CEO Dipal Doshi (Entrada)

Piv­ot­ing to­ward neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­eases and Duchenne, En­tra­da locks down $116M crossover round

A lit­tle over two years since its last $59 mil­lion round, En­tra­da Ther­a­peu­tics is mak­ing some more noise Wednes­day with a nine-fig­ure crossover. And they’ve got a new fo­cus on neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­eases, led by Duchenne mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy, as their re­search has broad­ened over the years.

En­tra­da pulled in a $116 mil­lion Se­ries B, with the funds pri­mar­i­ly slat­ed for get­ting its first Duchenne pro­gram in­to the clin­ic. The Boston-based biotech hopes to get past the IND ac­cep­tance phase for the lead can­di­date and then ex­pand in­to oth­er neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ar­eas.

The plat­form here, orig­i­nal­ly based on De­hua Pei’s lab re­search from Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty, cen­ters around what En­tra­da calls en­do­so­mal es­cape ve­hi­cles, or EEVs. At their core, EEVs are cyclic pep­tides that trig­ger a process en­abling cell mem­branes to take in bi­o­log­ic con­ju­gates, CEO Di­pal Doshi told End­points News.

Back in 2018 dur­ing the Se­ries A fundraise, En­tra­da’s main ef­forts dealt with ap­ply­ing the EEVs to en­zyme re­place­ment ther­a­pies, with a pri­ma­ry tar­get of the mi­to­chon­dr­i­al dis­ease known as MNGIE. But last year, Doshi said, the com­pa­ny saw a “re­mark­able op­por­tu­ni­ty” in its oligonu­cleotide re­search and de­cid­ed to piv­ot to­ward this area in earnest.

Doshi now de­scribes En­tra­da as be­ing bro­ken in­to three parts: en­zyme re­place­ment, oligonu­cleotides and pro­tein degra­da­tion. As their sights have turned to­ward neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­eases with the oligonu­cleotides re­search, En­tra­da is now look­ing to part­ner out the MNGIE pro­gram.

“We’ve been very ex­plic­it to say, look, we’re not go­ing to be cute here, we want to find a home for this pro­gram,” Doshi told End­points. “We want to put it in­to a com­pa­ny that has the abil­i­ty to re­cruit an ul­tra-rare clin­i­cal study in the im­me­di­ate time frame.”

En­tra­da doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have a spe­cif­ic part­ner­ship mod­el in mind, Doshi added, but they’re hop­ing to find a rare dis­ease-fo­cused phar­ma that can run the tri­al while team­ing up on man­u­fac­tur­ing.

When it comes to ap­ply­ing the EEVs to oligonu­cleotides for Duchenne and its oth­er neu­ro­mus­cu­lar pro­grams, En­tra­da does so by tar­get­ing the RNA. In such dis­eases, pa­tients have mu­ta­tions that pre­vent the trans­la­tion of RNA in­to pro­teins — in Duchenne’s case, the pro­tein in ques­tion is dy­s­trophin.

The oligonu­cleotides con­nect­ed to the EEVs force the cells to skip these mu­ta­tions in their ge­net­ic code, Doshi says, al­low­ing for the cre­ation of dy­s­trophin. And through this method, the dy­s­trophin can then get in­to the ap­pro­pri­ate mus­cles.

In ear­ly re­search, En­tra­da be­lieves it can dif­fer­en­ti­ate it­self from oth­er Duchenne play­ers due to the dy­s­trophin up­take they’ve seen in an­i­mal mod­els. Specif­i­cal­ly, re­searchers have record­ed sig­nif­i­cant up­take in the heart, which could val­i­date the EEV tech­nol­o­gy for use in oth­er neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­eases with sim­i­lar patholo­gies, Doshi said.

En­tra­da isn’t dis­clos­ing yet which ex­on it’s skip­ping in the lead pro­gram, but Doshi not­ed that they see a “bas­ket op­por­tu­ni­ty” in go­ing af­ter ex­ons 44, 45, 51 and 53 at around the same time. That would com­prise about 40% of all DMD pa­tients.

With Wednes­day’s fi­nanc­ing now in hand, En­tra­da is look­ing to get the lead Duchenne can­di­date in­to the clin­ic some­time next year.

Duchenne is an area that’s seen heavy in­vest­ment but few suc­cess­es in re­cent years. Last Au­gust, the FDA ap­proved the third Duchenne drug on the mar­ket, but reg­u­la­tors con­tin­ued to ex­press con­cerns about the ef­fi­ca­cy of the drug from NS Phar­ma. The oth­er two drugs come from Sarep­ta, where in one case the FDA in­fa­mous­ly flip-flopped from CRL to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval af­ter just four months.

The round was led by Welling­ton Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny and joined by Red­mile Group, TCG Crossover, Green­spring As­so­ci­ates, Point72, Qatar In­vest­ment Au­thor­i­ty (“QIA”), Moore Strate­gic Ven­tures, Gold­man Sachs, Cure­Duchenne Ven­tures and one undis­closed glob­al in­vest­ment firm.

Ex­ist­ing in­vestors 5AM Ven­tures, MPM Cap­i­tal, Roche Ven­ture Fund, MRL Ven­tures Fund and Agent Cap­i­tal al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Se­ries B.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Tempus Labs)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs from 2020.

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Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL CEO Paul Per­reault de­ter­mined to grow plas­ma col­lec­tion af­ter full-year sales dip

As the ink dries on CSL’s $11.7 billion Vifor buyout, the company posted a dip in profits, due in part to a drop in plasma donations amid the pandemic.

However, CEO Paul Perreault assured investors and analysts on the full-year call that the team has left “no stone unturned” when assessing options to grow plasma volumes. The chief executive also spelled out positive results for the company’s monoclonal antibody garadacimab in hereditary angioedema (HAE), though he isn’t revealing the exact numbers just yet.

Blaise Coleman, Endo International CEO

En­do files for Chap­ter 11 as it looks to fin­ish off its opi­oid lit­i­ga­tion

Irish drugmaker Endo International is entering into bankruptcy as it faces the weight of serious litigation related to its involvement in the opioid epidemic in the US.

The company has filed Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, with the company expected to file recognition proceedings in Canada, the UK and Australia. The company’s bankruptcy filing showed the company had assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion.