Zach Hornby, Boundless CEO

Bound­less Bio rais­es $105M in ef­fort to reimag­ine tar­get­ed can­cer ther­a­py

Bound­less Bio CEO Zach Horn­by was sit­ting in his La Jol­la, CA of­fice last fall, prepar­ing for a board meet­ing when his com­put­er pinged with an email. It was his CSO, Chris Has­sig, email­ing over ta­bles and charts at the best pos­si­ble time.

Their new type of can­cer treat­ment was work­ing. In mice, at least.

“This was a cat­alyt­ic event,” Horn­by told End­points News. The da­ta “re­al­ly said, ‘yes, we can do this.”

Horn­by and his team de­liv­ered the re­sults to the board and then start­ed fundrais­ing for the cash they would need to bring the new tech­nol­o­gy out of mice and in­to peo­ple. They emerged to­day with a $105 mil­lion Se­ries B led by Nex­tech In­vest and RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and plans to be in the clin­ic by 2023.

Chris­t­ian Has­sig Bound­less Bio

Bound­less Bio is go­ing af­ter can­cer cells that con­tain ex­tra bits of cir­cu­lar DNA, float­ing around out­side the tight­ly wound chro­mo­somes where the ge­net­ic code is sup­posed to sit. Al­though sci­en­tists have known about these vagabond frag­ments, known as ex­tra-chro­mo­so­mal DNA or ecD­NA, for decades, new re­search has point­ed to the role they may play in dri­ving many can­cers.

The ecD­NA can act as a ge­net­ic reser­voir for tu­mors. Lib­er­at­ed from the in­tri­cate ma­chin­ery that nor­mal­ly reg­u­lates how DNA repli­cates and tran­scribes, they can run ram­pant pro­duc­ing onco­genes. They can mu­tate quick­ly if doc­tors try to throw tar­get­ed ther­a­pies at them.

Re­searchers be­lieved that up to half of all tu­mor types and a quar­ter of all can­cers have ex­tra-chro­mo­so­mal DNA — many of these can­cers that have been over­looked by the new wave of tar­get­ed and im­munother­a­pies. The ques­tion for Bound­less, first found­ed in 2018 and backed by ARCH and City Hill Ven­ture, was how one turned these new find­ings in­to drugs.

So the com­pa­ny has spent the last two years try­ing to build, in mice and lab dish­es, mod­els of tu­mors with ecD­NA. But that was eas­i­er said than done. For can­cers, the point of these rogue genes is that they can keep cells in a kind of ge­net­ic flux, and the mod­els they built wouldn’t stay sta­t­ic. They’d make a tu­mor with ecD­NA and then watch the ex­tra-chro­mo­so­mal DNA van­ish. Or they’d make two lines, one ecD­NA pos­i­tive and one ecD­NA neg­a­tive and then watch the lev­els ecD­NA rise in the neg­a­tive one and fall in the pos­i­tive ones.

“It kind of left us scratch­ing our heads,” Horn­by said.

Still, the com­pa­ny says it has now man­aged to pull off 20 dif­fer­ent tu­mor type mod­els in lab dish­es and “mul­ti­ple” dif­fer­ent mouse mod­els.

The goal now is to study how ecD­NA tu­mors dif­fer from tu­mors with­out ecD­NA, us­ing a va­ri­ety of ge­net­ic and quan­ti­ta­tive tools. Large­ly, Bound­less will look to find and ex­ploit vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties unique to ecD­NA can­cer — path­ways that on­ly these cells re­ly on to sur­vive and that can be knocked out with small mol­e­cules.

They will look to pair those mol­e­cules they de­vel­op with more con­ven­tion­al tar­get­ed drugs. If a pa­tient had a KRAS-pos­i­tive tu­mor with a high num­ber of ecD­NA, for ex­am­ple, they could give him Am­gen’s so­taris­ib to hit KRAS tar­gets and Bound­less’s drug to pre­vent the can­cer from us­ing ecD­NA to evolve re­sis­tance.

Be­fore last year’s board meet­ing, Bound­less showed such an ap­proach could work in mice. They plan to an­nounce a de­vel­op­ment can­di­date lat­er this year, one they hope will be­gin to change how the field ap­proach­es tar­get­ed ther­a­pies.

To­day, Horn­by said, com­pa­nies ap­proach can­cer like a game of whack-a-mole, de­vel­op­ing a tar­get­ed drug and then de­vel­op­ing a new tar­get­ed drug when the can­cer evolves re­sis­tance to the first one.

“So what we need to do is pull the plug on the game,” he said.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Ying Huang, Legend CEO

Lentivi­ral vec­tor ramp-up: J&J and Leg­end to in­vest $500M in New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing to sup­port Carvyk­ti

In response to a question on manufacturing scale at Legend Biotech’s R&D day yesterday, the company’s top exec said its partnership with Johnson & Johnson will be doubling its investment in its New Jersey manufacturing center and will be investing a total of $500 million.

With an eye on their BCMA-directed CAR-T therapy Carvykti (cilta-cel), approved in February as a fifth-line treatment for multiple myeloma, Legend CEO Ying Huang said that the ramp-up in production and the decision to manufacture its own lentiviral vectors — currently in shortage worldwide — means they won’t have to deal with that shortage.

Kite Phar­ma gets FDA to sign off on new Cal­i­for­nia-based vec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

Kite Pharma just got FDA approval to kick off operations at a new manufacturing campus.

The cancer-focused, CAR-T cell therapy player made the announcement Monday, saying that the federal regulatory agency gave the green light to Kite’s 100,000 square-foot, retroviral vector manufacturing facility in Oceanside, CA.

Kite’s global head of technical operations Chris McDonald tells Endpoints News that the facility has been in the works for about four years, after Kite teamed up with its parent company Gilead. Gilead acquired Kite Pharma for just shy of $12 billion in 2017.