Jason Coloma, Maze Therapeutics CEO

Maze Ther­a­peu­tics spins out two new com­pa­nies with Al­loy and Bridge­Bio

The start­up has be­come the starter.

Just un­der two years af­ter burst­ing on­to the scene with close to $200 mil­lion, Maze Ther­a­peu­tics is spin­ning out two new com­pa­nies, fo­cus­ing its hu­man ge­net­ics and func­tion­al ge­nomics plat­form on oph­thal­mol­o­gy and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

The new com­pa­nies — Broad­wing Bio and Con­tour Ther­a­peu­tics — were formed from part­ner­ships with Al­loy Ther­a­peu­tics and Bridge­Bio re­spec­tive­ly. While the com­pa­nies are keep­ing the fi­nan­cial terms un­der wraps, Maze says it has three pro­grams go­ing be­tween the two col­lab­o­ra­tions.

Maze launched last Feb­ru­ary with a $191 mil­lion in­fu­sion led by in­vestors Third Rock Ven­tures and ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners. Its COM­PASS plat­form is de­signed to do three things, CEO Ja­son Colo­ma ex­plained: iden­ti­fy par­tic­u­lar drug tar­gets through large amounts of hu­man ge­net­ic and func­tion­al ge­nom­ic da­ta; as­sess the best way those tar­gets can be drugged; and iden­ti­fy the pa­tients who would best ben­e­fit from the treat­ment.

Broad­wing will pair the COM­PASS plat­form with Al­loy’s ATX-Gx mouse plat­form for an­ti­body dis­cov­ery to gen­er­ate oph­thal­mol­o­gy can­di­dates — an area where Colo­ma said there hasn’t been a lot of progress in iden­ti­fy­ing ge­net­ic sub­sets of pa­tients.

“If you look at dis­eases like glau­co­ma, by and large, there hasn’t been a lot of in­no­va­tion there. And we haven’t been re­al­ly able to find re­al ge­net­ic dri­vers where we think there’s go­ing to be many pa­tients that can ben­e­fit,” he said.

An­drew Pe­ter­son, Genen­tech’s for­mer se­nior mol­e­c­u­lar bi­ol­o­gy and meta­bol­ic dis­ease di­rec­tor, has been tapped to lead the charge as founder and CEO.

The Bridge­Bio part­ner­ship is fo­cused on car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, and unites con­nec­tions from Bridge­Bio, Maze and MyoKar­dia — which was co-found­ed by se­nior lead­ers at Bridge­Bio and Maze. Richard Scheller and Maze founder Charles Hom­cy, for ex­am­ple, are on both the Birdge­Bio and Maze boards. And Bridge­Bio CEO Neil Ku­mar and Hom­cy both trace back to MyoKar­dia.

“So a lot of this was re­al­ly based on, how we can get a lot of these peo­ple back to­geth­er … in the sense of build­ing out an­oth­er sort of area in pre­ci­sion med­i­cine car­di­ol­o­gy?” Colo­ma said.

Both part­ner­ships are still ear­ly in drug dis­cov­ery, and while no spe­cif­ic can­di­dates have been an­nounced, Colo­ma says more news should come in the next 12 months.

“What we want­ed to do … was think about a dif­fer­ent type of mod­el to re­al­ly ad­vance these par­tic­u­lar drug pro­grams. I think we found part­ners that al­low us to do that,” Colo­ma said.

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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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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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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CBER Director Peter Marks (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

FDA ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee votes unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of bi­va­lent Covid shots re­plac­ing pri­ma­ry se­ries

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

The vote marks an effort to clear up confusion around varying formulations and dosing schedules for current primary series and booster vaccines, as well as “get closer to the strains that are circulating,” according to committee member Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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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Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Neu­ralink em­ploy­ees cite lay­offs at Elon Musk’s brain-com­put­er in­ter­face start­up

At least two Neuralink employees have posted to LinkedIn in recent days saying they’ve been laid off from Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface startup, which has received backlash for animal testing.

A former staffer working on preclinical study design and an ex-lab director working on assessing the safety of Neuralink’s implanted devices (prior to human testing) announced recently they’d been laid off, specifically using that terminology. Both had worked at the startup for at least two years.

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