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Cullen Buie (L) and Paulo Garcia (Credit: The Engine)

On a jour­ney to dras­ti­cal­ly speed up cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing, Ky­topen lands $30M Se­ries A

Spun out of an MIT lab, sitting in an office space above a Cambridge tapas restaurant from world-renowned chef Ken Oringer is a biotech focused on drastically reducing the amount of time it takes to make cell therapies. And Tuesday, the company co-founded by Paulo Garcia and Cullen Buie said it raised $30 million in Series A funding.

The funding will go toward commercializing its system for accelerating engineered cell therapy production, known as Flowfect Tx. The round also will allow the company to move toward treating its first human with the technology, which it says can engineer simple non-viral manufacturing of cell therapies in just a few days as opposed to weeks.

Martin Babler, Esker CEO

Fore­site re­cruits Prin­cip­ia vet Mar­tin Babler — and his old team — to oc­cu­py the C-suite of a start­up

Almost a year to the day after Sanofi closed on its $3.7 billion Principia buyout, handing CEO Martin Babler $81 million for his chunk of equity, the biotech exec is ending his sabbatical and getting back to the helm of a startup. And he’s bringing the old Principia team along with him for the R&D scrimmage ahead.

Babler is taking over the top post at Esker Therapeutics from June Lee, who helped found the upstart, which Foresite hatched out of its labs and endowed with a $70 million launch round. The immunology specialist broke out of stealth mode back in May with a tiny staff and a Phase I plan for a TYK2 drug — initially for psoriasis — part of its plan to address genetically defined patient groups in a field dominated by blockbusters and blockbuster wannabes.

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Kunwoo Lee, GenEdit CEO

Eli Lil­ly gets be­hind the lat­est ap­proach to solv­ing gene ther­a­py's de­liv­ery prob­lem

Kunwoo Lee was a graduate student at UC-Berkeley when gene editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna — who happened to work in the same building where he studied — published a paper on CRISPR/Cas9. So he did what any aspiring bioengineer would do: He ran to her lab, and grabbed a postdoc there.

“We started really thinking about the future coming (for) gene therapy and gene editing,” he said.

Lee’s research with Doudna led him to co-found a small San Francisco-based biotech called GenEdit in 2016, the same year he graduated. After five quiet years, the team is now unveiling a $26 million Series A round with support from some big names like Eli Lilly to fund their work on one of the most pressing challenges in gene therapy: what Lee calls the “delivery problem.”

Jean Bennett (Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP Images)

Lux­tur­na in­ven­tor Jean Ben­nett starts a new gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny to tack­le rare dis­eases left be­hind by phar­ma, VCs

A few years ago Jean Bennett found herself in a surprising place for a woman who invented the first gene therapy ever approved in the United States: No one, it seemed, wanted her work.

Bennett, who designed and co-developed Luxturna, approved in 2018 for a rare form of blindness, had kept building new gene therapies for eye diseases at her University of Pennsylvania lab. But although the results in animals looked promising, pharma companies and investors kept turning down the pedigreed ophthalmology professor.

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The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

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Af­ter sell­ing to Genen­tech, the old Je­cure team is back at an RNA-fo­cused start­up — and more en­thu­si­as­tic than ever

When Genentech swooped in to buy NASH-focused Jecure Therapeutics back in 2018, a handful of the startup’s executives weren’t quite ready to disperse.

It had been just three years since Jecure launched with a preclinical portfolio of NLRP3 inhibitors — and the takeover came sooner than anyone, including CEO Jeff Stafford, had expected. So he got talking with James Veal and Gretchen Bain, two serial entrepreneurs in charge of Jecure’s R&D.

Rusty Williams, Walking Fish CEO

Five Prime founder Rusty Williams sets out to test the lim­its of cell ther­a­py with ax­olotl-in­spired biotech

Eighteen years after launching Five Prime Therapeutics, serial entrepreneur Lewis “Rusty” Williams was itching to start something new again. So he assembled the “best of the best” of his old colleagues at a bar and grill near Five Prime’s headquarters and got to work on biopharma’s latest puzzle: using B cells to break the boundaries of cell therapy.

A couple years later, the group has upgraded their corner table to office space in the Bay Area — and on Monday, the company they founded, Walking Fish, unveiled a $50 million Series A round to fund a push toward the clinic.

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Sam Waksal (Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Ex­clu­sive: Prison and multi­bil­lion dol­lar buy­outs lat­er, Sam Wak­sal is all in on the biotech game, with some big-name back­ers

Sam Waksal isn’t letting a five-year prison stretch for one of the most infamous insider trading scandals in Wall Street history stop him from doing something he’s good at: steering experimental drugs through the clinic, and pointing them to the market with blockbuster valuations that earn multibillion-dollar M&A deals.

Hours after Sanofi put out word that it is paying close to $2 billion for his biotech brainchild Kadmon, Waksal spelled out his latest plans in a rare interview with Endpoints News.

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Mike Garrett, Flamingo

Io­n­is col­lab­o­ra­tor Flamin­go is ready to take flight with 3 an­ti­sense drugs in the clin­ic and mys­te­ri­ous RNA in its sights

As the biggest name in antisense technology, Ionis has long focused on testing the interplay between oligonucleotides and RNA for therapeutic effect. But one class of RNA has mostly stumped researchers — until now.

Flamingo Therapeutics officially debuted Thursday with three clinical and one preclinical cancer drugs handed off from antisense guru Ionis, and an intriguing if unproven discovery engine gunning for mysterious long non-coding RNA targets.

The Tachi Ya­ma­da lega­cy tree con­tin­ues to grow with a new gene edit­ing biotech from Jim Wil­son

Jim Wilson has been busy lately.

Back in May, the AAV pioneer from the University of Pennsylvania launched a second-generation gene therapy biotech, G2 Bio Companies, and just last week unveiled a nonprofit aiming to serve rare disease populations where the pharma model provides little economic incentive. Both efforts saw significant involvement from the late Tachi Yamada, who continues to inspire those working at his legacy startups.

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