Eric Kelsic, Dyno Therapeutics CEO

Dyno's Er­ic Kel­sic fills the tank in his quest for bet­ter AAV with a group of big-name sup­port­ers on board

Ade­no-as­so­ci­at­ed virus­es (AAV) for gene ther­a­py have re­ceived a ton of scruti­ny through­out the field’s his­to­ry af­ter a smat­ter­ing of safe­ty scares and their lim­it­ed ther­a­peu­tic range. Hop­ing to crack the field wide open through a cap­sid de­sign rev­o­lu­tion, Er­ic Kel­sic and his team at Dyno have drummed up im­mense ex­cite­ment — and now a hefty war chest.

Dyno Ther­a­peu­tics has bagged a $100 mil­lion Se­ries A with back­ing from the likes of round leader An­dreessen Horowitz and new in­vestor Cas­din Cap­i­tal in its quest to use AI to de­sign bet­ter AAV cap­sids for gene ther­a­py, the com­pa­ny said Thurs­day.

As the gene ther­a­py in­dus­try has run in­to a tech­no­log­i­cal road­block with a nar­row range of AAVs used to de­liv­er those drugs, Kel­sic’s team is us­ing deep learn­ing to comb through mil­lions of en­gi­neered cap­sid de­signs to find safer and eas­i­er-to-man­u­fac­ture vi­ral vec­tors for a range of tis­sues.

So far, that mis­sion has earned the sup­port of high-lev­el run­ning mates in No­var­tis, Roche/Genen­tech and Sarep­ta in deals worth more than $4 bil­lion cu­mu­la­tive­ly — and now Dyno is ready to add even more part­ner­ships to the fold. The newest round of fund­ing will give Dyno the space to keep de­vel­op­ing its cap­sid de­sign plat­form as well as hire up its team and start tak­ing on new part­ners as part of its busi­ness de­vel­op­ment plan mov­ing ahead.

Kel­sic, a Cal­Tech grad and for­mer George Church acolyte at Har­vard, told End­points News his plan is to ex­pand the team about three-fold from its cur­rent 50-em­ploy­ee ros­ter but left the door open for even more ex­pan­sion in that time frame. Mean­while, the biotech looks to widen its plat­form to add three new tar­get tis­sues to its grow­ing fold — the lung, heart and kid­ney. Those join ex­ist­ing tar­get ar­eas in liv­er, eye, mus­cle and CNS.

As part of the fi­nanc­ing, An­dreessen Horowitz gen­er­al part­ner Jorge Conde will join the board. In a blog post pub­lished in tan­dem with the news, Conde point­ed to Dyno’s de­ci­sion not to build a pipeline of its gene ther­a­pies and in­stead in­vest in part­ner­ships as a big draw for his firm:

“From its in­cep­tion, Dyno chose to es­chew the tra­di­tion­al ap­proach of in­vest­ing in its own prod­uct pipeline (i.e. de­vel­op­ing its own gene ther­a­pies) and in­stead de­cid­ed to in­vest in the plat­form that will serve as the hor­i­zon­tal ‘in­fra­struc­ture’ lay­er to sup­ply nov­el AAVs to pow­er all gene ther­a­pies.”

In terms of where Dyno is look­ing for its next big part­ner­ship deals, Kel­sic said the fo­cus was all on com­pa­nies com­mit­ted to us­ing the tech to im­prove pa­tient care — and that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean just big names.

“Our mis­sion is to max­i­mize im­pact on pa­tients so the most im­por­tant thing is we want to work with part­ners who can ac­cel­er­ate the progress of cur­ing dis­eases,” he said. “We would love to work with more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers … but in time, we re­al­ly want to open up whole new fron­tiers, which means work­ing with a whole new va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent types of part­ners.”

With its ma­jor round in hand and a syn­di­cate of in­vestors back­ing it, it’s no ques­tion that Dyno has thought — and been asked — about an IPO giv­en the pace of the mar­ket and its A-list sup­port. For now, Kel­sic said, the com­pa­ny is stay­ing pat but nev­er say­ing nev­er.

“I would say we have a lot of op­tions for how we fund the com­pa­ny, which is the best pos­si­ble way to be,” Kel­sic said. “We have had a lot of in­ter­est from in­vestors at all stages as well as bankers in­ter­est­ed in IPO, but for now we’re in re­al­ly good shape with this Se­ries A, and we still have growth to come.”

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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Re­searchers move clos­er to de­ci­pher­ing blood clots from As­traZeneca, J&J's Covid-19 vac­cines

Researchers may be nearing an answer for the mysterious and life-threatening blood clots that appeared on very rare occasions in people who received the J&J or AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The new work builds on an early hypothesis researchers in Norway put forward last spring, when the cases first cropped up. They proposed the events were similar to blood clots that can occur in a small subset of patients who receive heparin, one of the most commonly used blood thinners.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock plots her fu­ture at FDA, with se­nior ad­vi­sor role to fall back on if Califf wins con­fir­ma­tion

Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock has been the face of just about every drug approval decision at the agency since the turn of the century. Since the pandemic began, she’s moved between the top of the drugs center to the head of therapeutics at Operation Warp Speed, leading the drive for work on Covid-targeted mAbs and antivirals.

Looking forward — and pending a quick Senate confirmation to cement Rob Califf’s return to the top of FDA early next year — Woodcock’s role at the agency will again be in flux.

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