Simon Xi, Rgenta Therapeutics CEO

Lund­beck-part­nered pre­clin­i­cal biotech nabs Se­ries A from As­traZeneca

Cam­bridge, MA biotech Rgen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics has se­cured $52 mil­lion in a Se­ries A to take oral small mol­e­cules in­to the clin­ic.

The 20-per­son biotech, which is al­ready al­lied with Lund­beck, looks to ink more phar­ma part­ner­ships with­in its core ar­eas of on­col­o­gy and neu­ro­science rare dis­eases, as well as in oth­er dis­ease ar­eas the start­up thinks the RNA-tar­get­ing plat­form can go, CSO Travis Wa­ger told End­points News ahead of the Tues­day morn­ing news.

Travis Wa­ger

The Se­ries A comes from As­traZeneca’s $1 bil­lion fund with Chi­na In­ter­na­tion­al Cap­i­tal Cor­po­ra­tion Lim­it­ed, or CI­CC Health­care In­vest­ment Fund, as well as Ko­rea In­vest­ment Part­ners, De­los Cap­i­tal, Lil­ly Asia Ven­ture, Vi­vo Cap­i­tal, Ma­trix Part­ners Chi­na and oth­ers, like $20 mil­lion seed round leader Boehringer In­gel­heim Ven­ture Fund. Oth­er back­ers in­clude Kaitai Cap­i­tal and Leg­end Star Fund.

Wa­ger, a 14-year Pfiz­er vet and co-founder of Rgen­ta, said the biotech wants to en­ter the clin­ic “as soon as pos­si­ble” with its RNA-bind­ing method that is mov­ing to­ward de­vel­op­ment can­di­dates in on­col­o­gy and neu­ro­science. Col­lab­o­ra­tion talks are on­go­ing, he said.

Zhip­ing Weng

Most of the biotech’s 20 full-time em­ploy­ees hold a PhD, and more than 10 con­sul­tants are help­ing with do­main ex­per­tise and pre­clin­i­cal and non­clin­i­cal chops, CEO Si­mon Xi said. The ex­ec­u­tive told End­points the Se­ries A will bankroll the com­pa­ny for two to three years.

The two co-found­ed Rgen­ta with Zhip­ing Weng, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Mass­a­chu­setts Med­ical School pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the in­sti­tu­tion’s pro­gram in bioin­for­mat­ics and in­te­gra­tive bi­ol­o­gy. The biotech an­a­lyzes hu­man ge­nomics da­ta to find reg­u­la­to­ry sites in RNAs that might be prime for small mol­e­cules to tar­get and reg­u­late pro­tein pro­duc­tion.

Late Fri­day ap­proval; Trio of biotechs wind down; Stem cell pi­o­neer finds new fron­tier; Biotech icon to re­tire; 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.

I hope your weekend is off to a nice start, wherever you are reading this email. As for me, I’m trying to catch the tail of the Lunar New Year festivities.

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Pfiz­er lays off em­ploy­ees at Cal­i­for­nia and Con­necti­cut sites

Pfizer has laid off employees at its La Jolla, CA, and Groton, CT sites, according to multiple LinkedIn posts from former employees.

The Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News it has let go of some employees, but a spokesperson declined to specify how many workers were impacted and the exact locations affected. Earlier this month, the drug developer had confirmed to Endpoints it was sharpening its focus and doing away with some early research on areas such as rare disease, oncology and gene therapies.

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In­vestor 'misalign­men­t' leads to tR­NA biotech's shut­ter­ing

A small biotech looking to carve a lane in the tRNA field has folded, an investor and a co-founder confirmed to Endpoints News.

Similar to Flagship’s Alltrna and other upstarts like Takeda-backed hC Bioscience, the now-shuttered Theonys was attempting to go after transfer RNA, seen as a potential Swiss Army knife in the broader RNA therapeutics space. The idea is that one tRNA drug could be used across a galaxy of disorders and diseases.

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Rodney Rietze, iVexSol CEO

Bris­tol My­ers, Charles Riv­er join Se­ries A fund­ing for iVex­Sol

Massachusetts-based iVexSol has secured funding to the tune of $23.8 million in its latest Series A round. The new investors include Bristol Myers Squibb, manufacturer Charles River Laboratories and Asahi Kasei Medical.

iVexSol is a manufacturer of lentiviral vectors (LVV), used in making gene therapies, and this latest round of fundraising brings its total Series A total over $39 million, which will be used to recruit more employees and bolster its technology.

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Jake Van Naarden, Loxo@Lilly CEO

Lil­ly en­ters ripe BTK field with quick FDA nod in man­tle cell lym­phoma

Eli Lilly has succeeded in its attempt to get the first non-covalent version of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, or BTK, inhibitors to market, pushing it past rival Merck.

The FDA gave an accelerated nod to Lilly’s daily oral med, to be sold as Jaypirca, for patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.

The agency’s green light, disclosed by the Indianapolis Big Pharma on Friday afternoon, catapults Lilly into a field dominated by covalent BTK inhibitors, which includes AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica, AstraZeneca’s Calquence and BeiGene’s Brukinsa.

Tony Johnson, Goldfinch Bio CEO (Goldfinch via YouTube)

Kid­ney dis­ease drug­mak­er Goldfinch Bio shuts down

Goldfinch Bio, attempting to make treatments for kidney diseases and diabetic nephropathy, is shutting down.

President and CEO Tony Johnson confirmed to Endpoints News Friday afternoon that the biotech shut down after “fundraising challenges in the current macro-environment.” Fierce Biotech first reported the news.

Johnson, who joined in 2017 after a stint as SVP of early clinical development at AstraZeneca, said in a text that the company “entered the ABC process recently,” referring to an assignment for the benefit of the creditors, which provides a different wind-down avenue than a bankruptcy.

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Filip Dubovsky, Novavax CMO

No­vavax gets ready to take an­oth­er shot at Covid vac­cine mar­ket with next sea­son plans

While mRNA took center stage at yesterday’s FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting, Novavax announced its plans to deliver an updated protein-based vaccine based on new guidance.

Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) members voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all future vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

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Ali Madani, Profluent founder and CEO

Proflu­ent de­buts to de­sign pro­teins with ma­chine learn­ing in bid to move past 'AI sprin­kled on top'

While OpenAI’s Microsoft-allied ChatGPT takes the world by storm, a fledgling startup in Berkeley, CA is debuting to take a similar language-learning model approach, but with the goal of designing new proteins.

Profluent, founded by a former Salesforce AI research leader, has secured $9 million to kick-start its work, with proceeds going toward building out an integrated wet lab and recruiting machine learning scientists and biologists. Insight Partners led the seed round. The investor base also includes Air Street Capital, AIX Ventures and Phoenix Venture Partners.

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Eliot Forster, F-star CEO (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

F-star gets down to the wire with $161M sale to Chi­nese buy­er as na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty con­cerns linger

With the clock ticking on F-star Therapeutics’ takeover by a Chinese buyer, the companies are still scrambling to remove a hold on the deal from the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

F-star and invoX Pharma said they are “actively negotiating” with CFIUS “about the terms of a mitigation agreement to address CFIUS’s concerns regarding potential national security risks posed by the transaction.”

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