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.

Bio­mark­er 'roadmap­s' and the fu­ture of can­cer R&D; Cur­tain rais­es on #AS­CO22; Pfiz­er, No­var­tis tack­le drug ac­cess; 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.

While this was not a week for earth-shattering news, there were certainly a lot of interesting tidbits. If you found this recap helpful, please recommend it to your friends and colleagues. We’ll see you on the other side of the long weekend.

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Keep­ing pres­sure on Am­gen, Mi­rati draws mixed re­views on lat­est cut of KRAS da­ta

As the close runner-up to Amgen’s Lumakras in the KRAS race, any data cut from Mirati’s adagrasib continues to draw scrutiny from analysts. And the latest batch of numbers from ASCO is a decidedly mixed bag.

While a quick comparison suggests that adagrasib spurred slightly more responses and led to a longer overall survival than Lumakras among a group of non-small cell lung cancer patients, its duration of response appears shorter and the safety profile continues to spark concern.

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Ann is one of ViiV Healthcare's newest spokespeople as the retired school administrator speaks up about her HIV status.

GSK's Vi­iV de­buts next evo­lu­tion in HIV med Dova­to cam­paign with new spokes­peo­ple and new mes­sage

When Ann saw the first TV commercials for HIV medicine Dovato, she didn’t see herself represented. So the 74-year-old retired school administrator who’s been living with HIV since 1998, reached out to GSK’s ViiV Healthcare and asked why not?

Now Ann is one of three people starring in ViiV’s latest Dovato campaign called “Detect This.” The next-step evolution in the branded campaign plays on the word “detect” — often used in describing HIV status under control as undetectable — but in this case, uses the word as a directive for people to understand they can use fewer medicines.

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Tran­si­tion to new Eu­ro­pean clin­i­cal tri­als in­fo sys­tem starts slow­ly

At the end of January, the European Medicines Agency officially launched its new clinical trials info system (CTIS), although the migration to the new platform has only really just begun, and sponsors have until the end of January 2023 before all initial trial applications must be submitted through CTIS.

Overall, 56 clinical trial applications have been submitted in CTIS during the first 3 months since the launch of the system on Jan. 31, according to new data posted by the EMA. By comparison, about 4,000 new trials are authorized each year across Europe.

Switzer­land to de­stroy over 600,000 ex­pired dos­es of Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine

As concerns related to uptake and distribution continue to linger, Switzerland is among the first countries that plans to destroy hundreds of thousands of expired and unused Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The European country said it plans to destroy more than 600,000 doses of Moderna’s Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine as the doses have reached their expiration date.

However, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he’s in the process of throwing 30 million doses in the garbage, exclaiming, “We have a big demand problem.”

Nassim Usman, Catalyst Biosciences CEO

Af­ter $60M Ver­tex deal, group of Cat­a­lyst share­hold­ers claims biotech could’ve sold as­sets three years ago

Catalyst Biosciences was down to five employees in March, and the biotech needed to do something after two rounds of layoffs, a nixed collaboration and a culling of its hemophilia program.

In came Vertex, with $60 million to buy up the South San Francisco biotech’s preclinical complement drugs, which target the system that bridges the body’s innate and adaptive immune response and a class most known for Ultomiris and Soliris. The deal includes CB 2782-PEG, the dry AMD drug that Biogen no longer wanted in March.

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Lanny Sun, co-founder, CEO and chairman of Full-Life Technologies

Se­quoia Chi­na leads $37M in­fu­sion in­to ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals play­er set­ting up shop in Chi­na and Bel­gium

It’s not just American startups that are tuning into the rising interest in radiopharmaceuticals.

Sequoia China is leading a $37 million Series A into Full-Life Technologies, a biotech headquartered in Shanghai with offices in Brussels, Belgium, to develop a pipeline of radioactive cancer therapies.

The idea isn’t new: As clinicians started routinely deploying radiation to kill cancer cells, scientists and drugmakers have long been exploring ways to limit that powerful effect only to cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. But recent progress in the production of radioisotopes — coupled with big investments from Big Pharma, most notably Novartis and Bayer — has inspired a new wave of startups.

Lina Khan, FTC chair (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP Images)

Pile-on over PBMs con­tin­ues with FTC com­ments and a new bi­par­ti­san Sen­ate bill

More than 500 stakeholders sent comments to the FTC on whether the commission should look further into pharma middlemen, known as PBMs, with many of the commenters calling for more federal oversight.

Similar to the critical open comment period in a deadlocked FTC session last February, pharmacies and pharmacy groups are continuing to call out the lack of transparency among the top 3 PBMs, which control about 80% of the market.

Pharma brands are losing their shine with US consumers who are now thinking about the economy and inflation instead of Covid. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Phar­ma brands fade in an­nu­al Har­ris con­sumer vis­i­bil­i­ty poll: Mod­er­na drops off and Pfiz­er dips

As Covid-19 concerns are fading in the US, so is biopharma visibility. The annual Axios Harris Poll survey to determine and rank the 100 most top-of-mind brands in the US finds Moderna, which was No. 3 last year, not on the list at all for 2022, and Pfizer sinking 37 spots.

However, it’s not that Moderna or Pfizer did anything wrong, it’s just that Americans have moved on to other worries beyond Covid.

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