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

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

David Meline (file photo)

Mod­er­na’s new CFO took a cut in salary to jump to the mR­NA rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But then there’s the rest of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age

David Meline took a little off the top of his salary when he jumped from the CFO post at giant Amgen to become the numbers czar at the upstart vaccines revolutionary Moderna. But the SEC filing that goes with a major hire also illustrates how it puts him in line for a fortune — provided the biotech player makes good as a promising game changer.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the base salary: $600,000. Or the up-to 50% annual cash bonus — an industry standard — that comes with it. True, the 62-year-old earned $999,000 at Amgen in 2019, but it’s the stock options that really count in the current market bliss for all things biopharma. And there Meline did well.

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Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

David Chang steps up to CEO spot at WuX­i's cell and gene ther­a­py CD­MO; David Meline is the new CFO at Mod­er­na

David Meline didn’t stay retired for long. As reported yesterday, the former Amgen exec will replace Lorence Kim as CFO of Moderna as the Big Pharma has sprinted to the front of the Covid-19 vaccine pack, getting selected as one of the finalists for Operation Warp Speed. Meline, who gets started on Monday, announced his retirement as Amgen’s CFO in October 2019, remaining in the role until the end of the year. But he’s back in the saddle at a crucial time as Moderna prepares for Phase III studies of their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Meline previously held leadership positions at 3M and General Motors.