News brief­ing: New senes­cent cell play launch­es with $12M; Jun­shi leads Se­ries C+ in­fu­sion for Chi­nese syn­thet­ic lethal­i­ty play­er

The idea of tar­get­ing senes­cent cells to treat age-re­lat­ed dis­eases is con­tin­u­ing to gath­er steam, and Khosla Ven­tures is help­ing get the lat­est play go­ing with a $12 mil­lion seed round.

Rube­do Life Sci­ences is fo­cus­ing its ini­tial ef­forts on res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­eases such as id­io­path­ic pul­monary fi­bro­sis and ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease, with pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams in on­col­o­gy, neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tions, skele­tal mus­cle dis­or­ders and oth­ers to fol­low.

With the mon­ey, the goal is to move sev­er­al com­pounds in­to IND-en­abling stud­ies in pul­monary dis­eases start­ing next year.

“We were at­tract­ed to Rube­do by the speed of which the com­pa­ny is ad­vanc­ing mul­ti­ple lead com­pounds in­to IND-en­abling stud­ies across dif­fer­ent ar­eas of un­met med­ical need,” Zal Bil­imo­ria, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Refac­tor Cap­i­tal, said in a state­ment. The VC firm joined Longevi­ty Fund, Shan­da and oth­ers in the fi­nanc­ing.

Af­ter spend­ing some years at Stan­ford re­search­ing ag­ing and re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cine, CEO Mar­co Quan­ta co-found­ed the com­pa­ny with 5AM Ven­ture Part­ners en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence Mark Gal­lop and Ju­lian Klein, who al­so did his grad­u­ate work at Stan­ford. The big idea at Rube­do has to do with a com­pu­ta­tion­al drug dis­cov­ery plat­form that comes up with small mol­e­cule can­di­dates to drug senes­cent cells.

Jun­shi leads Se­ries C+ in­fu­sion for Chi­nese syn­thet­ic lethal­i­ty play­er

Chi­nese biotech Im­pact Ther­a­peu­tics has grabbed $50 mil­lion to fu­el more work on a slate of drugs that tar­get syn­thet­ic lethal­i­ty, in­clud­ing PARP and oth­er DNA dam­age re­sponse path­ways.

Jun­shi Bio­sciences — known it­self for a slate of an­ti­bod­ies aimed at can­cer, au­toim­mune dis­eases and more re­cent­ly, Covid-19 — led the Se­ries C+. Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures and Chi­na Sum­mit Cap­i­tal re­turned for more, flanked by new in­vestors AJ As­set Mgmt, Zhen­ji Cap­i­tal, West Foun­tain Glob­al Fund and Ausun Phar­ma.

“2021 is ex­pect­ed to be a sig­nif­i­cant turn point for us, as we are start­ing a se­ries of clin­i­cal tri­als in the US,” CEO Jun Bao said in a state­ment. — Am­ber Tong

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Mer­ck­'s wom­en's health spin­out snags mid-stage can­di­date for preterm birth; Keytru­da nails down TNBC ap­proval af­ter March CRL

Nearly two months after spinning out from Merck, women’s health business Organon has struck its first half-billion-dollar deal.

Organon $OGN has promised $25 million upfront and another $475 million in biobucks for worldwide rights to ebopiprant, ObsEva’s investigational treatment for preterm labor. Ebopiprant, a selective prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) receptor antagonist, was originally licensed from Merck KGaA in 2015. The candidate works by reducing inflammation and uterine contractions.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; 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.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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