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

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

Jean Bennett (Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP Images)

Lux­tur­na in­ven­tor Jean Ben­nett starts a new gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny to tack­le rare dis­eases left be­hind by phar­ma, VCs

A few years ago Jean Bennett found herself in a surprising place for a woman who invented the first gene therapy ever approved in the United States: No one, it seemed, wanted her work.

Bennett, who designed and co-developed Luxturna, approved in 2018 for a rare form of blindness, had kept building new gene therapies for eye diseases at her University of Pennsylvania lab. But although the results in animals looked promising, pharma companies and investors kept turning down the pedigreed ophthalmology professor.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 118,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

FDA au­tho­rizes Pfiz­er's vac­cine boost­er for se­niors, those at high risk for se­vere Covid-19

The Biden administration’s goal of kicking off its booster shot drive for the entire US population this week is not quite going as planned.

First, Pfizer applied for approval of a supplemental application for the booster shots, but since last Friday’s adcomm reviewing them, the plan has devolved into an EUA, which the FDA issued late Thursday evening.

The population that is now eligible for the booster, six months after receiving the first pair of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, also narrowed from what Pfizer applied for (everyone who’s eligible for the initial Pfizer shots) to just those who are 65 or older, or at high-risk of a Covid infection, including health care workers and others with occupational hazards.

Stéphane Bancel, AP Images

Fi­nal analy­sis of US-fund­ed Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine tri­al shows 98% ef­fi­ca­cy against se­vere dis­ease

A final look at the results of the placebo-controlled Moderna trial in the New England Journal of Medicine, published Thursday afternoon, shows how the vaccine continues to prevent Covid-19 and severe cases after more than five months following the second shot.

Of the more than 30,000 enrolled in the trial that ultimately led to the vaccine’s EUA, only two people in the vaccine group got a severe form of the disease, compared to 106 in the placebo group — leading to an efficacy of 98%.

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

The fire un­der Glax­o­SmithK­line's Em­ma Walm­s­ley grows as an­oth­er well-known ac­tivist in­vestor grabs its pitch­fork — re­port

Bluebell Capital Partners, a proxy brawler fresh off a campaign to oust global food giant Danone’s CEO and most of its board of directors, has bought a stake in UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline with its eyes trained directly on Emma Walmsley, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The London-based hedge fund joins another notorious activist firm in Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, which earlier this year called for a shakeup in leadership at GSK to handle what the company described as a wealth of riches across the drug giant’s portfolio hindered by limited vision from top staff.

Maureen Hillenmeyer, Hexagon Bio CEO

Hexa­gon Bio rais­es $61M to con­tin­ue ef­forts to turn fun­gi in­to drugs

A year after raising a $47 million launch round, the fungi-loving drug hunters at Hexagon Bio have more than doubled their coffers.

Hexagon announced today that it raised another $61 million for its efforts to design cancer and infectious disease drugs based on insights mined from the DNA in millions of species of fungi. The new financing brings Hexagon’s committed funding to over $108 million.