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.”

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Tempus Labs)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs from 2020.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL CEO Paul Per­reault de­ter­mined to grow plas­ma col­lec­tion af­ter full-year sales dip

As the ink dries on CSL’s $11.7 billion Vifor buyout, the company posted a dip in profits, due in part to a drop in plasma donations amid the pandemic.

However, CEO Paul Perreault assured investors and analysts on the full-year call that the team has left “no stone unturned” when assessing options to grow plasma volumes. The chief executive also spelled out positive results for the company’s monoclonal antibody garadacimab in hereditary angioedema (HAE), though he isn’t revealing the exact numbers just yet.

Blaise Coleman, Endo International CEO

En­do files for Chap­ter 11 as it looks to fin­ish off its opi­oid lit­i­ga­tion

Irish drugmaker Endo International is entering into bankruptcy as it faces the weight of serious litigation related to its involvement in the opioid epidemic in the US.

The company has filed Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, with the company expected to file recognition proceedings in Canada, the UK and Australia. The company’s bankruptcy filing showed the company had assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion.