Ofer Sharon, OncoHost CEO

Can On­co­Host's PROphet pre­dict host re­sponse to can­cer treat­ments? In­vestors are wait­ing to find out

Last year, a small biotech out of Is­rael scored a mod­est $8 mil­lion in a Se­ries B to help fi­nance clin­i­cal tri­als and pre­pare for the up­com­ing launch of its main prod­uct, a ma­chine learn­ing-based di­ag­nos­tics plat­form. Re­cent­ly, the biotech went back for more — and got it.

On­co­Host an­nounced Tues­day morn­ing that it suc­cess­ful­ly raised $35 mil­lion in a Se­ries C fi­nanc­ing round led by Is­raeli healthtech VC ALIVE, with ad­di­tion­al in­vestors in­clud­ing the Se­ries B lead in­vestor, Our­Crowd. As to the com­pa­ny’s first goal, it is fo­cus­ing on the com­mer­cial launch of its plat­form named PROphet, which CEO Ofer Sharon told End­points News is slat­ed to launch some­time in Q3 this year — first­ly in the US.

The com­mer­cial launch is the first part of the biotech’s three-front ap­proach for the fi­nanc­ing, ac­cord­ing to Sharon, with the oth­er two fronts be­ing a fo­cus on pipeline de­vel­op­ment and in­creas­ing in­di­ca­tions for PROphet.

“A lot of the fund­ing that was se­cured is go­ing to be di­rect­ed to the com­mer­cial launch of the prod­uct. We al­ready have in place the tech­ni­cal abode, or team, but we are go­ing to in­vest a lot in ex­pand­ing the team, adding mar­ket­ing and sales po­si­tions,” Sharon said. He al­so added that the biotech is look­ing to have 50 em­ploy­ees by year’s end, more than dou­ble its cur­rent count of 20 or so em­ploy­ees.

The $35 mil­lion should last On­co­Host for 2 years, ac­cord­ing to the CEO.

The PROphet plat­form, ac­cord­ing to Sharon, is an ef­fort to take ad­van­tage of “host re­sponse,” or the body’s re­sponse specif­i­cal­ly to dif­fer­ent an­ti-can­cer treat­ments — some­thing that had been un­der re­search at the in­te­grat­ed Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter at the Tech­nion – Is­rael In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy. Sharon elab­o­rat­ed that from his view, the body’s re­sponse to cer­tain can­cer treat­ments such as im­munother­a­pies, tar­get­ed ther­a­pies and chemother­a­py doesn’t al­ways end up work­ing against the tu­mor — but rather ends up work­ing against the body in what he called can­cer re­sis­tance.

In short, the biotech has gone the pro­teomics route. The com­pa­ny’s plat­form works by an­a­lyz­ing two blood sam­ples: the first ap­prox­i­mate­ly a month be­fore treat­ment, and the sec­ond ap­prox­i­mate­ly 2-4 weeks af­ter the first treat­ment dose. Lab tech­ni­cians then sep­a­rate plas­ma from the blood and mea­sure the lev­els of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 7,000 pro­teins in that plas­ma. Es­sen­tial­ly, the plat­form looks for the over­ex­pres­sion of cer­tain pro­teins and us­es that in­for­ma­tion to pre­dict a pa­tient’s “re­sponse tra­jec­to­ry” to cer­tain treat­ments in the first 3, 6 and 12 months.

Be­ing able to pre­dict cer­tain as­pects of host re­sponse and drug re­spon­sive­ness via blood tests is some­what new, and there are oth­er com­pa­nies look­ing to uti­lize a sim­i­lar ap­proach. Pre­ci­sion med biotech Sci­pher Med­i­cine has a whole blood test to iden­ti­fy “dis­ease sig­na­tures,” al­so known as gene ex­pres­sion da­ta cur­rent­ly for an­ti-TNF drugs. It has its own plans to ex­pand af­ter net­ting over $100 mil­lion in a round backed by Khosla Ven­tures and North­pond Ven­tures ear­li­er this year.

As a doc­tor by train­ing and for­mer­ly a med­ical di­rec­tor for both As­traZeneca’s and Mer­ck’s Is­raeli di­vi­sions, Sharon said that the pro­teomics test on­ly tells a par­tial sto­ry.

“You know what’s go­ing to be the clin­i­cal tra­jec­to­ry for your pa­tient for the first 12 months. This is, of course, not enough. It’s not enough for clin­i­cians, be­cause it’s not good enough to tell a clin­i­cian that the pa­tient is not go­ing to re­spond. Be­cause as a clin­i­cian, what you want to do is treat your pa­tients,” Sharon added.

That leads to the sec­ond part of the ma­chine-learn­ing plat­form, which takes a look at the “re­sis­tance-as­so­ci­at­ed” pro­teins and path­ways and tries to cor­re­late them to ei­ther ex­ist­ing drugs or can­di­dates in on­go­ing, Phase II and III clin­i­cal tri­als.

On­co­Host’s plat­form is start­ing out with one in­di­ca­tion: NSCLC. How­ev­er, the com­pa­ny is look­ing at adding in­di­ca­tions for melanoma and small cell lung can­cer. And in terms of pipeline de­vel­op­ment, pro­teomics was on­ly the first stop. While Sharon wouldn’t say too much about de­tails, the com­pa­ny is look­ing at ex­pand­ing to the mi­cro­bio­me, sin­gle-cell analy­sis and cell-free DNA over the next few years. As to how long that might take un­til peo­ple see some­thing sub­stan­tive, On­co­Host is go­ing to do two tri­als with dras­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­ent timeta­bles.

“We can do two things here. If we are go­ing for a proof of con­cept, we will aim our clin­i­cal tri­al at stage IV metasta­t­ic can­cer pa­tients, where the fol­low-up pe­ri­od, for­tu­nate­ly, is rel­a­tive­ly short. It’s good for the com­pa­ny in terms of the abil­i­ty to un­der­stand ear­ly,” Sharon said, adding that most of the in­dus­try is look­ing at ear­li­er stages of dis­ease — which can take longer to get re­sults.

That said, the first tri­al is look­ing at stage IV can­cer pa­tients with a two-year fol­low-up, and an up­com­ing study will be launched some­time in the near fu­ture look­ing at pa­tients in ear­li­er stages of can­cer with a fol­low-up pe­ri­od of five years. While Sharon em­pha­sized the com­pa­ny’s need to be pa­tient, he added that from his view, the over­all ben­e­fit in terms of clin­i­cal val­ue will be much high­er.

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.

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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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.

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.