Todd Harris and Daniel Bensen. Tyra

RA Cap­i­tal, Canaan help in­fuse $50M in­to Al­ta-in­cu­bat­ed biotech bat­tling ac­quired re­sis­tance to TKIs

Since Gleevec was ap­proved in 2001, over 40 oth­er ty­ro­sine ki­nase in­hibitors have come on­to the mar­ket to treat var­i­ous types of can­cer. But with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the class al­so came a surge of ac­quired re­sis­tance, where pa­tients’ tu­mors mu­tate around the drug tar­get and stop re­spond­ing to the ther­a­pies.

Tyra Bio, a Carls­bad, CA-based biotech “pur­pose built” to ad­dress that prob­lem, has just raised $50 mil­lion from Al­ta Part­ners, RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Box­er Cap­i­tal of Tavi­s­tock Group, and Canaan.

“It’s not en­tire­ly clear what type of ac­quired re­sis­tance might emerge re­al­ly un­til you get these drugs in­to pa­tients,” co-founder and CEO Todd Har­ris told End­points News. “In some in­stances, the first gen­er­a­tion drugs couldn’t have en­tire­ly pre­dict­ed what might come along.”

Bob More

But with some class­es of TKIs now in their third gen­er­a­tion, there is an in­creas­ing amount of clin­i­cal ev­i­dence and bet­ter tools to crunch them for in­sights in­to the pre­cise mu­ta­tions — in­sights that Tyra would take right back to the start of drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment. In the long run, the goal is for their drugs to not just be de­ployed when re­sis­tance emerges but to move to the front­line set­ting with the hope of a longer du­ra­tion of re­sponse.

Har­ris added that the strat­e­gy has shown some promise in ALK and EGFR, but re­mained tight-lipped about the ex­act tar­gets they are start­ing with, though it’s a safe bet they would first go af­ter the most well-known ones.

Daniel Bensen, COO and co-founder, will be steer­ing a small team along­side CSO Ronald Swan­son, CFO Es­ther van den Boom, and Robert Hud­kins, VP of chem­istry, as well as Jane Ar­bole­da, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of cell bi­ol­o­gy, to bring their first can­di­dates to the clin­ic. An army of biotechs are in the game, many fo­cus­ing on par­tic­u­lar nich­es with­in the vast TKI space. Tyra will be look­ing to out­pace some of them.

Ja­son Sheltzer of Cold Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­to­ry, William Hahn of Dana Far­ber, and Jef­frey Hager, for­mer­ly of Ideaya Bio, have come on board as sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­sors.

“Our strength is re­al­ly in a nim­ble and high­ly ex­pe­ri­enced drug dis­cov­ery and drug de­vel­op­ment team,” Har­ris said, lever­ag­ing tried and true tech­nolo­gies such as struc­tured-based drug de­sign, and patch­ing in self-built pre­clin­i­cal mod­els when­ev­er nec­es­sary.

Har­ris al­so co-found­ed what even­tu­al­ly be­came Si­en­na Bio­phar­ma, a skin drug de­vel­op­er that count­ed Arch Ven­tures and Part­ner Fund Man­age­ment as back­ers but nev­er­the­less was forced to file for Chap­ter 11 af­ter a bruis­ing tri­al fail­ure. The en­tre­pre­neur­ial les­son he learned: Fi­nance your com­pa­ny for the ups and downs along the biotech road.

Al­ta Part­ners, which in­cu­bat­ed Tyra, is ready for the long haul. The in­clu­sion of crossover firm RA Cap­i­tal al­so gives Har­ris more con­fi­dence that this one will stick. Each in­vestor in the Se­ries A is send­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the board: Bob More of Al­ta Part­ners, Jake Sim­son of RA Cap­i­tal, Sid Sub­ra­mo­ny of Box­er Cap­i­tal and Ni­na Kjell­son of Canaan. Mi­rati CMO Isan Chen and for­mer Gates foun­da­tion ex­ec Gilla Ka­plan are the oth­er two di­rec­tors.

Daphne Koller, Getty

Bris­tol My­er­s' Richard Har­g­reaves pays $70M to launch a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion al­liance with a star play­er in the ma­chine learn­ing world

Bristol Myers Squibb is turning to one of the star upstarts in the machine learning world to go back to the drawing board and come up with the disease models needed to find drugs that can work against two of the toughest targets in the neuro world.

Daphne Koller’s well-funded insitro is getting $70 million in cash and near-term milestones to use their machine learning platform to create induced pluripotent stem cell-derived disease models for ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks at the Rose Garden, May 26, 2020 (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Eli Lil­ly lines up a block­buster deal for Covid-19 an­ti­body, right af­ter it failed a NI­AID tri­al

Two days after Eli Lilly conceded that its antibody bamlanivimab was a flop in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, the US government is preparing to make it a blockbuster.

The pharma giant reported early Wednesday that it struck a deal to supply the feds with 300,000 vials of the drug at a cost of $375 million — once it gets an EUA stamp from the FDA. And once that 2-month supply deal is done, the government has an option on another 650,000 doses on the same terms — which could potentially add another $812 million.

Patrick Soon-Shiong at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jan. 13, 2020 (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers, dissed by some ex­perts, biotech show­man Patrick Soon-Sh­iong fi­nal­ly gets his Covid-19 vac­cine ready for a tri­al. But can it live up to the hype?

In January, when dozens of scientists rushed to start making a vaccine for the then-novel coronavirus, they were joined by an unlikely compatriot: Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor most famous for making big, controversial promises on cancer research.

Soon-Shiong had spent the last 4 years on his “Cancer Moonshot,” but part of his project meant buying a small Seattle biotech that specialized in making common-cold vectors, called adenoviruses, to train the immune system. The billionaire had been using those vectors for oncology, but the company had also developed vaccine candidates for H1N1, Lassa fever and other viruses. When the outbreak began, he pivoted.

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No­var­tis bags a new gene ther­a­py for vi­sion loss, and this is one pre­clin­i­cal ven­ture that did­n't come cheap

Cyrus Mozayeni got excited when he began to explore the academic work of Ehud Isacoff and John G. Flannery at UC Berkeley.

Together, they were engaged in finding a gene therapy approach to pan-genotypic vision restoration in patients with photoreceptor-based blindness, potentially restoring the vision of a broad group of patients. And they did it by using a vector to deliver the genetic sequence for light sensing proteins.

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Kevin Lind (L) and Amit Munshi

Are­na's Amit Mun­shi spins out his neu­ro sub in­to a biotech start­up, with $56M for the bap­tism

Back in January, Arena Pharma $ARNA CEO Amit Munshi turned up at JP Morgan with ambitious plans for 2020. Near the top of the to-do list was news that he was creating a new neuro subsidiary that would focus on microglial neuroinflammation.

Now, he’s taking the sub and spinning it out into a new biotech with $56 million in funding and a syndicate of its own to back up their work. And Munshi — who’s been successful running the market cap up to the $5 billion mark — will take his value from the 33% equity stake that Arena retains in the spinout.

CMO Merdad Parsey (Gilead)

Gilead hits the brakes on a tri­fec­ta of mid- and late-stage stud­ies for their trou­bled fil­go­tinib pro­gram. It's up to the FDA now

Gilead $GILD execs haven’t decided exactly what to do with filgotinib in the wake of the slapdown at the FDA on their rheumatoid arthritis application, but they’re taking a time out for a slate of studies until they can gain some clarity from the agency. And without encouraging guidance, this drug could clearly be axed from the pipeline.

In their Q3 report out Wednesday afternoon, the company says researchers have “paused” a Phase III study for psoriatic arthritis along with a pair of Phase II trials for ankylosing spondylitis and uveitis. Late-stage studies for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s are continuing, but you can see for yourself how big a hole this leaves in the inflammatory disease pipeline, with obvious implications if the company abandons filgo altogether.

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Managing partner Stefan Fischer (TVM)

Eli Lil­ly part­ner TVM Cap­i­tal rais­es $478M for their new life sci­ences fund, a 'sub­stan­tial' over­sub­scrip­tion

A German-Canadian VC fund and high-profile Eli Lilly partner has nearly half a billion dollars in new cash to play with.

TVM Capital Life Science, based out of Munich and Montreal, announced the closing of its second and latest fund Tuesday with $478 million in hand. That total represents a “substantial” oversubscription, managing partner Stefan Fischer said, and a good 36.5% more than the $350 million initially expected.

Lee Rauch, miRagen

A small buy­out deal gives a pen­ny-stock biotech a boost and a sec­ond chance

Just over a month after former miRagen Therapeutics COO Lee Rauch stepped up to take the helm, the microcap is scooping up Viridian Therapeutics — and with it, a new lead candidate and $91 million boost.

miRagen’s workforce was cut in half by a costly restructuring plan initiated last August, with 44 positions eliminated. Discovery research was sidelined, while the microRNA-focused biotech focused on the four programs it had. About a year later, CEO William Marshall resigned, leaving Rauch to pick up the pieces.

Sanofi teams up with Mer­ck to pair Keytru­da with a next-gen IL-2 can­di­date from the Syn­thorx buy­out

Nearly a year after snapping up a next-gen immuno-oncology candidate in its $2.5 billion Synthorx buyout, Sanofi is joining forces with Merck to pair the drug with blockbuster Keytruda.

The pharmas are planning a Phase II trial of Sanofi’s non-alpha IL-2 candidate THOR-707 in combination or sequenced administration with Keytruda for various cancers. While the companies are keeping mum about the financial terms and targets, they said the trials will be Sanofi-sponsored.