Prolific Insilico scores up to $200M deal in China; Researchers retract paper on gene involved in CRISPR baby controversy
→ Alex Zhavoronkov’s Hong Kong-based AI-shop Insilico Medicine has been buzzing with the publication of data in Nature, which showed its machine learning approach helped identify potential drugs associated with a particular target in a swift 21 days. On Wednesday, the company disclosed that is has allied with China-based Jiangsu Chia Tai Fenghai Pharmaceutical Co in a deal worth up to $200 million — including an upfront payment, as well as potential milestone and royalty payments.
The collaboration will focus on two programs to tackle triple-negative breast cancer, using an AI-enabled platform for drug discovery. Zhavoronkov said he was unable to provide more detail on the deal, but that he expects the partnership to last about two years. “But we hope to expand it because, if history is any indication of the future, China is progressing in drug discovery,” he told Endpoints News.
A platoon of biopharma companies have linked up with the emerging crop of AI specialists itching to capitalize on how large datasets can be harnessed to drive new therapies into the clinic. Zhavoronkov is well connected — last year he raised funds at the behest of Shanghai high-flyer WuXi AppTec, Singapore’s Temasek, Peter Diamandis and Juvenescence. Last month, Insilico raised $37 million in its latest funding round.
→ After startling the world with the claim that the genetic mutation Chinese scientist Jiankui He attempted to edit in embryos — leading to the birth of twin girls — is associated with a higher risk of premature death, two UC Berkeley researchers are retracting the paper. In a brief note, Nature wrote that Xinzhu Wei and Rasmus Nielsen “have been made aware of a genotyping calling bias in the underlying UK Biobank data from which the main results of the study were drawn.” Following that initial warning from David Reich, the authors ran further analyses with different databases and confirmed that the central finding of the study about CCR5-∆32 was “the result of this technical artifact.”
→ Vivoryon Therapeutics is offering nearly 37 million shares in a public offering — hoping to generate €30 million — to fund the Phase IIb development of its lead drug, PQ912, for Alzheimer’s disease. The trial will be testing the drug in 250 patients, with results expected in 2022.
→ Bayer is inking a collaboration with Japan’s largest national research organization, RIKEN Innovation, to “jointly explore potential drug targets, utilize basic drug discovery technologies as well as assess disease mechanisms.”
→ Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes-founded ImmunoMolecular Therapeutics has raised $10 million in Series A financing to advance its HLA-targeted discovery platform and to develop its lead drug candidate in type 1 diabetes. The round was co-led by the JDRF T1D Fund and Morningside Ventures, along with the Colorado University Healthcare Innovation Fund.