Dana-Far­ber’s Lau­rie Glim­ch­er helps launch a NYC biotech up­start with some key in­sights on im­muno-on­col­o­gy tech

Years be­fore Lau­rie Glim­ch­er left her job as dean at Weill Cor­nell Med­ical Col­lege and took the top job at Dana-Far­ber, the sci­en­tist was in the lab prob­ing the way in which cer­tain con­di­tions caused un­fold­ed pro­teins to clut­ter en­do­plas­mic retic­u­lum (ER) path­ways — study­ing the ways that played out in the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment.

The ER stress that sparked in turn trig­gered var­i­ous sur­vival mech­a­nisms — in par­tic­u­lar the tu­mor-pro­mot­ing IRE1α path­way — that could help these tu­mors adapt to a num­ber of threats.

“The ER stress path­way is de­signed to help cells sur­vive in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment,” Glim­ch­er tells me, the kind of hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment that fre­quent­ly be­sets tu­mors. But there was more to come. One of the for­mer post­docs in her lab, Juan Cu­bil­los-Ruiz, found that an­oth­er way they pro­mot­ed tu­mor sur­vival was by di­rect­ly tamp­ing down on the im­mune cells dis­patched for an at­tack — coun­ter­ing the im­mune re­sponse that has be­come a cen­tral fea­ture in new can­cer fight­ing com­bos.

They’ve been work­ing on a small mol­e­cule IRE1α in­hibitor with some sci­en­tif­ic proof of prin­ci­ple ev­i­dence to back them up.

“What is a lit­tle more sur­pris­ing is that we could not on­ly in­crease the death of tu­mors,” says Glim­ch­er, but al­so block a process that dis­abled im­mune cells, which “in­creased their abil­i­ty to kill off cells.”

That pa­per pub­lished in Cell in 2015, she said, “turned the field on its head.”

Michael Aber­man

Their work pro­vid­ed the sci­en­tif­ic foun­da­tion for a new im­muno-on­col­o­gy start­up fos­tered by Ver­sant Ven­tures in 2016. And now their biotech, Quen­tis Ther­a­peu­tics, is de­but­ing with a $48 mil­lion A round with plans to get in­to the clin­ic next year.

Michael Aber­man, who left his job as se­nior strate­gist for Re­gen­eron last fall to run the com­pa­ny, says Quen­tis now has 4 full time staffers, in­clud­ing him­self, and a few part-timers to help out. But that is about to change, with enough mon­ey in the launch round to staff up to 20 to 30 em­ploy­ees for the pre­clin­i­cal stretch ahead.

In the process, they are kick­ing off yet an­oth­er Big Ap­ple up­start that at­tract­ed sup­port from a large syn­di­cate that in­cludes New York Ven­tures, which is back­ing lo­cal star­tups in an ef­fort to gen­er­ate a crit­i­cal mass of life sci­ence com­pa­nies in New York. Ver­sant and Po­laris co-led the round. The rest of the in­ter­na­tion­al group al­so in­cludes LS Po­laris In­no­va­tion Fund, Ab­b­Vie Ven­tures, Tai­ho Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, Yonghua Cap­i­tal and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments.

It’s that com­bi­na­tion of glob­al cash and sci­en­tif­ic tal­ent that New York is re­ly­ing on to spur a host of new biotech star­tups with the hope that one day they can ri­val a ma­jor hub like Cam­bridge/Boston.

Glim­ch­er, mean­while, has al­so been play­ing a qui­et but promi­nent role at Lon­don-based Glax­o­SmithK­line, where she re­cent­ly joined the board to help ad­vise on its sci­en­tif­ic fo­cus at a time GSK is div­ing deep in­to new can­cer ther­a­pies and grow­ing the on­col­o­gy pipeline.

When you can start to re­pro­gram the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment, she says, you have the po­ten­tial to sub­stan­tial­ly broad­en the im­pact of new ther­a­pies, reach­ing far big­ger num­bers of pa­tients.

“Won­der­ful as im­muno-on­col­o­gy has been,” says Glim­ch­er, “we’re still treat­ing a mi­nor­i­ty of pa­tients. We’re re­al­ly at the tip of the ice­berg here.”

Star­tups like Quen­tis are go­ing deep­er.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Kelly Martin, Radius Health CEO

VC firms take os­teo­poro­sis drug­mak­er Ra­dius Health pri­vate for al­most $900M

After attacks from activist investors and disappointing returns on share prices, Radius Health has now agreed to new ownership, a direction resulting in leaving the Nasdaq.

Radius Health, a biotech out of Massachusetts with one approved product in its arsenal, announced Thursday morning that it agreed to be acquired by two VC firms: Gurnet Point Capital and Patient Square Capital. The deal, worth around $890 million, will include debt assumption and the payout of $1 CVR per share for investors. And on top of that, OrbiMed is providing debt financing.