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Laurie Glimcher (L) and Michael Aberman

The in­side sto­ry be­hind the fall of Lau­rie Glim­cher's big I/O start­up and the of­ten tense equa­tion of sci­ence and mon­ey

Jeanne Magram had been commuting from New York to the Toronto-based startup Northern Biologics for four years, when a fresh-faced, first-time CEO offered her a chance to stay closer to home. Versant Ventures, the VC behind Northern Biologics, had started an incubator in Manhattan and just launched one of their first companies: an oncology startup based around new discoveries from one of the biggest names in cancer research, Harvard immunologist and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute CEO Laurie Glimcher.

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Yanay Ofran (L) and Anat Binur (Ukko)

Leaps by Bay­er backs a pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing start­up tak­ing on Aim­mune — and Nestlé — in peanut al­ler­gy

Little capsules of peanut powder drove Nestlé’s $2.6 billion buyout of Aimmune. Now, with $40 million in new funding, a fledgling biotech is promising to bring a more sophisticated version of that protein therapy that can go much, much further.

Ukko’s goal is two-pronged — with the initial products spanning therapeutic and food — but it’s grounded in the same protein engineering platform, co-founder and CEO Anat Binur told Endpoints News.

As tar­get­ed ther­a­pies get ever more pre­cise, Deer­field un­veils $50M bet on a Har­vard pro­fes­sor's chem­istry in­sights

Behind the seemingly simple concept of targeted cancer therapies is the drug developer’s headache that the target is always changing. Each generation of kinase inhibitors may be ostensibly hitting the same oncogene, but in addition to blocking the wildtype oncogene, they must now also address the mutations that have developed along the way, spurring resistance to current drugs.

The more those target kinases evolve, too, the more they could resemble off-target kinases you don’t want to bind. So each iteration requires more selectivity — sometimes down to differences of a few atoms.

Bahija Jallal, Immunocore

Buried in Im­muno­core's IPO fil­ings? A kick­back scheme from a now for­mer em­ploy­ee

Immunocore spent much of 2019 dealing with the fallout of the Neil Woodford scandal, as the former star investor’s fall crashed the biotech’s valuation out of unicorn range. Now it turns out that the company spent 2020 dealing with another internal scandal.

The longtime UK biotech darling disclosed in their IPO filing last week that they had fallen victim to an alleged kickback scheme involving one of their employees. After a whistleblower came forward, they said in their F-1, they spent the summer and spring investigating, finding fraud on the part of an employee and two outside vendors.

Neu­vo­gen un­cloaks with broad plan of at­tack for whole-cell can­cer vac­cines, clin­i­cal hopes with­in the year

After about four stealthy years in the development phase, San Diego-based Neuvogen is emerging with a new approach to whole-cell cancer vaccines and nine solid tumor programs bound for the clinic.

Whole-cell tumor vaccines are developed by taking cancer cells from patients and modifying them to make them immunogenic.

“What’s different from what we do, is most people use one cell line. We use six,” CEO Todd Binder said. From there, the company builds out six modifications to eliminate problematic immunosuppressive factors, and add what the executive called three “stimulatory factors” to generate a prime and overcome peripheral tolerance.

CEO Marshall Fordyce (Vera)

An am­bi­tious GV-backed gene edit­ing up­start re-emerges as a one-drug kid­ney com­pa­ny

In September 2019, Trucode Gene Repair launched, after two-plus years of early development, with $34 million from GV and Kleiner Perkins and ambitious plans to take on the raft of CRISPR companies with a new form of gene editing.

Those plans, though, would only last a few months. By February, company leadership was already pivoting, filing a trademark and domain name for a new company, called Vera Therapeutics. On Monday, they completed the switch, “launching” with an $80 million Series C round led by Abingworth and plans to focus their efforts on atacicept, a 20-year-old molecule now in development for kidney disease.

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A long­time Pfiz­er chief's ul­tra-qui­et biotech re-emerges with new cash and plans for the clin­ic

In August 2018, a tiny biotech spinout from Cornell announced they had hired former high-ranking Pfizer executive Geno Germano as CEO. And then they said nothing else. For two years. Literally, the company, called Elucida Oncology, did not issue a single other press release until this past October, when they hired a chief medical officer.

Now, though, Elucida seems to be ready to start taking the lid off their operations. On Tuesday at JP Morgan, Germano walked investors through the nanoparticle technology they’ve been developing for cancer. And the same day, the company announced a new financing, raising $44 million in a Series “A-1” round meant to propel them into the clinic this year.

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CEO Volker Herrmann (Inzen)

Flag­ship chris­tens the lat­est start­up to join the drug dis­cov­ery fleet, this time fo­cused on the lessons of cell death

A few years ago, Flagship managing partner Doug Cole began to pick at the notion that cell death could offer a rich source of information on new drugs. After all, intercellular communication between living cells had long been mined for insights into the role of neurotransmitters and cytokines and so forth that made up the central focus for numerous startups.

He put together a team, with Jason Park, that began to assemble what was known about cell death, and also started doing their own experiments with mice to see what they could add as they tracked what happened when they triggered different kinds of cell death.

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Alicia Secor (Atalanta)

Genen­tech and Bio­gen roll the dice on an up­start biotech with a new siR­NA ap­proach — go­ing deep in­to the brain for tar­gets in neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion

Atalanta isn’t your average stealth biotech making a debut. They have some history and deals to sketch out in rough outlines.

The founding execs date the silent launch all the way back to mid-2019, with the publication of a seminal study looking at a new siRNA strategy for neurodegeneration. And instead of scouting for their first partners, the fledgling biotech can already count 2 prominent players as allies in the extensive preclinical work that’s been done to establish the platform.

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Michael Ehlers

Michael Ehlers is bet­ting $40M that an AI out­fit has fig­ured out how to beat the block­buster IL-2 chal­lenge

Sanofi was so intrigued by the prospect of figuring out a breakthrough on IL-2 in cancer that Paul Hudson recently engineered a $2.5 billion acquisition of Synthorx to add it to the pipeline. Now Michael Ehlers believes he’s found the key to the IL-2 challenge, and he’s steering a straight course into a human study — at a much lower price.

This morning the ex-Biogen R&D chief and current CSO at ATP (what had been Apple Tree Partners) unveiled a deal to partner with Biolojic Design on an antibody their computational design team came up with that binds directly to naturally occurring IL-2 and drags it to low affinity effector T cells and away from the Treg crowd of bad actors.

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