Hav­ing shipped its first bench­top gene edit­ing de­vices, In­scrip­ta draws an­oth­er $150M from deep in­vestor well

In­scrip­ta is one big step clos­er to reach­ing its am­bi­tious vi­sion of vast­ly scal­ing and de­moc­ra­tiz­ing ac­cess to gene edit­ing. And in­vestors have thrown in $150 mil­lion more to join the ride.

Sri Kosara­ju

The first batch of Onyx, its bench­top sys­tem for genome en­gi­neer­ing, has been shipped to cus­tomers, the com­pa­ny said, en­abling sci­en­tists to con­duct au­to­mat­ed high-through­put gene edit­ing on a ma­chine about the size of a mi­crowave.

Rather than serv­ing one par­tic­u­lar pur­pose, CEO Sri Kosara­ju said the Se­ries E “(val­i­dates) our con­fi­dence in the ad­di­tion­al ar­eas where we think our tech­nol­o­gy can cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties” and will sup­port In­scrip­ta for the long term. Fi­deli­ty and T. Rowe Price led the round, joined by D1 Cap­i­tal Part­ners and Durable Cap­i­tal Part­ners as well as ex­ist­ing in­vestors Fore­site Cap­i­tal, Coun­ter­point Glob­al and JS Cap­i­tal.

Kosara­ju points to two key ap­pli­ca­tion ar­eas that are al­ready emerg­ing for the tech­nol­o­gy: The first is genome dis­cov­ery, where sci­en­tists can un­der­stand the un­char­ac­ter­ized re­gions of genomes by cre­at­ing more vari­a­tions and study­ing them; the oth­er is for­ward en­gi­neer­ing — de­sign­ing cer­tain func­tions for agri­cul­ture, cos­met­ic or ther­a­peu­tic pur­pos­es.

An ear­ly play­er in the boom­ing syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy field, In­scrip­ta’s grand rhetoric echoes peers like Gink­go and Zymer­gen: “We do for genome edit­ing what Il­lu­mi­na did for genome read­ing,” for­mer chief Kevin Ness told End­points News be­fore hand­ing over to Kosara­ju.

Both are fa­mil­iar with the se­quenc­ing world: Ness had co-found­ed test­ing equip­ment mak­er 10x Ge­nomics, where Kosara­ju served on the board of di­rec­tors.

In Onyx, they be­lieve they have a tool in hand that would al­low sci­en­tists to gain ready ac­cess to what they call the “bioe­con­o­my,” edit­ing genomes eas­i­ly rather than re­ly­ing on com­pa­nies with large fa­cil­i­ties.

A bi­ol­o­gist with the plat­form can se­lect the genes they want to knock out from In­scrip­ta’s com­put­er in­ter­face. In­scrip­ta then cre­ates the agents to knock out those genes at their man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty and sends them to the bi­ol­o­gist’s lab. The bi­ol­o­gist ap­plies those agents to the cell lines, cre­at­ing thou­sands of dif­fer­ent lines that are “bar-cod­ed.” The bi­ol­o­gist can run what­ev­er ex­per­i­ment — ex­pos­ing them to a drug, say, or an agent — and the In­scrip­ta tech can see which cell lines sur­vived.

Since clos­ing its Se­ries D in 2019, Kosara­ju not­ed, In­scrip­ta has run a num­ber of in­ter­nal tests as well as col­lect­ing feed­back from a be­ta cus­tomer.

“So we have over 100 runs now with this in­stru­ment which has giv­en us a lot more con­fi­dence as we ship our first unit,” he said.

Key to that whole work­flow is MAD7, a syn­thet­ic en­zyme In­scrip­ta has billed as an al­ter­na­tive to Cas9 that’s free for sci­en­tif­ic re­search, with­out the li­cens­ing fee tied to the orig­i­nal CRISPR mol­e­cule.

For now the de­vice, which sells for $347,000, is lim­it­ed to edit­ing E. coli and S. cere­visi­ae, but In­scrip­ta is eye­ing mam­malian cells for fu­ture ma­chines down the road.

It’s still ear­ly in the process of fig­ur­ing out where their first sys­tem is the most valu­able, Kosara­ju said. So while they ac­knowl­edge the “ro­bust” IPO mar­ket — Zymer­gen has al­ready jumped in, and Gink­go is re­port­ed plot­ting a list­ing — he’s in no rush.

“The thing we’ve learned is there are a lot of ad­van­tages to build­ing the com­pa­ny and hav­ing ma­tu­ri­ty and vis­i­bil­i­ty be­fore you go pub­lic,” he said.

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.

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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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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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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John Roberts, exiting Vyant Bio CEO

Neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech Vyant warns of po­ten­tial wind-down

The CEO and chief scientific officer of Vyant Bio are out the door as the little-known but publicly-listed neurodegenerative biotech searches for an exit or, if all else fails, a wind-down.

The soul-searching bookends a winding journey for the biotech, which rebranded and transitioned from diagnostics company Cancer Genetics in 2021 after a merger with StemoniX. That came after a failed merger attempt with NovellusDx (now Fore Biotherapeutics) in 2018. In the last few years, units have been sold off and the stock price $VYNT has plummeted from the $30 range to penny stock territory.

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Teresa Graham, incoming Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO

In­com­ing Roche CEO builds out his top team, tap­ping Genen­tech vet to lead phar­ma di­vi­sion

Roche announced another leadership shuffle Thursday morning – the head of global product strategy, Teresa Graham, will take over as CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals in March while the company’s corporate executive committee will make a spot for Levi Garraway, CMO and executive VP of global product development.

Thomas Schinecker will take over the top spot as Roche group CEO in March, leaving his spot as head of diagnostics.

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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Giovanni Caforio, Bristol Myers Squibb CEO (Nicolas Messyasz/Sipa via AP Images)

Bris­tol My­ers turns at­ten­tion to new prod­ucts in wake of Revlim­id patent loss

Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio is shifting his focus to newer products as generic sales continue to gnaw at the company’s blockbuster myeloma drug Revlimid.

Both Revlimid and Abraxane sales took a dive last year thanks to generic rivals, BMS reported in its Q4 and full-year results on Thursday. As a result, Q4 sales dipped 5% and full-year sales remained flat. However, Caforio sees a silver lining — or rather, two of them.

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Lina Khan, FTC chair (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

FTC makes an ex­am­ple of GoodRx, bans dis­counter from shar­ing pri­vate health da­ta with ad­ver­tis­ers

Prescription drug discount provider GoodRx will no longer be allowed to share its users’ sensitive health data with advertisers after the Federal Trade Commission charged the online coupon provider with failing to notify consumers of such disclosures to Facebook, Google, and other companies.

GoodRx agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty for violating the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule after the FTC said it repeatedly violated a 2017 promise to not share sensitive personal health information. The FTC alleged that the company shared users’ prescription medications and personal health conditions with third party advertisers and platforms like Facebook, Google, Criteo, Branch and Twilio.