Noubar Afeyan, Flagship founder and CEO (Victor Boyko/Getty Images)

Flag­ship launch­es Sen­da Bio­sciences with $88M in back­ing, look­ing to pi­o­neer the field of 'In­ter­sys­tems Bi­ol­o­gy'

Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing has a fresh com­pa­ny out this week, one that aims to lay the ground­work for a whole new dis­ci­pline.

Sen­da Bio­sciences launched Wednes­day with $88 mil­lion in Flag­ship cash. The goal? Gain in­sights in­to the mol­e­c­u­lar con­nec­tions be­tween peo­ple and co­e­volved non­hu­man species like plants and bac­te­ria, paving the way for “In­ter­sys­tems Bi­ol­o­gy.”

Guil­laume Pfe­fer

Guil­laume Pfe­fer has been tapped to run the show, a 25-year biotech vet­er­an who comes from GSK af­ter lead­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the com­pa­ny’s shin­gles vac­cine.

“For Sen­da, we are zoom­ing in­to what’s go­ing on at hu­man lev­els, and we rec­og­nize that these in­ter­ac­tions are the prod­uct of evo­lu­tion since the dawn of time,” Pfe­fer told End­points News. “We know which species are in­volved in our bod­ies and where.”

A cen­ter­piece of Sen­da’s pro­pri­etary tech in­volves ma­chine learn­ing to cre­ate what the com­pa­ny hopes is an en­tire­ly new class of drugs. By fo­cus­ing in part on the bac­te­ria that re­side in hu­mans, Sen­da is look­ing at po­ten­tial­ly de­vel­op­ing large mol­e­cule med­i­cines like pep­tides and nu­cle­ic acids us­ing oral ad­min­is­tra­tion, which the com­pa­ny says is a first.

In­ter­sys­tems Bi­ol­o­gy has been in the works at Flag­ship for some time. The firm says the dis­ci­pline is based on a decade of re­search in oth­er ar­eas, in­clud­ing mi­cro­bio­me sci­ence and com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gy, and the cel­lu­lar in­ter­ac­tions Sen­da is an­a­lyz­ing can be found in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent places with­in the body.

“Through the ex­plo­rations con­duct­ed by Flag­ship Labs over the last sev­er­al years we have dis­cov­ered that these in­ter­con­nec­tions have pro­found im­pli­ca­tions on hu­man health,” Flag­ship founder Noubar Afe­fan told End­points News in an email.

One prime ex­am­ple is the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter sero­tonin, most of which is not found in the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem but the gut. As much as 90% of sero­tonin is pro­duced in re­sponse to bac­te­ria break­ing down com­pounds with­in the di­ges­tive tract, Sen­da says, and if this reg­u­la­tion falls out of whack, it can lead to health prob­lems with both low and high blood sug­ar.

“With this ap­proach, you re­al­ize that we have a phar­ma­cy with­in us,” Pfe­fer said. “The key point is we have evolved with the bac­te­ria, and now with Sen­da are able to look with high res­o­lu­tion in­to how the species with­in us com­mu­ni­cate and par­tic­i­pate in dis­ease and health.”

David Berry

Sen­da cur­rent­ly has six on­go­ing pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams un­der its belt across mul­ti­ple ar­eas, with INDs ex­pect­ed for each by the end of 2022. In neu­rol­o­gy, Sen­da has can­di­dates in mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and Parkin­son’s dis­ease. For on­col­o­gy, they’re look­ing at im­muno-on­col­o­gy and col­orec­tal can­cer. And in chron­ic and meta­bol­ic dis­ease, the first tar­gets are chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease and obe­si­ty.

Specif­i­cal­ly, Pfe­fer men­tioned that Sen­da is look­ing at a bac­te­ria that in­ter­feres with L-dopa in the treat­ment of Parkin­son’s and at­tempt­ing to dis­rupt that process, thus mak­ing ther­a­pies more ef­fec­tive.

As Sen­da moves its six pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams for­ward, Pfe­fer’s goal is to con­tin­ue to de­ploy its dis­cov­ery en­gine in­to fur­ther in­di­ca­tions, set­ting up the com­pa­ny for more pro­grams once the proof of mech­a­nism has been es­tab­lished at the end of 2022.

“We are touch­ing on some­thing very fun­da­men­tal here and very pro­found,” Pfe­fer said.

The com­pa­ny was co-found­ed by sev­er­al mem­bers of Flag­ship’s team, in­clud­ing part­ners David Berry and Igna­cio Mar­tinez. Sen­da’s board will be chaired by Flag­ship’s ex­ec­u­tive part­ner John Mendlein.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

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Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

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Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.

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Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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