Omega Funds leads $35M Se­ries A to fu­el At­ten­u­a's cough pro­gram, set for proof-of-con­cept this year

As At­ten­ua con­tin­ues to de­vel­op its lead pro­gram for chron­ic cough, it will be do­ing so with $35 mil­lion in the bank and un­der the lead­er­ship of a new CEO.

Michael Kitt

In con­junc­tion with the Se­ries A fund­ing — led by Omega Funds with par­tic­i­pa­tion from a syn­di­cate that in­cludes Abing­worth, Or­biMed and Red­mile Group — Michael Kitt has tak­en the helm from founder Jing Liang. Kitt had pre­vi­ous­ly served as CMO at a few biotechs, most re­cent­ly at an­oth­er cough drug de­vel­op­er, Af­fer­ent Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, pri­or to its ac­qui­si­tion by Mer­ck.

At­ten­ua got at least part of its pipeline from a post-merg­er Cat­a­lyst Bio­sciences, when Cat­a­lyst was look­ing to of­fload sev­er­al oral neu­ronal nico­tinic re­cep­tor (NNR) as­sets that came with Tar­ga­cept. The plan was to re­pur­pose one of those mol­e­cules for cough — pre­sum­ably At­ten­ua’s lead drug can­di­date, ATA-101 — and an­oth­er for rare pe­di­atric dis­or­der.

The biotech will put the new cap­i­tal to use, push­ing ATA-101 through Phase II clin­i­cal tri­als, in­clud­ing a proof-of-con­cept study ex­pect­ed to launch lat­er this year, Kitt said in a state­ment.

Di­na Chaya

While the vir­tu­al biotech was orig­i­nal­ly con­ceived to be based in New York City — an as­pir­ing new biotech hub — its op­er­a­tions will be mov­ing to the San Fran­cis­co area to cater to the new man­age­ment team and board.

Three rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Se­ries A back­ers will join the board, in­clud­ing Omega Funds ad­vi­sor Di­na Chaya, Abing­worth man­ag­ing part­ner Kurt von Em­ster and Or­bimed pri­vate eq­ui­ty part­ner Rishi Gup­ta.

“We saw a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty with At­ten­ua to lead this fi­nanc­ing, and are look­ing for­ward to work­ing with Michael and the At­ten­ua team,” Chaya said in a state­ment. “Chron­ic cough re­mains a sig­nif­i­cant un­met need af­fect­ing more than 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple in the U.S. alone.”

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (Moderna via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: NI­AID and Mod­er­na spell out a 'ro­bust' im­mune re­sponse in PhI coro­n­avirus vac­cine test — but big ques­tions re­main to be an­swered

The NIAID and Moderna have spelled out positive Phase I safety and efficacy data for their Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 — highlighting the first full, clear sketch of evidence that back-to-back jabs at the dose selected for Phase III routinely produced a swarm of antibodies to the virus that exceeded levels seen in convalescent patients — typically in multiples indicating a protective response.

Moderna execs say plainly that this first stage of research produced exactly the kind of efficacy they hoped to see in humans, with a manageable safety profile.

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Trans­port Sim­u­la­tion Test­ing for Your Ther­a­py is the Best Way to As­sure FDA Ex­pe­dit­ed Pro­gram Ap­proval

Modality Solutions is an ISO:9001-registered biopharmaceutical cold chain engineering firm with unique transport simulation capabilities that support accelerated regulatory approval for biologics and advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMP). Our expertise combines traditional validation engineering approaches with regulatory knowledge into a methodology tailored for the life sciences industry. We provide insight and execution for the challenges faced in your cold chain logistics network.

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Who are the women blaz­ing trails in bio­phar­ma R&D and lead­ing the fight against Covid-19? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' spe­cial re­port

One of the many inequalities the pandemic has laid bare is the gender imbalance in biomedical research. A paper examining Covid-19 research authorship wondered out loud: Where are the women?

It’s a question that echoes beyond our current times. In the biopharma world, not only are women under-represented in R&D roles (particularly at higher levels), their achievements and talents could also be undermined by stereotypes and norms of leadership styles. The problem is even more dire for women of color.

Jeff Albers, Blueprint CEO

Di­ag­nos­tic champ Roche buys its way in­to the RET ti­tle fight with Eli Lil­ly, pay­ing $775M in cash to Blue­print

When Roche spelled out its original $1 billion deal — $45 million of that upfront — with Blueprint to discover targeted therapies against immunokinases, the biotech partner’s RET program was still preclinical. Four years later, pralsetinib is on the cusp of potential approval and the Swiss pharma giant is putting in much more to get in on the commercial game.

Roche gains rights to co-develop and co-commercialize the drug, with sole marketing responsibility for places outside the US and China (where CStone has staked its claim).

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Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca R&D chief (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

A day af­ter Mod­er­na vac­cine re­sults, ru­mors swirl of pend­ing As­traZeneca da­ta

A day after Moderna and the NIH published much-anticipated data from their Phase I Covid-19 vaccine trial, attention is turning to AstraZeneca which, according to a UK report, is expected to publish its own early data tomorrow.

ITV’s Robert Peston reported that AstraZeneca will publish the Phase I data in The Lancet. 

AstraZeneca and Moderna represent the two most ambitious Covid-19 vaccine efforts, having set the quickest timelines for approval (though they were recently joined in that regard by the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership) and some of the loftiest goals in total doses. Yet there is even less known about AstraZeneca’s vaccine’s effect on humans than there was about Moderna’s before yesterday. Although, in a controversial move, Moderna released some statistics from its Phase I in May, AstraZeneca has yet to say anything about what it saw in its Phase I trial — a move consistent with the scientific convention to withhold data until it can be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

‘Plan­ning to vac­ci­nate every­one in the US,’ Mod­er­na out­lines ef­forts to sup­ply their Covid-19 vac­cine as man­u­fac­tur­ing ramps up ahead of PhI­II

Twelve days from the planned start of their Phase III pivotal trial, the executive crew at Moderna has set up the manufacturing base needed to begin production of the first 500,000 doses of their Covid-19 vaccine with plans to feed it into a global supply chain. But the initial batches will likely be ready in the US first, where company CEO Stéphane Bancel plans to be able to vaccinate everyone.

“We have started making commercial product at-risk, and will continue to do so every day and every week of the month,” Bancel told analysts during their morning call on the Phase I data just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Carolyn Loew, Glympse Bio CEO

Gilead-part­nered Glympse snares $46.7M for their NASH-snoop­ing biosen­sors

Since its emergence at JP Morgan six years ago, the NASH field has been held back not only by the question of how to treat the disease, but also by the question of how you diagnose it. It’s simply not that difficult to tell if a liver is fatty or scarred or in full-on cirrhosis.

The method used in most trials is needle biopsy, where you take a hollow needle, stick it through someone’s skin and into their liver and suck out some cells. You stain those cells and examine them under the microscope. It’s safe but very painful, and that pain limits how often you can test a patient in a trial, and, down the line, how many of the millions of Americans suspected to have NASH would actually be tested for the disease and potentially prescribed an approved drug.

Covid-19 roundup: Vac­cine by end of 2020? Ken Fra­zier warns hype do­ing 'grave dis­ser­vice'

When it comes to setting expectations about a Covid-19 vaccine, Ken Frazier does not mince words.

Over a month after first casting doubts on the aggressive 12- to 18-month timeframe championed by the US government and his biopharma peers, the Merck CEO again cautioned against any hype around a quick vaccine approval.

In a wide-ranging interview with Harvard Business School professor Tsedal Neeley that touched other big topics such as race, Frazier emphasized that vaccines take a long time to develop. He would know: Out of the seven new vaccines introduced around the world in the past 25 years, four came from Merck.

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Alex Zhavoronkov (Insilico)

'Longevi­ty as a ser­vice': In­sil­i­co spins off AI biotech that trains deep learn­ing on an­ti-ag­ing treat­ments

Since its inception in 2014, Insilico has racked up deal after deal on the promise that artificial intelligence can hasten drug development, touting their work on discovering small molecules. The biotech’s founder, Alex Zhavoronkov, has published several scientific papers quantifying just how impactful this technology can be.

On Tuesday, Zhavoronkov extended his AI expertise into the field of anti-aging.