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.”

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

FDA hands ac­cel­er­at­ed nod to Seagen, Gen­mab's so­lo ADC in cer­vi­cal can­cer, but com­bo stud­ies look even more promis­ing

Biopharma’s resident antibody-drug conjugate expert Seagen has scored a clutch of oncology approvals in recent years, finding gold in what are known as “third-gen” ADCs. Now, another of their partnered conjugates is ready for prime time.

The FDA on Monday handed an accelerated approval to Seagen and Genmab’s Tivdak (tisotumab vedotin-tftv, or “TV”) in second-line patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer who previously progressed after chemotherapy rather than PD-(L)1 systemic therapy, the companies said in a release.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

The biggest ques­tions fac­ing gene ther­a­py, the XLMTM com­mu­ni­ty, and Astel­las af­ter fourth pa­tient death

After three patients died last year in an Astellas gene therapy trial, the company halted the study and began figuring out how to safely get the program back on track. They would, executives eventually explained, cut the dose by more than half and institute a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Then tragically, Astellas announced this week that the first patient to receive the new regimen had died, just weeks after administration.

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Time for round 2: Il­lu­mi­na-backed VC snags $325M for its next fund

Illumina Ventures closed off its second investment fund with a total commitment of $325 million, offering fresh fuel to back a slate of startups that have already included a smorgasbord of companies, covering everything from diagnostics to biotech drug development and genomics.

Fund II brings the total investment under Illumina Ventures’ oversight to $560 million, which has been focused on early-stage companies. And it has a transatlantic portfolio that includes SQZ, Twist and Encoded Therapeutics.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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