Pfizer launches a gene therapy study for Duchenne MD; Amgen, NEA back real-world drug data software company

Pfizer has launched its closely-watched study of a new “mini-dystrophin” gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Duke’s Edward Smith dosed the first boy on March 22. And data are expected in H1 of next year, after investigators get a chance to observe patients’ response for a full year. Altogether the study plans to enroll 12 boys aged 5 to 12 for the study of PF-06939926.

→ After testing out the concept of an incubator in New York City, Alexandria Real Estate Equities is bringing Alexandria LaunchLabs to the buzzing hub of Cambridge to house biotech startups — and potentially fund them, too. The biotech developer and big Boston landlord had previously awarded a one-time $100,000 prize to one of its tenants in the NYC site, but it doesn’t compare to the level of support, complete with seed capital and mentorship, that it is offering to “the most promising life science startups” among the two dozen it will accommodate. Alexandria Seed Capital Platform currently manages over $500 million. “Our goal is to make sure the companies don’t waste time trying to raise money,” Alexandria CEO Joel Marcus told the Boston Globe. “They need to spend time on science and focus on products.” To help them do that, Alexandria LaunchLabs also offers 20,000 square feet of co-working space in addition to labs and scientific equipment.

→ A software company started by Harvard professors to analyze real-world drug data has landed $36.4 million in venture backing. NEA stepped in on the round for Aetion, joining Amgen Ventures, Flare Capital Partners, Lakestar, and Oxeon Ventures. They’ll using the money to expand on the diseases they cover, developing analytics that can show drug developers and buyers which therapies are the best and most cost effective for patient groups. Jeremy Rassen, a former assistant professor at Harvard, is CSO while Harvard professor Sebastian Schneeweiss is the science leader.

→ After bringing in Merrimack founder Gavin MacBeath as CSO last year, the executive team at Abpro — led by Ian Chan — has jumped into the biotech IPO queue. The antibody shop has set out to raise roughly $69 million, hoping that the wide open IPO window on Wall Street can accommodate them. The preclinical company started out 11 years ago and currently has nothing in the pipeline that has reached humans yet. Co-founder and vice chairman Eugene Chan, Ian’s brother, is also in the group. 

With additional reporting by Amber Tong

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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