Gene ther­a­pies for the cats and dogs you love? Penn-part­nered Scout Bio just raised $20M to make it a re­al­i­ty

The gene ther­a­py rev­o­lu­tion that’s been sweep­ing through biotech isn’t just about hu­mans any­more. A Penn-part­nered biotech called Scout Bio has just picked up a $20 mil­lion round to step up its work on once-and-done ther­a­pies for com­mon pet ail­ments.

Co-found­ed by leg­endary gene ther­a­py pi­o­neer and Penn in­ves­ti­ga­tor James Wil­son, Scout is us­ing some fa­mil­iar AAV tech to go af­ter dis­eases like chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease, chron­ic pain and the in­flam­ma­to­ry skin con­di­tion atopic der­mati­tis.

Cindy Cole

“In the Unit­ed States alone, there are 90 mil­lion dogs and 94 mil­lion cats, un­der­scor­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ty in a new gen­er­a­tion of med­i­cines that dra­mat­i­cal­ly im­prove stan­dards of care for ma­jor chron­ic con­di­tions,” said Cindy Cole, Tech­ni­cal Part­ner at Dig­i­tal­is Ven­tures.

Need­less to say, Scout need nev­er go be­yond an­i­mal stud­ies for an ap­proval to mar­ket these drugs to vets — though pre­sum­ably the cost of these ther­a­pies will be dra­mat­i­cal­ly low­er than the high 6-fig­ure and pro­posed 7-fig­ure price tags that have at­tract­ed so much dis­cus­sion.

I queried Scout about that and heard back that the com­pa­ny be­lieves it can mar­ket gene ther­a­pies to a mass au­di­ence of pet own­ers — but not at a mil­lion dol­lars or more per shot.

Their mar­ket re­search high­lights that half of all pet own­ers would pay $1,000 to treat their an­i­mals. Close to one in 4 would go as high as $5,000. Com­bine the greater ef­fi­cien­cies be­ing made in man­u­fac­tur­ing gene ther­a­pies with a po­ten­tial mass mar­ket of 10s of mil­lions, and Scout be­lieves it can treat those crit­ters and make mon­ey at it. Be­sides, they add, an­i­mal drug de­vel­op­ment isn’t near­ly as ex­pen­sive as R&D for hu­mans.

Per­haps they are on to some­thing that would help the rest of the field when it comes to gene ther­a­py costs.

Their lead pro­gram is ane­mia in cats with CKD, and Scout says they’ve reg­is­tered hikes in red blood cells in their test an­i­mals.

Scout has a top syn­di­cate back­ing their play. Dig­i­tal­is Ven­tures’ Com­pan­ion Fund and River­Vest Ven­ture Part­ners led the round, joined by new in­vestor Green­Spring As­so­ci­ates as well as ex­ist­ing in­vestors Fra­zier Health­care Part­ners, Adage Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and Cor­re­la­tion Ven­tures.


Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; and more

Welcome back to 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.

With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Raymond Stevens, Structure Therapeutics CEO

Be­hind Fri­day's $161M IPO: A star sci­en­tist, GPCR drug dis­cov­ery and a plan to chal­lenge phar­ma in di­a­betes

What does it take to pull off a $161 million biotech IPO these days?

In Structure Therapeutics’ case, it means having a star scientist co-founder paired with the computational drug discovery company Schrödinger, $198 million in private funding from blue-chip investors, almost six years of research work on G protein-coupled receptors and a slate of oral, small-molecule drugs, with an eye on the huge and growing diabetes and weight-loss market.

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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David Kirn, 4D Molecular Therapeutics CEO (via website)

FDA places hold on 4D Mol­e­c­u­lar’s Fab­ry gene ther­a­py

4D Molecular Therapeutics quietly tucked an FDA clinical hold on its Fabry gene therapy into an SEC filing.

Meanwhile, the biotech issued a press release the same day after the closing bell on Thursday touting an IND for another asset, in diabetic macular edema.

The California biotech had paused enrollment of patients in its two trials of the Fabry gene therapy (4D-310) last month after three patients experienced kidney issues, all of which were resolved within four weeks. At the time, 4DMT said it would wait until the second half of this year to look at 12-month clinical data on six patients in the Phase I/II trials, one in the US and one in Taiwan and Australia.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.

Af­ter 13 years, Ramy Mah­moud steps in­to CEO seat at Opti­nose; Ru­pert Vessey set to ex­it Bris­tol My­ers in Ju­ly

After 13 years as president and COO at Optinose, Ramy Mahmoud has stepped into a new role as its CEO. He is taking the place of Peter Miller, who stepped down earlier this week, though Miller is still staying with the company as a consultant.

In 2010, the two business partners joined Optinose to take it in a new direction, transforming it from a delivery platform to product company. They previously worked together at Johnson & Johnson, when Miller was president at Janssen and Mahmoud headed medical affairs. Miller said after he learned about Optinose, “I did what I always do, which is find people smarter than me to talk with about the idea. And the first person I called was Ramy … and I said, ‘Hey, Ramy, what do you think of this technology?’”

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Ma­gen­ta halts stem cell work and may sell it­self fol­low­ing pa­tient death, clin­i­cal hold

Magenta Therapeutics said it is halting work on its stem cell transplant drug pipeline and may sell itself, a week after the company reported the death of a patient in an early stage trial of its antibody-drug conjugate.

The Cambridge, MA-based company said it will conduct a “review of strategic alternatives,” and that could include an “acquisition, merger, business combination, or other transaction.”

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Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (Andreas Arnold/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

BioN­Tech opens new plas­mid DNA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Ger­many

German mRNA player BioNTech opened the doors to a new manufacturing facility on Thursday, this one just about 75 miles north of its headquarters in Mainz, Germany.

BioNTech announced on Thursday that it has completed the construction of its first plasmid DNA manufacturing facility in Marburg, Germany. The facility will produce materials for mRNA-based vaccines and therapies along with cell therapies.

Te­va drops out of in­dus­try trade group PhRMA

Following in AbbVie’s footsteps, Teva confirmed on Friday that it’s dropping out of the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Teva didn’t give a reason for its decision to leave, saying only in a statement to Endpoints News that it annually reviews “effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated.”

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