Rachel Meyers (Marissa Fiorucci/Faze Medicines)

Faze Med­i­cines launch­es with $81M Se­ries A, Al­ny­lam vet head­ing sci­ence in play at bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates

Once most­ly un­known to the larg­er sci­en­tif­ic world, the field of bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates — cel­lu­lar struc­tures that could have big im­pli­ca­tions on neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive re­search — has seen a rush of in­vestor cash in the past two years. Now, a third biotech is tak­ing a swing at the field with a siz­able ini­tial fund­ing round to get go­ing.

Faze Med­i­cines, a Third Rock-backed biotech look­ing to de­vel­op med­i­cines tar­get­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases and po­ten­tial­ly even more ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas, launched Thurs­day with an $81 mil­lion Se­ries A round and Al­ny­lam vet­er­an Rachel Mey­ers head­ing up the sci­ence.

Found­ed by four in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Howard Hugh­es Med­ical In­sti­tute in Mary­land — Roy Park­er, Mike Rosen, J. Paul Tay­lor and Ron Vale — Faze will cen­ter its sci­ence around bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates, mem­brane­less com­part­ments in eu­kary­ot­ic cells that con­cen­trate pro­teins and nu­cle­ic acids and could play a role in RNA me­tab­o­lism and gene reg­u­la­tion.

Roy Park­er, Mike Rosen, J. Paul Tay­lor, Ron Vale (HH­MI)

Third Rock joins No­var­tis Ven­ture Fund, Eli Lil­ly, Ab­b­Vie Ven­tures, In­vus, Catalio Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Cas­din Cap­i­tal and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments on the round. Faze will run with a board of di­rec­tors led by biotech vet Charles Hom­cy, a Third Rock part­ner and clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine at UCSF, as well as Bob Tep­per, an­oth­er Third Rock part­ner, and Lau­ra Brass of the No­var­tis Ven­ture Fund.

The com­pa­ny will al­so sport a stout sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board culled from lead­ers in drug dis­cov­ery and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive re­search, in­clud­ing: Richard Chesworth, chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer at Kymera Ther­a­peu­tics; Jim Au­dia, a for­mer CSO at Con­stel­la­tion Phar­ma who is now an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Chica­go Bio­med­ical Con­sor­tium; and Mer­it Cud­kow­icz, chief at neu­rol­o­gy at Mass Gen­er­al; among oth­ers.

Mey­ers, who spent more than 13 years at Al­ny­lam head­ing re­search on the drug­mak­er’s RNAi-based ther­a­peu­tics, left the com­pa­ny back in 2016 to be a con­sul­tant in the Cam­bridge area. In 2018, she joined Third Rock as an en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence and was im­me­di­ate­ly keyed in to dis­cus­sions around the role of un­bound struc­tures in hu­man cells that could be im­pli­cat­ed in a range of puz­zle-box neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases.

Those con­ver­sa­tions were tak­ing place in Third Rock’s halls, Mey­ers said, be­tween Hom­cy and Vale, al­so a UCSF pro­fes­sor. The dis­cus­sion orig­i­nal­ly cir­cled around the role of pro­tein con­cen­trat­ing RNA struc­tures in the cell that could be causal­ly re­lat­ed to re­peat ex­pan­sion dis­or­ders like ALS and my­oton­ic dy­s­tro­phy 1.

“That ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion led to in­ter­est in think­ing about how these RNA pro­tein struc­tures were in­volved in bi­ol­o­gy and in­volved in dis­ease,” Mey­ers said. “Ul­ti­mate­ly, we got ex­cit­ed about this no­tion of con­den­sates and start­ed ex­pand­ing this think­ing around re­peat RNAs to be­gin think­ing about the ways that RNA pro­tein struc­tures were in­volved in bi­ol­o­gy and dis­ease.”

Cary Pf­ef­fer

In the im­me­di­ate term, Faze’s team will fo­cus on those con­den­sates to de­vel­op mol­e­cules for neu­ro, but the goal­posts could even­tu­al­ly move in­to spaces like on­col­o­gy, vi­rol­o­gy and im­munol­o­gy as the sci­ence de­vel­ops, in­ter­im CEO and Third Rock part­ner Cary Pf­ef­fer told End­points News. That sort of clin­i­cal po­ten­tial is what helped bring Faze’s big-name in­vestors on board, Pf­ef­fer said, along­side Faze’s ear­ly in­vest­ment in its clin­i­cal plat­form.

“I think we can pre­dict that a few years from now, there will be al­most every in­di­ca­tion that is touched by the bi­ol­o­gy of bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates so that sug­gests to us ac­cess points to many, many more dis­eases over time,” Mey­ers said. “What we’re ex­cit­ed about is the clues, and the ways dis­eases are con­nect­ed.”

Based in Cam­bridge, MA, the Faze team of 12 will work to “dri­ve to­ward de­vel­op­ment can­di­dates” as it looks for a lat­er en­try in­to the clin­ic, Pf­ef­fer said. The com­pa­ny will al­so keep build­ing its “prod­uct en­gine,” in­clud­ing the di­ag­nos­tic as­says used for prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. On­ly one pro­gram is cur­rent­ly in ac­tive de­vel­op­ment, but Pf­ef­fer said even more are ap­proach­ing that stage in the near team.

Pf­ef­fer — in what is a typ­i­cal process for Third Rock — will hold the in­ter­im CEO role un­til Faze hires a per­ma­nent re­place­ment. In terms of who the biotech could hire to the helm, Pf­ef­fer was mum.

“At the end of the day, great CEOs come in all stripes and col­ors,” Pf­ef­fer said. “There’s a lot of com­po­nents that go in­to it … we have a great track record of bring­ing on CEOs at our com­pa­ny, and that’s what we’re go­ing to do here.”

In set­ting up shop to chase bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates, Faze will be run­ning along­side two re­cent en­tries in the space. In No­vem­ber, Nereid launched with a $50 mil­lion Se­ries A look­ing to chal­lenge Dew­point Ther­a­peu­tics, the first and on­ly biotech fo­cus­ing on bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates be­fore Nereid’s en­try.

Dew­point it­self launched un­der the lead­er­ship of Po­laris Part­ners man­ag­ing part­ner Amir Nashat back in Jan­u­ary 2019 with $60 mil­lion and 15 staffers. That first-in-the-field launch came with some pret­ty big names on board, in­clud­ing ubiq­ui­tous MIT gi­ant Bob Langer and in­vestors in Sam­sara Bio­Cap­i­tal, 6 Di­men­sions Cap­i­tal, EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, and Leaps by Bay­er.

Ed­i­tor’s Note: This sto­ry has been up­dat­ed to cor­rect an er­ror. The biotech com­pa­ny’s name is Faze Med­i­cines.

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Peter Thompson, Terremoto Biosciences interim CEO

For­mer Prin­cip­ia team looks to shake up co­va­lent small mol­e­cules again, this time at 'earthquake' scale

Terremoto Biosciences goes back a long ways, in a sense, to about a dozen years ago when Principia Biopharma was founded by UCSF professor Jack Taunton. Peter Thompson initially helmed the biotech.

The company helped expand covalent small molecule inhibitors beyond oncology and into autoimmune disease by targeting cystine. But that amino acid is uncommon in a lot of proteins, offering fewer drug targets than, say, lysine, which is present in most proteins of interest. So, over the years, Taunton went back to the drawing board to check out that second amino acid.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

FDA spells out the rules and re­stric­tions for states seek­ing to im­port drugs from Cana­da

The FDA is offering more of an explanation of the guardrails around its program that may soon allow states to import prescription drugs in some select circumstances from Canada, but only if such imports will result in significant cost reductions for consumers.

While the agency has yet to sign off on any of the 5 state plans in the works so far, and PhRMA’s suit to block the Trump-era rule allowing such imports is stalled, the new Q&A guidance spells out the various restrictions that states will have to abide by, potentially signaling that a state approval is coming.

Simba Gill, CEO of Evelo Biosciences

While down 87% YOY, Evelo gets Flag­ship and oth­ers to in­fuse new cap­i­tal for come­back hope

Just four years after Flagship spinout Evelo Biosciences went public in an IPO worth $85 million, the biotech has seen its share price tank from $13 a share this time last year (ultimately reaching a peak of over $17) to now under $1.50. And today, it looks like Flagship still thinks the fledging biotech, in a down market, is still worth something after initial pre-IPO backing from the likes of Google’s GV, Celgene, Mayo Clinic and Alexandria Venture.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at the World Economic Forum (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP Images)

All about ac­cess: Pfiz­er moves to a non-prof­it mod­el for drug sales in 45 low­er-in­come coun­tries

Leading the way to increase access to cheaper drugs worldwide, Pfizer said Wednesday it will provide all current and future patent-protected medicines and vaccines available in the US or EU on a not-for-profit basis to about 1.2 billion people in 45 lower-income countries.

Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda are the first five countries to sign on to this accord, which will also seek to blaze new paths for quick and efficient regulatory and procurement processes to reduce the usual delays in making new medicines and vaccines available in these countries.

Almirall is tapping artificial intelligence on behalf of its sales force for insights and efficiencies. (via Shutterstock)

Almi­rall rolls out sales rep ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sys­tem, cut­ting pre-call prep and 'wind­shield time'

Dermatology specialty pharma Almirall is making its sales reps smarter. Not with extra training or educational courses, but instead with artificial intelligence tools.

It began a soft launch of a sales rep AI and machine learning platform it calls Polaris last August in one of its 7 US coverage regions. The platform from Aktana gathers information from across Almirall internal sources and external ones – such as claims and prescribing data – to generate insights for reps. Now, instead of spending hours prepping for a sales call, Polaris can generate details about a physician’s preferences, past behaviors and prescription habits for reps in minutes, said Almirall head of commercial operations Vincent Cerio.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.