Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drug­mak­ers de­vel­ops bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies to more di­rect­ly tar­get tu­mor cells — there were about 100 pro­grams in or near­ing clin­i­cal tri­als back in May — a new com­pa­ny is emerg­ing to go one step fur­ther.

On Thurs­day, Ten­tar­ix Bio­ther­a­peu­tics un­veiled a $50 mil­lion Se­ries A round to sup­port its next-gen mul­ti-specifics plat­form. While the field has large­ly fo­cused on bis­pecifics, which en­gage two tar­gets, Ten­tar­ix be­lieves its mul­ti­func­tion­al pro­grams have the po­ten­tial to be even more spe­cif­ic, since more con­di­tions must be met for po­tent ac­tiv­i­ty to oc­cur.

The com­pa­ny’s lead pro­gram has one sub­unit that tar­gets the IL2R gam­ma re­cep­tor, a sub­unit that tar­gets the IL2R be­ta re­cep­tor and oth­er sub­units that bind to cell sur­face pro­teins on a spe­cif­ic sub­set of T cells.

“The ad­vent of tech­nolo­gies to pro­duce high-pre­ci­sion bi­o­log­ics to en­gage mul­ti­ple dis­ease tar­gets rep­re­sents a ma­jor ad­vance,” CEO Paul Grayson said in a state­ment. “This fi­nanc­ing al­lows us to de­vel­op mul­ti­ple pro­grams for on­col­o­gy and au­toim­mune dis­ease based on the Ten­tar­ix tech­nol­o­gy plat­form.”

To aid dis­cov­ery, Ten­tar­ix says it has built a high-through­put plat­form that can screen mil­lions of mol­e­cules for ac­tiv­i­ty and con­di­tion­al­i­ty.

The team, based in both San Diego and Van­cou­ver, is led by a group of well-sea­soned phar­ma vet­er­ans, in­clud­ing CSO Stephen De­marest, who was head of Eli Lil­ly’s pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing and com­pu­ta­tion­al bio­ther­a­peu­tics de­part­ments; chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer Mar­garet Karow, who’s held se­nior po­si­tions at Xilio, Am­gen and Re­gen­eron; and se­nior VP of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment Paul Kang, who worked on an­ti­body gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies at Im­m­Gen­ics, Ab­genix, Am­gen and In­no­v­a­tive Tar­get­ing So­lu­tions.

Grayson, a ven­ture part­ner at Ver­sant, has had a hand in build­ing sev­er­al biotechs now, in­clud­ing Au­ro­ra Bio­sciences (which was snapped up by Ver­tex two decades ago), Seno­myx (ac­quired by the Swiss com­pa­ny Fir­menich), Fate Ther­a­peu­tics and Bird Rock Bio.

There are cur­rent­ly three bis­pecifics on the mar­ket — Am­gen’s leukemia drug Blin­cy­to, Roche’s he­mo­phil­ia A drug Hem­li­bra, and J&J’s Ry­bre­vant, which scored an ap­proval back in May to treat a form of non-small cell lung can­cer. A crowd of can­di­dates is still in de­vel­op­ment, while some com­pa­nies, like Ten­tar­ix, have set their sights on mul­ti­spe­cif­ic drugs. Big Phar­ma has shown in­ter­est in that space too, with Sanofi strik­ing a deal for Bio­munex’s bi- and mul­ti-spe­cif­ic an­ti­body ther­a­peu­tics back in 2019.

“It is grat­i­fy­ing to see the vi­sion of mul­ti­func­tion­al pro­tein ther­a­peu­tics shared with the Ten­tar­ix founders rapid­ly de­vel­op in­to a trans­for­ma­tive dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment com­pa­ny,” said Sri­ni Akkara­ju, man­ag­ing gen­er­al part­ner at Sam­sara, which co-led the Se­ries A with Ver­sant.

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

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Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Radek Spisek, Sotio CEO (Cellestia)

A qui­et Czech biotech bags $315M to dri­ve its blos­som­ing can­cer pipeline through the clin­ic

In the rather insular world of biotech, most innovation inevitably comes from a cluster of R&D hubs — Cambridge, San Francisco, etc. But sometimes success stories sprout from rocky soil, which is most certainly the case with Prague-based Sotio Biotech and its suddenly jam-packed pipeline of cancer drugs.

After years in quiet development, Sotio now has $315 million in new funds to play with from parent company PPF Group, an investment group founded in the Czech Republic, as the biotech looks to advance its growing pipeline through early- and mid-stage trials.

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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