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A new in­ter­leukin tar­get for NASH spawns Sin­ga­pore­an biotech steered by well known play­ers

A Sin­ga­pore­an biotech look­ing to break in­to the big NASH field has of­fered a glimpse of the pre­clin­i­cal da­ta that’s stoked its con­fi­dence in tar­get­ing an oft-over­looked cy­tokine.

Re­searchers from Duke-NUS Med­ical School and Na­tion­al Heart Cen­tre Sin­ga­pore start­ed with he­pat­ic stel­late cells, which “are piv­otal in the patho­gen­e­sis of NASH and give rise to up to 95%” of dis­ease dri­ving cells known as liv­er my­ofi­brob­lasts. Here’s how they sum­ma­rized the cur­rent NASH land­scape, from their new pa­per in Gas­troen­terol­o­gy:
A num­ber of fac­tors are im­pli­cat­ed in HSC ac­ti­va­tion and trans­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing the canon­i­cal pro-fi­brot­ic fac­tors trans­form­ing growth fac­tor-B1 (TGFB1) and platelet de­rived growth fac­tor (PDGF) and al­so pro-in­flam­ma­to­ry fac­tors such as CCL2, TN­FA and CCL5.. Per­haps re­flect­ing this com­plex­i­ty and im­plic­it re­dun­dan­cy, no sin­gle up­stream ini­ti­at­ing fac­tor has been tar­get­ed suc­cess­ful­ly in NASH and there are no ap­proved NASH drugs. Cur­rent­ly, there are a num­ber of drugs in clin­i­cal tri­als for NASH but many of these tar­get me­tab­o­lism and it is not clear if they will im­prove liv­er fi­bro­sis, which pre­dicts clin­i­cal out­comes.
To si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly get at the fat ac­cu­mu­la­tion, in­flam­ma­tion and scar­ring present in NASH, they need a bet­ter tar­get. And the sci­en­tists be­lieve they have found the an­swer in in­ter­leukin 11, or IL11.

Ed Kaye is tak­ing his fledg­ling biotech to Wall Street, look­ing for a new in­jec­tion of cash

Ed Kaye should soon be back to run­ning a pub­lic biotech. 

The Stoke Ther­a­peu­tics CEO, who cut short a brief break af­ter his ex­it from Sarep­ta to run the fledg­ling start­up and un­veil a lean $40 mil­lion launch round pri­mar­i­ly from Ap­ple Tree Part­ners, has steered an S-1 to the SEC. And he’s pen­ciled in a $86 mil­lion raise, look­ing for Wall Street to fund their last steps through pre­clin­i­cal work on a lead pro­gram.

Her­cules vet launch­es a new life sci­ences lender with $400M to put in­to play

A long­time vet­er­an of the life sci­ences lend­ing world has just launched a new op­er­a­tion with an ini­tial $400 mil­lion to lend out to the in­dus­try.

Parag Shah — who helmed the life sci­ences team at Her­cules for more than 10 years, lend­ing out more than $2 bil­lion — is lead­ing the new group at K2 HealthVen­tures. Ac­cord­ing to his LinkedIn pro­file, Shah start­ed K2HV late last year with back­ing from L1 Health in the lead up to to­day’s an­nounce­ment.

Some of the best con­nect­ed play­ers in the San Diego hub or­ga­nize launch round for an­oth­er biotech with an eye on tri­al da­ta

Mike Grey and his net­work of San Diego-based biotech ex­ecs are for­mal­ly notch­ing a new start­up de­but to­day.

The com­pa­ny is Re­neo Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which drew a syn­di­cate to­geth­er around CEO Niall O’Don­nell with $50 mil­lion to sup­port their on­go­ing work on new treat­ments for ge­net­ic mi­to­chon­dr­i­al dis­eases.

To­day marks their com­ing out par­ty for the com­pa­ny, but the 12-mem­ber team at Re­neo — 7 in the UK and 5 in San Diego — have been hard at it for more than 2 years. They’ve al­ready steered their way to 2 clin­i­cal tri­als, fo­cus­ing on REN001, a PPAR-delta ag­o­nist be­ing used to treat ge­net­i­cal­ly de­fined rare mi­to­chon­dr­i­al dis­eases such as fat­ty acid ox­i­da­tion dis­or­ders — FAOD — and pri­ma­ry mi­to­chon­dr­i­al my­opathies.

As UK biotech gains steam, Syn­cona launch­es new Treg play­er while Cam­bridge spin­out ex­pands Se­ries A

Since merg­ing with the pub­lic in­vest­ment firm BAC­IT two-plus years ago, Syn­cona has made steady head­way in the cell and gene ther­a­py space: It watched Au­to­lus bag an $150M IPO, jumped in­to a $116 mil­lion round for Free­line and cel­e­brat­ed the $800 mil­lion sale of Night­star, all the while groom­ing its port­fo­lio of star­tups in which it typ­i­cal­ly holds a ma­jor­i­ty stake.

Now the Lon­don-based VC firm — once an in­de­pen­dent sub­sidiary of the Well­come Trust — is un­veil­ing its next big act, square­ly fo­cused on en­gi­neer­ing reg­u­la­to­ry T cells.

$1.3B Keytru­da wind­fall will be used to ac­cel­er­ate trans­la­tion­al drug R&D in the UK

Trans­la­tion­al re­search in the UK is get­ting a ma­jor boost.

The non­prof­it LifeArc has struck a deal to sell a large block of its Keytru­da roy­al­ties to a pen­sion firm for $1.3 bil­lion it will now use to sup­port sci­en­tists at work de­vel­op­ing new drugs and de­vices. The rich UK R&D scene has been a fer­tile ground for ear­ly-stage work. And this wind­fall of block­buster cash will now bol­ster LifeArc’s work in the field.

They got bounced out of Alex­ion. Now David Hal­lal and Vikas Sin­ha are back with $150M and a fo­cus on cell and gene ther­a­pies

David Hallal and Vikas Sinha got bounced out of their jobs as CEO and CFO of Alexion the hard way more than 2 years ago, dismissed after failing to maintain the confidence of the board as a probe into the company’s sketchy sales and billing practices triggered a top-to-bottom overhaul of the management and the operations — with a move to Boston.

But it didn’t end their biotech careers. Not by a long shot.

“I spent more than a decade at Alexion building one of the most successful biotechs in the world,” says Hallal. And the best way to handle the situation at the end, the persistently upbeat biotech exec says, was to channel the emotion into new endeavors while “looking forward.”

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A new­ly formed biotech launched out of George Da­ley’s Har­vard lab adds glob­al play­ers to its syn­di­cate, bring­ing its haul to $83M

The prospect of find­ing new drugs that can mod­u­late RNA pro­teins to help fight dis­eases has brought in a pair of new back­ers for 28-7, an up­start biotech with a lead pro­gram out of Har­vard.

Paris-based Sofinno­va Part­ners and Os­age Uni­ver­si­ty Part­ners have chipped in an ex­tra $15 mil­lion to bring the biotech’s launch round to $82.75 mil­lion. They’re join­ing a syn­di­cate that in­cludes MPM and No­var­tis, which kicked off the pub­lic fes­tiv­i­ties last fall.

One of the world's top ex­perts in coro­nary heart dis­ease is spear­head­ing a new gene edit­ing up­start out to trans­form the field

As head of the Cen­ter for Hu­man Ge­net­ic Re­search at Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal and the Broad’s Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Dis­ease Ini­tia­tive, Sekar Kathire­san has oc­cu­pied a sin­gu­lar po­si­tion as one of the world’s lead­ing ex­perts on the con­nec­tion be­tween ge­net­ics and coro­nary heart dis­ease. He’s tracked how peo­ple dealt a bad ge­net­ic hand — and the el­e­vat­ed risks that come with it — can lim­it in­her­ent dan­gers by lifestyle changes, and pon­dered over the ef­fects of dai­ly drugs used to treat mass pa­tient groups. And he’s reached a sim­ple con­clu­sion:

Roche spins out Nim­ble Ther­a­peu­tics to cap­i­tal­ize on pep­tide drug dis­cov­ery, with $10M sup­port from Tele­graph Hill Part­ners

In 2007, Roche Di­ag­nos­tics ac­quired Madi­son, Wis­con­sin-based Nim­ble­Gen as it looked to add DNA mi­croar­ray tech to its ge­nomics re­search toolk­it. The phar­ma gi­ant has since shut­tered the unit, laid off staffers and an­nounced it would close the site al­to­geth­er, but the tech­nol­o­gy is liv­ing on as a drug dis­cov­ery plat­form in a new spin­out.

Im­age: Ji­gar Pa­tel NIM­BLE

Nim­ble Ther­a­peu­tics has se­cured a Se­ries A from San Fran­cis­co’s Tele­graph Hill Part­ners to be­gin court­ing phar­ma com­pa­nies that might be in­ter­est­ed in ap­ply­ing their “mas­sive­ly par­al­lel chem­i­cal syn­the­sis” to gen­er­ate and screen pep­tide-based ther­a­pies. They have $10 mil­lion to get start­ed, an SEC fil­ing re­vealed.