Harmonic Discovery team

In­no­va­tion En­deav­ors doles out first in­vest­ment in the Joel Dud­ley era, with seed fund­ing for a small mol­e­cule start­up

Joel Dud­ley re­cent­ly joined the team at the in­vest­ment firm In­no­va­tion En­deav­ors, start­ed by for­mer Google CEO Er­ic Schmidt, in Au­gust with a mis­sion to in­vest deeply in the biotech world. And now, sev­er­al weeks af­ter bring­ing him on, the firm has made its lat­est such in­vest­ment and the first with Dud­ley on board.

Joel Dud­ley

In­no­va­tion En­deav­ors has led an $8 mil­lion seed round in Har­mon­ic Dis­cov­ery, the firm an­nounced Thurs­day morn­ing. Dud­ley will al­so join the com­pa­ny’s board.

In an in­ter­view with End­points News, Har­mon­ic Dis­cov­ery CEO Ray­ees Rah­man said that Dud­ley con­nect­ed with the com­pa­ny just af­ter its found­ing in 2021, hav­ing met through a mu­tu­al con­tact. Dud­ley was al­so a part of Rah­man’s PhD com­mit­tee, so he be­gan men­tor­ing the com­pa­ny around that time.

Rah­man said that Har­mon­ic Dis­cov­ery is build­ing a plat­form to de­sign small mol­e­cule drugs that can tar­get mul­ti­ple pro­teins at the same time, through build­ing a ki­nase dis­cov­ery plat­form and uti­liz­ing ma­chine learn­ing to help with the process.

Ray­ees Rah­man

“A lot of mod­ern drug dis­cov­ery is re­al­ly fo­cused on find­ing sin­gle tar­gets, sin­gle pro­teins that are mu­tat­ed or dys­reg­u­lat­ed that cause dis­ease, when in re­al­i­ty, most times dis­eases are caused by a con­stel­la­tion of dif­fer­ent pro­teins…and there’s not a lot of com­pu­ta­tion­al plat­forms that en­able this type of drug dis­cov­ery,” Rah­man said to End­points.

The ini­tial funds will go to­ward three ma­jor ar­eas: build­ing out the lead­er­ship team, ex­pand­ing its lab­o­ra­to­ry ca­pac­i­ty in Tuc­son, AZ, and fund­ing drug dis­cov­ery ef­forts through aug­ment­ing its chem­i­cal li­braries.

Rah­man al­so said that while more fund­ing through a Se­ries A is not out of the cards, it may take a few years be­fore Har­mon­ic Dis­cov­ery takes the plunge. Rah­man said by the time the Se­ries A process starts, he wants to grow the team from eight to 10 em­ploy­ees. And while the com­pa­ny al­so hasn’t ze­roed in on a lead can­di­date just yet, he hopes to have some­thing in the pipeline be­fore a Se­ries A.

As for what sets biotech apart from the ever-grow­ing num­ber of biotechs us­ing ma­chine learn­ing, Rah­man said that the com­pa­ny has strong fun­da­men­tals in bi­ol­o­gy.

“We’re re­al­ly deeply knowl­edge­able about pro­tein ki­nas­es, their struc­tur­al bi­ol­o­gy and ma­chine learn­ing in­volved to train mod­els and un­der­stand pro­tein ki­nas­es. So, we’re very fo­cused on solv­ing this one spe­cif­ic prob­lem,” Rah­man said.

Rah­man al­so states that they are not treat­ing the ma­chine learn­ing as­pect as a one-size-fits-all mod­el and are tak­ing a broad­er ap­proach to dis­cov­ery.

Oth­er in­vestors in the round in­clude Fifty Years, Y Com­bi­na­tor, Boom Cap­i­tal and Caf­feinat­ed Cap­i­tal, along with oth­er an­gel in­vestors.

As for Dud­ley, a for­mer CSO at a biotech start­up and a mem­ber of the team that in­ves­ti­gat­ed Ther­a­nos’ blood tests, he had pre­vi­ous­ly told End­points that he is bull­ish on re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the biotech world and was ea­ger for In­no­va­tion En­deav­ors to be more in­volved. He has been tasked with bring­ing the com­pa­ny clos­er to the biotech world.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Astel­las, Pan­th­er­na add or­gan to mR­NA tie-up; Rock­et launch­es sale of six fig­ures worth of stock

Astellas and Pantherna have expanded their November 2021 pact surrounding the latter’s mRNA platform to include a new target organ, the duo announced Tuesday morning, though they did not specify what that target is.

German biotech Pantherna is home to two platform technologies — one that designs mRNAs for non-vaccine therapies and another that designs LNPs. Astellas and Pantherna’s deal appears to mainly revolve around the first platform, which Astellas said it is using to research direct reprogramming, or turning cells from one kind into another without an intermediate stem cell phase.

Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Andrew Crockett, KalVista CEO

KalVista ends a PhII study ear­ly af­ter pa­tients suf­fer se­vere and life-threat­en­ing side ef­fects

KalVista took a beating Tuesday after announcing it would scrap a Phase II trial for one of its experimental drugs.

The biotech said in an early morning press release that it is terminating the study for KVD824 after multiple patients in every treatment group saw unsafe, elevated levels of certain liver enzymes. By ending the trial now, KalVista hopes to save some money and funnel it toward another study for its lead program, CEO Andrew Crockett said in a statement.

Pen­ny stock play­er to re­view all op­tions to try stay­ing afloat af­ter clin­i­cal tri­al fail

Adamis Pharmaceuticals is slowly tumbling down, and the biotech is looking at all its options.

After a Phase II/III trial failure last month that sent the penny stock player down an additional 50% to just 15 cents a share, the company said Monday that it is examining options to get the best value for its investors. A statement from Adamis indicates that alternatives include anything from a partnership to a sale of Adamis’ two commercial products, Zimhi and Symjepi.

Look­ing to push CAR-T in sol­id tu­mors, Bay Area biotech goes pub­lic in SPAC flip — with slight name change

SPACs might be slowly creeping back.

Monday evening, Estrella Biopharma said it was going public via a SPAC deal with TradeUP Acquisition Corp. The deal is set to close in the first half of 2023, and if all goes as planned, the public version of Estrella — dubbed Estrella Immunopharma — will be worth around $398.5 million.

The Bay Area biotech will also get around $45.4 million in cash, and TradeUp stockholders will get around 15% stock in the public biotech.

Take­da to pull key hy­poparathy­roidism drug from the mar­ket en­tire­ly by end of 2024 af­ter years of man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

Takeda on Tuesday morning made an announcement that almost 3,000 people with the rare disease known as hypoparathyroidism were fearing.

Due to unresolved supply issues and manufacturing woes, Takeda said it will cut its losses and discontinue its hypoparathyroidism drug, known as Natpara (parathyroid hormone), halting all manufacturing of the drug by the end of 2024.

The decision to not re-commercialize Natpara will be a blow to not only the 2,400 people who were awaiting supplies of their reliable injection since 2019, but also the additional nearly 400 people who were accessing the drugs via the company’s Special Use Program as Takeda sought to resolve these manufacturing issues over the past five years.