Gene therapy upstart recruits more ex-AveXis talent; I-Mab reveals first-half results
It hasn’t been hard to see where Sean Nolan went looking for the talent needed to make Taysha into a leading player in the bustling gene therapy field.
Monday morning the company, where Nolan holds the chairman’s post, put out word that Taysha recruited the ex-CMO and ex-CFO at AveXis to come onto the board in the wake of a $94 million crossover raise.
In this environment, it’s yet another sign that Nolan and the top crew could have their sights set on an IPO as the biotech upstart completes the full team.
Tapped for the board are Sukumar Nagendran, who had been CMO at AveXis when Novartis stepped in to buy out the SMA company for $8.7 billion. Then there’s the numbers guy, Phillip Donenberg, who gained experience working with the SEC that could soon come in handy.
They’re joining a full boat of execs leading the way at the Dallas-based biotech, including: BioMarin vet Suyash Prasad as CMO; another AveXis alum Kamran Alam as CFO; AveXis’ former BD chief Dan Janiak and Sean McAuliffe, who helped bring out Zolgensma and now holds the top commercial post at Taysha.
They’re all working with CEO RA Session II, who came out of the entrepreneur-in-residence program at UT Southwestern, which is providing the gene therapy candidates for Taysha. — John Carroll
I-Mab releases first half 2020 results with much trial data soon expected
Among the most newsworthy aspects of the update included the preview of several trial readouts to come before the end of the year, including an expected IND approval in China for a hormone therapy in pediatric growth hormone deficiency. The company will likely initiate a Phase III trial for the candidate, eftansomatropin, soon afterwards.
I-Mab also divulged that its cash position was $221 million at the end of June, as opposed to about $175 million at the start of the year. The biotech reported a loss of $82.5 million over the last six months, as opposed to about $125 million in the first six months of 2019.
The company’s business model is rather unusual, as it conducts proof-of-concept trials in the US, and then uses the data for trials in China. Once the drug is clinically validated in the US, I-Mab retains Chinese rights for further development and global out-licensing.
It’s a bet that’s paid off so far, as I-Mab raised over $400 million in private funding before going public in January with a $107.3 million IPO raise. I-Mab’s stock price has since risen over 150% from a $14 opening price to over $31 in early Monday trading. — Max Gelman
Arrakis uses photoaffinity labeling to identify RNA binding sites
Arrakis Therapeutics read out data on the ability of its PEARL-seq technology to identify binding sites in RNA molecules — a step forward for the development of its pipeline of RNA-targeted drugs.
“PEARL-seq represents our innovative approach to establish target engagement, identify binding sites on the RNA, and learn about selectivity across the transcriptome,” Arrakis founder and CSO Jennifer Petter said in a statement. “As part of Arrakis’ mission to drug RNA, we are building and refining the tools needed to discover and design rSMs against important RNA targets involved in disease.”
The data show that the tech — which stands for photoaffinity evaluation of RNA Ligation-sequencing — can identify ligand binding sites and selectivity “across RNAs in a single experiment,” according to the company. Arrakis’ pipeline includes various RNA-targeting mechanisms, including ones for cancer, cardiovascular conditions, neurodegeneration and rare diseases.
“The research showed that photoaffinity labels could be tethered to rSMs without disrupting the binding interactions between the rSM and the RNA. Upon activation with UV light, the rSM irreversibly crosslinks to the RNA, enabling mapping of the interaction by sequencing analysis,” the company stated. — Nicole DeFeudis