Ro­mesh Sub­ra­man­ian births a new biotech with $50M and a plan to steer to­ward the clin­ic with drugs for rare mus­cle dis­eases

The At­las Ven­ture crew has nev­er liked be­ing splashy with mon­ey when it comes to star­tups. They like to get a good, lean team to­geth­er with some seed mon­ey, find an ex­pe­ri­enced helms­man on the bench, gath­er a string of ex­perts to lend ad­vice and of­fer enough cash in the A round — usu­al­ly with syn­di­cate part­ners — to see if they’re re­al­ly on­to some­thing with their lead drug. 

Maybe, the At­las team could even score a pre­clin­i­cal deal, like the one they did with Delinia. Be­cause they are al­ways on the look­out for a great X fac­tor re­turn for an in­vest­ment. The high­er the bet­ter. 10X will get a rous­ing cheer go­ing in this group. A fast 10X-plus works even bet­ter. And if it looks like too long a path to piv­otal da­ta, they’ve been known to bow out as well.

So along those lines, it’s not too sur­pris­ing to see the start­up mod­el Ro­mesh Sub­ra­man­ian is rolling in­to the biotech lane to­day.

Ja­son Rhodes

At­las, For­bion and MPM got to­geth­er to pro­vide the $50 mil­lion launch round, which will al­low the CEO to build up the crew as they build on the pre­clin­i­cal work they’ve been at for the past year or so — cour­tesy of At­las Ven­ture’s in­cu­ba­tion funds.

At­las’ Ja­son Rhodes will be play­ing a key role as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, help­ing steer a com­pa­ny he co-found­ed.

The biotech is called Dyne Ther­a­peu­tics and they’ve been work­ing on us­ing oligonu­cleotides to de­grade RNA re­spon­si­ble for dis­ease — with a spe­cial fo­cus on mus­cle ail­ments.

Dyne has been de­vel­op­ing its own in-house con­ju­gate tech­nol­o­gy so they can take this ap­proach and care­ful­ly tar­get it to mus­cles. Ze­ro in close enough and you can amp up your dosage and avoid off-tar­get is­sues. 

Their first dis­ease is my­oton­ic dy­s­tro­phy type 1 — or DM1 — a rare, in­her­it­ed ail­ment that caus­es mus­cle weak­ness. The plan is to build a pipeline of ther­a­pies that can kick down gene ex­pres­sion for rare, mono­genic neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­eases, start­ing with skele­tal, car­diac and smooth mus­cle. And they want to stay fo­cused on break­through ther­a­pies.

“Fifty mil­lion takes us to the clin­ic,” says Sub­ra­man­ian. He’s not shar­ing any time­lines with me — not un­usu­al in a start­up’s ear­ly days. But with these back­ers, clear, track­able progress is baked in­to every­thing they do.

This is all fa­mil­iar ter­ri­to­ry for Sub­ra­man­ian, a well-known fig­ure in biotech, who did a stint as a se­nior sci­en­tist at Pfiz­er with Art Krieg be­fore mov­ing on to co-found RaNA and then set up trans­la­tion­al re­search groups for rare dis­eases at Alex­ion — up un­til Lud­wig Hantson’s big purge in the fall of 2017.

With­in months, he was build­ing the new com­pa­ny at At­las. These days, you see one door close, you po­ten­tial­ly get to have your pick of doors. 


Left to right: Sud­hir Agraw­al, Charles Thorn­ton, Louis Kunkel, Nan­cy An­drews.

Here’s their im­pres­sive list of sci­en­tif­ic ad­vis­ers help­ing Dyne stay on track:

— Nan­cy An­drews, for­mer dean of the School of Med­i­cine at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and No­var­tis board mem­ber.

— Louis Kunkel, mem­ber of the Di­vi­sion of Ge­net­ics and Ge­nomics at Boston Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal and pro­fes­sor of pe­di­atrics and ge­net­ics at Har­vard Med­ical School.

— Charles Thorn­ton, Saun­ders Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Neu­ro­mus­cu­lar Re­search at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester.

— Sud­hir Agraw­al, vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor in the De­part­ment of Med­i­cine at The Uni­ver­si­ty of Mass­a­chu­setts Med­ical School and founder of Idera Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

How to cap­i­talise on a lean launch

For start-up biotechnology companies and resource stretched pharmaceutical organisations, launching a novel product can be challenging. Lean teams can make setting a launch strategy and achieving your commercial goals seem like a colossal undertaking, but can these barriers be transformed into opportunities that work to your brand’s advantage?
We spoke to Managing Consultant Frances Hendry to find out how Blue Latitude Health partnered with a fledgling subsidiary of a pharmaceutical organisation to launch an innovative product in a
complex market.
What does the launch environment look like for this product?
FH: We started working on the product at Phase II and now we’re going into Phase III trials. There is a significant unmet need in this disease area, and everyone is excited about the launch. However, the organisation is still evolving and the team is quite small – naturally this causes a little turbulence.

Turn­ing the cor­ner on treat­ing the root cause of sick­le cell dis­ease

Early in my career, as a medical resident, I saw first-hand the enormous challenges faced by children and adults with sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic blood disorder that historically has lacked adequate treatment options. People living with this life-long disease are mainly those with ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as people of Hispanic, South Asian, Southern European and Middle Eastern descent. These patients suffer from devastating physical symptoms, including progressive, eventually fatal, organ damage and excruciating pain. In addition, they encounter emotional, mental and social burdens – non-physical aspects of living with SCD that also take a serious toll on patients and their caregivers.

Rev­o­lu­tion Med shoots for $100M+ IPO — and di­vulges some se­crets about that Warp Dri­ve buy­out

Biotech investors who like to wager on the race to the front of the KRAS market now have a new team to consider.

Revolution Medicines, which extended its reach on RAS with a deal to acquire Warp Drive Bio about 18 months ago, filed their S-1 in search of $100 million-plus. And they gave up a few secrets in the process.

The main clinical claim to fame that Revolution has centers on the SHP2 inhibitor RMC-4630, partnered with Sanofi back in the summer of 2018 — just after John Reed was named the incoming R&D chief. We already knew that the pharma giant handed over $50 million in cash plus a commitment of hundreds of millions more to align itself with Revolution as it makes a fresh foray into oncology. Now we know that Sanofi is also footing 80% of Revolution’s R&D bill on the program, while setting up a smorgasbord of $235 million in development milestones and $285 million in commercial bonuses.

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Olivier Brandicourt, AP Images

#JPM20 ex­clu­sive: Olivi­er Brandi­court fol­lows the Big Phar­ma CEO path to pri­vate eq­ui­ty, join­ing Black­stone ahead of a mam­moth fund de­but

Nick Galakatos Blackstone

Seven months after Olivier Brandicourt’s surprise “early retirement” from Sanofi, he’s back in the game, this time taking meetings at JP Morgan to discuss his new role at Blackstone, where he’s quietly begun work with Nick Galakatos and the life sciences crew.

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Video Re­play: End­points at #JPM20 — news­mak­ers on deal­mak­ing, pric­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing

On Monday, we held our fourth annual #JPM event — and the team hit a key milestone that I’d like to share with the entire Endpoints News audience: We live-streamed the conversation and had nearly triple the number of executives watching online than we had in the sold-out crowd of 320.

For a media company on a mission to connect the biopharma world in bigger and better ways, we’re proud of how we were able to extend the reach of our franchise event. Paid subscribers were given access to the stream in real time, and now, two days later, we’re opening it up to everyone in this post.

Endpoints@JPM: (left to right) Steve Pearson, Nick Leschly, Bari Talente, Stephen Ubl, John Carroll

#JPM20: 'The NPV is al­ways wrong.' Take­da preps an­oth­er spin­out — this time on psych

Editor’s Note: Endpoints News is reporting live from #JPM20 after kicking things off with an action-packed event, which you can replay here. What follows is a stream of tidbits we have collected while wandering around Union Square in San Francisco. Check back in throughout the week for updates by John Carroll and Jason Mast.

SAN FRANCISCO — A year ago Takeda CEO Christophe Weber and R&D chief Andy Plump arrived at JP Morgan right on the heels of closing their big Shire buyout. Now they’re back after shaking up the portfolio, boosting R&D spending by about 50% to $4.5 billion and adjusting the pipeline — a task which isn’t quite finished yet.

Nick Leschly at Endpoints News' panel at the 2020 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Credit: Jeff Rumans

At #JPM20, two CEOs, two rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent ther­a­pies, and a fight to chase down sick­le cell

SAN FRANCISCO – Few CEOs tell a story better than bluebird’s Nick Leschly.

He cuts a Jeff Bezos figure on stage at the Colonial Room, the JP Morgan presentation hall for A-list biotechs: lean and bald, fast-talking and vest-wearing. He explains in simple language, apologizing when he has to brush on the data. It helps that he has a good story to tell.

“We treated them one time,” Leschly tells a packed crowd, gesturing to the slide behind him. “Look what happened.”

The slide shows 9 horizontal bars studded with diamonds. Each bar, he explained, represented a sickle cell patient, and each diamond represented a severe medical event, such as a pain crisis. The diamonds stud one side – before the therapy – and vanish on the other, afterward.

“A 99% reduction in these events — this is a functional cure for sickle cell disease,” Leschly says. “This is unprecedented data.”

Upstairs and an hour later, Ted Love stands before a narrow conference room in his suit and polka-dot tie. Love, the CEO of Global Blood Therapeutics, is a 60-year-old physician. His voice trails off at the end of sentences, and the story he tells is less compelling. There are no cured patients.

“This is the first drug that addresses the root cause of sickle cell disease,” Love says, speaking in front of a slide showing a white pill bottle for GBT’s new drug Oxbryta. “Right in the label, it says that this drug inhibits polymerization.”

In the 60 years after scientists discovered the cause of sickle cell, almost no treatments emerged, even as the condition debilitated hundreds of thousands of Americans, most of them black or Hispanic. But the last few years have seen a resurgence of interest as new technologies have made the disease seem newly beatable.

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Neon Ther­a­peu­tics makes one last re­treat, sell­ing it­self cheap in a bar­gain base­ment M&A deal

Crushed by weak data for what had been their lead drug, Neon Therapeutics is being bought for parts this morning.

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Mark Pruzanski

#JPM20: Af­ter a year of NASH col­laps­es, all eyes on two biotechs

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s not quite Dewey defeats Truman, but Goldman Sachs calling 2019 “The Year of NASH” may well go down in the annals of worst biotech predictions.

Goldman Sachs slapped the label on weeks before 2019’s JP Morgan conference, projecting that long-discussed treatments for the obesity-driven condition suspected to lurk in millions of Americans would begin to bear fruit and investors would move accordingly. That did not quite happen.

“If you look at 2019, it was just a string of disappointing news,” Pascal Prigent, CEO of NASH-focused biotech Genfit, told Endpoints News in an interview.

The Year of NASH, or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, became a year of NASH failures. Gilead failed two large Phase III trials. CymaBay went from a $1 billion company to a $100 million company after they found their drug was killing patients’ liver cells. Cirius withdrew an $86 million IPO bid after a disastrous readout. Industry-wide, there were few acqusitions in a market often projected to be worth $35 billion.

Gilead, after dominating the NASH discussion at the 2019 JPM, gave one quick mention to the program in their 2020 presentation before pivoting to other drugs.

“As promising as some of the mechanisms looked in earlier stages, when push comes to shove in large study settings, they just haven’t proven out,” Mark Pruzanski, CEO of the NASH-focused biotech Intercept, told Endpoints in an interview.

As biotech turns from 2019, the failures have refocused eyes away from Gilead and back toward two startups, both facing key events in the coming months: Intercept, which first alerted investors to NASH at JPM 2014, and the France-based Genfit.

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