Startups channel feed

George Church (Mary Altaffer/AP Images)

ARCH-backed George Church spin­out shuts down af­ter gene ther­a­py tech strug­gles in an­i­mal mod­els

Harvard bioengineer George Church likes students with big ideas and he likes to help them make those ideas a reality, serving as a co-founder or advisor on dozens of the zany and ambitious startups to spin out of his lab.

But not all ideas are quite ready to change medicine.

Ally Therapeutics, a gene therapy biotech that launched out of Church’s lab in 2018 and later raised seed cash from ARCH and other blue-chip VCs, shut down earlier this year, board member Bob More confirmed in an email.

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Lloyd Klickstein, Versanis Bio CEO

A No­var­tis castoff drug gets new life at an At­las-backed start­up look­ing to blaze a trail in obe­si­ty

After decades of failure, the obesity field is finally seeing some major progress with the success of a stable of GLP-1 diabetes drugs showing clinical benefit. A small biotech thinks it has something new to offer in that space with an older drug, and investors like what they see so far.

Versanis Bio launched Tuesday with a $70 million A round backed by biotech blue-chippers Atlas Venture and Medicxi with lead candidate bimagrumab, an in-licensed Novartis drug originally targeting muscle weakness, gearing up for a Phase II study in obesity.

Atavistik president and CSO Marion Dorsch (L) and acting CEO John Josey (Atavistik Bio)

For­mer Blue­print and Pelo­ton vets team up to take on big play­ers in grow­ing hunt for a new type of small mol­e­cule

Drug discovery is a historically painstaking process, but another biotech has impressed investors with its plan to make scientists’ jobs a bit easier.

Atavistik Bio uncloaked on Tuesday morning with a $60 million Series A round led by The Column Group and a new high-throughput screening platform to identify allosteric modulators of proteins. A small group of co-founders got serious about forming the company about eight months ago. And, led by former Peloton CEO John Josey and former Blueprint Medicines CSO Marion Dorsch, the team secured their own lab space in Cambridge, MA last month.

Paul Hastings, Nkarta CEO and BIO chairman

We asked our bio­phar­ma read­ers about their com­pa­ny's poli­cies on vac­cine man­dates. Feel­ings are run­ning strong

The rapid adoption of Covid-19 vaccine mandates by several Big Pharma multinationals enjoys broad support in the biopharma industry as people return to the office. But it’s clear that there are some deep-seated objections among some and no clear consensus on the need for putting mandates in place for everyone.

That’s the bottom line from our snap survey over the last 2 days. We asked our biopharma subscribers whether their companies had a mandate in place and whether or not they agreed that vaccines should be required. Paul Hastings, the CEO of Nkarta and chairperson of BIO — and an enthusiastic supporter of mandates — also helped spread the link to the poll among the organization’s membership.

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Jeffrey Bluestone, Sonoma CEO (Photo credit: Steve Babuljak)

Jeff Blue­stone just raised $265M to de­vel­op cu­ra­tive cell ther­a­pies. We asked him how

Jeff Bluestone had some big goals in mind when he decided to make a switch from a decades-long career in academia and non-profit research to a biotech startup CEO. And now — 18 months after the $40 million launch party — he has a whole lot more money on hand to pay for the considerable amount of work ahead at Sonoma Biotherapeutics.

This morning Bluestone is taking the wraps off a $265 million B round after boosting the core syndicate of A-list investors he started with. Even by today’s standards, that sum dwarfs the kind of $100 million-plus megarounds that have become standard fare in biotech over the last 2 years.

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Take­da and Fra­zier team up again to launch a spin­out — this time fo­cused on a late-stage vac­cine

Takeda has plucked a late-stage vaccine from the pipeline and handed it to a spinout company — once again turning to some colleagues at Frazier Healthcare Partners to make the deal work.

The pharma giant is spinning out its norovirus vaccine TAK-214 to a startup called HilleVax for the last stage of what will likely be a considerable R&D journey. The world was treated to a record setting late-stage program for Covid-19 vaccines, but regular development in the field typically take years to see out.

Jeffrey Kim, Slingshot Biosciences

From cel­list to syn­thet­ic cell-ist: Jef­frey Kim scores $23M to reimag­ine blood tests, cell ther­a­py

It wasn’t always Jeffrey Kim’s ambition to launch a biotech. In fact, after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Princeton University, the young cellist set out to become a professional musician in New York.

Kim was struggling to get by on a musician’s budget, recording for various studios while teaching guitar and doing anything else music-related he could. He also began working in a couple labs part-time, where he discovered that, like music, scientific research demands an incredible amount of creativity.

Can a next-gen take on a dead­ly weight loss pill con­quer car­diometa­bol­ic dis­eases? A Medicxi-backed start­up thinks so

Most drug developers might remember DNP, the yellowish compound that’s been used over the years as a herbicide and chemical intermediate, as a deadly diet pill. But Shaharyar Khan and Allen Cunningham wondered about the effect that it has shown, first in a 1930s study, in burning excess calories.

The duo, who have worked together for close to 20 years at a biotech focused on mitochondria-based therapies, found the biology familiar. In cells — whether you’re a yeast or a human being — a mitochondria takes substrates, fats and sugars and generates energy. Slow that down, the theory goes, and the body burns more calories to get its energy then returns to a state of energy balance.

Nan Ji (PAQ Therapeutics)

Dis­cov­ery by Shang­hai sci­en­tists in­spires new plan of AT­TEC for pro­tein degra­da­tion

In a review penned weeks ago, Craig Crews — the Yale scientist credited with the discovery of PROTACs — reflected on how, in the two decades since he helped launch the field, targeted protein degradation has moved beyond the proteasome into “novel and exciting” strategies.

“For example, Lysosome Targeting Chimeras (LYTACs) harness the lysosomal degradation pathway to induce degradation of extracellular proteins and the Macroautophagy Degradation Targeting Chimera (MADTAC) platforms, AUTACs and ATTECs hijack the autophagy pathway, thus potentially enabling the targeted destruction of entire organelles and protein aggregates,” he and co-author Michael Bond wrote.

AI start­up En­tos looks to one-up the rest of the field by fold­ing quan­tum me­chan­ics in­to its dis­cov­ery plat­form

Imagine predicting molecular properties 1,000 times faster with 100 times less training data. That’s the future that co-founders Tom Miller and Fred Manby envision at Entos. On Wednesday, the team unveiled a $53 million Series A round and a new 16,000 square-foot San Diego headquarters to get started.

Entos came together last April with tech derived from Miller and Manby’s labs at Caltech and the University of Bristol, respectively. The two academics had been operating in the same circles for a while before they officially met at a conference in East Lansing, MI.