Burt Adelman. Novo Ventures

Here's a $25M seed fund aimed at back­ing some brash new drug ideas out of the Broad

As a for­mer aca­d­e­m­ic and a sea­soned drug de­vel­op­er, Burt Adel­man knew when he was re­cruit­ed as a se­nior ad­vi­sor to No­vo Ven­tures in 2017 that one of his key pri­or­i­ties needs to be in­tro­duc­ing the fund to the net­work he was so deeply em­bed­ded in.

“I was think­ing long and hard on how can I, as a Boston in­sid­er, help No­vo re­al­ly get in­side the ecosys­tem of Boston biotech?” he re­called in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

Is­si Rozen

No­vo Ven­tures, whose head­quar­ters is lo­cat­ed in a Dan­ish cam­pus that al­so hous­es No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion, had just re­cent­ly put its foot down in the city. De­spite its broad in­vest­ment man­date in life sci­ences and steady cash flow — it can in­vest any­where be­tween $400 mil­lion to $500 mil­lion per year — it didn’t have the con­nec­tions that oth­er, per­haps small­er, VCs in the area en­joyed. The per­ceived as­so­ci­a­tion with the di­a­betes drug­mak­er per­haps didn’t help, even though the two en­ti­ties are sep­a­rate­ly held by No­vo Hold­ings.

Adel­man found the an­swer while found­ing an­oth­er start­up, Verve Ther­a­peu­tics, with gene edit­ing tech out-li­censed from the Broad In­sti­tute. Catch­ing up with Broad chief busi­ness of­fi­cer Is­si Rozen, he re­al­ized that there was a press­ing need for fund­ing aca­d­e­m­ic projects that were too ad­vanced for NIH grants but not yet ma­ture enough for bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies to bet on.

The ex­plo­sion of new bi­o­log­i­cal con­cepts worth ex­plor­ing and new tar­gets worth val­i­dat­ing, Rozen said, al­so meant an op­por­tu­ni­ty for new part­ners — in ad­di­tion to its ex­ist­ing pacts with phar­ma and VCs like Deer­field — to step up.

“If you asked peo­ple 8 to 10 years ago what is an ide­al can­di­date to start talk­ing about ei­ther a ther­a­peu­tic dis­cov­ery to out-li­cense or start a com­pa­ny around, they would say 12 to 18 months from the clin­ic,” Rozen told End­points News. “Here we’re talk­ing about years be­fore the clin­ic. We’re re­al­ly shift­ing back.”

Scott Beard­s­ley

No­vo is chip­ping in $25 mil­lion to be­come a part­ner on that front over the next five years. All 4,000 of the in­ves­ti­ga­tors af­fil­i­at­ed with the Broad can ap­ply to the ac­cel­er­a­tor, dubbed No­vo Broad Green­house, for around $500,000 to test their ideas with­in a year and a half. If they pass the seed stage, No­vo will fund the projects fur­ther through a sprout stage un­til they are ready to bloom — ei­ther through a biotech spin­off or phar­ma out-li­cens­ing.

“The Broad Green­house was re­al­ly a way to help us start at that ear­li­est point in that cy­cle,” said Scott Beard­s­ley, man­ag­ing part­ner at No­vo Ven­tures about their vi­sion to be the “cra­dle of great life sci­ences.”

Beard­s­ley, Adel­man and Karen Hong, a part­ner in the Boston of­fice, are No­vo’s three per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the Green­house’s joint steer­ing com­mit­tee, meet­ing every quar­ter with their coun­ter­parts from the Broad’s Cen­ter for the De­vel­op­ment of Ther­a­peu­tics (CDoT). When they are not con­ven­ing, the com­mit­tee al­so coach­es in­ves­ti­ga­tors on putting their ideas in the con­text of drug dis­cov­ery.

Hav­ing earned her PhD in Er­ic Lan­der’s lab be­fore he be­came the Broad’s di­rec­tor, Hong has first­hand knowl­edge of the in­sti­tute’s hu­man ge­net­ic ori­en­ta­tion.

Karen Hong

One ex­am­ple would be the work be­ing done by Dana-Far­ber re­searchers Kent Mouw and Eli Van Allen, one of five projects al­ready en­rolled in the Green­house. In their study of “ex­cep­tion­al re­spon­ders,” on­col­o­gists iden­ti­fied a cer­tain ge­net­ic mu­ta­tion that ap­peared to break a pro­tein and in­ter­fered with DNA re­pair. Pa­tients with that mu­ta­tion were al­so hy­per-re­cep­tive to plat­inum-based chemother­a­py. But they weren’t quite sure why — and they didn’t have the mon­ey to find out.

“Try­ing to come up with a sen­si­tiz­er to an old-fash­ioned chemother­a­py isn’t the most tra­di­tion­al­ly ob­vi­ous thing to do. And it’s pret­ty high-risk,” said Van Allen in a blog post.

With mon­ey from No­vo and sup­port from CDoT, their team will now screen small mol­e­cules in hopes of find­ing one that mim­ics the ef­fects of the bro­ken gene.

The Broad’s es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ship co­or­di­na­tion has saved every­one lots of pa­per­work, Adel­man said. And terms are al­ready in place for when No­vo wants to take an idea to the com­pa­ny cre­ation stage.

“We are not rip­ping the ba­by from the ma­ma,” he said. “We are ac­tu­al­ly cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where the sci­en­tists who have dis­cov­ered these ideas are in­ti­mate­ly in­volved go­ing for­ward in the process of ad­vanc­ing the idea to the ex­tent that even some of the fund­ing goes di­rect­ly back in their labs.”

That could mean a lot for the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty at large, Rozen added.

“Here we have very much in­creased ca­pac­i­ty to pros­e­cute ini­tial projects at a very large scale,” he said. “This is sig­nif­i­cant for fac­ul­ty to have this op­por­tu­ni­ty to ad­vance this sci­ence.”

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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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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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.

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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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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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

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.

Gerry Brunk (Lumira)

What will Lu­mi­ra Ven­tures do with $220M? Stay out of the com­fort zone and off the beat­en biotech path

Lumira Ventures closed its largest fund on Monday, raking in $220 million to pump into the life sciences — but instead of targeting biotech hubs like San Francisco and Boston, the company is rolling the dice on “underserved geographies” in the US and Canada.

“We find oftentimes companies located in places like Montreal, or Fort Lauderdale, FL, or Kansas City or Phoenix, AZ just have more capital efficiency and better valuations, without having to compromise anything at all in the quality of the innovation and the management talent,” co-founder and managing partner Gerry Brunk told Endpoints News.