Cel­gene vet Daniel takes a start­up role at Vi­vid­ion, with $50M in hand for plat­form con­struc­tion

Tom Daniel

You can count Tom Daniel as the lat­est big bio­phar­ma ex­ec to make the tran­si­tion to biotech.

The Cel­gene vet­er­an has tak­en on the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man’s po­si­tion at a start­up called Vi­vid­ion Ther­a­peu­tics, which has col­lect­ed $50 mil­lion in a round led by Arch and Ver­sant. And he is tak­ing a lead­ing role in cre­at­ing a new com­pa­ny that has fash­ioned a brand new plat­form tech­nol­o­gy out of the lab of Scripps re­searcher Ben Cra­vatt.

Af­ter he left Cel­gene as pres­i­dent of re­search and ear­ly de­vel­op­ment last sum­mer, Daniel head­ed west to San Diego. And Daniel, who has a glob­al ros­ter of con­nec­tions sec­ond to none af­ter that ex­pe­ri­ence, was ea­ger to fol­low up on some longterm dis­cus­sions he’d been hav­ing with Cra­vatt, who had col­lab­o­rat­ed with Cel­gene at an­oth­er one of his star­tups called Abide Ther­a­peu­tics.

“We lit­er­al­ly talked about this two years ago,” Daniel tells me. And there was a lot to catch up on.

The big pic­ture at Vi­vid­ion in­volves go­ing af­ter a whole new sphere of drug R&D, pur­su­ing a new class of lig­and­able pro­teins and open­ing up a fron­tier of drug tar­gets.

At Cra­vatt’s Scripps lab, re­searchers used frag­ment lig­ands at­tached to a class of chap­er­one mol­e­cules that re­acts with cys­teine amino-acids on pro­teins, lock­ing the lig­ands to the pro­teins with co­va­lent bonds. Some of the pro­tein class­es they ex­plored in­clud­ed pre­vi­ous­ly un­drug­gable tran­scrip­tion fac­tors, open­ing up their view of the lig­and­able pro­teome. And they’ve tried it suc­cess­ful­ly with hun­dreds of pro­teins.

Since their study was pub­lished by Na­ture last sum­mer, says Daniel, the new com­pa­ny has been tak­ing added shape, mov­ing be­yond cys­teines to lysines and oth­er projects. In broad terms, Daniel is fo­cused on rare ge­net­ic dis­eases, im­muno/on­col­o­gy,  in­flam­ma­tion and on­col­o­gy, “to name a few.” And Scripps’ Phil S. Baran and Jin-Quan Yu have added cru­cial pieces of their plat­form tech.

Daniel knows the play­book on star­tups as well as any­one in the busi­ness. So it will come as no sur­prise to hear that he’s al­ready start­ed a few con­ver­sa­tions with some po­ten­tial part­ners who could see the val­ue of us­ing Vi­vid­ion’s plat­form to solve an R&D chal­lenge. He plans to strike up a cou­ple of part­ner­ships to help build the com­pa­ny, which will start out with a core team of some 25 to 30 staffers.

It’s still ear­ly days at the fledg­ling com­pa­ny, which on­ly re­cent­ly went in­to dou­ble dig­its on its em­ploy­ee ros­ter. Like a lot of start-ups, Daniel isn’t ready to dis­cuss spe­cif­ic drug tar­gets. Like a lot of star­tups, he isn’t ready to re­view R&D time­lines. But he has a long­time re­la­tion­ship with Agios CEO David Schenkein – one of a mul­ti­tude of Cel­gene part­ners – and an in­ter­est in see­ing if he can match Schenkein’s quick ramp up.

To put that in some per­spec­tive, Schenkein is fond of telling peo­ple how he start­ed with a blank sheet of pa­per at Agios and in 7 years cre­at­ed a plat­form and brought 5 drugs in­to the clin­ic. Their lead drug was part­nered with Cel­gene, by Daniel.

“If the dream we be­lieve can be true is ren­dered we’ll go fast,” he says.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

Big week for Alzheimer’s da­ta; As­traZeneca buys cell ther­a­py start­up; Dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics hits a pay­er wall; and more

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Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

As mon­ey pours in­to dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, in­sur­ance cov­er­age crawls

Talk therapy didn’t help Lily with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But a video game did.

As the 10-year-old zooms through icy waters and targets flying creatures on the snow-capped planet Frigidus, she builds attention skills, thanks to Akili Interactive Labs’ video game EndeavorRx. She’s now less anxious and scattered, allowing her to stay on a low dose of ADHD medication, according to her mom Violet Vu.

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Am­gen, years be­hind ri­vals, says PhI obe­si­ty drug shows dura­bil­i­ty signs

While NBC ran “The Biggest Loser” for 17 seasons, deemed toxic by critics for the reality show’s punishing exercise and diet upheavals, researchers in pharmaceutical labs have been attempting to create prescription drugs that induce weight loss — and one pharma betting it can require less frequent dosing is out with a new crop of data.

Amgen was relatively late to the game compared to its approved competitor Novo Nordisk and green light-approaching rival Eli Lilly. But early data suggested Amgen’s AMG 133 led to a 14.5% weight reduction in the first few months of dosing, buoying shares earlier this fall, and now the California pharma is out with its first batch of durability data showing that figure fell slightly to 11.2% about 150 days after the last dose. Amgen presented at the 20th World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease on Saturday afternoon.

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Eli Lil­ly’s Alzheimer’s drug clears more amy­loid ear­ly than Aduhelm in first-ever head-to-head. Will it mat­ter?

Ahead of the FDA’s decision on Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug donanemab in February, the Big Pharma is dropping a first cut of data from one of the more interesting trials — but less important in a regulatory sense — at an Alzheimer’s conference in San Francisco.

In the unblinded 148-person study, Eli Lilly pitted its drug against Aduhelm, Biogen’s drug that won FDA approval but lost Medicare coverage outside of clinical trials. Notably, the study didn’t look at clinical outcomes, but rather the clearance of amyloid, a protein whose buildup is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in the brain.

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Chris Kim, Liminatus Pharma CEO

A fledg­ling biotech goes SPAC route to bankroll can­cer vac­cine, CAR-T and CD47

A relatively unknown clinical-stage biotech — backed by a Korean lighting company and focused on a cancer vaccine out of a Thomas Jefferson University lab — is headed to Nasdaq via the blank check route.

Liminatus Pharma will get about $316 million in proceeds from the SPAC combination to fund its ongoing Phase IIa study of a cancer vaccine, bring a CAR-T therapy into the clinic and prep a CD47 immune checkpoint inhibitor for human trials, the company said this week.

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US month­ly costs for biosim­i­lars 'sub­stan­tial­ly high­er' than Ger­many or Switzer­land, JA­MA re­search finds

As the global biologics market is expected to hit nearly the half-trillion-dollar mark this year, new JAMA research points to the importance of timely biosimilar entry, particularly as fewer biosimilars are entering the US than in Europe, and as monthly treatment costs for biosimilars were “substantially higher” in the US compared with Germany and Switzerland.

Among the three countries, biosimilar market share at launch was highest in Germany, but increased at the fastest rate in the US, the authors from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Law wrote in JAMA Network Open today.

Kirk Myers is shown in a still image from a new film series showcasing the efforts of HIV advocates funded by Gilead.

Gilead spot­lights HIV projects and the com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers dri­ving them in new mi­ni-doc­u­men­tary films

Gilead is going behind the scenes of some of the HIV initiatives it funds through grants in a new film series narrated by the people helming the projects.

The first four films and leaders come from across the US — Arianna Lint in Florida and Puerto Rico, Cleve Jones in San Francisco, June Gipson in Mississippi and Kirk Myers in Texas. Their HIV-focused efforts range from addressing unmet needs of the transgender community to delivering social services and high-quality health care in underserved communities.

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