Maureen Hillenmeyer, Hexagon Bio CEO

Hexa­gon Bio rais­es $61M to con­tin­ue ef­forts to turn fun­gi in­to drugs

A year af­ter rais­ing a $47 mil­lion launch round, the fun­gi-lov­ing drug hunters at Hexa­gon Bio have more than dou­bled their cof­fers.

Hexa­gon an­nounced to­day that it raised an­oth­er $61 mil­lion for its ef­forts to de­sign can­cer and in­fec­tious dis­ease drugs based on in­sights mined from the DNA in mil­lions of species of fun­gi. The new fi­nanc­ing brings Hexa­gon’s com­mit­ted fund­ing to over $108 mil­lion.

Jakob Loven

Nex­tech In­vest led the fi­nanc­ing, along with new in­vestors Soft­Bank Vi­sion Fund 2 and Cas­din Cap­i­tal. The Col­umn Group, 8VC, and Two Sig­ma Ven­tures com­mit­ted funds as re­turn­ing in­vestors.

Along with lead­ing the fi­nanc­ing, Nex­tech In­vest’s man­ag­ing part­ner Jakob Loven will join Hexa­gon as a mem­ber of its board of di­rec­tors.

“We look for­ward to work­ing with Hexa­gon’s tal­ent­ed team to help re­al­ize the com­pa­ny’s am­bi­tious vi­sion of turn­ing na­ture’s hid­den mol­e­cules in­to first-in-class med­i­cines,” Loven said.

Hexa­gon is try­ing to ap­ply new tech­nol­o­gy to an old fash­ioned ap­proach: de­riv­ing drugs from fun­gi and oth­er mi­crobes. His­tor­i­cal­ly, many of the key break­throughs in the 20th cen­tu­ry were found this way, in­clud­ing peni­cillin and oth­er an­tibi­otics, and the ground­break­ing or­gan trans­plant drug cy­closporine.

Those drugs, though, were found by brute force: throw­ing mi­crobes at the wall and see­ing what stuck. Hexa­gon will use new ge­net­ic se­quenc­ing, ma­chine learn­ing and oth­er tech­niques to try to tap as yet undis­cov­ered weapons lurk­ing in the mi­cro­bial ar­mory.

As then-CSO Tod Smeal not­ed to End­points News last year, there are about 5 mil­lion fun­gal species but on­ly 5,000 have been se­quenced, leav­ing lots to be dis­cov­ered.

The funds raised will al­low Hexa­gon to ex­pand its ge­nomics data­base and ac­cel­er­ate drug dis­cov­ery ef­forts.

Tod Smeal

“We are ex­cit­ed to em­bark on the next phase of growth to dis­cov­er and de­vel­op unique and po­tent ther­a­peu­tic com­pounds for a broad spec­trum of in­tractable dis­eases,” said Hexa­gon co-founder and CEO Mau­reen Hil­len­mey­er in a state­ment.

That sen­ti­ment re­flects what Smeal said last year to End­points that while there is a fo­cus, Hexa­gon will re­main open on oth­er ther­a­peu­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties. In essence, they won’t be picky.

“We’re fo­cused on on­col­o­gy, but ini­tial­ly we’re go­ing to be work­ing in an­ti-in­fec­tives and on­col­o­gy,” the for­mer CSO of can­cer bi­ol­o­gy at Lil­ly Re­search Labs said. “We’re go­ing to be very op­por­tunis­tic, so de­pend­ing on what comes out of the plat­form, if there’s op­por­tu­ni­ties in oth­er ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas, we will prob­a­bly ex­plore them as well.”

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Cy­to­ki­net­ics’ ALS drug fails PhI­II, leav­ing the biotech with a sin­gle late-stage prospect

Cytokinetics’ candidate for the muscle disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, failed a Phase III trial, the Bay Area biotech announced Friday morning.

At a second interim analysis of the trial, an independent review committee recommended that Cytokinetics discontinue its COURAGE-ALS trial for reldesemtiv, as it “found no evidence of effect” compared to placebo on the primary or key secondary endpoints.

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CHMP gives thumbs-up for We­govy use in ado­les­cents, along with nine new drug rec­om­men­da­tions

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended nine drugs for approval this week while also giving thumbs up for six expanded indications, including Novo Nordisk’s approved obesity medication Wegovy for younger people. Wegovy is already approved as an obesity treatment in the EU for adults, and the new indication would allow prescriptions for adolescents aged 12 and older.

Green­Light re­ceives buy­out of­fer; Apol­lomics com­pletes SPAC merg­er

RNA biotech GreenLight Biosciences has been handed an offer for potential acquisition.

GreenLight said in a release that it has received a non-binding “indication of interest” from Fall Line Endurance Fund to acquire GreenLight’s capital stock for $0.60 per share in cash. The release said any potential agreement between the two parties would depend on certain conditions.

Through a special committee, the biotech will evaluate the offer but added there’s no certainty a deal will go forward. GreenLight will also not make any more announcements until a deal comes through or “otherwise determines” a statement is necessary.

Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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TScan Therapeutics' departing CEO David Southwell and CSO/COO Gavin MacBeath

TCR up­start an­nounces CEO ex­it, with CSO now act­ing re­place­ment

A public T cell biotech’s chief executive has decided to leave the company.

TScan Therapeutics said Friday morning that CEO David Southwell stepped down earlier this week, leaving both his chief executive and board member roles. Filling in is Gavin MacBeath, the company’s CSO and COO. He became the acting CEO on Tuesday, and will continue to remain CSO and COO, TScan’s announcement read.

Austin biotech Mol­e­c­u­lar Tem­plates lays off more than 100 staffers as pipeline nar­rows

Molecular Templates is ridding itself of a Phase I HER2 asset and fine-tuning its pipeline to focus on three programs and a preclinical Bristol Myers Squibb collaboration. With the narrowed scope on its so-called engineered toxin bodies, the Austin, TX biotech is laying off about half of its staff.

That’s a little more than 100 employees, per an SEC filing. Molecular’s layoffs, approved by its board Wednesday, add to the dozens of pullbacks in the industry in the first three months of 2023.

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Sar­to­rius to ac­quire French man­u­fac­tur­er for $2.6B+ in cell and gene ther­a­py play

The German life science group Sartorius will be picking up French contract manufacturer Polyplus for the price of €2.4 billion, or $2.6 billion.

On Friday, Sartorius announced the acquisition through its French subgroup, Sartorius Stedim Biotech, which will be acquiring Polyplus from private investors ARCHIMED and WP GG Holdings IV. Polyplus has 270 employees and produces materials and components that go into making viral vectors that are used in cell and gene therapies. This includes DNA/RNA reagents as well as plasmid DNA. Polyplus has locations in France, Belgium, China and the US.

Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee lobs more bi­par­ti­san pres­sure on­to PBMs

Congress is honing in on how it wants to overhaul the rules of the road for pharmacy benefit managers, with a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday serving as the latest example of the Hill’s readiness to make changes to how pharma middlemen operate.

While pledging to ensure patients and pharmacies “don’t get a raw deal,” Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) laid out the beginning of what looks like a major bipartisan effort — moves the PBM industry is likely to challenge vigorously.

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