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

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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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.

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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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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