix­is pulls a sur­prise win in thy­roid can­cer just days ahead of fi­nal Cabome­tyx read­out

Exelixis added a thyroid cancer indication to its super-seller Cabometyx’s label on Friday — months before the FDA was expected to make a decision, and days before the company was set to unveil the final data at #ESMO21.

At a median follow-up of 10.1 months, differentiated thyroid cancer patients treated with Cabometyx (cabozantinib) lived a median of 11 months without their disease worsening, compared to just 1.9 months for patients given a placebo, Exelixis said on Monday.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.

As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi Sanky­o's ADC En­her­tu blows away Roche's Kad­cy­la in sec­ond-line ad­vanced breast can­cer

AstraZeneca and Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo think they’ve struck gold with their next-gen ADC drug Enhertu, which has shown some striking data in late-stage breast cancer trials and early solid tumor tests. Getting into earlier patients is now the goal, starting with Enhertu’s complete walkover of a Roche drug in second-line breast cancer revealed Saturday.

Enhertu cut the risk of disease progression or death by a whopping 72% (p=<0.0001) compared with Roche’s ADC Kadcyla in second-line unresectable and/or metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer patients who had previously undergone treatment with a Herceptin-chemo combo, according to interim data from the Phase III DESTINY-Breast03 head-to-head study presented at this weekend’s #ESMO21.

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Den­mark's Gubra to col­lab­o­rate with Bay­er on pep­tides; Sam­sung and Bio­gen re­ceive FDA ap­proval for Lu­cen­tis biosim­i­lar

Danish biotech Gubra announced a research collaboration and license agreement with Bayer to develop peptide therapeutics to treat cardiorenal diseases. The collaboration will utilize Gubra’s peptide drug discovery platform to identify potential candidates.

This is not the first time Gubra has partnered with a company on peptide therapeutics — they partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim back in 2017 to create peptide therapeutics to treat obesity.

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.