Dan Rhodes, Strata Oncology CEO (Strata)

Mer­ck and Pfiz­er back a Michi­gan star­tup's mis­sion to ad­vance tu­mor pro­fil­ing

Dan Rhodes was lead­ing can­cer se­quenc­ing at Ther­mo Fish­er Sci­en­tif­ic when he no­ticed that, de­spite the rush of phar­ma com­pa­nies de­vel­op­ing tar­get­ed ther­a­pies, most pa­tients weren’t get­ting the right test­ing — and there­fore miss­ing out on what could be the best treat­ments based on their spe­cif­ic tu­mor pro­file.

In 2015, he set out to change that. With the sup­port of Ther­mo Fish­er ex­ec­u­tives and the help of a cou­ple ex­perts in the field, Rhodes launched Stra­ta On­col­o­gy to ad­vance DNA and RNA se­quenc­ing. The team has since at­tract­ed some im­pres­sive back­ers, in­clud­ing both Pfiz­er and Mer­ck. And on Wednes­day, they un­veiled a $90 mil­lion Se­ries C round to build out a com­mer­cial team and fu­el clin­i­cal tri­als for new RNA-based treat­ment se­lec­tion tests.

“Our mis­sion is to de­liv­er the best pos­si­ble treat­ment to each pa­tient with can­cer as ear­ly as pos­si­ble,” Rhodes told End­points News. 

Tu­mor pro­fil­ing be­gins with a sam­ple of tu­mor tis­sue, from which Stra­ta can se­quence DNA and RNA to look for mu­ta­tions known to play a role in can­cer. They’re es­pe­cial­ly look­ing for mu­ta­tions that are al­ready tar­getable by ex­ist­ing or in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al ther­a­pies. The whole process takes about sev­en busi­ness days, and the idea is to give the pa­tient the crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion they need by their first fol­low-up vis­it.

“It’s re­al­ly these RNA prod­ucts that re­al­ly set Stra­ta apart,” Rhodes said, adding that se­quenc­ing com­pa­nies have his­tor­i­cal­ly fo­cused on DNA. That, and the fact that the com­pa­ny’s first tu­mor pro­fil­ing test, StrataNGS, re­quires just a small amount of tis­sue —  just a square 2 mm.

“What we see in the re­al world is up­wards of half of sam­ples are small­er than the tis­sue re­quire­ments for oth­er lead­ing tests,” he said, adding that the re­searchers should be able to do DNA and quan­ti­ta­tive RNA test­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly from the same small tis­sue sam­ple.

Some of the Se­ries C funds will al­so go to­ward the com­pa­ny’s blood-based re­cur­rent mon­i­tor­ing tests, where the idea is to move pre­ci­sion treat­ment se­lec­tion from late-stage ad­vanced can­cer to ear­li­er stages by de­tect­ing can­cer that’s des­tined to re­cur.

Af­ter pro­fil­ing a tu­mor, Stra­ta can help con­nect pa­tients to clin­i­cal tri­als that might suit them, through a net­work of phar­mas work­ing on pre­ci­sion med­i­cines.

“For us the test­ing that we do, while that’s our main busi­ness, it’s re­al­ly a means to that more im­por­tant end of get­ting the right treat­ment,” Rhodes said. “This is re­al­ly a win-win: The health sys­tems in our net­work gain ac­cess to these cut­ting-edge clin­i­cal tri­als, and the phar­mas gain ac­cess to this net­work of health sys­tems where the ma­jor­i­ty of pa­tients have been test­ed with Stra­ta. We’ve got da­ta on the bio­mark­er pro­files and can then re­al­ly fa­cil­i­tate con­sid­er­a­tion of pa­tient screen­ing and en­roll­ment in­to these phar­ma tri­als.”

Welling­ton Man­age­ment led the round, with a hand from Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, Monashee In­vest­ment Man­age­ment, High­side Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Pfiz­er Ven­tures, Mer­ck Glob­al Health In­no­va­tion Fund, Ar­bore­tum Ven­tures, Deer­field Man­age­ment, Baird Cap­i­tal and Re­nais­sance Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Fund. The new cash brings Stra­ta’s to­tal raise to over $130 mil­lion.

When asked if an IPO is on the hori­zon, Rhodes said it’s “ like­ly in the fu­ture for us,” though not­ed he has noth­ing de­fin­i­tive to an­nounce.

“We’re look­ing at sort of late ‘22 maybe ear­ly ‘23, but this round of fund­ing sort of car­ries us through to an IPO,” he said.

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis de­tails plans to axe 8,000 staffers as Narasimhan be­gins sec­ond phase of a glob­al re­org

We now know the number of jobs coming under the axe at Novartis, and it isn’t small.

The pharma giant is confirming a report from Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that it is chopping 8,000 jobs out of its 108,000 global staffers. A large segment will hit right at company headquarters in Basel, as CEO Vas Narasimhan axes some 1,400 of a little more than 11,000  jobs in Switzerland.

The first phase of the work is almost done, the company says in a statement to Endpoints News. Now it’s on to phase two. In the statement, Novartis says:

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Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Some phar­ma com­pa­nies promise to cov­er abor­tion-re­lat­ed trav­el costs — while oth­ers won't go that far yet

As the US Department of Health and Human Services promises to support the millions of women who would now need to cross state lines to receive a legal abortion, a handful of pharma companies have said they will pick up employees’ travel expenses.

GSK, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, BeiGene, Alnylam and Gilead have all committed to covering abortion-related travel expenses just four days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked women’s constitutional right to an abortion.

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Aurobindo Pharma co-founders P. V. Ram Prasad Reddy (L) and K. Nityananda Reddy

Au­robindo Phar­ma re­ceives warn­ing let­ter from In­di­a's SEC fol­low­ing more FDA ques­tion marks

Indian-based generics manufacturer Aurobindo Pharma has been in the crosshairs of the FDA for several years now, but the company is also attracting attention from regulators within the subcontinent.

According to the Indian business news site Business Standard, a warning letter was sent to the company from the Securities Exchange Board of India, or SEBI.

The letter is related to disclosures made by the company on an ongoing FDA audit of the company’s Unit-1 API facility in Hyderabad, India as well as observations made by the US regulator between 2019 and 2022.

New Charles River Laboratories High Quality (HQ) Plasmid DNA Centre of Excellence at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. (Charles River)

Charles Riv­er Lab­o­ra­to­ries to start cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing at UK site in Sep­tem­ber

While Massachusetts-based Charles River Laboratories has been on an acquisition spree, they are not against planting their flag. The latest move by the company sees them crossing the pond to establish a manufacturing site in the UK.

The company on Tuesday opened its cell and gene therapy manufacturing center at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. The expansion follows Charles River’s acquisition of Cognate BioServices and Cobra Biologics in 2021 for $875 million. Cognate is a plasmid DNA, viral vector and cell therapy CDMO.

Bristol Myers Squibb (Alamy)

CVS re­sumes cov­er­age of block­buster blood thin­ner af­ter price drop fol­lows Jan­u­ary ex­clu­sion

Following some backlash from the American College of Cardiology and patients, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer lowered the price of their blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis, thus ensuring that CVS Caremark would cover the drug after 6 months of it being off the major PBM’s formulary.

“Because we secured lower net costs for patients from negotiations with the drug manufacturer, Eliquis will be added back to our template formularies for the commercial segment effective July 1, 2022, and patient choices will be expanded,” CVS Health said in an emailed statement. “Anti-coagulant therapies are among the non-specialty products where we are seeing the fastest cost increases from drug manufacturers and we will continue to push back on unwarranted price increases.”

#Can­nes­Lions2022: Con­sumer health ex­ecs call on agen­cies to in­volve pa­tients in cre­ative process

CANNES — When Tamara Rogers joined GSK back in 2018, “science was king and R&D were the gods.” Now the global chief marketing officer of consumer healthcare wants to make room for another supreme being: the consumer.

As health and wellness becomes more relevant to consumers amid the pandemic, four health-focused executives called on marketers to involve patients in their creative process in a panel discussion at the Cannes Lions advertising creativity festival.

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