Shlomi Raz, Eleusis CEO

Psy­che­delics biotech set to go pub­lic via SPAC — push­ing IV form of psilo­cy­bin in­to PhI

Psy­che­delics biotech Eleu­sis has its eyes on an ex­pan­sion, and it’s go­ing the SPAC route to get it.

The biotech an­nounced ear­li­er to­day that it’s team­ing up with a SPAC born out of as­set man­ag­er Sil­ver Spike Cap­i­tal to make Eleu­sis a pub­lic com­pa­ny. Once the deal goes through some­time in Q2 or Q3 this year, the com­bined com­pa­ny will be op­er­at­ed through new hold­ing com­pa­ny Eleu­sis Inc and trade on Nas­daq un­der the tick­er $ELEU.

The SPAC, aka Sil­ver Spike Ac­qui­si­tion Corp II, has a de­cent amount of cash banked: it’s worth $287.5 mil­lion. And Sil­ver Spike has long been in­ter­est­ed in in­vest­ments in cannabis and psy­che­delics, ac­cord­ing to Eleu­sis.

The biotech, which has been fo­cused on mak­ing psy­che­delics in­to med­i­cines, has its lead can­di­date — a psilo­cy­bin in­fu­sion called ELE-Psi­lo — in de­vel­op­ment for de­pres­sion. And if reg­u­la­tors give it the OK, ELE-Psi­lo will en­ter Phase I tri­als some­time this year.

Psilo­cy­bin is a hal­lu­cino­gen nor­mal­ly found in “mag­ic mush­rooms,” a type of nat­u­ral­ly-grown mush­room that has been used for recre­ation­al and re­li­gious pur­pos­es.

Ac­cord­ing to the biotech, an IV in­fu­sion of the hal­lu­cino­gen would be more ef­fec­tive than oral in­ges­tion be­cause it would cut down on vari­abil­i­ty. Ab­sorp­tion and me­tab­o­lism would vary sig­nif­i­cant­ly in dif­fer­ent pa­tients with the same dose of psilo­cy­bin when done oral­ly, which would de­crease when in­ject­ed straight in­to the blood­stream, Eleu­sis said.

Scott Gor­don

Eleu­sis ex­pects to use the pro­ceeds re­ceived from SP­KB to sup­port con­tin­ued clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of ELE-Psi­lo, move ear­ly stage drug dis­cov­ery and trans­la­tion­al re­search for­ward and fa­cil­i­tate ex­pan­sion of Eleu­sis’s sub­sidiary An­dala, which man­ages psy­chi­atric care clin­ics na­tion­al­ly.

Cur­rent CEO Shlo­mi Raz will con­tin­ue to serve as CEO of the com­bined com­pa­ny, and the Board of Di­rec­tors is ex­pect­ed to in­clude cur­rent Eleu­sis board mem­bers and Sil­ver Spike CEO Scott Gor­don.

Raz ex­pressed op­ti­mism for the deal, say­ing in a state­ment that the tim­ing is ide­al for the com­pa­ny to go pub­lic, and that “we be­lieve ac­cess to pub­lic cap­i­tal mar­kets will ac­cel­er­ate our ef­forts.”

George Scangos (L) and Marianne De Backer

Pi­o­neer­ing biotech icon George Scan­gos hands in his re­tire­ment pa­pers — and this time it’s for re­al

George Scangos, one of the all-time great biotech CEOs, says the time has come to turn over the reins one last time.

The 74-year-old biotech legend spent close to three decades in a CEO post. The first was at Exelixis — which is still heavily focused on a drug Scangos advanced in the clinic. The second “retirement” was at Biogen, where he and his team were credited with a big turnaround with the now fading MS blockbuster Tecfidera. And the third comes at Vir, where he traded in his Big Biotech credentials for a marquee founder’s role back on the West Coast, hammering out a Covid-19 alliance with Hal Barron — then R&D chief at GSK — and breaking new ground on infectious diseases with some high-powered venture players.

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Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine (Credit: Jamie Scott Lytle)

A stem cell pi­o­neer sent an ex­per­i­ment in­to space. Pa­tients are the next fron­tier

Last July, Jeanne Loring stood on a dirt road surrounded by Florida swampland and watched as a nearby SpaceX rocket blasted into the sky. The payload included a very personal belonging: cell clusters mimicking parts of her brain.

For more than two decades, Loring has been at the forefront of a stem cell field that always seems on the brink of becoming the next thing in medicine, but has been slow to lift off.

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FDA re­ports ini­tial 'no sig­nal' for stroke risk with Pfiz­er boost­ers, launch­es con­comi­tant flu shot study

The FDA hasn’t detected any potential safety signals, including for stroke, in people aged 65 years and older who have received Pfizer’s bivalent Covid booster, one senior official told members of the agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Thursday.

The update comes as the FDA and CDC investigate a “preliminary signal” that may indicate an increased risk of ischemic stroke in older Americans who received Pfizer’s updated shot.

FDA cuts off use for As­traZeneca’s Covid-19 ther­a­py Evusheld

The FDA has stopped use of another drug as a result of the new coronavirus variants. On Thursday, the agency announced that AstraZeneca’s antibody combo Evusheld, which was an important prevention option for many immunocompromised people and others, is no longer authorized.

The FDA said it made its decision based on the fact that Evusheld works on fewer than 10% of circulating variants.

Evusheld was initially given emergency authorization at the end of 2021. However, as Omicron emerged, so did studies that showed Evusheld might not work against the dominant Omicron strain. In October, the FDA warned healthcare providers that Evusheld was useless against the Omicron subvariant BA.4.6. It followed that up with another announcement earlier this month that it did not think Evusheld would work against the latest Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

Ali Madani, Profluent founder and CEO

Proflu­ent de­buts to de­sign pro­teins with ma­chine learn­ing in bid to move past 'AI sprin­kled on top'

While OpenAI’s Microsoft-allied ChatGPT takes the world by storm, a fledgling startup in Berkeley, CA is debuting to take a similar language-learning model approach, but with the goal of designing new proteins.

Profluent, founded by a former Salesforce AI research leader, has secured $9 million to kick-start its work, with proceeds going toward building out an integrated wet lab and recruiting machine learning scientists and biologists. Insight Partners led the seed round. The investor base also includes Air Street Capital, AIX Ventures and Phoenix Venture Partners.

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In­vestor 'misalign­men­t' leads to tR­NA biotech's shut­ter­ing

A small biotech looking to carve a lane in the tRNA field has folded, an investor and a co-founder confirmed to Endpoints News.

Similar to Flagship’s Alltrna and other upstarts like Takeda-backed hC Bioscience, the now-shuttered Theonys was attempting to go after transfer RNA, seen as a potential Swiss Army knife in the broader RNA therapeutics space. The idea is that one tRNA drug could be used across a galaxy of disorders and diseases.

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#JPM23: What's re­al­ly dri­ving the cost of health­care and drugs in 2023?

Executive Editor Drew Armstrong spoke with PhRMA CEO Steve Ubl, EmsanaRx CEO Greg Baker and ICER President Steve Pearson about how the debate over drug costs has changed (or not) in the last decade, the shifting payer landscape and why there seems to be so little movement on drug rebates. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Drew Armstrong:

So first of all, thank you to everybody for being here and for our panel for being here. Incredibly excited to have this discussion on the cost of healthcare and drugs and what’s driving that. We’re here with Steve Ubl, the head of PhRMA. Thank you so much. Steve Pearson from ICER, and Greg Baker from EmsanaRx. I want to start this conversation with a little bit of a personal reminiscence. So about almost 10 years exactly. I was a reporter back in my previous job and I was covering drug pricing and Gilead had just launched their hepatitis C drug and I was having a conversation with another Steve over at Express Scripts and he made some comments essentially about how they intended to launch a price war over hepatitis C therapies.

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Peter Joyce, Grey Wolf Therapeutics co-founder and CEO

Grey Wolf reels in $49M to en­ter the clin­ic for new im­munother­a­py tar­get

When he finds the time to go fly fishing, Peter Joyce says gray wulffs, or mayfly mimics, are his good luck charm — he always catches a fish when he uses them. Joyce has now brought in $49 million in a Series B round for his biotech company Grey Wolf Therapeutics.

The Oxford, UK cancer biotech plans to use the funds to bring its first asset into human trials in the coming month or two, according to Joyce. Pfizer Ventures and Earlybird Venture Capital co-led the round, which the startup disclosed Thursday.

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Pa­tient death spurs tri­al halt for Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics

Magenta Therapeutics is pausing an early-stage clinical trial after a patient died. The death was deemed to be possibly related to its drug, MGTA-117.

The biotech said the pause of the Phase I/II trial is voluntary and gives it time to review all available data before deciding what to do next. It’s also reported the known information to the FDA.

The dose-escalation trial was designed to test whether MGTA-117, an antibody-drug conjugate, could serve as a more targeted alternative to high-intensity chemotherapy as a conditioning agent for cancer patients who are set to receive a stem cell transplant. It recruited patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.