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David Southwell. TScan

No­var­tis backs Har­vard spin­out's quest to build TCR repos­i­to­ry in $48M round

As T cell receptors emerged as a potent tool for the immune system to latch onto tumor antigens, Stephen Elledge wanted to screen antigen-TCR matches in a faster, more systematic way — one that would go beyond currently known targets but stop short of the new realms of neoantigens bioinformatic predictions.

So the Harvard professor spent the last 7 years consolidating new tech to come up with a platform that can run multiple TCRs against antigen epitopes and pinpoint the exact pairs that appear to interact. There’s also a built-in library of the human peptidome to flag any off-target effects and prevent safety scares down the road.

Chardan's blank check com­pa­ny picks mi­cro­bio­me play­er Bio­mX for $70M re­verse merg­er

An unorthodox reverse merger has catapulted Israeli biotech BiomX onto the American stock market and infused as much as $70 million into the startup.

The investment bankers at Chardan set up the blank check company Chardan Healthcare Acquisition Corp and listed it on the NYSE in wait of a biotech player that could benefit from a public listing and their cash resources. When investors bought into the IPO $CHAC last December, they were betting on little more than the vision and reputation of the managing partners.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Thomas Gajewski, David Steinberg. (CRI, Pyxis)

Bay­er, Long­wood back star re­searcher's deep dive in­to the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment for new I/O tar­gets

From PD-1 targeting to the RAS pathway to the STING complex, Thomas Gajewski has spent the past two decades of his career decoding the various ways the immune system can be unleashed to defend against cancer. So when the University of Chicago professor comes around to putting all his findings into a new platform for finding new targets, VCs and pharma groups alike pay attention.

“He’s been studying T cells for 20 years, plus he’s one of the world’s leaders if not the world leader in the space,” David Steinberg, partner at Longwood Fund, said. “Furthermore, let me add he did a lot of the foundational research and also some of the seminal clinical trials in the existing set of I/O agents. He understands the space really well, he understands the current strengths, and I think he understood really well what was missing, so he knew where to look.”

SJ Lee [File photo]

Go­ing in­side cells, Sung Joo Lee has sketched some big goals for his small — but glob­al — team of drug hunters

For a small biotech based in South Korea with a research arm in Cambridge, MA, Orum Therapeutics has sketched out some big goals aimed at developing antibodies for intracellular targets. And now they have a new $30 million round to push the work forward, aiming at a slate of currently undruggable quests.

Orum has been working on a platform tech out of Ajou University that relies on endocytosis to smuggle antibodies and their cargo inside a cell. They’ve published work in Nature that illustrates its preclinical potential in RAS mutations, and KRAS is on their list of targets. 

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David Eveleth, Trefoil

San Diego oph­thalmic biotech up­start rais­es $28M on al­ter­na­tive to corneal trans­plant

Texas VC Bios Partners has found a new early-stage play to love out of San Diego, leading a $28 million Series A to help Trefoil Therapeutics make the leap to the clinic.

Stella Robertson, who headed R&D at Novartis’ eye care unit Alcon before co-founding Bios Partners, is particularly excited about this one. With a tech platform that engineers fibroblast growth factor-1 protein (FGF-1), Trefoil is out to tackle serious corneal endothelial diseases and epithelial disorders by prompting the endothelial cells to flourish and migrate. Ultimately — if the preclinical data hold up — the goal is to enhance healing and reverse vision loss.

Pe­ter Kolchin­sky and Raj Shah raise a $300M fund de­vot­ed to biotech star­tups

Peter Kolchinsky and Raj Shah have another $300 million-plus to play with on the biotech venture side of their investment business. 

The two announced Monday morning that they’ve put together their first pure-play venture fund at RA Capital Management, which has been known to bet on just about every angle in healthcare investing — from rounds to follow-on investments at public companies. This new fund of theirs arrives well into a go-go era of new startup financing, with a particular focus on building new biotechs.

Can a Medicare Ad­van­tage in­sur­er be great at drug de­vel­op­ment for their tar­get au­di­ence?

The top team at Clover Health believes they can do something no other health insurer in the US has attempted: Build new drugs from scratch.

The buzzy company run by Vivek Garipalli — who’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars for his new-wave insurance company — tapped ex-Pfizer exec Cheng Zhang to run his new biotech startup, Clover Therapeutics. And now Zhang and CSO Marcel van der Brug have allied with none other than Genentech to start putting their extensive healthcare data to work with genetics experts to start hunting new drugs that afflict their population of aging customers.

Medicxi, Tai­ho in­fuse €30M in­to Evotec spin­out — eye­ing can­cer meds tar­get­ing DNA dam­age re­sponse path­ways

Betting on DNA damage response as the next big frontier in cancer therapies, Evotec is spinning out some of its discovery-stage work and drug targets into a startup dubbed Breakpoint Therapeutics.

Medicxi and Taiho Ventures are jumping on board for an initial €30 million ($33.6 million) haul alongside the German biotech. For Medicxi the project aligns closely with its asset-centric investing philosophy, while Taiho will be drawing from an expanded investment pool that it has previously indicated would be reserved for first-in-class oncology programs.

Torsten Matthias, MODAG

Tar­get­ing tox­ic pro­tein ag­gre­ga­tion, Ger­man biotech banks €12M to de­vel­op drug for rare neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­der

The accumulation of misfolded proteins is considered the hallmark of various neurodegenerative diseases. Now, a German biotech is going after toxic protein aggregation in patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA), a rare, progressive disorder caused by shrinking nerve cells in the brain.

The company, MODAG, was founded in 2013 and based on research conducted by scientists at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry. On Thursday the biotech unveiled a €12 million (about $13.64 million) round of financing — led by Massa Investment AG — which will help shepherd its lead experimental drug, anle138b, into human trials.