Carolyn Loew, Glympse Bio CEO

Gilead-part­nered Glympse snares $46.7M for their NASH-snoop­ing biosen­sors

Since its emer­gence at JP Mor­gan six years ago, the NASH field has been held back not on­ly by the ques­tion of how to treat the dis­ease, but al­so by the ques­tion of how you di­ag­nose it. It’s sim­ply not that dif­fi­cult to tell if a liv­er is fat­ty or scarred or in full-on cir­rho­sis.

The method used in most tri­als is nee­dle biop­sy, where you take a hol­low nee­dle, stick it through some­one’s skin and in­to their liv­er and suck out some cells. You stain those cells and ex­am­ine them un­der the mi­cro­scope. It’s safe but very painful, and that pain lim­its how of­ten you can test a pa­tient in a tri­al, and, down the line, how many of the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans sus­pect­ed to have NASH would ac­tu­al­ly be test­ed for the dis­ease and po­ten­tial­ly pre­scribed an ap­proved drug.

Which is why Glympse Bio was able to raise a $22 mil­lion Se­ries A two years ago off their NASH di­ag­no­sis plat­form and land a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gilead, ar­guably the largest com­pa­ny mak­ing a ma­jor push in­to the field. And why to­day, they were able to land an­oth­er $46.7 mil­lion in a Se­ries B from Sec­tion 32 and more than 10 oth­er in­vestors to bring that plat­form clos­er to use in tri­als and doc­tors’ of­fices.

“In NASH specif­i­cal­ly there’s a re­al need for a tech­nol­o­gy that can both di­ag­nose dis­ease and pre­dict treat­ment re­sponse,” Glympse CEO Car­olyn Loew told End­points News. “What we have the abil­i­ty to do is de­tect re­al-time bi­o­log­i­cal changes at the site of dis­ease.”

Glympse is one of sev­er­al dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies try­ing to de­vel­op bet­ter di­ag­nos­tic tools for NASH. Gen­fit is de­vel­op­ing a blood-based test, one that ap­pears like­ly to be­come an in­creased fo­cus for the com­pa­ny af­ter the NASH drug went bust in Phase III ear­li­er this year. In­ter­cept has used a range of ex­per­i­men­tal met­rics along­side tra­di­tion­al ones in their most re­cent tri­als.

Glympse’s plat­form in­volves in­ject­ing in­to pa­tients tiny biosen­sors that are meant to “query” the body for dis­ease. Ba­si­cal­ly, they mea­sure the pro­teas­es, pow­er­ful cut­ting en­zymes that are dis­reg­u­lat­ed in in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions and can­cers. In­ves­ti­ga­tors col­lect those sen­sors from urine to get a mea­sure­ment. “It’s safe, re­peat­able, non-in­va­sive,” Loew said.

The idea is that these sen­sors can de­tect pa­tients who have NASH or are at risk of de­vel­op­ing NASH bet­ter than nee­dle biop­sies that are used to de­tect liv­er scar­ring or the scans that are used to de­tect fat­ty buildup, both of which can be in­ac­cu­rate. The ac­cu­ra­cy of the nee­dle biop­sy, in par­tic­u­lar, can de­pend on where in the liv­er you prick.

“The sam­ple you take is very vari­able and how pathol­o­gists read the slides is al­so very vari­able,” Loew said.  “So you’ve got this in­her­ent vari­abil­i­ty.”

The sen­sors are al­so sup­posed to be able to pre­dict and de­tect re­sponse to treat­ment. In the long term, Loew said, they could be used to test pa­tients for NASH or NASH risk ear­li­er than cur­rent­ly pos­si­ble and fig­ure out quick­ly whether or not a ther­a­py works. In the short­er term, Glympse is work­ing with Gilead to se­lect pa­tients for their clin­i­cal tri­als and quick­ly mea­sure if the drug is work­ing, al­low­ing the Cal­i­for­nia drug­mak­er to de­cide faster if fur­ther in­vest­ment is worth­while.

Mean­while, Glympse is al­so de­vel­op­ing biosen­sors for can­cer and in­fec­tious dis­ease. The in­fec­tious dis­ease pro­gram re­mains un­der wraps — a Covid-19 test, maybe? — but the idea be­hind the can­cer pro­gram is that it will al­low clin­i­cians and drug de­vel­op­ers to know much quick­er than cur­rent­ly pos­si­ble whether a drug is hav­ing a bi­o­log­i­cal ef­fect, al­low­ing a doc­tor to switch ther­a­pies or a com­pa­ny to fo­cus re­sources else­where. Loew said it will be par­tic­u­lar­ly im­por­tant for im­munother­a­pies, which of­ten take longer to show their ef­fects.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; 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.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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