A gene therapy leader stumbles, Medicxi's splashy 10-in-1 startup play, a radical HIV cure gets its shot, and biopharma's new top 50
Welcome to the second installment of Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.
It was a short week, but biopharma news didn’t seem to get that memo. If this report was helpful in recapping it all for you, please do share it with your colleagues.
Francesco De Rubertis’ 10-in-1 legacy play
Medicxi is known, among the European R&D circles it travels in, for its hawkeyed bets on asset-centric biotechs. But founder Francesco De Rubertis is trying something different with Centessa, a pharma operation formed by rolling up 10 startups in the VC’s portfolio — spanning 15 programs — into an integrated company with commercial aspirations. He is bringing newly retired Operation Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui along for this legacy play, with a slate of private equity and venture investors also on board for the $250 million crossover round.
“When I looked at each one, I asked myself the question: Would I want to be CEO of any one of these companies?” Saurabh Saha, who’s been recruited from Bristol Myers Squibb to run Centessa, told John Carroll. The answer, in most cases, was yes.
A radical HIV cure gets its shot
Like all HIV researchers, Kamel Khalili is too familiar with decades-long pursuit of a functional cure, all ending in failure. Is it time for his own radical idea? Jason Mast takes us behind Excision BioTherapeutics’ $50 million launch round to dissect a new approach 40 years in the making: a single-shot therapy that would use CRISPR to excise the HIV genes hiding in human DNA, and the 69-year-old Iranian-born polyglot behind it. “It was one of the last techniques that someone had pulled out,” as a fellow scientist puts it, and one that was met with its share of skepticism and NIH grant rejection. And yet, there might just be enough reason for cautious optimism that Khalili has invented one of the arsenal of weapons experts think will one day take down the virus.
Top 50 biopharma companies, 2021
Here’s one more way Covid-19 has shaken up the biopharma industry. It’s given us a brand new list of the top 50 public companies in the business of drug development, after Wall Street got over the fear of a global pandemic and ensuing lockdown. On top of the somewhat anticipated ascent of companies like Eli Lilly, Moderna and BioNTech, other players are making surprising appearances. Check out the full list compiled by Bloomberg analyst Sam Fazali here.
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