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.

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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