(From left to right) Cellino co-founders Marinna Madrid, Nabiha Saklayen, and Matthias Wagner

Khosla Ven­tures helps seed a next-gen re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cines start­up boast­ing AI-based stem cell cul­tur­ing tech­nol­o­gy

A start­up in the bustling Boston-area biotech hub hopes its new tech­nol­o­gy has solved a time-con­sum­ing as­pect of de­vel­op­ing drugs that re­ly on cell ther­a­py: hav­ing to re­move stem cells by hand, in­di­vid­u­al­ly, dur­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing process.

Celli­no, a re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cine com­pa­ny, an­nounced Mon­day that it con­clud­ed a $16 mil­lion seed fi­nanc­ing round that will fur­ther ad­vance tech­nol­o­gy that us­es ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and a per­son­al­ized tis­sue and cell plat­form and ul­ti­mate­ly seeks to gen­er­ate au­tol­o­gous in­duced pluripo­tent stem cells at scale.

CEO Nabi­ha Sak­layen found­ed Celli­no in 2017 while still in her mid-20s (she’s since gone on to be named to Forbes’ 30 Un­der 30 list and MIT Tech Re­view’s 35 In­no­va­tors Un­der 35 list), and told End­points News in a state­ment that the tech­nol­o­gy has the po­ten­tial to elim­i­nate “a ma­jor bot­tle­neck” in the stem cell in­dus­try.

“The com­pa­ny was found­ed to fill a crit­i­cal gap in the stem cell in­dus­try by en­gi­neer­ing per­son­al­ized stem cells with laser-pre­ci­sion in an au­to­mat­ed, soft­ware-dri­ven, and closed man­ner. Cur­rent au­tol­o­gous process­es for gen­er­at­ing in­duced pluripo­tent stem cells are not scal­able due to ex­ten­sive man­u­al han­dling, high vari­abil­i­ty, and low yield,” she said. “By pro­gress­ing to­wards the ul­ti­mate goal of scal­able stem cell man­u­fac­tur­ing, on­ly then will we ful­fill the promise of per­son­al­ized cell ther­a­pies, by en­abling ac­cess to all pa­tients.”

The tech­nol­o­gy it­self func­tions by au­tomat­ing stem cell pro­duc­tion us­ing im­age-guid­ed ma­chine learn­ing, sin­gle-cell laser pro­cess­ing, and ro­bot­ics. Celli­no said in a press re­lease that the stan­dard­iza­tion of man­u­fac­tur­ing in a closed for­mat al­lows it to eas­i­ly scale stem cell pro­duc­tion from the pre­clin­i­cal process all the way to com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing.

The ap­pli­ca­tions, they say, can span every­thing from neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, reti­nal dis­or­ders to skin con­di­tions — all of which they are ex­plor­ing for the in-house pipeline.

In­vest­ment in the $16 mil­lion fund­ing round was spear­head­ed by The En­gine and Khosla Ven­tures, with par­tic­i­pa­tion from Hum­boldt Fund and 8VC. In a state­ment, Alex Mor­gan, a part­ner at Khosla Ven­tures, was down­right bull­ish on Celli­no’s fu­ture and how its tech­nol­o­gy could al­ter the stem cell ther­a­peu­tics in­dus­try.

“Com­pa­nies that dis­rupt en­tire in­dus­tries and process­es don’t nor­mal­ly orig­i­nate from a sin­gle dis­ci­pline,” he said. “By us­ing sin­gle-cell laser pro­cess­ing and AI-guid­ed au­toma­tion to en­gi­neer cells at scale, Celli­no is well-po­si­tioned to lead the next-gen­er­a­tion of per­son­al­ized re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cines.”

The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

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Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

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In the lat­est big in­vest­ment in gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing, Bio­gen com­mits $200M to a ma­jor new fa­cil­i­ty in NC

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the only R&D effort of any consequence at Biogen belongs to aducanumab, its controversial Alzheimer’s drug. But behind the uproar around that drug, the big biotech has a full scale pipeline in play that includes a growing focus on developing gene therapies.

Now Biogen plans to build up the kind of manufacturing muscle that will give it an advantage in gaining FDA approvals — where CMC is always key — and then marketing them around the world.

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Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

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Ab­b­Vie of­floads UK site for $119M in sale to Chi­nese cell and gene ther­a­py play­er Phar­maron

With its Allergan buyout now long in the books, AbbVie has been taking a hard look at its suddenly expansive global ops to find space for a deal. Now, working with a Chinese cell and gene therapy player hungry for more elbow room abroad, AbbVie has taken one UK facility off its books.

AbbVie has offloaded its Liverpool manufacturing site as part of a $118.7 million sale to Chinese cell and gene therapy player Pharmaron, which is pitching the purchase as the next step in its global expansion plans, the companies said last week.