Canaan leaps in­to UK biotech by co-lead­ing $14M Se­ries A for im­muno-on­col­o­gy up­start Grey Wolf

Check­point in­hibitors have done won­ders for im­muno-on­col­o­gy, but the po­tent class of drugs doesn’t work across all can­cers. To rem­e­dy this, UK-based biotech up­start Grey Wolf Ther­a­peu­tics is work­ing on a fresh ap­proach that does not di­rect­ly tar­get the im­mune sys­tem, but in­stead al­ters tu­mor cells by il­lu­mi­nat­ing and prim­ing them for im­mune sys­tem an­ni­hi­la­tion — a strat­e­gy that could work in con­junc­tion with ex­ist­ing im­munother­a­pies.

An­dera Part­ners and Canaan have shown their faith in the con­cept by lead­ing an ap­prox­i­mate­ly $14 mil­lion se­ries A round for the com­pa­ny.

Pe­ter Joyce

Found­ed by for­mer Ver­tex ex­ec­u­tive Pe­ter Joyce and ex-chief of Spinifex Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals Tom Mc­Carthy, Grey Wolf is de­vel­op­ing small mol­e­cule mod­u­la­tors of en­do­plas­mic retic­u­lum aminopep­ti­das­es (ER­APs) pro­teins, an ap­proach de­signed to shore up the quan­ti­ty and range of neoanti­gens pre­sent­ed on tu­mor cells.

“The en­zyme tar­gets we’re go­ing af­ter are ER­AP1 and ER­AP2 — they work in the anti­gen pre­sen­ta­tion path­way and es­sen­tial­ly by mod­u­lat­ing their ac­tiv­i­ty, we can mod­u­late what is pre­sent­ed on the sur­face of a can­cer cell, so we ac­tu­al­ly change the neoanti­gens and mod­u­late their vis­i­bil­i­ty,” Joyce told End­points News, adding that pre­clin­i­cal da­ta sug­gests that a monother­a­py ap­proach is fea­si­ble, as is a com­bi­na­tion with ex­ist­ing PD-1s.

Grey Wolf is work­ing with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford, Uni­ver­si­ty of Southamp­ton, and has a strate­gic part­ner­ship with Syg­na­ture Dis­cov­ery, a Not­ting­ham-based provider of drug dis­cov­ery and pre­clin­i­cal ser­vices. Syg­na­ture and Mc­Carthy to­geth­er put in £420,000 in seed fund­ing for Grey Wolf, Joyce said.

Back in 2015, Mc­Carthy was in charge of Spinifex when it was sold to Swiss drug­mak­er No­var­tis $NVS in a $700 mil­lion deal af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of pos­i­tive Phase II da­ta on its non-opi­oid painkiller. Not­ed VC Canaan was an in­vestor in Spinifex.

Canaan has made its first-ever in­vest­ment in UK biotech with its Grey Wolf in­vest­ment, thanks in part to Mc­Carthy’s re­la­tion­ship with the firm, and due to the sci­en­tif­ic po­ten­tial of the ER­AP ap­proach, Joyce said. “(The) fact that we’re do­ing some­thing very nov­el re­al­ly piqued their in­ter­est.”

Ac­cord­ing to Joyce, out­side of aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions, there aren’t any oth­er com­mer­cial en­ti­ties look­ing at mod­u­lat­ing ER­AP pro­teins for im­muno-on­col­o­gy to his knowl­edge and Grey Wolf is “aim­ing to be first-in-class.”

The com­pa­ny, which has a core team of 6, is cur­rent­ly in the drug dis­cov­ery phase, and this round of fund­ing will be used to take the com­pa­ny to pre-IND en­abling stud­ies in the next 2-3 years. “We ei­ther ex­it at that point — which we would be open to — or get a part­ner. Or we might do a Se­ries B and take it to Phase I/II. I think be­yond…the com­plex­i­ty of im­muno-on­col­o­gy clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment re­al­ly then does need one of the big­ger part­ners,” Joyce said.

“I’m a fly fish­er­man by back­ground and Grey Wolf is a type of mayfly and it’s a bit of lucky fly for me…so I’m hop­ing it will be a sort of a good luck omen.”

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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Douglas Love, Annexon CEO (Annexon)

IPO bound? A Bay Area biotech grabs a mega-round on the road to a piv­otal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion pro­gram

South San Francisco-based Annexon has added $100 million to its cash reserves, along with a new roster of marquee investors backing their play on the classical complement pathway involved in neurodegeneration. And that may well fit the profile for an IPO — though right now everything seems to be working on that score.

Eighteen months after Bain and their syndicate partners put up $75 million to fuel clinical work, Annexon is back at the trough. And this time they’re adding Redmile Group for the lead role, with supporting investments from these new arrivals: BlackRock, Deerfield Management Company, Eventide Asset Management, Farallon Capital Management, Janus Henderson Investors and Logos Capital.

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Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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Randy Schatzman, Bolt CEO (Bolt Biotherapeutics)

Bolt Bio­ther­a­peu­tics nabs $93.5M to push Provenge in­ven­tor's new idea deep­er in the clin­ic

A cancer-fighting concept from the inventor of the first cancer vaccine is nearing prime time, and its biotech developer has received a significant new infusion of cash to get it there.

Bolt Biotherapeutics announced a $93.5 million Series C round led by Sofinnova Investments and joined by more than 9 others, including Pfizer Ventures and RA Capital Management. That money will go toward pushing the San Francisco biotech’s platform of innate immune-boosting warheads through its first trial on metastatic solid tumors and into several more.

Josh Cohen, Justin Klee

Armed with pos­i­tive ALS da­ta, Amy­lyx scores $30M in fresh fund­ing to com­plete Alzheimer's PhII

Four years after announcing themselves to the biotech world with a new idea for drugging neurodegeneration, backing by the late Henri Termeer and $5 million from Morningside Venture, the young entrepreneurs at Amylyx are back for round 2.

Morningside continued to lead the $30 million Series B, with participation from Termeer’s widow, Belinda, and other unnamed investors. Having celebrated a topline Phase II win for its lead program in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Amylyx expects the cash to fund talks with regulators as well as a separate trial for the same drug in Alzheimer’s — for which they had just finished enrolling.

An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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