RA, No­var­tis back Gen­tiBio's seed round, plans to launch de­vel­op­ment of En­gTreg ther­a­pies

Boston, MA-based start­up Gen­tiBio land­ed a $20 mil­lion seed fund from three in­vestors to dive in­to en­gi­neered reg­u­la­to­ry T cell (En­gTreg) de­vel­op­ment.

Mar­quee in­vestors Or­biMed, No­var­tis Ven­ture Fund and RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment have backed Gen­tiBio’s mis­sion to de­vel­op En­gTregs for the treat­ment of au­toim­mune, al­loim­mune, au­toin­flam­ma­to­ry, and al­ler­gic dis­eases. Un­like oth­er com­pa­nies study­ing treat­ments us­ing a pa­tient’s own Tregs, Gen­tiBio plans to make use of CD4+ im­mune cells, found in the blood.

Gen­tiBio’s co-founders hail from the  Seat­tle Chil­dren’s Re­search In­sti­tute, Be­naroya Re­search In­sti­tute at Vir­ginia Ma­son (BRI), and MI­GAL Galilee Re­search In­sti­tute (MI­GAL). All three com­pa­nies are now part­ners, and Seat­tle Chil­dren’s has agreed to li­cense its tech­nol­o­gy ex­clu­sive­ly to Gen­tiBio.

Many com­pa­nies have eyed Treg cell ther­a­pies in the last decade, but the rar­i­ty and plas­tic­i­ty of en­doge­nous Treg cells pose a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge.

David Rawl­ings

“Tregs are rare cells with­in the im­mune sys­tem and cur­rent ther­a­pies that source Tregs cells from the blood stream can be cost­ly and cum­ber­some. In con­trast, Seat­tle Chil­dren’s unique tech­nol­o­gy en­ables the gen­er­a­tion of en­gi­neered reg­u­la­to­ry T cells, or En­gTregs, from the more abun­dant CD4+ cell pop­u­la­tion, ad­dress­ing a crit­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing short­com­ing for this nov­el treat­ment,” David Rawl­ings, Gen­tiBio co-founder and se­nior sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­sor and di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Im­mu­ni­ty and Im­munother­a­pies at Seat­tle Chil­dren’s Re­search In­sti­tute, said in a state­ment.

Adel Na­da

Gen­tiBio co-founder and CEO Adel Na­da added in a state­ment: “Gen­tiBio is fo­cused on ad­dress­ing the tech­ni­cal bot­tle­necks that have throt­tled Treg ther­a­peu­tics, and we are thrilled to ex­clu­sive­ly in-li­cense a port­fo­lio of un­prece­dent­ed breadth from Seat­tle Chil­dren’s and Be­naroya Re­search In­sti­tute in the U.S. and MI­GAL Galilee Re­search In­sti­tute in Is­rael,””The tech­nolo­gies li­censed from these pre­mier re­search in­sti­tu­tions are ma­ture and well-dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed, and will be fur­ther op­ti­mized in spon­sored re­search col­lab­o­ra­tions with the sci­en­tif­ic teams that dis­cov­ered them to ad­vance nov­el and po­tent ther­a­peu­tics with the po­ten­tial to treat and cure se­ri­ous au­toim­mune and in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases.”

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock to be act­ing FDA com­mis­sion­er while Biden team fi­nal­izes nom­i­nee — re­ports

Janet Woodcock is set to be the most powerful person at the FDA in less than a week.

The veteran regulator and longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has been tapped as acting commissioner of the FDA, according to reports by BioCentury’s Steve Usdin and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

The appointment was requested by the incoming Biden team, Karlin-Smith added, as they sort out the nomination of a permanent successor to Stephen Hahn — whose one-year tenure has been defined by Covid-19.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock is in the run­ning for FDA com­mis­sion­er — what does that mean for the agen­cy's fu­ture?

Just a day after reports emerged that Janet Woodcock will serve as interim chief of the FDA, word has gotten out that she is also in the running for the permanent job.

The decision, as the initial wave of reactions suggest, could have dramatic implications for where the agency is headed in the next four years — if not beyond.

Woodcock, the longtime CDER director, is being vetted alongside former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Bloomberg reported. Already tapped as acting head of the agency, she’s set to take over from Stephen Hahn right after Biden’s inauguration next week.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

Paint­ing by the num­bers, Sana founders carve up a gi­ant uni­corn-sized IPO — for a biotech that has­n't quite made it to the clin­ic

Sana Biotechnology is one of those startups that was sketched in on the chalkboard day one in the shape of a unicorn.

A giant unicorn.

And from the numbers the cell therapy 2.0 play spelled out in their S-1 $SANA, it’s clear that the company founders — led by a pair of major VCs aligned with some high-profile industry figures — are hunting a big chunk of that value for themselves.

The raise they penciled in — $150 million — isn’t likely what they actually have in mind, and it doesn’t do justice to the size of their ambitions.

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Eli Lil­ly re-ups di­ver­si­ty pledge, pitch­ing in $30M to ven­ture fund for mi­nor­i­ty-owned health­care firms

The fight against racial injustice spurred by a series of high-profile shootings of Black men by police earlier this year put Big Pharma and healthcare — industries targeted for their lack of diversity — in the hot seat. Eli Lilly made an early pledge to change its ways and put more back into the community, and now it’s continuing to make good on that commitment.

Lilly will infuse $30 million into the Unseen Capital Health Fund, a venture fund looking to invest in early-stage minority-owned healthcare companies that have been historically “unseen” by the investment community, the pharma said Friday.

Laurie Glimcher, Dana-Farber president and CEO (Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: With its rank-and-file churn­ing out star­tups, Dana-Far­ber launch­es ven­ture fund to cap­i­tal­ize on that suc­cess

The pace of innovation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in recent years has seen a wave of startups launch with IP or leadership sourced from the nonprofit’s ranks. Now, looking for its own returns on that success, Dana-Farber has launched a new venture fund to invest in those fledgling businesses.

On Thursday, Dana-Farber unveiled Binney Street Capital — its first-ever venture fund. Roche and Verily veteran Luba Greenwood has been tapped to lead the fund, which was named after the location of the institute’s Boston site.

CEO Brett Monia (Ionis)

Can Brett Mo­nia push Io­n­is be­yond Spin­raza?

For 30 years, Brett Monia struggled as one of Ionis’ top scientists to get their antisense technology to work. Now, as CEO, he’s trying to use it to turn Ionis into one of the industry’s biggest biotechs.

Monia, one of the handful of young scientists who in 1989 followed Stanley Crooke across the country from SmithKline (now GSK) in Philadelphia to found Ionis in Northern California, replaced Crooke as CEO last January. By then, they had proven antisense, an RNA-based method for manipulating gene expression, could work dramatically well in at least some instances, transforming spinal muscular atrophy with the Biogen-partnered blockbuster Spinraza.

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David Kessler in April 2009 (Eric Risberg/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Hack­ers start re­leas­ing 'ma­nip­u­lat­ed' Covid-19 vac­cine docs; Ex-FDA com­mish David Kessler to re­place Mon­cef Slaoui as Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief — re­port

There’s a new twist on the EMA Covid-19 hacking story.

Friday the European agency put out the 5th in a series of statements about the hackers who broke into their system, noting that some of the information on vaccines that was gleaned in the attack is showing up online — altered to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaccines now in use.

This included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines. Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.

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Terry Rosen, Arcus CEO

Gilead part­ner Ar­cus earns an­a­lyst­s' plau­dits for ear­ly pan­cre­at­ic can­cer da­ta that 'ex­ceed­ed ex­pec­ta­tion­s'

Arcus’ small molecule CD73 inhibitor for pancreatic cancer got a standing ovation from analysts who said preliminary data “exceeded expectations”— making waves in a field that’s seen little progress in several years and proving the candidate could be worth the hundreds of millions Gilead provided upfront in a deal that included more than a billion dollars for opt-in rights and milestones.

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News brief­ing: Five Prime fi­nal­izes PhI­II plans for gas­tric can­cer; AI di­ag­nos­tics-fo­cused Paige ex­pands staff

Five Prime Therapeutics has finalized a plan to take their comeback gastric cancer drug into late-stage studies.

The South San Francisco-based biotech released full Phase II data for bemarituzumab on Friday, which Five Prime said in November met all of its pre-specified efficacy endpoints in a topline readout. Now, the company is announcing it plans to launch a Phase III trial for the program in 2021. Following November’s readout, the future of bemarituzumab had not yet been finalized.