Jim Mellon [via YouTube]

Health­i­er, longer lifes­pans will be a re­al­i­ty soon­er than you think, Ju­ve­nes­cence promis­es as it clos­es $100M round

Ear­li­er this year, an ex­ec­u­tive from Ju­ve­nes­cence-backed AgeX pre­dict­ed the field of longevi­ty will even­tu­al­ly “dwarf the dot­com boom.” Greg Bai­ley, the UK-based an­ti-ag­ing biotech’s CEO, cer­tain­ly hopes so.

Gre­go­ry Bai­ley

On Mon­day, Ju­ve­nes­cence com­plet­ed its $100 mil­lion Se­ries B round of fi­nanc­ing. The com­pa­ny is backed by British bil­lion­aire Jim Mel­lon — who wrote his 400-page guide to in­vest­ing in the field of longevi­ty short­ly af­ter launch­ing the com­pa­ny in 2017. Bai­ley, who served as a board di­rec­tor for sev­en years at Medi­va­tion be­fore Pfiz­er swal­lowed the biotech for $14 bil­lion, is joined by De­clan Doogan, an in­dus­try vet­er­an with stints at Pfiz­er $PFE and Amarin $AM­RN.

The busi­ness of an­ti-ag­ing is gain­ing steam — Bank of Amer­i­ca has fore­cast the mar­ket will bal­loon to $610 bil­lion by 2025, from an es­ti­mat­ed $110 bil­lion cur­rent­ly — but in­vestors are cau­tious, Bai­ley not­ed in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

“I think there’s a huge amount of skep­ti­cism. There’s an enor­mous num­ber of char­la­tans…I un­der­stand why they would be think­ing you know, is this re­al?” he said. “(W)alk in­to your lo­cal drug­store, you’re go­ing to see about 50 prod­ucts that claim to be an­ti-ag­ing, and I can as­sure you that none of them are. So I think that there’s a healthy dose of skep­ti­cism.”

In­sti­tu­tions tend to move in lock­step when they’re in­vest­ing, he added.

“VCs are as­ton­ish­ing, you know, if one of them buys the yel­low hal­ter top, all of them have to buy a yel­low hal­ter top,” he said, quot­ing tech VC Tim Drap­er.

Bai­ley sug­gest­ed that in­vestors are not quite as en­thu­si­as­tic about plac­ing bets on an­ti-ag­ing, as they are in the tech world. “We’re dra­mat­i­cal­ly be­ing un­der­served…it’s not get­ting the ex­po­sure that tech gets, con­sid­er­ing the size of the mar­ket,” he said. “There is a dis­con­nect on what in­vestors — so­phis­ti­cat­ed in­vestors —  in­sti­tu­tions, how they’re view­ing this, I don’t think they quite grasp how fast this is go­ing to hap­pen, and how big it’s go­ing to be.”

Ju­ve­nes­cence has now raised $165 mil­lion in the last 18 months — in Jan­u­ary it un­veiled the first $46 mil­lion tranche of the Se­ries B — and the mon­ey is be­ing used to fund longevi­ty projects with the lofty goal of ex­tend­ing hu­man lifes­pans to 150 years.

It is a pop­u­lar vi­sion. In­spired by Mel­lon, ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Sergey Young — who is in charge of all things longevi­ty at the non-prof­it XPRIZE and VC fund BOLD Cap­i­tal Part­ners — un­veiled a $100 mil­lion fund with the same goal in Feb­ru­ary. Google-owned stealthy biotech Cal­i­co is af­ter the same prize — and has part­nered with Ab­b­Vie $AB­BV.

Ju­ve­nes­cence has been busy, col­lab­o­rat­ing with dif­fer­ent groups and set­ting up JVs, such as Alex Zha­voronkov’s AI shop at In­sil­i­co Med­i­cine — and has in­vest­ed in firms in­clud­ing AgeX $AGE and Ly­Ge­n­e­sis. In Feb­ru­ary, Ju­ve­nes­cence de­buted an an­ti-ag­ing joint ven­ture with the Buck In­sti­tute ded­i­cat­ed to in­duc­ing ke­to­sis. In re­cent months, it spawned a new biotech called Sou­vien Ther­a­peu­tics, which is de­vel­op­ing med­i­cines to ad­dress the epi­ge­net­ic un­der­pin­nings of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, and in­ject­ed $6.5 mil­lion in eq­ui­ty fi­nanc­ing in­to a pre­clin­i­cal meta­bol­ic dis­ease biotech dubbed BY­OMass.

This quar­ter, Ju­ve­nes­cence plans to close three more projects, Bai­ley said. The com­pa­ny is work­ing on for­ti­fy­ing its ma­chine learn­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ty to make sense of huge swathes of da­ta that could help iso­late path­ways to de­vel­op dis­ease-mod­i­fy­ing ther­a­peu­tics, as well as adding prod­ucts to pad its port­fo­lio. The idea is to pur­sue prod­ucts that ad­dress in­flam­ma­tion and fi­bro­sis to slow ag­ing.

Mean­while, the com­pa­ny will main­tain a fo­cus on re­gen­er­a­tion. “I’m mind­ful that if you live to 150, you know, peo­ple don’t want to be all wrin­kled, and in a wheel­chair. So what we want to be able to do is re­gen­er­ate tis­sues,” Bai­ley said.

The plan for an IPO re­mains in place. Yet Bai­ley ac­knowl­edged the com­pa­ny is wary of leap­ing on­to a mar­ket pre­ma­ture­ly, draw­ing a com­par­i­son with plant-based meat sub­sti­tute mak­er Be­yond Meat.

“Clear­ly, we need to have a re­cep­tive mar­ket and…we’ve seen that with Be­yond Meat…so I think that in­vestors are go­ing to come to terms for this in the near fu­ture,” he said. “We’re talk­ing to banks…I think that we’re well-poised, go­ing in­to the next year to do that.”

In the com­ing five to sev­en years, Ju­ve­nes­cence has bold plans. It ex­pects to have at least four an­ti-ag­ing prod­ucts on the mar­ket, Bai­ley said. “I’m hope­ful that we have gone through proof-of-con­cept with three phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal agents and are li­cens­ing with big phar­ma, be­cause we’re not hir­ing 10,000 sales reps. So we’ll let them do that.”

Sci­ence fic­tion is now sci­ence, he un­der­scored. “I think the world is go­ing to be shocked.”

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock to be act­ing FDA com­mis­sion­er while Biden team fi­nal­izes nom­i­nee — re­ports

Janet Woodcock is set to be the most powerful person at the FDA in less than a week.

The veteran regulator and longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has been tapped as acting commissioner of the FDA, according to reports by BioCentury’s Steve Usdin and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

The appointment was requested by the incoming Biden team, Karlin-Smith added, as they sort out the nomination of a permanent successor to Stephen Hahn — whose one-year tenure has been defined by Covid-19.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock is in the run­ning for FDA com­mis­sion­er — what does that mean for the agen­cy's fu­ture?

Just a day after reports emerged that Janet Woodcock will serve as interim chief of the FDA, word has gotten out that she is also in the running for the permanent job.

The decision, as the initial wave of reactions suggest, could have dramatic implications for where the agency is headed in the next four years — if not beyond.

Woodcock, the longtime CDER director, is being vetted alongside former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Bloomberg reported. Already tapped as acting head of the agency, she’s set to take over from Stephen Hahn right after Biden’s inauguration next week.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

Paint­ing by the num­bers, Sana founders carve up a gi­ant uni­corn-sized IPO — for a biotech that has­n't quite made it to the clin­ic

Sana Biotechnology is one of those startups that was sketched in on the chalkboard day one in the shape of a unicorn.

A giant unicorn.

And from the numbers the cell therapy 2.0 play spelled out in their S-1 $SANA, it’s clear that the company founders — led by a pair of major VCs aligned with some high-profile industry figures — are hunting a big chunk of that value for themselves.

The raise they penciled in — $150 million — isn’t likely what they actually have in mind, and it doesn’t do justice to the size of their ambitions.

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Eli Lil­ly re-ups di­ver­si­ty pledge, pitch­ing in $30M to ven­ture fund for mi­nor­i­ty-owned health­care firms

The fight against racial injustice spurred by a series of high-profile shootings of Black men by police earlier this year put Big Pharma and healthcare — industries targeted for their lack of diversity — in the hot seat. Eli Lilly made an early pledge to change its ways and put more back into the community, and now it’s continuing to make good on that commitment.

Lilly will infuse $30 million into the Unseen Capital Health Fund, a venture fund looking to invest in early-stage minority-owned healthcare companies that have been historically “unseen” by the investment community, the pharma said Friday.

Laurie Glimcher, Dana-Farber president and CEO (Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: With its rank-and-file churn­ing out star­tups, Dana-Far­ber launch­es ven­ture fund to cap­i­tal­ize on that suc­cess

The pace of innovation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in recent years has seen a wave of startups launch with IP or leadership sourced from the nonprofit’s ranks. Now, looking for its own returns on that success, Dana-Farber has launched a new venture fund to invest in those fledgling businesses.

On Thursday, Dana-Farber unveiled Binney Street Capital — its first-ever venture fund. Roche and Verily veteran Luba Greenwood has been tapped to lead the fund, which was named after the location of the institute’s Boston site.

CEO Brett Monia (Ionis)

Can Brett Mo­nia push Io­n­is be­yond Spin­raza?

For 30 years, Brett Monia struggled as one of Ionis’ top scientists to get their antisense technology to work. Now, as CEO, he’s trying to use it to turn Ionis into one of the industry’s biggest biotechs.

Monia, one of the handful of young scientists who in 1989 followed Stanley Crooke across the country from SmithKline (now GSK) in Philadelphia to found Ionis in Northern California, replaced Crooke as CEO last January. By then, they had proven antisense, an RNA-based method for manipulating gene expression, could work dramatically well in at least some instances, transforming spinal muscular atrophy with the Biogen-partnered blockbuster Spinraza.

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David Kessler in April 2009 (Eric Risberg/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Hack­ers start re­leas­ing 'ma­nip­u­lat­ed' Covid-19 vac­cine docs; Ex-FDA com­mish David Kessler to re­place Mon­cef Slaoui as Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief — re­port

There’s a new twist on the EMA Covid-19 hacking story.

Friday the European agency put out the 5th in a series of statements about the hackers who broke into their system, noting that some of the information on vaccines that was gleaned in the attack is showing up online — altered to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaccines now in use.

This included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines. Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.

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Terry Rosen, Arcus CEO

Gilead part­ner Ar­cus earns an­a­lyst­s' plau­dits for ear­ly pan­cre­at­ic can­cer da­ta that 'ex­ceed­ed ex­pec­ta­tion­s'

Arcus’ small molecule CD73 inhibitor for pancreatic cancer got a standing ovation from analysts who said preliminary data “exceeded expectations”— making waves in a field that’s seen little progress in several years and proving the candidate could be worth the hundreds of millions Gilead provided upfront in a deal that included more than a billion dollars for opt-in rights and milestones.

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News brief­ing: Five Prime fi­nal­izes PhI­II plans for gas­tric can­cer; AI di­ag­nos­tics-fo­cused Paige ex­pands staff

Five Prime Therapeutics has finalized a plan to take their comeback gastric cancer drug into late-stage studies.

The South San Francisco-based biotech released full Phase II data for bemarituzumab on Friday, which Five Prime said in November met all of its pre-specified efficacy endpoints in a topline readout. Now, the company is announcing it plans to launch a Phase III trial for the program in 2021. Following November’s readout, the future of bemarituzumab had not yet been finalized.