Valo CEO David Berry (Flagship Pioneering)

Look­ing to blend AI and hu­man da­ta, Va­lo Health scores new fi­nanc­ing to test drug dis­cov­ery plat­form in on­col­o­gy, be­yond

Com­pa­nies look­ing to bring ma­chine learn­ing in­to drug dis­cov­ery are a dime a dozen, but Boston-based Va­lo Health be­lieves its pro­pri­etary plat­form could give it a leg up in iden­ti­fy­ing can­di­dates for a range of ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas. Now, in­vestors are plac­ing a big down pay­ment to see if Va­lo is right.

Va­lo Health, which aims to merge AI with hu­man da­ta to for­mu­late can­cer ther­a­peu­tics and be­yond, has closed a $190 mil­lion Se­ries B fi­nanc­ing round. Va­lo said the fi­nanc­ing will ex­pe­dite sev­er­al new ther­a­peu­tic pro­grams us­ing the com­pa­ny’s nov­el drug de­vel­op­ment plat­form.

Va­lo has keyed in on tech­nol­o­gy — dubbed the Opal Com­pu­ta­tion­al Plat­form — that in­te­grates hu­man da­ta and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ma­chine learn­ing to ac­cel­er­ate the drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment process. This has al­lowed the com­pa­ny to iden­ti­fy pre­vi­ous­ly un­sus­pect­ed as­so­ci­a­tions be­tween ge­net­ic mark­ers and dis­ease, and iden­ti­fy the spe­cif­ic changes in gene ac­tiv­i­ty.

Va­lo thus far has fo­cused on on­co­log­i­cal, neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases with an ini­tial fo­cus on on­col­o­gy, neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive, and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases. In a re­lease, Va­lo high­light­ed four can­cer genes the com­pa­ny hopes to tar­get in its cur­rent port­fo­lio: NAMPT, which is as­so­ci­at­ed with sol­id tu­mors and hema­to­log­i­cal can­cers; PARP1, a key pro­tein in­volved in DNA re­pair and pro­grammed cell death; USP28, a gene tied to c-myc dri­ven can­cers; and HDAC3.

The $190 mil­lion comes in the form of pre­ferred eq­ui­ty cap­i­tal and rais­es Va­lo’s to­tal raised to over $285 mil­lion. Fi­nanc­ing was led by The Pub­lic Sec­tor Pen­sion In­vest­ment Board, Va­lo said in the re­lease. Join­ing the fi­nanc­ing round are all of Va­lo’s ex­ist­ing ma­jor in­vestors, in­clud­ing Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing, and sev­er­al new in­vestors in­clud­ing In­vus Pub­lic Eq­ui­ties, HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, At­inum In­vest­ment, and Mi­rae As­set Cap­i­tal.

The pro­ceeds from the Se­ries B, Va­lo said, will sup­port the con­tin­ued dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment of ther­a­peu­tic pro­grams and will fur­ther ex­pand the Opal plat­form and work­ing cap­i­tal.

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

End­points poll: Janet Wood­cock takes the (in­ter­im) helm at the FDA. And a large ma­jor­i­ty of our read­ers want her to stay there

It’s official: Janet Woodcock is now the acting chief of the FDA.

And — according to an Endpoints poll — most industry readers would like her to stay there, although a significant minority is strongly opposed.

To recap: Joe Biden is reportedly choosing between Woodcock and former deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as his nominee for the permanent position. Given their respective track records, the decision is set to determine the agency’s lodestar for years to come.

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An Endpoints Zoom meeting; and the email header employees will see if your company is a Premium subscriber

What’s next for End­points — and how to sup­port our in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma news mis­sion

The firehose of biopharma news is gushing these days.

That’s why broader and deeper is the theme for 2021 at Endpoints. You can expect new coverage outside our core R&D focus, with deeper reporting in some key areas. When John Carroll and I launched Endpoints nearly five years ago, we were wading in waist-high waters. Now we’re a team of 25 full-time staffers (and growing) with plans to cover the flood of biopharma news, Endpoints-style.

Northway Biotech's new manufacturing facility in Greater Boston

North­way Biotech sets up shop in Boston hub, look­ing to court more cus­tomers with bi­o­log­ics-fo­cused plant

Getting a foot in the door in Boston’s bustling biopharma hub is a rite of passage for many companies, but it comes with a steep price tag. Lithuanian CDMO Northway — now with a new moniker — will set up a new plant in close proximity, and it’s hoping its biologics focus will find a willing customer base.

Northway Biotech (formerly Northway Biotechpharma) on Wednesday held a virtual grand opening ceremony for its $40 million Waltham, MA facility — a 30,000 square-foot cGMP manufacturing and process development plant that will widely expand on the company’s previous capabilities.

News brief­ing: Five pub­lic biotechs, over 2 days, raise $883M from fresh of­fer­ings; Bel­gian biotech ex­pands Se­ries B fund­ing

The wave of biotech IPOs we’ve been seeing in the last few days underscores that the public markets remain one of the key channels for fresh investments in drug R&D. And that trend was in full view this week as a slate of biotechs nailed down hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh funds.

One of the big winners of the week is Editas $EDIT, which nailed $231 million to back its pioneering work on a gene editing platform. The biotech sold 3.5 million shares at $66 each.

Mike Grey, Plexium chairman (Horizon Therapeutics)

Plex­i­um adds in­dus­try vet Mike Grey to the brain trust with new in­vestor cash fund­ing its pro­tein degra­da­tion play

About 15 months since closing a $28 million Series A, a San Diego protein-degradation upstart returned to the venture well Thursday with an extension of that round and some new hires, including one of the city’s best-connected biotech execs.

Plexium has bagged an additional $35 million in financing, the biotech said, money that will push undisclosed oncology and immuno-oncology programs into the clinic. In addition, longtime industry vet Mike Grey is jumping on as chairman of the board, and two others from Thursday’s leads — Adam Goulburn from Lux Capital and Rob Hopfner from Pivotal BioVentures — joined the board too.

Eli Lil­ly's an­ti­body cuts risk of Covid-19 by up to 80% among the most vul­ner­a­ble — but will it have a place next to vac­cines?

Eli Lilly says bamlanivimab lowered the risk of contracting symptomatic Covid-19 in a first-of-its-kind trial involving nursing home residents and staff, paving the way for a new option to protect against the virus.

But how big of an impact it might have, and what role it will play, at a time vaccines are being rolled out to the exact population it is targeting still remains unclear.

Among 965 participants in the study — all of whom tested negative for the coronavirus at baseline — the number of symptomatic cases reported in the bamlanivimab arm was 57% lower than that in the placebo arm (odds ratio 0.43, p=0.00021). In addition to that primary endpoint, all secondary endpoints reached statistical significance.

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Michelle McMurry-Heath, BIO CEO (BIO via YouTube)

BIO looks to re­struc­ture, lay­ing off staff amid chal­lenge to the trade org's nor­mal face-to-face style

The biopharma industry, on the whole, had a red-letter year in 2020 amid Covid-19, with fundraising at an all-time high and major players speeding vaccines ahead to approval. But for BIO, the industry’s leading trade organization, the pandemic has prompted a reconsideration of the game plan.

BIO will pivot to digital as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage, making “some staff reductions” as it looks to bring its roughly 37,000 in-person meetings each year to the web, the organization said Thursday.

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Hal Barron, GSK R&D chief (GSK via YouTube)

Glax­o­SmithK­line's $4B bis­pe­cif­ic can­cer drug al­liance with Mer­ck KGaA hit by big set­back with a PhI­II fail­ure on NSCLC

Close to 2 years ago, GSK’s R&D team eagerly agreed to pay up to $4 billion-plus to ally itself with Merck KGaA on a mid-stage bispecific called bintrafusp alfa, which intrigued them with the combination of a TGF-β trap with the anti-PD-L1 mechanism in one fusion protein.

But today the German pharma company says that their lead study on lung cancer was a bust, as independent monitors said there was no reason to believe that the experimental drug — targeting PD-L1/TGF-Beta — could beat Keytruda.

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