Min­ing re­al world da­ta for drug de­vel­op­ment in­sights, Wood­ford-backed AI firm seeks $77M Lon­don IPO

Putting the words “ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence” near drug de­vel­op­ment these days is a sure way to gen­er­ate buzz. But can it sup­port a $77 mil­lion (£60 mil­lion) IPO haul in the UK? For­mer gov­ern­ment min­is­ter and biotech en­tre­pre­neur Paul Drayson is set to find out.

At his firm, which has re­cent­ly been re­named Sen­syne Health, Drayson is com­bin­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a vac­cine com­pa­ny and the sci­ence unit for the UK’s De­part­ment for Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Skills to build a busi­ness that promis­es to be use­ful for both clin­i­cians and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal part­ners.

Here’s how that works: With the en­dorse­ment from the Na­tion­al Health Ser­vice, Sen­syne’s soft­ware prod­ucts, de­vel­oped at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford, col­lect da­ta from pa­tients in a re­al world set­ting like mon­i­tor­ing pa­tient vi­tal signs in hos­pi­tal and man­ag­ing ges­ta­tion­al di­a­betes or COPD at home. Their AI pro­grams then an­a­lyze the large datasets of anonymised pa­tient records to gen­er­ate hy­pothe­ses about dis­cov­ery and clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment that they think will ap­peal to drug­mak­ers.

The key here, Drayson said at an event in 2017, is to get in­sights in­to sub­sets.

“The fu­ture of med­i­cine is to be able to make med­i­cine per­son­al­ized to the in­di­vid­ual and to be able to sep­a­rate the sig­nal from the noise in the datasets by be­ing able to not just be able to do clin­i­cal tri­als to an­swer one par­tic­u­lar ques­tion,” he said, “but to look back and say, ‘What was the re­al­i­ty of how 24 mil­lion pa­tients were treat­ed over the last 10 years?’”

One undis­closed drug com­pa­ny is al­ready on board, he told Reuters, and Sen­syne is in talks with half a dozen more. Aside from their gov­ern­ment and aca­d­e­m­ic part­ners, one of Britain’s most well-known in­vest­ment man­agers — Neil Wood­ford —has thrown his weight be­hind the mod­el.

“Ef­fec­tive­ly, we aim to be a dock­ing sta­tion be­tween the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try and the NHS, mak­ing the analy­sis of anonymized NHS da­ta avail­able un­der prop­er Chi­nese walls and con­trols,” Drayson said.

Sen­syne joins sev­er­al oth­er AI com­pa­nies in the spot­light.

Benev­o­len­tAI, a Lon­don-based biotech uni­corn helmed by GSK vet Jack­ie Hunter, reaped a $115 mil­lion mega-round from pri­vate in­vestors tout­ing an AI “brain” that J&J has en­list­ed to guide de­vel­op­ment of a few clin­i­cal as­sets. And on the oth­er side of the At­lantic, Alex Zha­voronkov has lined up some of Asia’s top biotech in­vestors to back his own AI shop, In­sil­i­co Med­i­cine.

The emer­gent field is not with­out its crit­ics and skep­tics, with vet­er­an drug de­vel­op­ers of­ten doubt­ing how much AI can ac­tu­al­ly shave off in the painful­ly lengthy drug de­vel­op­ment process and in­crease suc­cess rates. But Big Phar­ma, al­ready bur­dened by huge R&D costs, has shown a con­tin­ued en­thu­si­asm for the po­ten­tial.

We will see what that all means for Sen­syne on Au­gust 17, when it is ex­pect­ed to list on the AIM at a val­u­a­tion of $291 mil­lion (£225 mil­lion).

Im­age: Paul Drayson. AIR­BUS

Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

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Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.

Busy Gilead crew throws strug­gling biotech a life­line, with some cash up­front and hun­dreds of mil­lions in biobucks for HIV deal

Durect $DRRX got a badly needed shot in the arm Monday morning as Gilead’s busy BD team lined up access to its extended-release platform tech for HIV and hepatitis B.

Gilead, a leader in the HIV sector, is paying a modest $25 million in cash for the right to jump on the platform at Durect, which has been using its technology to come up with an extended-release version of bupivacaine. The FDA rejected that in 2014, but Durect has been working on a comeback.

In­tec blitzed by PhI­II flop as lead pro­gram fails to beat Mer­ck­'s stan­dard com­bo for Parkin­son’s

Intec Pharma’s $NTEC lead drug slammed into a brick wall Monday morning. The small-cap Israeli biotech reported that its lead program — coming off a platform designed to produce a safer, more effective oral drug for Parkinson’s — failed the Phase III at the primary endpoint.

Researchers at Intec, which has already seen its share price collapse over the past few months, says that its Accordion Pill-Carbidopa/Levodopa failed to prove superior to Sinemet in reducing daily ‘off’ time. 

Cel­gene racks up third Ote­zla ap­proval, heat­ing up talks about who Bris­tol-My­ers will sell to

Whoever is taking Otezla off Bristol-Myers Squibb’s hands will have one more revenue stream to boast.

The drug — a rising star in Celgene’s pipeline that generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year — is now OK’d to treat oral ulcers associated with Behçet’s disease, a common symptom for a rare inflammatory disorder. This marks the third FDA approval for the PDE4 inhibitor since 2014, when it was greenlighted for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors.

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Apotex, though, has been a disaster ground. The manufacturer voluntarily yanked the ANDAs on 31 drugs — in late 2017 — after the FDA came across serious manufacturing deficiencies at their plants in India. A few days ago, the FDA made it official.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.