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

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

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Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.