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

Image courtesy of The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

Pro­tect­ing the glob­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­no­va­tion ecosys­tem – what’s at stake?

We are living in a new era of healthcare that is rapidly advancing progress impacting patient outcomes and experiences. We’ve seen a remarkable pace of transformational innovation, applied research, and advanced clinical development over the last decade.

Despite this tremendous progress, there is much more work to be done, and patients are counting on us – now more than ever – to continue that momentum. At the heart of our industry is a focus on developing and delivering medicines for some of the world’s most challenging diseases, including those that have few or no effective treatments today.

Roger Perl­mut­ter lines up deals, fresh fund­ing at Eikon; Sec­ond RSV vac­cine ap­proved; Sev­er­al biotechs flash­ing red; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

As you come back to our website this weekend for ASCO news, don’t forget to check out our updated event lineup at BIO, which will cover everything from the current state of VC investing in biotech to top pharma R&D chiefs discussing how to make pipeline decisions.

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On­corus lays off most of its re­main­ing team, warns of wind-down as it takes one last shot at deal­mak­ing

Despite cutting its headcount, pipeline and lease late last year, Oncorus is still struggling to stay afloat and is now on the brink of bankruptcy or dissolution, the company revealed late Thursday.

The Andover, MA-based biotech is letting “substantially all of Oncorus’ workforce” go, after the board of directors approved the layoffs. CEO Ted Ashburn, COO/chief of staff Stephen Harbin and CMO John Goldberg are among the 55 to depart.

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Grail’s blood test charts path for di­ag­nos­ing pa­tients sus­pect­ed of hav­ing can­cer in large study: #AS­CO23

Grail’s vision is simple but bold. The blood testing company has long held that people are often diagnosed with cancer too late. If seemingly healthy people were screened for early signs of the disease before symptoms appear, they may be able to get more effective treatments that nip cancer in the bud.

That premise is the basis of Grail’s commercial blood test, Galleri, which searches for the genetic fingerprints of cancer in the blood. The test, launched in 2021, reaped $55 million in sales last year, but now the company is setting its sights on a new market: patients suspected of having cancer due to symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or unexplained weight loss. Rather than administering expensive scans or conducting invasive biopsies right away, Grail hopes doctors will consider a simple blood test.

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Bala Venkataraman, Avego founder and managing partner (L), and Bruno Paquin, AtomVie CEO

Cana­di­an CD­MO se­cures more fund­ing to get its man­u­fac­tur­ing site up and run­ning

AtomVie Global Radiopharma Inc, a Canadian radiopharmaceutical contract manufacturer, has received additional funds to get its manufacturing facility up and running.

The manufacturer announced that it has raised an additional 90 million Canadian dollars ($66.9 million) in a “Tranche 2 Series A round,” led by the healthcare investment firm Avego Management. The company previously announced a $40 million Series A round last year, which contributed to the construction of a new 64,000-square-foot facility.

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GSK pro­motes rou­tine im­mu­niza­tions for adults amid post-pan­dem­ic vac­cine back­slide

GSK launched a new initiative on Thursday and committed up to $1 million in grant funding to improve adult routine vaccination rates.

While the pandemic spotlight was trained on the race for novel Covid-19 vaccines, other routine vaccination rates plummeted, raising concerns that missed doses may put children and even some adults at risk of preventable diseases such as measles or shingles. The World Health Organization last year reported the largest drop in childhood vaccinations in roughly three decades.

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Tammie Denyse speaks up about Black women and breast cancer inequity in Gilead's first TikTok campaign. (Gilead Sciences)

Gilead joins Tik­Tok with on­col­o­gy aware­ness cam­paign fea­tur­ing di­verse group of can­cer ad­vo­cates

Gilead Sciences is taking over the opening page on TikTok for the next two weeks. A Gilead-sponsored video, featuring cancer advocates talking about equity and other issues, will show up as the landing page, called the “For You” page, for millions of TikTok watchers.

The cancer awareness campaign will begin on Monday and run for two weeks, a Gilead spokesperson told Endpoints News. The TikTok ad debut is timed around the ASCO medical conference, but the work is aimed more broadly at healthcare professionals, as well as people touched by cancer and people interested in advancing Black and general health equity.

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Dol­lars flow with three new pub­lic of­fer­ings, two pri­vate place­ments

A handful of biotechs announced plans to raise money this week.

First up is Hookipa Pharma, which announced Wednesday night that it is looking to raise $50 million in gross earnings in a public offering — by selling 22.9 million shares of common stock at $1.31 a share. The biotech, which is developing immuno-oncology treatments and infectious disease programs, is also offering roughly 15,000 shares of non-voting preferred stock, which could be converted into 1,000 shares of common stock for a price of $1,310 each.

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Stephen MacMillan, Hologic CEO (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

Il­lu­mi­na names Ho­log­ic CEO as new board mem­ber and chair

Illumina’s board appointed two new members, including Hologic CEO Stephen MacMillan as the non-executive chair, a move that followed a proxy fight that saw shareholders oust the company’s board chair.

The DNA sequencing company also appointed Scott Ullem, the CFO of Edwards Lifesciences, to the board, according to a company statement.

Illumina’s plans to add two new board members came as Carl Icahn waged a board proxy campaign culminating with shareholders electing his candidate, Andrew Teno, over board chair John Thompson. Illumina CEO Francis deSouza survived a threat to his board seat by securing more than twice the shareholder votes than his challenger. Another Illumina candidate, Robert Epstein, was also elected and remained on the board.

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