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.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

BREAK­ING: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Marcelo Bigal, Ventus Therapeutics CEO

No­vo Nordisk joins No­var­tis, Roche in NL­RP3 are­na, bet­ting $70M cash on NASH, car­diometa­bol­ic us­es

As a drug target, the NLRP3 inflammasome has drawn serious interest from Big Pharma, inspiring a series of M&A deals from Novartis and Roche on top of venture investments by others. Now Novo Nordisk is jumping on the bandwagon — and the Danish pharma giant is taking the target where it knows best.

Novo Nordisk is getting its NLRP3 inhibitors from Ventus Therapeutics, a Versant-backed startup that set out to make some of the best NLRP3 drugs out there by incorporating new insights into the structure of the target complex.

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