James Sabry (Roche)

Roche's James Sabry inks his sec­ond AI deal in back-to-back pacts — this time part­ner­ing Genen­tech with Stan­ford spin­out Gen­e­sis Ther­a­peu­tics

Less than a week af­ter Roche joined forces with Dyno Ther­a­peu­tics to de­vel­op gene ther­a­pies us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, its gi­ant sub­sidiary Genen­tech is hop­ping on the AI band­wag­on with a dif­fer­ent play­er.

Genen­tech has inked a deal with Stan­ford spin­out Gen­e­sis Ther­a­peu­tics to har­ness its AI pow­er for drug de­vel­op­ment and dis­cov­ery. Gen­e­sis is get­ting an up­front pay­ment and mile­stones, but the com­pa­nies are keep­ing the de­tails un­der wraps for now. The Burlingame, CA-based biotech al­so stands to earn fu­ture roy­al­ties on any ap­proved Genen­tech drugs that come from the deal.

Us­ing AI tech­nol­o­gy, Gen­e­sis is able to make “ul­tra-fast and ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tions” of a com­pound’s po­ten­cy, se­lec­tiv­i­ty, tox­i­c­i­ty and more, CEO Evan Fein­berg told End­points News. “That helps us get them pre­pared for clin­i­cal tri­als more quick­ly, and with a more op­ti­mal com­pound,” he said.

Evan Fein­berg

“We are screen­ing any­where from mil­lions to bil­lions of com­pounds in sil­i­co at each stage, from hit iden­ti­fi­ca­tion through hit-to-lead, lead op­ti­miza­tion and can­di­date se­lec­tion,” he added lat­er.

The biotech was formed out of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty’s Pande Lab in 2019, where Fein­berg co-in­vent­ed Po­ten­tial­Net — a neur­al net­work de­signed to pre­dict pro­tein−lig­and bind­ing and mol­e­c­u­lar prop­er­ties. The com­pa­ny is backed by An­dreessen Horowitz, and touts Ami­ra Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ founder and long­time Ver­sant ad­vi­sor Pep­pi Pr­a­sit as its act­ing CSO, with Alex­ion founder Leonard Bell along for the ride as chair­man of the board.

Gen­e­sis seeks to use AI to de­vel­op can­di­dates with “su­pe­ri­or se­lec­tiv­i­ty,” thus lim­it­ing side ef­fects, which Fein­berg said “is what this is all about.” The CEO said he’s had four sig­nif­i­cant leg surg­eries in the last 10 years, one of which left a pe­riph­er­al nerve per­ma­nent­ly dam­aged.

“I’ve had first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence with most or many neu­ro­mus­cu­lar, mus­cu­loskele­tal-re­lat­ed drugs that have re­al­ly bad side ef­fects. So I… feel very per­son­al­ly com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing a phar­ma­copoeia that has bet­ter qual­i­ty of life for pa­tients,” he said.

Pep­pi Pr­a­sit

The deal ar­rives right on the heels of Aviv Regev’s ar­rival as the new head of re­search at gRED. Regev has been a star at the Broad, work­ing in her high­ly spe­cial­ized field of com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gy. And she’s ex­pect­ed to play a big role at Genen­tech adding to their strengths in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ma­chine learn­ing.

In its col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dyno, Roche’s Spark team will work on im­prov­ing AAV vec­tors. Dyno de­signs, tests and val­i­dates the vec­tors, while part­ners add their pay­loads and work on new de­vel­op­ment pro­grams. James Sabry, glob­al head of Roche Phar­ma Part­ner­ing, said the deal will “bring us added abil­i­ty to go to AAV 2.0.” AI and ma­chine learn­ing, he added, are “no longer things of the fu­ture when it comes to drug dis­cov­ery.”

“AI can help un­lock the next gen­er­a­tion of in­no­v­a­tive ther­a­pies for pa­tients in need of ad­di­tion­al op­tions. We are ex­cit­ed to work with Gen­e­sis’ team to dis­cov­er med­i­cines cur­rent­ly out of reach us­ing con­ven­tion­al meth­ods,” Sabry said in a state­ment.

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Kyodo via AP Images)

Take­da flesh­es out CNS pact with pep­tide drug­mak­er, set­ting aside $3.5B in fu­ture mile­stones

One of a suite of drugmakers looking to reinvest in the neuroscience space, Takeda has been aggressive in signing on new partners to help build up its pipeline in that space. But sometimes the best partner is the one you already have.

Takeda will set aside $3.5 billion in future milestones and an undisclosed upfront payment to build out its drug discovery deal with Japanese peptide conjugate maker PeptiDream, adding neurodegeneration to the partnership’s list of CNS targets, the companies said Tuesday.

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Michael Henderson, BridgeBio CBO

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb catch­es the SHP2 wave in a new col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with Bridge­Bio

Once considered “undruggable,” the phosphatase enzyme SHP2 has seen recent interest from a suite of Big Pharmas, including AstraZeneca, Amgen, Novartis and Merck. Now Bristol Myers Squibb is getting in on the action, with a deal to pair its PD-1 superstar Opdivo with BridgeBio’s SHP2 inhibitor for difficult-to-treat cancers.

BMS and BridgeBio took the wraps off the non-exclusive, co-funded collaboration early Tuesday morning. The “catalyst,” BridgeBio CBO Michael Henderson said, was last year’s virtual JP Morgan conference, where the companies met to discuss early preclinical results they were seeing between SHP2 and immuno-oncology therapies.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.