Q32 Bio grabs $60M to kick off hu­man stud­ies for next-gen com­ple­ment drugs — with some Covid-19 tweaks along the way

For a com­pa­ny that launched in the ear­ly months of the pan­dem­ic, Q32 Bio had its fair share of run-ins with the new nor­mals un­der Covid-19.

Mike Brox­son

The orig­i­nal plan, for in­stance, was to con­duct first-in-hu­man stud­ies of the IL-7 re­cep­tor an­ti­body it li­censed from Bris­tol My­ers Squibb in the Nether­lands. But they re­al­ized short­ly af­ter that while the coun­try was be­gin­ning to open up clin­i­cal tri­als, there were ad­di­tion­al re­stric­tions on drugs that tam­pered with im­muno­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms.

“We didn’t have any sense for the tim­ing of be­ing able to get in­to the clin­ic,” CEO Mike Brox­son told End­points News. “The team de­cid­ed in June with board sup­port to piv­ot and do our Phase I work in Aus­tralia.”

So the group led by CSO She­lia Vi­o­lette re­vised its fil­ing, fig­ured out man­u­fac­tur­ing and quick­ly got a green light to move their study to the South­ern Hemi­sphere. And on Tues­day, the first health vol­un­teer was dosed with ADX-914 — set­ting them up nice­ly to take the wraps off $60 mil­lion in fresh Se­ries B cash.

Next year will be piv­otal for the biotech, said Brox­son, a Take­da vet for whom quar­ters come as a nat­ur­al way of mea­sur­ing time. Not on­ly are in­ter­im read­outs for -914 slat­ed for Q4, but the first fu­sion pro­tein gen­er­at­ed on Q32’s plat­form is ex­pect­ed to en­ter Phase I around the same time.

She­lia Vi­o­lette

By grab­bing tis­sue-spe­cif­ic tar­gets on one end and fer­ry­ing a com­ple­ment reg­u­la­tor on the oth­er, the tech­nol­o­gy promis­es to gen­er­ate next-gen com­ple­ment drugs that can be de­liv­ered to or­gans where com­ple­ment frag­ments have been de­posit­ed — and get out of cir­cu­la­tion once that’s done.

“Our goal is to pre­serve sys­temic com­ple­ment sur­veil­lance, not in­hibit­ing in a longterm way,” Brox­son said.

While the mech­a­nism is dis­tinct from IL-7R, Brox­son added that the com­ple­ment pro­gram, ADX-097, ac­tu­al­ly shares cer­tain ap­pli­ca­tions with the lead drug such as lu­pus and arthri­tis.

With -914, though, Q32 is ini­tial­ly aim­ing to start with Sjö­gren’s dis­ease, pro­vid­ed the da­ta pan out. France’s Servi­er is part­ner­ing with OSE on a clin­i­cal drug that sim­i­lar­ly tar­gets IL-7R, so they will al­so be watch­ing the field close­ly.

As for the com­ple­ment drug pipeline — there is a slew of pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams lined up af­ter -097 — the fo­cus will be on the kid­ney and the skin.

The new fi­nanc­ing should last them two and a half years while they sort it all out, Brox­son said, and grow out the team to 30 staffers. Most of Q32 Bio’s team is still work­ing re­mote­ly while lab-based staffers set­tle in­to ro­ta­tion sched­ules.

Com­pared to op­er­a­tions, though, the fundrais­ing process struck him as fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent.

The two years he spent as the chief of Goldfinch Bio was filled with trips to New York, San Fran­cis­co and Boston, he re­called. With­out trav­el and the need to get dressed up, his talks with in­vestors this time around were less for­mal and more ef­fi­cient.

“I think it will be a hy­brid — some as­pects of it will be re­mote, per­haps first calls, sec­ond calls,” Brox­son said when asked for pre­dic­tions about the fu­ture.

Or­bimed Ad­vi­sors and Acorn Bioven­tures led the Se­ries B. At­las Ven­ture, an ear­ly backer of Q32 Bio, re­turned along­side Os­age Uni­ver­si­ty Part­ners, At­las Ven­ture, Abing­worth, Sanofi Ven­tures, Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado and Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Col­orado Cen­ter for In­no­va­tion.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Tom Barnes (Orna)

The mR­NA era is here. MPM be­lieves the fu­ture be­longs to oR­NA — and Big Phar­ma wants a seat at the ta­ble

If the ultra-fast clinical development of Covid-19 vaccines opened the world’s eyes to the promises of messenger RNA, the subsequent delays in supply offered a crash course on the ultra-complex process of producing them. Even before the formulation and fill-finish steps, mRNA is the precious end product from an arduous journey involving enzyme-aided transcription, modification and purification.

For Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Gilead’s Kite and Astellas, it’s time to rethink the way therapeutic RNA is engineered.

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Michael Rome (Foresite)

In search of 'house­hold health­care brands of the fu­ture,' Fore­site Cap­i­tal rais­es $969M to sa­ti­ate a tech-heavy ap­petite

Back in April 2018, just before Foresite Capital unveiled its $668 million Fund IV and a strategy to focus on tech-driven life science bets, one of its portfolio companies quietly made an announcement.

Fount Therapeutics, a drug discovery outfit backed by Foresite and Eshelman Ventures, had raised $22 million in Series A cash to hatch several fledgling spinouts. “The first ‘NewCo,’ Kinnate, will be focused on developing precision oncology treatments,” read a press release.

S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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Masayoshi Son, SoftBank CEO (glen photo/Shutterstock)

Japan's Soft­Bank plots bil­lions in biotech in­vest­ments in move that could keep the val­u­a­tion flood ris­ing — re­port

The valuation crazy train in biotech continues to roll into the new year with more than a dozen companies taking a chance on Nasdaq and money flowing in from all sides. Now, a Japanese institutional investor is reportedly weighing an entry into the market in a big way — will it keep the bitcoin-esque flood rising?

Already a part-time investor in biotech, SoftBank could drop billions of dollars into the industry as part of helmsman Masayoshi Son’s plan to spend around $80 billion of the firm’s own assets, according to a report from Bloomberg citing people familiar with the plan.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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