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.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bacteria are ruthless.

Some soil bacteria have evolved tiny, but deadly injection systems that attach to insect cells, perforate them and release toxins inside — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Scientists, on the other hand, want to leverage that system to deliver medicines.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, MIT CRISPR researcher Feng Zhang and his lab describe how they engineered these syringes made by bacteria to deliver potential therapies like toxins that kill cancer cells and gene editors. With the help of an AI program, they developed syringes that can load proteins of their choice and selectively target human cells.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Jeff Bluestone (R), Sonoma Biotherapeutics CEO

Jef­frey Blue­stone brings his start­up haul to $400M+, join­ing forces with Re­gen­eron on cell ther­a­pies

These days, when Jeffrey Bluestone gets together with his contemporaries in science, the conversation often turns to retirement plans.

But a little more than three years ago, Bluestone reached a momentous turning point in his career, exiting a prestigious post at UCSF, where he had spent decades in the scientific pursuit of new therapies. And it had nothing to do with retirement anytime in the near future.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

See­los Ther­a­peu­tics 'tem­porar­i­ly' stops study in rare neu­ro dis­or­der for busi­ness rea­sons

Microcap biotech Seelos Therapeutics is halting enrollment of its study in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (also known as Machado-Joseph disease) because of “financial considerations,” and in order to focus on other studies, the company said today, adding that the pause would be temporary.

The study will continue with the patients who have already enrolled, and the data from them will be used to decide whether to continue enrolling others in the future.

CSL CEO Paul McKenzie (L) and CMO Bill Mezzanotte

Q&A: New­ly-mint­ed CSL chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul McKen­zie and chief med­ical of­fi­cer Bill Mez­zan­otte

Paul McKenzie took over as CEO of Australian pharma giant CSL this month, following in the footsteps of long-time CSL vet Paul Perreault.

With an eye on mRNA, and quickly commercializing its new, $3.5 million-per-shot gene therapy for hemophilia B, McKenzie and chief medical officer Bill Mezzanotte answered some questions from Endpoints News this afternoon about where McKenzie is going to take the company and what advances may be coming to market from CSL’s pipeline. Below is a lightly edited transcript.

UK gov­ern­ment, pri­vate in­vestors dole out $340M+ to drug, di­ag­nos­tic man­u­fac­tur­ers

The government of the United Kingdom is giving out grants to several manufacturers that have a presence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The government announced that four companies, including Ipsen, contract manufacturer Pharmaron, DNA manufacturer Touchlight and diagnostic test producer Randox, will receive a total of £277 million ($341.1 million). According to a release from the UK government, this represents the first portion of grants from the Life Sciences Innovative Manufacturing Fund.

Kourosh Davarpanah, Inato CEO

Big Phar­ma-part­nered clin­i­cal tri­al match­mak­er se­cures $20M to im­prove plat­form

A company with public links to Sanofi and Moderna has raised more money to expand its mission of improving diversity and enrollment in clinical trials.

Inato put the word out on Wednesday that it raised $20 million via an A2 round to advance its matching platform between pharma companies and potential clinical trial sites.

Inato CEO Kourosh Davarpanah told Endpoints News that with the $20 million in hand, it will pursue improvements to its diversity offerings, its focus on oncology and data collection.