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Hans Bishop, Grail CEO (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Blood test for can­cer de­tec­tion com­pa­ny Grail rakes in $390M in lat­est round

Just over a week after Third Rock-backed Thrive unveiled ‘real world’ data from a large study evaluating the ability of its blood test to sniff out early signs of cancer in individuals with no history of the disease, rival Grail has raised a gargantuan $390 million in its latest round of financing.

Grail — which was carved out of the DNA sequencing company Illumina in 2016 — has a multi-cancer detection blood test that relies on DNA sequencing to assess methylation, an epigenetic change across the genome to expose cancer signals.

Jerel Davis and Marcelo Bigal (Versant)

'It's pure art': Ver­sant, GV re­veal $60M bet that a clear­er look at in­flam­ma­somes can lead to bet­ter drugs

For years, scientists had known about the myriad ways NLRP3 pushes the innate immune system to go overboard and trigger autoimmune or inflammatory diseases. But until Hao Wu and her Harvard lab came along, nobody really had a good idea of what the protein looks like.

Like other inflammasomes, NLRP3 tends to clump together in vitro, shielding its shape from researchers. Wu’s team — comprising some of the best structural biologists in the world — combined some new protein engineering with the cryo-electron microscopy techniques they know well to crack the problem.

Prax­is Pre­ci­sion Med­i­cines launch­es with $100M and bold sights on long-eva­sive neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders

It’s going to be the era of neuroscience, Roche CEO Bill Anderson declared on stage at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January. The field, he said, had “the potential to be in the ‘20s what oncology was for the last decade.”

Five months into that decade, a new biotech is emerging from stealth mode with large investments from Blackstone and two drugs already in Phase II, one of them nearing a pivotal trial. Called Praxis Precision Medicines, since 2016 it’s raised $100 million — with Novo Holdings, Vida Ventures and Eventide also chipping in — to back a bet that, by finding the underlying cause of rare neurological diseases, they could find and treat mechanisms behind more common ones.

The bio­phar­ma fund­ing en­gine mo­tors on, as Chi­nese biotech rais­es near­ly $280M in mon­ster round

We have more evidence today that the appetite for biopharma financing is alive and kicking, the coronavirus pandemic be damned.

Reports emerged on Wednesday that Shanghai-based Mabwell Biotech has raised a mammoth $278.5 million in a Series A injection, led by Chinese venture capital firm Shiyu Capital.

Mabwell, established in 2017, develops monoclonal antibodies and long-acting recombinant proteins, among other drugs, and is expected to debut its first drug on the market this year. The company has also launched seven subsidiaries focused on R&D and the production of biomedical products.

RA Session (Taysha)

In the heart of Texas, the AveX­is crew gath­ers for an­oth­er go at gene ther­a­py with $30M and a pow­er­house aca­d­e­m­ic pact to start

The same week RA Session II closed the seed financing for his latest gene therapy startup — back in early March — the Dow dropped a couple of thousand points.

“If you had to ask me, was I worried? Absolutely. I think I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t,” he said.

But Session had a lot of certainty to balance out all the uncertainty of launching a new biotech during a pandemic. There was the management team comprising some longtime colleagues at Reata and AveXis; there was PBM Capital, AveXis’ first institutional investor, as well as former CEO Sean Nolan, who together provided $30 million to get things started; then there was the foundational partnership with Steven Gray and Berge Minassian at UT Southwestern’s gene therapy program, complete with licenses to 15 AAV9-based assets.

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Christoph Lengauer, Thrive co-founder (Third Rock Ventures)

Third Rock-backed star­tup's blood test can sniff out can­cer in pa­tients with no his­to­ry of dis­ease

The myriad of liquid biopsy companies working on blood tests for early cancer detection have been conducting retrospective studies, looking at how effective and sensitive their technology is in spotting cancer in patients that have already been diagnosed. Now, a Third Rock Ventures-backed startup has also shown its blood test can perform in a large prospective study involving patients with no personal history of cancer.

Boehringer In­gel­heim VC backs plan to send GMO bac­te­ria af­ter tu­mors

Chris Thanos wants to send bacteria after your tumors.

Specifically, he wants to send salmonella after your tumors, a genetically modified form of the microbe that he and his team have neutered and retrofitted with genetic warheads. It’s an attractive idea, at least to Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and Panacea Venture, who today co-led a $34 million Series A round for Thanos’s Berkeley-based company, Actym Therapeutics.

Jonathan Lim, Erasca CEO (a16z via YouTube)

An on­col­o­gy up­start with some deep-pock­et VC con­nec­tions has a uni­corn-sized ven­ture round to back the pipeline

These days it takes quite a bit of venture cash to turn heads, but Erasca can now join a short list of unicorn plays that managed it.

The San Diego cancer upstart — which has been long on money and short on biology from the start — has pieced together a $200 million B round from some of the deepest pockets in the field.

That would beat out all but the top 2 venture rounds of 2019, as cash coursed through the industry from every direction.

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Lars Christian Wilde, Compass co-founder and CBO (via YouTube)

Mush­room mag­ic draws $80M in­jec­tion for Lon­don-based men­tal health start­up

The coronavirus outbreak has interfered with a mid-stage depression trial testing its psilocybin compound, but the magic of the mushroom has scored Peter Thiel-backed Compass Pathways an $80 million injection in fresh funding.

Exasperated with the often-ineffective existing slate of antidepressants, the company set up shop in London in 2016 and made a beeline for psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms. It received the FDA breakthrough therapy status for the compound for treatment-resistant depression in 2018.

Rosana Kapeller listening to a member on the breakfast panel at #BIO19 discuss AI in R&D in Philadelphia (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

Nim­bus founder Rosana Kapeller has a new com­pa­ny, with $50M and an eye on the ‘re­peatome’

Rosana Kapeller left Nimbus two years ago determined, after 2 decades and 3 companies, that her next spot would be as CEO. Today, after a 7-month sabbatical and a stint at a top VC firm, the jocular computational biology pioneer is back. And with full control.

“I really wanted to… make a unique organization, a unique culture,” Kapeller told Endpoints News. I wanted that challenge.”