Il­lu­mi­na co-founder Mark Chee moves from the genome to the pro­teome with up­start En­co­dia

When Mark Chee co-found­ed Il­lu­mi­na in 1998, the ge­nomics field was just heat­ing up. It had been three years since the first bac­teri­um genome was se­quenced, but the Hu­man Genome Pro­ject was still years away from com­ple­tion. That space has since erupt­ed, and now Chee is on to what re­searchers think is the next big thing: pro­teomics.

Mark Chee

Chee and fel­low Il­lu­mi­na vet­er­an Kevin Gun­der­son co-found­ed pro­tein se­quenc­ing-fo­cused En­co­dia back in 2015. Af­ter keep­ing qui­et for the last few years, the up­start broke the si­lence on Wednes­day to spread the word of its $75 mil­lion Se­ries C round, led by North­pond Ven­tures and Deer­field Man­age­ment. The funds will be used to com­mer­cial­ize En­co­dia’s patent­ed pro­tein analy­sis plat­form, dubbed Pro­teoCode.

“Our aim is to de­liv­er a sys­tem that en­ables re­searchers to probe the im­mense com­plex­i­ty of the pro­teome rou­tine­ly and at a scale that was pre­vi­ous­ly un­at­tain­able,” said Chee, who serves as pres­i­dent.

The plat­form com­pa­ny joins a hand­ful of oth­er biotechs — in­clud­ing So­ma­Log­ic and Seer, which reeled in a $55 mil­lion round back in Ju­ly — work­ing on the pro­teome. For decades, sci­en­tists tossed around the idea that in­stead of look­ing at DNA or RNA to un­der­stand the body and its dis­or­ders, you could look at the pro­teins made by ge­net­ic code, which in most cas­es, ul­ti­mate­ly do the dam­age.

Kevin Gun­der­son

As promis­ing as it sounds, it’s no sim­ple feat: While DNA has four let­ters and bonds in very spe­cif­ic ways and struc­tures, pro­teins are formed from up to 20 amino acids and can bond in a count­less num­ber of ways, and then change af­ter their cre­ation in­to a va­ri­ety of states de­pend­ing on what bonds to them. There’s al­so the chal­lenge that DNA and RNA can be repli­cat­ed and am­pli­fied in a lab while pro­teins can’t.

“The com­plex chem­istry, im­mense va­ri­ety, and broad range of con­cen­tra­tions that make pro­teins com­pelling tar­gets for study have al­so made their ex­plo­ration at depth and scale ex­treme­ly dif­fi­cult,” En­co­dia said in a state­ment.

En­co­dia’s pro­tein se­quenc­ing ap­proach us­es re­verse-trans­la­tion tech­nol­o­gy that turns pep­tide se­quences in­to DNA, which can then be read by a DNA se­quencer, ac­cord­ing to their web­site.

Aside from Chee and Gun­der­son, who serves as VP and CTO, the team al­so in­cludes an­oth­er Il­lu­mi­na vet­er­an: VP of sys­tems in­te­gra­tion Ken­neth Kuhn, who start­ed as a sci­en­tist at Il­lu­mi­na and worked his way up to se­nior di­rec­tor over 16 years. Se­r­i­al en­tre­pre­neur and Ax­ioMx founder Michael Wein­er has joined the board.

GV, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners, Bio­mat­ics Cap­i­tal, Decheng Cap­i­tal, Tao Cap­i­tal Part­ners, and Nan Fung Life Sci­ences al­so chipped in to the Se­ries C round.

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

FDA ad­vi­sors unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for Bio­gen's ALS drug

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA unanimously recommended that the agency grant accelerated approval to Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen despite the drug failing the primary goal of its Phase III study, an endorsement that could pave a path forward for the treatment.

By a 9-0 vote, members of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee said there was sufficient evidence that tofersen’s effect on a certain protein associated with ALS is reasonably likely to predict a benefit for patients. But panelists stopped short of advocating for a full approval, voting 3-5 against (with one abstention) and largely citing the failed pivotal study.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Alaa Halawa, executive director at Mubadala’s US venture group

The ven­ture crew at Mubadala are up­ping their biotech cre­ation game, tak­ing care­ful aim at a new fron­tier in drug de­vel­op­ment

It started with a cup of coffee and a slow burning desire to go early and long in the biotech creation business.

Wrapping up a 15-year discovery stint at Genentech back in the summer of 2021, Rami Hannoush was treated to a caffeine-fueled review of the latest work UCSF’s Jim Wells had been doing on protein degradation — one of the hottest fields in drug development.

“Jim and I have known each other for the past 15 years through Genentech collaborations. We met over coffee, and he was telling me about this concept of the company that he was thinking of,” says Hannoush. “And I got immediately intrigued by it because I knew that this could open up a big space in terms of adding a new modality in drug discovery that is desperately needed in pharma.”

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Chat­G­PT with phar­ma da­ta de­buts for med­ical meet­ings, be­gin­ning with AACR

What do you get when you combine ChatGPT generative AI technology with specific pharma and clinical datasets? A time-saving tool that can answer questions about medical conference abstracts and clinical findings in seconds in one new application from ZoomRx called FermaGPT.

ZoomRx is debuting a public version of its generative AI product specifically for medical conferences beginning this week for the upcoming American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting that runs April 14-19.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Quince Ther­a­peu­tics faces takeover bid from share­hold­er Echo Lake Cap­i­tal

A bid to take over the biotech Quince Therapeutics has been put forward by one of its shareholders.

On Tuesday, Echo Lake Capital sent a letter to Quince’s board of directors putting forth a proposal to acquire all the biotech’s stock for $1.60 per share, which would value a takeover at around $58 million.

In the letter, Echo Lake said that it believes Quince’s stock is severely undervalued and that no drugs are being actively marketed or developed that require cash expenditures. It’s trading below the value of its assets, Echo Lake said.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Flare Therapeutics biochemists Yong Li (L) and Valerie Vivat

A $123M Flare will get Third Rock on­col­o­gy biotech in­to the clin­ic this year

Flare Therapeutics will start its first human trial this year with an investigational urothelial cancer drug after pulling together a $123 million Series B from Big Pharmas, VCs and its incubator, Third Rock Ventures.

Launched in 2021 on the idea that a biotech could finally succeed at drugging the much-sought-after but stubborn transcription factor, Flare Therapeutics said Wednesday it is now primed for the clinic after closing its large financing haul earlier this year. The raise is a relatively stark figure in a tough startup financing environment but further buoys the upbeat signals coming out of other Third Rock biotechs in recent weeks, including the $200 million CARGO Therapeutics and $100 million Rapport Therapeutics rounds.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sanofi, Re­gen­eron boast PhI­II win with Dupix­ent in COPD, clear­ing first bar for ex­pan­sion

Dupixent, the blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug from Sanofi and Regeneron, has cleared a high-stakes Phase III study in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the companies announced Thursday morning.

If they hold up in a second, identical trial, the data pave the way for Dupixent to become the first biologic to treat patients whose COPD remains uncontrolled despite being on maximal standard-of-care inhaled therapy — the patient population studied in the pivotal program. The companies had spotlighted this as a key readout as they look to expand the Dupixent franchise and explore its full potential.

Genen­tech to stop com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing at Cal­i­for­nia head­quar­ters

Genentech is halting commercial manufacturing at its California headquarters — and laying off several hundred employees.

The move is the result of a decision Genentech made in 2007 to relocate manufacturing operations from its South San Francisco headquarters location to other facilities or move the work to CDMOs, said Andi Goddard, Genentech’s SVP of quality and compliance for pharmaceutical technical operations, in an interview with Endpoints News. Genentech has made changes in capabilities and invested more in technology, so it doesn’t need as many large-scale manufacturing facilities as it did in the past, she said.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

In­cyte wins ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for PD-1 in rare skin can­cer

Incyte touted an accelerated approval for its PD-1 retifanlimab in a rare skin cancer on Wednesday, roughly a year and a half after the drug suffered a rejection in squamous cell carcinoma of the anal canal (SCAC).

Retifanlimab, marketed as Zynyz, was approved for metastatic or recurrent locally advanced Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a fast-growing skin cancer typically characterized by a single, painless nodule. It’s roughly 40 times rarer than melanoma, according to the nonprofit Skin Cancer Foundation — but incidence is growing, particularly among older adults, Incyte said in its announcement.