Po­laris’ Amir Nashat pulls to­geth­er a $60M launch round to back the birth of a new biotech build­ing a drug de­vel­op­ment plat­form from scratch

Po­laris Part­ners man­ag­ing part­ner Amir Nashat has be­come a stu­dent of the role that bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates play in shut­ting down or ac­ti­vat­ing pro­teins. And he’s con­vinced that he’s found a door that opens on a long path­way to a new drug plat­form.

So con­vinced that he’s gath­ered a glob­al syn­di­cate to­geth­er and pack­aged a $60 mil­lion launch round to back the 15 staffers at Dew­point Ther­a­peu­tics who have been as­sem­bled to start craft­ing a pipeline of new drugs from their work.

Richard Young

Nashat and his col­leagues know it’s ear­ly, but they’ve grown in­creas­ing­ly ex­cit­ed about the steady stream of pa­pers be­ing pub­lished on con­den­sates — or­ganelles in cells with­out mem­branes — and the role they play in dis­ease. Some of those pa­pers are from com­pa­ny founders who will now help guide Dew­point to the clin­ic, in­clud­ing the White­head In­sti­tute’s Richard Young and An­tho­ny Hy­man of the Max Planck In­sti­tute.

That sci­en­tif­ic team — backed by a promi­nent group of sci­en­tif­ic ad­vis­ers that in­cludes the ubiq­ui­tous Bob Langer at MIT — in turn helped bring in Po­laris’ syn­di­cate part­ners: Sam­sara Bio­Cap­i­tal, 6 Di­men­sions Cap­i­tal, EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, and Leaps by Bay­er.

An­tho­ny Hy­man

“Neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion seems to be con­den­sates gone wrong,” says Nashat, who’s tak­en the CEO spot. And fo­cus­ing on mol­e­cules and reagents that can change the move­ment of a pro­tein in or out of con­den­sates looks like a promis­ing ap­proach to reg­u­lat­ing pro­tein be­hav­ior — stop­ping or en­hanc­ing the process as an av­enue to new drug de­vel­op­ment where all else has failed.

Adds Nashat: “It was a wide open can­vas.”

But not one that’s easy to paint just now. The Cam­bridge, MA-based Dew­point team, which will now dou­ble in size over the next year, doesn’t have a late-stage pre­clin­i­cal pro­gram it can shove in­to the clin­ic. The biotech is in­vest­ing in neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, can­cer, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and oth­er ar­eas for a plat­form that could, even­tu­al­ly, have ex­ten­sive ap­pli­ca­tions. But asked about a time­line to proof-of-con­cept da­ta, Nashat frankly es­ti­mates that it will take 4-5 years to birth some hard hu­man da­ta. The mon­ey should get them through 3 years and a con­sid­er­able de-risk­ing ap­proach to their pre­clin­i­cal ef­forts

The CSO is Mark Mur­cko, an ex­pe­ri­enced and well known start­up play­er.

Mark Mur­cko

“When I think about new com­pa­nies a lot of it is about tim­ing; is it too soon or too late?” Mur­cko notes en­thu­si­as­ti­cal­ly in our in­ter­view. “Is there enough in­for­ma­tion avail­able to make you think you can take that and use it to­ward new drugs? Five years ago it was too ear­ly, too nascent.”

Now, Mur­cko adds, seems like a great time to give this a go.


Im­age: Amir Nashat. WMIF via YOUTUBE

Bo Cumbo, AavantiBio CEO (file photo)

Bo Cum­bo jumps from the top com­mer­cial post at Sarep­ta to the helm of a gene ther­a­py start­up with some in­flu­en­tial back­ers, big plans and $107M

After a 7-year stretch building the commercial team at Sarepta, longtime drug salesman Bo Cumbo is jumping to the entrepreneurial side of the business, taking the helm of a startup that’s got several deep-pocket investors. And he’s not just bringing his experience in selling drugs.

He tells me that when he told Sarepta CEO Doug Ingram about it, his boss got excited about the venture and opted to jump in with a $15 million investment from Sarepta to add to the launch money, alongside 3 of the busiest investors in biotech.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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A new chap­ter in the de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal tri­al ap­proach

Despite the promised decentralized trial revolution, we haven’t yet moved the needle in a significant way, although we are seeing far bolder commitments to this as we continue to experience the pandemic restrictions for some time to come. The vision of grandeur is one thing, but operationalizing and execution are another and recognising that change, particularly mid-flight on studies, is worthy of thorough evaluation and consideration in order to achieve success. Here we will discuss one of the critical building blocks of a Decentralized and Remote Trial strategy: TeleConsent; more than paper under glass, it is a paradigm change and key digital enabler.

CEO Marc Gleeson (Azura)

Azu­ra Oph­thalmics gets a $20M boost for its R&D work on eye dis­eases

Three years after closing a $16 million Series B, the same group of investors are back to give Azura Ophthalmics a $20 million boost.

That brings the Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel-based biotech’s total fundraise to $38 million, and should pave the way for a registration study of its lead candidate in Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) and related eye diseases, CEO Marc Gleeson told Endpoints News.

The topical candidate, dubbed AZR-MD-001, is designed to address abnormal hyperkeratinization, or the build-up and shedding of proteins at the opening of or within the Meibomian gland. When Meibomian glands become dysfunctional, rapid evaporation of the tear film can occur, leading to dry eye disease.

Covid-19 roundup: WSJ of­fers in­side look at Ox­ford-As­traZeneca deal, in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial terms; Lil­ly plant un­der scruti­ny again

Oxford scientists developing a Covid-19 vaccine are working with British drugmaker AstraZeneca, and together the pair have become one of the frontrunners in the race to end the pandemic. But a new Wall Street Journal report out Wednesday offered a behind-the-scenes look at how that deal came together in the wake of a scholar-led revolt over a potential collaboration with Merck, and included previously unreported financial terms of the AstraZeneca deal.

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Jean-Pierre Sommadossi, Atea president and CEO (file photo)

Roche wades deep­er in­to Covid-19 fight, ink­ing an­tivi­ral pact with $350M cash fol­low­ing Re­gen­eron deal

Roche is making its first bet on an antiviral against Covid-19 in style, shelling out $350 million in cash to grab ex-US rights.

The drug comes from Atea Pharmaceuticals, the 7-year-old biotech created by Pharmasset co-founder Jean-Pierre Sommadossi, which essentially rebranded itself as a Covid-19 fighter in May when it closed a whopping $215 million venture round. Over a dozen investors bought in, including marquee names like Bain Capital and RA Capital.

Peter Kolchinsky and Raj Shah (file photo)

Pe­ter Kolchin­sky and Raj Shah's RA Cap­i­tal has $461M more to play with, af­ter 'rapid' in­vest­ment in the last 15 months

Just over 15 months after launching its first venture fund, RA Capital Management is ready for more. And this time the firm is bringing an even bigger load of cash to the table.

Announcing the close of its Nexus II fund on Wednesday, RA said it raised $461 million for investments in private companies across the biotech industry. The first venture fund, which raised $300 million, has churned through roughly 80% of its capital already, a pace that managing partner Raj Shah called unusually quick.

Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

As FDA sets the stage for the first Covid-19 vac­cine EUAs, some big play­ers are ask­ing for a tweak of the guide­lines

Setting the stage for an extraordinary one-day meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee this Thursday, the FDA has cleared 2 experts of financial conflicts to help beef up the committee. And regulators went on to specify the safety, efficacy and CMC input they’re looking for on EUAs, before they move on to the full BLA approval process.

All of this has already been spelled out to the developers. But the devil is in the details, and it’s clear from the first round of posted responses that some of the top players — including J&J and Pfizer — would like some adjustments and added feedback. And on Thursday, the experts can offer their own thoughts on shaping the first OKs.

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Philipp Spycher, Araris CEO

Promis­ing bet­ter link­er tech to ADC field, Araris has 'very, very am­bi­tious' plans for the clin­ic

A couple months after raising CHF 2.5 million ($2.76 million) in initial seed funding, one-year-old Araris Biotech is topping off the round with another CHF 12.7 million ($14 million).

The Paul Scherrer Institute and ETH Zurich spinout now has CHF 15.2 million to work with, and CEO Philipp Spycher has big plans. He hopes to bring one of the company’s antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) to the clinic by late 2022 or early 2023. “It’s very, very ambitious, but we are very optimistic that we actually can make it,” he said.