Peter Thiel (Riccardo Savi/Sipa via AP Images)

Pe­ter Thiel joins fund­ing round for pep­tide drug play­er in lat­est swing at emerg­ing biotech mar­ket

For ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists work­ing in ear­ly-stage biotech, fail­ures are more com­mon than vic­to­ries as in­vestors search for nov­el path­ways to treat well-trod­den ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas. For the big-name in­vestors, that’s equal­ly true — but if your name’s Pe­ter Thiel, a cer­tain grav­i­ty and high ex­pec­ta­tions come with your mon­ey.

Bil­lion­aire tech en­tre­pre­neur and Face­book co-founder Thiel has joined a $35.4 mil­lion Se­ries B round for Pep­ti­log­ics, a pep­tide drug de­sign and de­vel­op­ment biotech, as the com­pa­ny looks to ex­pand on its lead an­ti-in­fec­tive can­di­date and tar­get more drugs for mar­ket.

Thiel’s Founders Fund, which has re­cent­ly made a se­ries of high-pro­file splash­es in the emerg­ing biotech field and pre­vi­ous­ly signed on as an in­vestor at Pep­ti­log­ics for an ear­li­er round, joins round leader Pre­sight Cap­i­tal. Pep­ti­log­ics in­tends to use its lat­est round to con­tin­ue fine-tun­ing its drug dis­cov­ery en­gine and ad­vance its pipeline can­di­dates, most no­tably PLG0206, a nov­el an­ti-in­fec­tive.

Pep­ti­log­ics’ “com­pu­ta­tion­al” plat­form pre-spec­i­fies tar­gets for its drug dis­cov­ery, then works back­ward through bio­med­ical da­ta to iden­ti­fy mol­e­cules — and lat­er ther­a­peu­tics — to hit those tar­gets, the com­pa­ny said in a re­lease. That strat­e­gy has caught in­vestors’ eyes as the po­ten­tial for nov­el path­ways for high­ly com­pet­i­tive ther­a­peu­tics ar­eas grows.

“Pep­ti­log­ics’ ap­proach chal­lenges tra­di­tion­al drug dis­cov­ery meth­ods by start­ing with a de­fined tar­get drug pro­file and work­ing back­wards to de­sign op­ti­mal, nov­el mol­e­cules,” Pre­sight Cap­i­tal’s Fabi­an Hansen said in a re­lease. “We be­lieve that scal­able ra­tio­nal de­sign, not ran­dom screen­ing, is the fu­ture of drug dis­cov­ery and Pep­ti­log­ics is well-po­si­tioned to lead the way.”

That in­ter­est has cer­tain­ly caught the eye of Thiel, who has made a se­ries of splashy en­tries in­to the field in re­cent years — some of them more suc­cess­ful than oth­ers.

As re­cent­ly as late No­vem­ber, Thiel shelled out $125 mil­lion as part of a Se­ries C fund­ing round to fu­el de­vel­op­ment at ATAI Life Sci­ences, a Berlin-based biotech that has as­sem­bled a port­fo­lio of com­pa­nies with psy­che­del­ic and non-psy­che­del­ic ap­proach­es to de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and ad­dic­tion.

And it’s not just fund­ing, ei­ther: Al­so in No­vem­ber, Thiel jumped aboard as a board mem­ber at Ab­Cellera, a com­pa­ny part­ner­ing with Eli Lil­ly on Covid-19 an­ti­body de­vel­op­ment, as the com­pa­ny chas­es a ge­net­i­cal­ly en­gi­neered mouse mod­el that can de­vel­op hu­man an­ti­bod­ies.

The fate of those re­cent moves has yet to be seen, but at least one big Thiel in­vest­ment has re­cent­ly gone bel­ly up — a com­mon rit­u­al for sure in the world of emerg­ing biotech. Back in Au­gust, an­ti-ag­ing play­er Uni­ty Biotech­nol­o­gy flopped a ma­jor Phase II study in os­teoarthri­tis pain, jeop­ar­diz­ing the fu­ture of a com­pa­ny that once scored $200 mil­lion in ven­ture fund­ing from the likes of Thiel and Ama­zon helms­man Jeff Be­zos.

The com­pa­ny promised to be one of the first to ef­fec­tive­ly test the the­o­ry that clear­ing out old “senes­cent” cells could re­duce symp­toms as­so­ci­at­ed with ag­ing, but the ma­jor tri­al fail­ure cast doubt on Uni­ty’s promise in that field. This month, ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners’ Bob Nelsen, one of Uni­ty’s co-founders back in 2011, an­nounced he would step down from the board, join­ing pres­i­dent and co-founder Ned David, who is step­ping down at the end of the year, and an­oth­er board mem­ber, David Lacey, who is al­so de­part­ing.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Joe Papa (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Joe Pa­pa re­signs as chair of Bausch Health as bil­lion­aire John Paul­son takes over

Joe Papa, chair of Bausch Health, officially resigned on Thursday and the board appointed billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson as the new chair, effective immediately.

The specialty pharma company sought to make clear that Papa’s abrupt departure “was not due to any dispute or disagreement with the Company, its management or the Board on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.”

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Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.