Startups channel feed

Peter Blume-Jensen, Acrivon Therapeutics CEO

Can a small band of bio­phar­ma play­ers suc­ceed where Eli Lil­ly failed? They’re tak­ing a shot

Eli Lilly didn’t try to spin anything about the mid-stage data they got on their CHK1/CHK2 drug prexasertib for ovarian cancer patients. The drug failed to move the dial in a significant fashion and they unceremoniously swept it right out of the pipeline a little more than 2 years ago.

Usually, that would have been it, another once-promising drug that didn’t make the cut. We see it regularly. But a small group of biotech players has come together to take another crack at a pivotal play on this drug. And they believe they have the key to making a success of it.

James Peyer, Cambrian

UP­DAT­ED: Can a cell ther­a­py treat mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy? A Ger­man bil­lion­aire's an­ti-ag­ing start­up is try­ing to find out

Gene therapy companies have faced huge hurdles trying to deliver healthy genes into muscular dystrophy patients’ muscle cells, so here’s an idea: Why don’t we just replace the muscle cells themselves?

Over the last two years, Vita Therapeutics has been exploring that possibility, building on early stem cell work from Johns Hopkins professors Gabsang Lee and Kathryn Wagner. And on Tuesday they announced a $32 million Series A to begin to move their first therapy into the clinic, where they hope it will help rebuild muscle in patients with a type of dystrophy that afflicts the arms and legs.

(L-R) Samta Kundu (COO), Jake Becraft (CEO), Tasuku Kitada (head of R&D) [Strand Therapeutics]

A pair of for­mer MIT re­searchers think they've un­locked the next gen­er­a­tion of mR­NA us­ing syn­bio 'log­ic cir­cuit­s'

The time of mRNA is in full swing as Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have blown the doors off the field. But in drug developers’ eyes, current-gen mRNA vaccines are just an appetizer to the full course of therapeutics further down the menu — at least that’s what two former MIT researchers with synthetic biology roots are gambling on.

Strand Therapeutics emerged from stealth Wednesday with a $52 million Series A to advance its pipeline of programmable, self amplifying mRNA therapies initially targeted at solid tumor immuno-oncology, the biotech said.

Third Rock seeds cell ther­a­py start­up with $95M in bid to cure MS

In 2018, former Biogen executives Samantha Singer and Richard Ransohoff were working with Third Rock on a new way to treat autoimmune diseases when one of the VC’s partners asked what Ransohoff thought of a wildly different approach to tackling those bedeviling disorders.

Third Rock wanted to build a company that would turn a protective class of immune cells called regulatory T cells into therapies, and another team had spent the last year and a half trying to find the best condition it would work for. Finally, they settled on multiple sclerosis, a disease Ransohoff had studied for three decades as an academic. They wanted his opinion: What do you think?

Eef Schimmelpennink, Lenz CEO (Business Wire)

A re­place­ment for read­ing glass­es? An RA, Ver­sant-backed start­up thinks its eye­drops could solve far­sight­ed­ness

The brain trusts at RA Capital and Versant Ventures have developed an eye for winners in the red-hot biotech space, but every once in a while a candidate comes along with so much potential it makes for an obvious investment. That’s what the partners think they’ve found in San Diego biotech looking to challenge reading glasses for farsightedness.

Lenz Therapeutics launched its rebrand from Presbyopia Therapies with a $47 million Series A and backing from RA and Versant to advance its late-stage-ready small molecule for farsightedness, a market where the biotech thinks it could have a shot at 120 million US patients and 2 billion around the world, the company said.

Michel Sade­lain puts his name and new cell en­gi­neer­ing tech be­hind 'ag­nos­tic' CAR-T start­up chas­ing epi­ge­net­ic anti­gens

It felt natural for Alain Maiore and Sebastian Amigorena to bring in Michel Sadelain as a co-founder of Mnemo Therapeutics. A CAR-T pioneer, Sadelain had been involved as an advisor since the early days — enthusiastic about Amigorena’s work in a genetic knockout that could enhance T cell memory and a new class of potential targets he’s discovered — and could introduce some well-known technologies to the toolbox. So they got the initial cash from Sofinnova Partners to plant roots in Paris and New York in early 2019; within a few months, they began to see more clearly just what the antigen discovery platform might unlock.

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Josh Mandel-Brehm, Camp4 Therapeutics CEO (Camp4)

Go­ing af­ter the phe­nom­e­non of 're­gR­NA,' Rick Young's Camp4 se­cures a launch round to push two pro­grams for­ward

You’ve heard of mRNA, largely thanks to the Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. If you watch the R&D space closely, you’ve also probably heard of oRNA and eRNA.

Now, a new biotech out of Rick Young’s Whitehead Institute lab at MIT wants to introduce you to regulatory RNA, or regRNA.

The company is Camp4 Therapeutics, and it’s locked down its first fundraise with a $45 million Series A on Tuesday. Led by CEO Josh Mandel-Brehm, Camp4 wants to create oligonucleotide-based medicines that control protein expression to help regulate any kind of genetic disease.

Aaron Kantoff (Medicxi)

A Medicxi-backed start­up looks to tack­le treat­ment-re­sis­tant blood can­cers, and it's go­ing af­ter AML first

In the hardest-to-treat blood cancers, resistance to therapy is an existential problem for drug developers looking to permanently stave off tumors. A small biotech is chasing an emerging pathway to stop tumors’ ability to resist treatment, and its work has caught the eye of a couple of big-name investors.

Kurome Therapeutics snared a $15 million Series A round it will use to identify and develop a lead program from its platform looking at dual inhibitors of the IRAK1/4 signaling pathway and FLT3 protein receptors on heme blasts to crack treatment-resistant tumors, the biotech said Thursday.

PJ Anand, Alcyone Therapeutics CEO

A gene ther­a­py biotech is burst­ing on­to the scene with 12 pro­grams in tow. An ul­tra-rare neu­ro dis­ease is up first

In downtown Lowell, MA, tucked into one of the country’s oldest surviving textile mill complexes is a new biotech toiling away on next-gen CNS therapies for severe neurological disorders. And it’s starting with Rett syndrome — a rare neurodevelopmental condition that almost exclusively affects girls.

Alcyone Therapeutics emerged from stealth mode Wednesday with $23 million from RTW Investments and 12 new gene therapy programs in the works. The company was created last summer, shortly after founder and CEO PJ Anand met Kathrin Meyer, a principal investigator in the gene therapy unit at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Stuart Schreiber (Maria Nemchuk, Broad Institute)

Po­laris, Ab­b­Vie, Bay­er back Stu­art Schreiber's hunt to turn can­cer treat­ments in­to cures

What happens to cancer cells that don’t die after powerful treatment? Scientists have long known that in all but a handful of cases, they don’t vanish even if the patients appear cancer-free — instead lurking somewhere, unreachable and undetectable and preparing, like a vanquished movie villain at the start of a sequel, for a return.

Research over the last decade began to suggest there was something different about these survivor cells. It wasn’t just that they might mutate. They reprogrammed themselves, like an operating system sealing itself off after too many incorrect passwords, and entered a protective state that other cells in the body have been known to enter when threatened.

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