Eric Murphy (Kinnate)

Or­biMed takes point on a new biotech launch, but al­most every­thing re­mains se­cret for now

If you missed the news of a new com­pa­ny launch backed by blue-chip in­vestor Or­biMed ear­ly Wednes­day morn­ing, that was by de­sign.

Al­terome Ther­a­peu­tics qui­et­ly emerged from stealth with $64 mil­lion in its Se­ries A, a fair­ly large sum for an ini­tial biotech raise. One would think, giv­en the in­dus­try’s pen­chant for bom­bast, such a raise would be ac­com­pa­nied by all the fan­fare that comes with an Or­biMed back­ing and enough cash to buy hun­dreds up­on hun­dreds of the most ex­pen­sive Tes­la mod­el.

Ar­jun Goy­al

But Al­terome put out on­ly a terse and am­bigu­ous press re­lease, in­stead cul­ti­vat­ing an au­ra of mys­tique. The choice to do so was in­ten­tion­al, said Ar­jun Goy­al, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Vi­da Ven­tures, which al­so backed the Se­ries A.

“We did have a dis­cus­sion, we kept it de­lib­er­ate­ly — I don’t want to say vague — but we want to be qui­et about the tar­gets we’re go­ing af­ter and the ap­proach­es we’re us­ing,” Goy­al told End­points News. “What I can say … is that it’s a very strong drug hunt­ing team lever­ag­ing new in­sights in com­pu­ta­tion­al chem­istry to go af­ter in­tractable on­col­o­gy tar­gets.”

Most promi­nent among the not-vague word­ing is the phrase “al­ter­ation-spe­cif­ic,” used three times through­out the 297-word press re­lease. Made in ref­er­ence to the types of tar­get­ed can­cer ther­a­peu­tics Al­terome is de­vel­op­ing, the ex­pres­sion hasn’t been ful­ly ex­plained and like­ly won’t be for some time. Goy­al de­clined to elab­o­rate and Al­terome does not have a web­site.

What Goy­al could talk about dealt with ar­eas of can­cer re­search where Al­terome wants to in­no­vate. For now, those in­clude cer­tain sol­id tu­mor fields with “a lot of room for im­prove­ments in out­comes,” he said, tick­ing off col­orec­tal can­cer, NSCLC and gas­tric can­cer as a few ex­am­ples. The raise will give Al­terome rough­ly three years of run­way to de­vel­op its set of pro­grams, at which point the biotech hopes to be near the clin­ic.

Ryan Cor­co­ran

Goy­al al­so ex­pand­ed on how he be­lieves Al­terome’s team could prove a big­ger dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fac­tor than any kind of tech­nol­o­gy or plat­form. The com­pa­ny is led by Er­ic Mur­phy, for­mer­ly the CSO and founder of Kin­nate Bio­phar­ma, and was al­so co-found­ed by Ryan Cor­co­ran, di­rec­tor of Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal’s gas­troin­testi­nal can­cer cen­ter.

That duo’s ex­pe­ri­ence, Goy­al says, gives Al­terome a bet­ter chance to suc­ceed than oth­er biotech com­pa­nies out there.

“Ul­ti­mate­ly, the proof will be in the pud­ding,” he said. “It’s easy to start these com­pa­nies, but it’s all about ex­e­cu­tion. We do be­lieve, most im­por­tant­ly, that we have a team that has ex­e­cut­ed in the past and will ex­e­cute go­ing for­ward.”

In ad­di­tion to Or­biMed and Vi­da, Wednes­day’s raise al­so saw par­tic­i­pa­tion from Nex­tech In­vest, Box­er Cap­i­tal and oth­ers.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Kristen Hege, Bristol Myers Squibb SVP, early clinical development, oncology/hematology and cell therapy (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: Bris­tol My­er­s' Kris­ten Hege on cell ther­a­py, can­cer pa­tients and men­tor­ing the next gen­er­a­tion

Kristen Hege leads Bristol Myers Squibb’s early oncology discovery program carrying on from the same work at Celgene, which was acquired by BMS in 2019. She’s known for her early work in CAR-T, having pioneered the first CAR-T cell trial for solid tumors more than 25 years ago.

However, the eminent physician-scientist is more than just a drug developer mastermind. She’s also a practicing physician, mother to two young women, an avid backpacker and intersecting all those interests — a champion of young women and people of color in STEM and life sciences.

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Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

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Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech look to toss Mod­er­na patent suit, call­ing claims 'unen­force­able'

Pfizer and BioNTech took a swing at Moderna’s Covid-19 patent claims in Massachusetts federal court on Monday, calling them “invalid,” “overbroad” and “unenforceable.”

The defendants also filed counterclaims against the Cambridge, MA-based biotech, seeking a dismissal of the case, recovery of court fees and an official judgment invalidating Moderna’s claims.

Moderna sued Pfizer and BioNTech back in August, alleging that the partners’ Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty copied parts of Moderna’s vaccine technology patented before the pandemic, when it was developing an mRNA vaccine for MERS, another respiratory illness.

Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Gos­samer’s Fa­heem Has­nain de­fends a round of pos­i­tive PAH da­ta as a clear win. But can these PhII re­sults stand up to scruti­ny?

Gossamer Bio $GOSS posted a statistically significant improvement for its primary endpoint in the key Phase II TORREY trial for lead drug seralutinib on Tuesday morning. But CEO Faheem Hasnain has some explaining to do on the important secondary of the crucial six-minute walk distance test — which will be the primary endpoint in Phase III — as the data on both endpoints fell short of expectations, missing one analyst’s bar on even modest success.

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Jay Lichter, Arialys Therapeutics CEO (Avalon Ventures)

Scoop: Aval­on, MPM back new CNS biotech with sci­en­tif­ic chops from Astel­las

A preclinical central nervous system biotech is in the works in La Jolla, CA, and the drug developer has reeled in capital from a syndicate of investors, Endpoints News has learned.

Arialys Therapeutics filed incorporation documents in the Golden State last December and applied its name for trademark protection with the US Patent and Trademark Office the week prior to that. Paperwork with the SEC also outlines plans to offer up equity in exchange for $55 million.

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Bob Duggan, Summit Therapeutics co-CEO

Bounc­ing from ma­jor set­back, Sum­mit hands out $500M cash for can­cer drug — thanks to a loan from bil­lion­aire CEO

After hitting a dead end with Summit Therapeutics’ lead program, Bob Duggan has found the drug that he believes will usher into a compelling second act. So compelling, in fact, that it involves $500 million cash — and he’s taking money out of his own pocket to fund the deal.

Striking a partnership with Akeso Therapeutics out of China, Summit is bringing in a bispecific antibody that blocks both PD-1 and VEGF called ivonescimab. Akeso, which has a PD-1/CTLA-4 bispecific approved in China, has already taken ivonescimab into multiple clinical trials, including a Phase III in lung cancer.

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Sum­i­to­vant sub­sidiaries En­zy­vant and Al­ta­vant merge in­to com­bined com­pa­ny

Two Sumitovant Biopharma entities are merging under one name, effective immediately.

Enzyvant Therapeutics and Altavant Sciences announced they have merged to form a singular entity focused on developing therapies for patients with rare diseases. The combined company will keep the name Enzyvant and along with clinical development will eventually include in-house manufacturing.

Bill Symonds, the current CEO of both Altavant and Enzyvant, is now CEO of the merged company.

Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion lays ground­work to un­wind Il­lu­mi­na's $7B+ Grail merg­er

The European Commission has recommended steps that — though not yet final — would require Illumina to “swiftly” unwind its controversial $7.1 billion Grail buyout.

The Commission delivered a “statement of objections” on Monday, detailing the process Illumina would need to take in divesting Grail, its blood testing spinout launched in 2016. Illumina re-acquired Grail back in August, despite criticism from both the FTC and EU.