Nicolas Tilmans, Anagenex CEO

Seek­ing to 'close the loop' in drug dis­cov­ery with ma­chine learn­ing, Catalio-backed biotech emerges from se­mi-stealth

Two years af­ter se­cur­ing seed fund­ing and re­main­ing in a state of “se­mi-stealth,” a San Fran­cis­co biotech keen on com­bin­ing evo­lu­tion and small mol­e­cule dis­cov­ery re­cent­ly bagged a VC round that will let it do just that.

Known as An­a­genex, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Wednes­day that it raised a $30 mil­lion Se­ries A round, se­cur­ing the at­ten­tion of Catalio Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment as lead in­vestor. A few oth­er in­vestors tagged along, such as Lux Cap­i­tal and Khosla Ven­tures.

Lux Cap­i­tal had led An­a­genex’s seed round back in 2020, which net­ted the biotech $7.2 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to An­a­genex CEO Nico­las Tilmans, the round should last the biotech at least two years.

An­a­genex said in a state­ment that it plans to use its Se­ries A funds to “fur­ther ex­pand its nov­el da­ta gen­er­at­ing plat­form and build a ro­bust pipeline of pro­grams ad­dress­ing his­tor­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing un­met med­ical needs.”

Tilmans start­ed off by telling End­points News that in his mind, the force of evo­lu­tion is one of the strongest forces in na­ture.

“And if you can cre­ate a sys­tem that har­ness­es evo­lu­tion, you will al­most al­ways do bet­ter in bi­ol­o­gy than oth­er­wise,” added the CEO, who has a PhD in bio­chem­istry out of Stan­ford.

The biotech got off the ground in 2018, af­ter Tilmans said he saw this evo­lu­tion­ary con­cept in both an­ti­body and pro­tein-based drug dis­cov­ery. So he won­dered, why not ap­ply this in small mol­e­cules? From his per­spec­tive, the im­ped­i­ment had been a lack of ways to “close the loop.”

The CEO com­pared it to sub­ject­ing finch­es to evo­lu­tion­ary pres­sures and see­ing which finch­es make it through. As they re­pop­u­late over time, one could cre­ate the per­fect finch — a sim­i­lar the­o­ry posit­ed by Charles Dar­win with his finch­es.

Ac­cord­ing to An­a­genex, the plat­form now gives way to a closed loop that can be re­fined again and again, mak­ing for a di­rect­ed evo­lu­tion process, in Tilmans’ words.

Af­ter tak­ing an ini­tial li­brary of po­ten­tial com­pounds (any­where from a cou­ple hun­dred mil­lion to more than a bil­lion) and screen­ing them to see if they bind to a cer­tain tar­get, re­sults are fed in­to the biotech’s ma­chine learn­ing plat­form. Then, that plat­form cre­ates a nar­rowed li­brary of 1 mil­lion of more “promis­ing” com­pounds based on the re­sults of the pre­vi­ous screen. The re­fined com­pound li­brary gets screened again as re­sults are re-fed in­to the ma­chine learn­ing plat­form, and it spits out an­oth­er nar­row com­pound li­brary to be fur­ther re­fined.

The com­pa­ny will be­gin with syn­thet­ic lethal on­col­o­gy, with An­a­genex al­so tak­ing a look at cer­tain in­flam­ma­tion and car­dio­vas­cu­lar tar­gets. So far, there are three pro­grams in play: two in syn­thet­ic lethal on­col­o­gy and one in car­dio­vas­cu­lar.

Tilmans said he can see small mol­e­cules branch out in­to mul­ti­ple in­di­ca­tions akin to Keytru­da or Hu­mi­ra, which are both an­ti­bod­ies — and that is their goal.

“We don’t have the lux­u­ry of Pfiz­er. So yes, any­thing we pick, we’d like to be able to have it go in­to mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent in­di­ca­tions. But the most im­por­tant thing for us is to take a prob­lem that we’re pret­ty sure we’re gonna win. And we’re pret­ty sure that the mar­ket at the oth­er end is go­ing to be big enough,” the CEO added.

In terms of part­ner­ships, Tilmans said that there are a few on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions, but he claims his ap­proach to part­ner­ships is marked­ly dif­fer­ent from oth­er biotech CEOs.

I want to em­pha­size that we are a ther­a­peu­tics com­pa­ny, and we want to be solv­ing prob­lems and then bring­ing the fruits of our la­bor to the pa­tient, our­selves. So that’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent than some of the oth­er com­pa­nies in the space. One of the ways I like to think about it is sort of like Wall Street newslet­ters. If you’re telling me what things to in­vest in, maybe you should in­vest in them, and put your mon­ey where your mouth is. And that’s the way we see drug dis­cov­ery.

An­a­genex cur­rent­ly has about 18 em­ploy­ees, and plans to reach 30 with­in the next 18 months or so.

In the mean­time, An­a­genex’s board gets two new mem­bers as part of the raise: Catalio co-founder and part­ner George Petrochei­los as a di­rec­tor and Catalio an­a­lyst Matthew Hob­son as an ob­serv­er.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

FDA side­lines Paul Hud­son's $3.7B MS drug af­ter es­tab­lish­ing link to liv­er dam­age

One of Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson’s top picks in the pipeline — picked up in a $3.7 billion buyout 2 years ago — has just been sidelined in the US by a safety issue.

The pharma giant put out word early Thursday that the FDA has put their Phase III studies of tolebrutinib in multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis on partial clinical hold, halting enrollment and suspending dosing for patients who have been on the drug for less than 60 days. Patients who have completed at least 60 days of treatment can continue therapy as researchers explore a “limited” — but unspecified in Sanofi’s statement — number of cases of liver injury.

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Phar­ma re­acts to post-Roe; Drug­mak­ers beef up cy­ber de­fense; Boehringer, Roche qui­et­ly axe drugs; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

As a reminder, we are off on Monday for the Fourth of July. I hope this recap will kick off your (long) weekend well and that the rest of it will be just what you need. See you next week for a shortened edition!

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Eric Hughes, incoming Teva EVP of global R&D and CMO

Te­va chief raids Ver­tex for his new glob­al head of re­search and de­vel­op­ment

Teva CEO Kåre Schultz has found his new R&D chief and CMO in Vertex’s ranks.

The global generics giant, which has some 3,500 staffers in the R&D group, has named Eric Hughes to the top research spot in the company. He’ll be replacing Hafrun Fridriksdottir, who held the role for close to five years, on Aug. 1.

Hughes hasn’t been at Vertex for long, though. He jumped from Novartis less than a year ago, after heading the immunology, hepatology & dermatology global development unit. Before that, he completed a five-year stint as head of early clinical research for the specialty discovery medicine department in the exploratory clinical & translational research group at Bristol Myers Squibb, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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#BIO22: Man­ag­ing a biotech in tur­bu­lent times. 'There's a per­fect shit­show out there'

On Tuesday, June 14, Endpoints News EIC John Carroll sat down with a group of biotech execs to discuss the bear market for industry stocks and how they were dealing with it. Here’s the conversation, which has been lightly edited for brevity.

Martin Meeson, sponsor opening:

Thank you, John. Hello everyone. My name’s Martin Meeson, I’m the CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth. For those of you who don’t know Fujifilm Diosynth, we operate in the development of clinical and commercial product scale up, we have facilities in Europe and the US, and around about 4,000 employees. We run on average about 150 programs, so when it comes to managing in turbulent times over the last two years, we’ve had quite a lot of experience of that. Not just keeping the clinical pipelines and the commercial pipelines open, but also our response to the pandemic and the molecules that we’ve had within there. One of the phrases that I coined probably about a year ago when we were talking at JP Morgan, was I talked about managing through turbulent times. Well, it’s become the fact that we are not managing and leading through these times, we are managing in them, which is why that’s really the purpose of and the topic that we’ve got today.

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On Friday, Lonza announced plans to construct a large-scale commercial drug product fill and finish facility in the town of Stein, Switzerland.

Lon­za to in­vest $500M+ on fill-fin­ish fa­cil­i­ty on its home turf

Lonza has been expanding its reach across the globe, bringing sites in China and the US online this year, but now they are looking closer to home for their next major investment.

The Swiss manufacturer on Friday announced plans to construct a large-scale commercial drug fill and finish facility in the town of Stein, Switzerland. The new facility will be delivered through an investment of approximately CHF 500 million, or $519 million, and is expected to be completed in 2026. The facility will also be constructed on the same campus as Lonza’s current clinical drug product facility.

Kate Haviland, Blueprint Medicines CEO

What bear mar­ket? Blue­print lines up $1.25B to ex­pand la­bels, maybe tack on more drugs

As it works to pad the case for expanding its Ayvakit and Gavreto labels, Blueprint Medicines has lined up $1.25 billion in funding, with some of that money seemingly earmarked for acquisitions or pipeline expansion projects.

Following the likes of BioCryst, Cytokinetics and MorphoSys, Blueprint is aiming to monetize the royalties of its RET+ non-small cell lung cancer and thyroid cancer drug Gavreto with Royalty Pharma. The investment group will dole out $175 million upfront and might tack on another $165 million in biobucks as part of Blueprint’s royalties receivable from net sales of the drug by Roche outside the US, sans China.

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Fu­ji­film in­vests an­oth­er $1.6B in­to its CD­MO arm to up­grade facil­lites in the US and Eu­rope

Fujifilm’s spending spree into its CDMO arm is not slowing down.

The multinational announced on Wednesday that it will invest $1.6 billion to enhance and expand the cell culture manufacturing services of the CDMO arm of the Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm Diosynth.

The investment will enhance Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ sites in Hillerød, Denmark, and College Station, TX. The investment is expected to create approximately 450 jobs across both facilities.

Anand Parikh, Faeth Therapeutics CEO

Sid Mukher­jee, Lew Cant­ley be­hind new can­cer biotech with food+drug com­bo treat­ment am­bi­tions 

Famed oncologist Sid Mukherjee and repeat biotech co-founder Lew Cantley have teamed up to form Faeth Therapeutics, a startup aiming to treat cancer the way other conditions are addressed: pairing nutrition with therapeutics.

The goal is to transform cancer treatment with nutrition and make it the fourth “pillar” in the oncology regimen, which to date has centered on radiotherapy, surgery and drugs, Faeth CEO Anand Parikh told Endpoints News. Other conditions have already been addressed with a side of nutrients or diet, he said, pointing to diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and other diseases.

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Amgen's taking social media followers around the globe as it introduces the many different

From Tam­pa to Mu­nich, Am­gen’s ‘Places’ cam­paign in­tro­duces its lo­ca­tions around the world

Amgen is taking social media followers around the world with its latest corporate campaign. Called “Places of Amgen,” the twice monthly posts highlight the biopharma’s different offices and sites – and the people who work there.

Each post runs on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram with details about the work Amgen does in that location, when it was established, comments from people who work there and other interesting facts. The most recent one about Paris, France, for example, notes that Amgen France last year signed a French association charter committed to the inclusion of LBGT+ people in the workplace.

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