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.

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­a­tors to NIH: Do more to pro­tect US bio­med­ical re­search from for­eign in­flu­ence

Although Thursday’s Senate health committee hearing was focused on how foreign countries and adversaries might be trying to steal or negatively influence biomedical research in the US, the only country mentioned by the senators and expert witnesses was China.

Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made clear in her opening remarks that the US cannot “let the few instances of bad actors” overshadow the hard work of the many immigrant researchers in the US, many of which have won Nobel prizes for their work. But she also said, “There is more the NIH can be doing here.”

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

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JP Gabriel, Ocugen

JP Gabriel watched from the bleach­ers as the pan­dem­ic raged. Now head of sup­ply chain at Ocu­gen, he's ready to bat

The world was in the middle of the most pressing public health risk his generation had ever seen, and JP Gabriel felt like he was sitting on the sidelines. As a VP of biologics and mRNA manufacturing at Ultragenyx, Gabriel watched from the sidelines as players like Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna used mRNA tech to chase their own Covid-19 vaccines.

This month, Gabriel got the chance to get his hands dirty against the pandemic — but it won’t be with mRNA.

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Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

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Saurabh Saha at Endpoints News' #BIO19

On the heels of $250M launch, Centes­sa barges ahead with an IPO to fu­el its 10-in-1 Medicxi pipeline

Francesco De Rubertis made no secret of IPO plans for Centessa, his 10-in-1 legacy play. Barely two months later, the S-1 is in.

The hot-off-the-press filing depicts the same grand vision that the longtime VC touted when he did the rounds in February: Take the asset-centric mindset that he’s been preaching at Medicxi over the years, and roll up a bunch of biotech upstarts, with unrelated risk profiles, into 1 pharma company that can carry on the development at scale.

Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

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Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.