Simon Read, Curie Therapeutics CEO

Look­ing to run with Big Phar­ma, a ra­dio­phar­ma start­up with back­ing from At­las, RA thinks it has the chops to com­pete

Amid a re­nais­sance in the field of ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, a grow­ing cho­rus of bio­phar­ma play­ers is rush­ing the stage to cap­i­tal­ize on tech break­throughs. Biotech blue-chip­pers RA Cap­i­tal and At­las Ven­ture, sens­ing an op­por­tu­ni­ty, are now set­ting up their own start­up to chal­lenge the big boys.

Curie Ther­a­peu­tics un­cloaked from stealth Wednes­day with $75 mil­lion in Se­ries A fund­ing from At­las, RA and Ac­cess Biotech­nol­o­gy, with the goal of lever­ag­ing a sea­soned team of ex­perts to get the jump on the grow­ing class of can­cer ther­a­peu­tics, the biotech said.

In an un­usu­al arrange­ment, Curie was in­cu­bat­ed by all three of its found­ing fun­ders, run­ning for about 18 months in stealth mode be­fore mak­ing its de­but. Ac­cord­ing to CEO Si­mon Read, for­mer­ly chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer at Ra Phar­ma be­fore its ac­qui­si­tion by UCB in ear­ly 2020, the Curie team in that time built a lead­er­ship team of 15 spe­cial­iz­ing in all as­pects of ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which link ra­dioac­tive iso­topes to a small mol­e­cule to tar­get tu­mors.

While pipeline de­tails are slim, Curie’s mis­sion is broad — and that’s not an ac­ci­dent. The team sees ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals as a po­ten­tial­ly ex­pan­sive class of ther­a­peu­tics and has spent its year and a half be­hind the scenes div­ing deep not on­ly in­to ra­dio­chem­istry and bi­ol­o­gy but al­so CMC, sup­ply and clin­i­cal trans­la­tion. The class has his­tor­i­cal­ly suf­fered from both sup­ply chain is­sues — it’s hard to con­tin­u­ous­ly source the ra­dioac­tive ma­te­r­i­al used in these drugs — as well as at the bed­side, with ear­li­er-gen­er­a­tion ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals do­ing a poor job of tar­get­ing spe­cif­ic tis­sues.

“Sol­id tu­mors are re­al­ly poor­ly treat­ed by ex­ist­ing tar­get­ed tech­nolo­gies, and al­though there are some ad­van­tages, there are still chal­lenges with tech­nolo­gies like CAR-T, BiTEs, AD­Cs in sol­id tu­mors,” Read said. “So we be­gan to sit up and take no­tice, I think, of some of the da­ta that was com­ing from break­through ther­a­pies … (that) gal­va­nized the en­thu­si­asm to be­gin think­ing about ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.”

Where Curie hopes to set it­self apart is in its holis­tic strat­e­gy for ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal de­vel­op­ment, look­ing at the drug’s PD and PK prop­er­ties as a whole rather than op­ti­miz­ing each mod­u­lar el­e­ment of a drug’s com­po­si­tion be­fore con­sid­er­ing its po­ten­tial ef­fi­ca­cy in hu­mans. Mean­while, the com­pa­ny is fo­cus­ing on both pep­tide and non-pep­tide lig­ands to iden­ti­fy the best pos­si­ble so­lu­tions for deep tis­sue pen­e­tra­tion, hope­ful­ly lim­it­ing off-tar­get side ef­fects in or­gans like the kid­ney.

Read ad­mits the class — which has seen some big break­throughs in re­cent years from the likes of No­var­tis’ Lu­tathera and Lu-PS­MA-617, a ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal tar­get­ing a prostate can­cer re­cep­tor with a ra­dioac­tive form of lutetium — has grown in­creas­ing­ly con­gest­ed in re­cent years. But Curie’s ex­pert sci­en­tif­ic team could help it get a head start on the grow­ing field.

“We be­lieved that if we could get lead­ers from all of those spaces un­der one roof, we would be able to tru­ly build best-in-class type med­i­cines,” he said. “Curie be­gan with that ba­sic con­cept of build­ing the com­pa­ny in the space and fo­cus­ing on not can you do it, but how do you do it the best.”

So far, Curie’s pipeline re­mains a mys­tery with Read stay­ing mum on ex­act­ly which tar­gets are in the gun­sights first and the com­pa­ny’s re­lease on the mat­ter ref­er­enc­ing on­ly “high un­met need sol­id tu­mors.” How­ev­er, a pipeline had be­gun to round in­to form dur­ing Curie’s stealth mode, and Read ex­pects that more would be on the way on that front in the com­ing year.

Read hint­ed that the biotech would uti­lize both al­pha-emit­ting ra­dioiso­topes for its ther­a­pies — the modal­i­ty du jour in the space — but al­so fo­cus on be­ta emit­ters, like lutetium, which he said could still have a place in clin­i­cal prac­tice in tack­ling larg­er tu­mors.

Mean­while, the team of 15 is ex­pect­ed to in­crease to 45 by this time next year, Read said, as the com­pa­ny ap­proach­es hu­man tri­als.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Capitol Hill, Feb. 8, 2023 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

FDA com­mis­sion­er floats ideas on how to bet­ter han­dle the pan­dem­ic

FDA Commissioner Rob Califf joined the heads of the CDC and NIH in the hot seat today before a key House subcommittee, explaining that there needs to be a much faster, more coordinated way to oversee vaccine safety, and that foreign biopharma inspections, halted for years due to the pandemic, are slowly ramping up again.

Califf, who stressed to the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health that the CDC also needs better data, made clear that the FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of vaccines “would also benefit greatly by a coordinated federal public health data reporting authority.”

Sanofi is renewing its #VaccinesForDreams campaign with more stories, such as Juan's in Argentina (Sanofi)

Sanofi re­news so­cial cam­paign to re­mind that vac­cines let peo­ple ‘Dream Big’

Sanofi is highlighting people’s dreams — both big and small — to make the point that vaccines make them possible.

The renewed “Dream Big” global social media campaign’s newest dreamer is Juan, a teacher in the Misiones rainforest in Argentina whose story is told through videos on Instagram and Sanofi’s website with the hashtag #VaccinesForDreams.

The campaign ties to Sanofi’s broader umbrella initiative “Vaccine Stories” to promote the value of vaccines and drive awareness of the need for improved vaccination coverage.

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