Samantha Truex

Scoop: Saman­tha Truex de­parts At­las to head $200M Or­biMed-backed im­munol­o­gy start­up

Af­ter long­time biotech ex­ec­u­tive Sam Truex an­nounced last year she was shut­ting down her short-lived im­munol­o­gy start­up Quench Bio, she said she planned to stay at At­las Ven­ture to help build a new start­up with many of her erst­while Quench em­ploy­ees.

A lit­tle less than a year lat­er, though, Truex ap­pears to have de­part­ed to lead a well-backed start­up from a ri­val firm, Or­biMed.

Two weeks ago, Truex post­ed a job list­ing on LinkedIn for head of trans­la­tion­al re­search at Up­stream Bio. Up­stream, the post said, had al­ready raised a $200 mil­lion round led by Or­biMed to de­vel­op drugs for in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases.

A Nov. 30 fil­ing in Mass­a­chu­setts lists Truex as Up­stream’s CEO. She de­clined to com­ment via email, say­ing the com­pa­ny was still in stealth.

“As you have seen we are just re­cruit­ing at this time,” she said in an email. “We are not ready to come out of stealth at this time, so are not pro­vid­ing any ad­di­tion­al de­tails.”

She added she main­tains a “strong, pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with At­las,” in­clud­ing serv­ing on the board of HotSpot Ther­a­peu­tics, where At­las part­ner Bruce Booth is chair.

At­sushi Sugi­ta

Ac­cord­ing to the list­ing, Up­stream has al­ready li­censed in one mol­e­cule with ear­ly hu­man da­ta and is try­ing to li­cense one more. Al­though it’s un­clear which com­pa­ny Up­stream struck a deal with, the biotech’s board of di­rec­tors in­cludes At­sushi Sugi­ta, pres­i­dent of Maruho, a Japan­ese phar­ma with nu­mer­ous der­ma­tol­ogy can­di­dates in clin­i­cal test­ing.

Oth­er board mem­bers in­clude Ron Re­naud, for­mer CEO of Trans­late Bio, and Srini­vas Akkara­ju, head of Sam­sara Bio­Cap­i­tal. Adam Houghton, a for­mer Ab­b­Vie and Eli Lil­ly ex­ec­u­tive, is CBO.

Up­stream would be Truex’s third stint at the top of an im­munol­o­gy-fo­cused biotech since her work on mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis at Bio­gen. She was found­ing CBO at Pad­lock Ther­a­peu­tics be­fore Bris­tol My­ers Squibb bought the com­pa­ny and its rheuma­toid arthri­tis mol­e­cules for $600 mil­lion in 2016. And Quench, her pre­vi­ous ven­ture, sought to drug a new­ly dis­cov­ered path­way in in­flam­ma­tion.

At the same time, the At­las-backed com­pa­ny Truex be­gan build­ing af­ter shut­ting down Quench ap­pears to be near­ing the end of its stealth days as well.

Cor­po­rate fil­ings show At­las reg­is­tered a com­pa­ny named Eo­Cys Ther­a­peu­tics weeks af­ter Truex and Booth an­nounced that Quench sim­ply couldn’t build mol­e­cules that ef­fec­tive­ly in­hib­it­ed the new path­way.

An­dre Turenne

Lat­er records list Truex as Eo­Cys’ CEO, but a De­cem­ber fil­ing shows An­dre Turenne, who helmed the trou­bled gene ther­a­py biotech Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics un­til its piv­ot last spring, was named CEO.

Ac­cord­ing to job list­ings on At­las’s web­site, Eo­Cys is us­ing ad­vances in “ul­tra­deep chemo­pro­teomics”— new tools to an­a­lyze how small mol­e­cules in­ter­act with pro­teins — and ma­chine learn­ing to de­vel­op co­va­lent med­i­cines for can­cer and im­muno­log­i­cal dis­or­ders.

Co­va­lent med­i­cines are mol­e­cules that form an ir­re­versible bond with their tar­get. His­tor­i­cal­ly, de­vel­op­ers tried to avoid these mol­e­cules for fear that they’d bring un­to­ward side ef­fects. But since the suc­cess of a hand­ful of co­va­lent drugs a decade ago, in­clud­ing Ab­b­Vie’s block­buster can­cer drug ibru­ti­nib, re­searchers have start­ed to rec­og­nize these com­pounds can bring dis­tinct ad­van­tages.

Some re­searchers now ar­gue the most po­tent tool for pre­dict­ing a mol­e­cule’s ef­fec­tive­ness is ac­tu­al­ly how long it sticks to its tar­get, as op­posed to stan­dard mea­sures like phar­ma­co­ki­net­ics. In Au­gust, Bay­er spent $1.5 bil­lion to buy out Vi­vid­ion Ther­a­peu­tics and its co­va­lent med­i­cines plat­form, de­spite the fact the com­pa­ny had yet to put a drug in the clin­ic.

“It’s had its ups and downs over the years, but in re­cent years it’s pret­ty much been on the up­swing,” said Derek Lowe, a long­time in­dus­try med­i­c­i­nal chemist.

Lowe said Eo­Cys like­ly de­rives its name from cys­tine — the amino acid that most co­va­lent med­i­cines bind to. But he cau­tioned that the body is full of cys­tine, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to de­sign a mol­e­cule with­out un­want­ed side ef­fects.

Eo­Cys, he said, is like­ly try­ing to de­sign drugs that can nuz­zle in­to the bind­ing pock­et of a pro­tein, where it then has a lit­tle co­va­lent war ham­mer at the end to latch on­to a cy­to­sine in­side. They’re like­ly us­ing ma­chine learn­ing to screen for oth­er hu­man pro­teins a can­di­date might hit, to see whether it will cause se­vere side ef­fects.

“There’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty that peo­ple maybe are a lit­tle too en­thu­si­as­tic about it,” Lowe said. “It’s not a walk in the park.”

Booth, list­ed in ear­ly fil­ings as Eo­Cys’ pres­i­dent, did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The fil­ings sug­gest Eo­Cys re­lies at least in part on re­search from Ed­waard Chouchani’s lab at Har­vard Med­ical School, where he stud­ies cell me­tab­o­lism and has writ­ten on new ap­proach­es to co­va­lent med­i­cines.

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Alex­ion puts €65M for­ward to strength­en its po­si­tion on the Emer­ald Isle

Ireland has been on a roll in 2022, with several large pharma companies announcing multimillion-euro projects. Now AstraZeneca’s rare disease outfit Alexion is looking to get in on the action.

Alexion on Friday announced a €65 million ($68.8 million) investment in new and enhanced capabilities across two sites in the country, including at College Park in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown and the Monksland Industrial Park in the central Irish town of Athlone, according to the Industrial Development Agency of Ireland.

State bat­tles over mifepri­s­tone ac­cess could tie the FDA to any post-Roe cross­roads

As more than a dozen states are now readying so-called “trigger” laws to kick into effect immediate abortion bans following the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, these laws, in the works for more than a decade in some states, will likely kick off even more legal battles as states seek to restrict the use of prescription drug-based abortions.

Since Friday’s SCOTUS opinion to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, reproductive rights lawyers at Planned Parenthood and other organizations have already challenged these trigger laws in Utah and Louisiana. According to the Guttmacher Institute, other states with trigger laws that could take effect include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

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Deborah Dunsire, Lundbeck CEO

Af­ter a 5-year re­peat PhI­II so­journ, Lund­beck and Ot­su­ka say they're fi­nal­ly ready to pur­sue OK to use Rex­ul­ti against Alzheimer's ag­i­ta­tion

Five years after Lundbeck and their longtime collaborators at Otsuka turned up a mixed set of Phase III data for Rexulti as a treatment for Alzheimer’s dementia-related agitation, they’ve come through with a new pivotal trial success they believe will finally put them on the road to an approval at the FDA. And if they’re right, some analysts believe they’re a short step away from adding more than $500 million in annual sales for the drug, already approved in depression and schizophrenia.

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A Mer­ck part­ner is sucked in­to the fi­nan­cial quag­mire as key lender calls in a note

Another biotech standing on shaky financial legs has fallen victim to the bears.

Merck partner 4D Pharma has reported that a key lender, Oxford Finance, shoved the UK company into administration after calling in a $14 million loan they couldn’t immediately make good on. Trading in their stock was halted with a market cap that had fallen to a mere £30 million.

“Despite the very difficult prevailing market conditions,” 4D reported on Friday, the biotech had been making progress on finding some new financing and turned to Oxford with an alternative late on Thursday and then again Friday morning.

Members of the G7 from left to right: Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden and G7 na­tions of­fer funds for vac­cine and med­ical prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing project in Sene­gal

Amidst recently broader vaccine manufacturing initiatives from the EU and European companies, the G7 summit in the mountains of Bavaria has brought about some positive news for closing vaccine and medical product manufacturing gaps around the globe.

According to a statement from the White House, the G7 leaders have formally launched the partnership for global infrastructure, PGII. The effort will aim to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars to deliver infrastructure projects in several sectors including the medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing space.

Fed­er­al judge de­nies Bris­tol My­er­s' at­tempt to avoid Cel­gene share­hold­er law­suit

Some Celgene shareholders aren’t happy with how Bristol Myers Squibb’s takeover went down.

On Friday, a New York federal judge ruled that they have a case against the pharma giant, denying a request to dismiss allegations that it purposely slow-rolled Breyanzi’s approval to avoid paying out $6.4 billion in contingent value rights (CVR).

When Bristol Myers put down $74 billion to scoop up Celgene back in 2019, liso-cel — the CAR-T lymphoma treatment now marketed as Breyanzi — was supposedly one of the centerpieces of the deal. After going back and forth on negotiations for about six months, BMS put $6.4 billion into a CVR agreement that required an FDA approval for Zeposia, Breyanzi and Abecma, each by an established date.

Chris Anzalone, Arrowhead CEO

Take­da, Ar­row­head spot­light da­ta from small tri­al show­ing RNAi works in a rare liv­er con­di­tion

Almost two years after Takeda wagered $300 million cash to partner with Arrowhead on an RNAi therapy for a rare disease, the companies are spelling out Phase II data that they believe put them one step closer to their big dreams.

In a small, open label study involving only 16 patients who had liver disease associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), Arrowhead’s candidate — fazirsiran, previously ARO-AAT — spurred substantial reductions in accumulated mutant AAT protein in the liver, a hallmark of the condition. Investigators also tracked improvements in symptoms, with seven out of 12 who received the high, 200 mg dose seeing regression of liver fibrosis.

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Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Bat­tle-test­ed biotech ex­ecs turn to an ex­pe­ri­enced in­dus­try god­fa­ther for some board­room guid­ance

Little Sling Therapeutics out of Ann Arbor, MI may be just a few days out of the starting gate from the announcement of its $35 million launch round, but execs are positioning themselves within clear sight of a key clinical finish line. And they’re revving up with an experienced player to help guide them on the way.

The biotech is putting out word this morning that Faheem Hasnain has agreed to godfather the drug developer as chairman of the board, adding a measured dash of seasoning at a point when most biotechs are still struggling with the embryo stage.

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