Terray Therapeutics CEO Jacob Berlin (L) and CFO and COO Eli Berlin

Months af­ter adding $60M to cof­fers, AI start­up Ter­ray nabs dis­cov­ery pact with Google's Cal­i­co

A small Cal­i­for­nia biotech emerged from stealth last year to go af­ter drug dis­cov­ery’s “da­ta prob­lem,” and now the AI out­fit has an­nounced its first pub­lic part­ner­ship.

Art Levin­son

Ter­ray Ther­a­peu­tics put out word Wednes­day that it reached a deal with Cal­i­co Life Sci­ences, the Google-backed an­ti-ag­ing biotech co-found­ed by in­dus­try leg­end,  bil­lion­aire and cur­rent CEO Art Levin­son, the for­mer head over at Genen­tech and cur­rent chair­man at Ap­ple.

The premise of the deal, Ter­ray CEO Ja­cob Berlin tells End­points News, is that Ter­ray will be us­ing its AI drug dis­cov­ery plat­form with cer­tain tar­gets that Cal­i­co is look­ing at, iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial lead com­pounds in-house that could be fur­ther out-li­censed to Cal­i­co. Then, Cal­i­co would as­sume re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

While Ter­ray would not dis­close spe­cif­ic tar­gets, the biotech will be look­ing at “dis­eases of ag­ing,” cit­ing one of those dis­eases as can­cer. Fi­nan­cial specifics re­main un­known, but Ter­ray will re­ceive a pay­ment up­front and re­main el­i­gi­ble for mile­stones and po­ten­tial roy­al­ties on net sales, per a state­ment.

Ja­cob Berlin said that Ter­ray and Cal­i­co have al­ready been in dis­cus­sions for some time be­fore the deal was set.

“As we had those dis­cus­sions, I think both sides re­al­ly saw the op­por­tu­ni­ty here to pair their se­lec­tion of tar­gets and their ex­per­tise in ag­ing-re­lat­ed dis­eases with our chem­i­cal dis­cov­ery en­gine,” Ja­cob Berlin said, adding that “we’re ex­cit­ed to get go­ing with them.”

As a for­mer as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the City of Hope, Ja­cob Berlin had start­ed work on Ter­ray’s plat­form more than six years be­fore Ter­ray spun out of City of Hope in Oc­to­ber 2018. Ter­ray’s plat­form fea­tures nick­el-sized chips, with 32 mil­lion wells that can hold one mol­e­cule per well. Then, Ter­ray can screen these mol­e­cules against po­ten­tial tar­gets in a mat­ter of min­utes, re­port­ing that da­ta to ma­chine learn­ing mod­els and pre­dict­ing which mol­e­cules should go for­ward for ad­di­tion­al screen­ing.

This is not Ter­ray’s on­ly part­ner­ship, Ja­cob Berlin not­ed — say­ing that there are on­go­ing part­ner­ships with cer­tain biotech and phar­ma com­pa­nies. How­ev­er, those re­main undis­closed. And in the mean­time, Ter­ray will be work­ing on its own in­ter­nal pipeline, which is cur­rent­ly fo­cused on im­munol­o­gy.

While Ja­cob Berlin is the CEO, he brought his old­er broth­er, Eli, on board as CFO and COO.

Cal­i­co has been around since 2013, with now ex-Google su­per­star (and GV founder) Bill Maris as its first CEO. It had inked deals with oth­er com­pa­nies/re­search groups in its ear­ly days, such as Ab­b­Vie, Broad In­sti­tute and the Buck In­sti­tute for Re­search on Ag­ing.

Jonathan Lewis

And while Cal­i­co em­ployed some of the top sci­en­tists in the ini­tial years af­ter its found­ing, it lost two of its high­est pro­file re­searchers in late 2017 and ear­ly 2018: R&D chief Hal Bar­ron (who left to run R&D at GSK be­fore leav­ing for his CEO po­si­tion at se­cre­tive an­ti-ag­ing out­fit Al­tos Labs) and AI chief Daphne Koller, who went on to found in­sitro and is cur­rent­ly CEO.

Cal­i­co’s CBO Jonathan Lewis wrote in a state­ment that Cal­i­co looks for­ward to part­ner­ing with the team at Ter­ray.

Ter­ray emerged ear­li­er this year af­ter spend­ing three years in stealth — com­ing out swing­ing with a $60 mil­lion Se­ries A round led by Madrona Ven­ture Group. Oth­er in­vestors in­clud­ed Two Sig­ma Ven­tures, Dig­i­tal­is Ven­tures, KdT Ven­tures, Gold­crest Cap­i­tal, XTX Ven­tures, Sah­sen Ven­tures, Green­trail Cap­i­tal and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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Nicklas Westerholm, Egetis Therapeutics CEO

Ac­qui­si­tion talks on­go­ing for Swedish rare dis­ease biotech Egetis, shares up al­most 40%

Shares of the Sweden-based rare disease biotech Egetis Therapeutics skyrocketed on Thursday afternoon as the company said it’s engaged in “ongoing discussion” with external parties regarding a “potential acquisition.”

Egetis confirmed rumors with a statement on Thursday while noting that there is no certainty that a takeover offer will be made.

Nonetheless, the possibility of an acquisition has shot up Egetis’ share price. By the afternoon on Thursday, its stock price was {$EGTX.ST} up over 38%. An Egetis spokesperson told Endpoints News in an email that it has no further comments.

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Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Mod­er­na so­lid­i­fies deal with Kenya to build mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

The mRNA player Moderna is further cementing its presence on the African continent.

Moderna announced on Thursday that it has finalized an agreement with Kenya’s government to partner up and bring an mRNA manufacturing facility to the east African nation. The new facility aims to manufacture up to 500 million doses of vaccines annually. Moderna also said the new facility will have the ability to spike its production capabilities to respond to public health emergencies on the continent or globally.

Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

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Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee lobs more bi­par­ti­san pres­sure on­to PBMs

Congress is honing in on how it wants to overhaul the rules of the road for pharmacy benefit managers, with a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday serving as the latest example of the Hill’s readiness to make changes to how pharma middlemen operate.

While pledging to ensure patients and pharmacies “don’t get a raw deal,” Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) laid out the beginning of what looks like a major bipartisan effort — moves the PBM industry is likely to challenge vigorously.

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Deborah Waterhouse, ViiV Healthcare CEO

MPP re­cruits three gener­ic man­u­fac­tur­ers to ex­pand use of Vi­iV's in­jectable PrEP drug

ViiV Healthcare has teamed up with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool and three generic manufacturers to expand access to medicine that can prevent HIV.

ViiV and the Medicines Patent Pool jointly announced Thursday that the MPP signed sub-licensing agreements with Aurobindo, Cipla and Viatris to manufacture generics of a long-acting form of cabotegravir for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). As a result of the agreement, the manufacturers will be able to develop, manufacture and supply generic versions of cabotegravir LA in 90 countries — subject to regulatory approvals.

Lu­pus drug de­vel­op­ment mar­ket heat­ing up, while FDA links with ad­vo­ca­cy group to fur­ther ac­cel­er­ate re­search

The long-underserved systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) market is suddenly buzzing with treatment possibilities. Less than two years after AstraZeneca’s approval for Saphnelo — the first new SLE drug in a decade and joining just one other approved in GSK’s Benlysta – the pipeline of potential drugs numbers in the dozens.

Although most are very early stage — Spherix Global Insights estimates five in Phase II/III — the pharma R&D enthusiasm is catching on among doctors, patients and advocacy groups. On Wednesday, the Lupus Research Alliance and the FDA formed a novel private-public partnership called Lupus Accelerating Breakthroughs Consortium (Lupus ABC) to help advance lupus clinical trial success.

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Cedric Ververken, Confo Therapeutics CEO

Dai­ichi Sankyo inks $183M dis­cov­ery deal with GPCR biotech for CNS tar­get

Belgian biotech Confo Therapeutics has landed $183 million, plus potential royalties, in a drug-discovery deal with Daiichi Sankyo.

Early Thursday, Confo Therapeutics put out word of the deal that will be focused on small molecule antagonists to go after an undisclosed target that the company says is associated with CNS diseases.

Confo CEO Cedric Ververken told Endpoints News that Daiichi originally reached out to learn about the biotech’s technology. He added that Confo, founded in 2015, will use its platform to drug a GPCR target that Daiichi has struggled with internally.