Omid Farokhzad, Seer CEO

Seer rais­es an­oth­er $55M and fi­nal­ly re­veals pro­teom­ic tech — can it hold up?

Two years ago, Omid Farokhzad left his promi­nent nano-med­i­cine lab at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal and moved across the coun­try to found a start­up off tech­nol­o­gy that, he said, could change the field of pro­teomics — and, with it, parts of med­i­cine, agri­cul­ture and a range of fields.

To­day, Farokhzad has fi­nal­ly re­vealed what that tech­nol­o­gy is. In a Na­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tions pa­per, he showed how his com­pa­ny, Seer, and their lead prod­uct, called the Pro­teo­graph, can use nanopar­ti­cles to an­a­lyze the pro­tein com­po­si­tions in a sin­gle blood sam­ple, like a fish­ing net web­bing the con­tents of a par­tic­u­lar swath of sea. Or — to use the com­pa­ny’s pre­ferred metaphor — like a se­quenc­ing ma­chine read­ing out the base pairs on a par­tic­u­lar strand of DNA.

Along­side the pub­li­ca­tion, Seer al­so an­nounced a new $55 mil­lion round to help launch the prod­uct, bring­ing its to­tal fi­nanc­ing to over $150 mil­lion.

“We now en­able what was pre­vi­ous­ly not pos­si­ble,” Farokhzad told End­points News. “To­day about every 25 sec­onds, some­one [can] se­quence an­oth­er’s hu­man genome. This tech­nol­o­gy al­lows you to be­gin to in­ter­ro­gate the hu­man pro­teome in an un­bi­ased way, deep, in … speed and scale.”

It’s a bold talk for a field full of it, al­though it’s now at least bur­nished by peer-re­viewed da­ta — some­thing that can­not be said for all of Seer’s com­peti­tors. The pro­teome has long been a source of fas­ci­na­tion for sci­en­tists, for the sim­ple fact that we’re built of pro­teins, and changes in the con­cen­tra­tion or shape of pro­teins are what ul­ti­mate­ly un­der­lie changes in func­tion and dis­ease.

The prob­lem is that it’s far hard­er to get a com­plete pic­ture of some­one’s pro­teins than it is of their genes. Genes are com­par­a­tive­ly sim­ple: 4 base pairs, each of which can on­ly bind in one di­rec­tion. Pro­teins can be made of up to 20 amino acids that bind in myr­i­ad ways. They can al­so change af­ter trans­la­tion. The tech­no­log­i­cal or com­put­ing pow­er sim­ply did not ex­ist to an­a­lyze all of them at a rate com­pa­ra­ble to how re­searchers can an­a­lyze genes.

That’s changed to a de­gree in re­cent years. Sev­er­al com­pa­nies have popped up, most no­tably So­ma­Log­ic, of­fer­ing to screen peo­ple’s blood for a lim­it­ed set of pro­teins da­ta have in­di­cat­ed cor­re­lates with dis­ease. Re­searchers al­so have tech­niques to map out every pro­tein in a blood sam­ple, but it can take months.

Seer claims to be able to do screen­ing in a “fast and un­bi­ased way,” sim­i­lar to how we can now an­a­lyze genes — a quick and com­plete pic­ture. A new com­pa­ny, called Naut­lius, launched this year with over $100 mil­lion from promi­nent tech funds with a sim­i­lar promise, but they are ear­li­er stage and have yet to dis­close their tech. And every­one is com­par­ing them­selves to Il­lu­mi­na, the $60 bil­lion se­quenc­ing gi­ant, which it­self has a pro­teomics di­vi­sion.

Omead Os­tadan

“The key vari­able that next-gen se­quenc­ing and in par­tic­u­lar that Il­lu­mi­na tech­nol­o­gy changed was the abil­i­ty to ac­cess the genome or the tran­scrip­tome in an un­bi­ased, deep way, rapid­ly and at scale,” Omead Os­tadan, a for­mer Il­lu­mi­na ex­ec­u­tive who was re­cent­ly named Seer’s COO and pres­i­dent, told End­points. With Seer’s pro­teomics tech, “you en­able enor­mous depth and breadth anal­o­gous to the bi­o­log­ic in­sight that emerged when you could [first] ac­cess ge­nom­ic in­for­ma­tion.”

Seer has de­vel­oped over 250 nanopar­ti­cles for its Pro­teo­graph. These dif­fer­ent par­ti­cles, when put in the blood, at­tract dif­fer­ent pro­teins that bond to chem­i­cal groups on the sur­face, form­ing a “coro­na,” or a kind of mol­e­c­u­lar ha­lo around the pro­tein. Oth­er pro­teins then bind to those pro­teins and so on. Not every nanopar­ti­cle will bind to every pro­tein, but if you put in enough, the dif­fer­ent coro­nas will give a kind of pic­ture both of what pro­teins ex­ist and if those pro­teins have changed shape.

As a proof of con­cept, the com­pa­ny looked at sam­ples from ear­ly-stage non-small cell lung can­cer pa­tients and found pro­teins that cor­re­lat­ed with dis­ease.

This kind of analy­sis, Farokhzad said, could be used to di­ag­nose pa­tients ear­ly — a goal shared by well-backed liq­uid biop­sy com­pa­nies like GRAIL and Kar­ius. It could al­so, he said, be used to find new pro­teins as­so­ci­at­ed with can­cer, and those pro­teins could then be­come bio­mark­ers or tar­gets for new ther­a­pies. There are al­so ap­pli­ca­tions in agri­cul­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence.

For now, the com­pa­ny is fo­cused on build­ing new nanopar­ti­cles and launch­ing the prod­uct next year, be­fore find­ing new ap­pli­ca­tions. They’ll have to seal part­ners and buy­ers, who in turn will be able to say if the prod­uct is just as trans­for­ma­tion­al as they claim.

“It sounds sim­ple, but hav­ing lived through prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion, there’s a lot to do,” Os­tadan said.

Daphne Koller, Getty

Bris­tol My­er­s' Richard Har­g­reaves pays $70M to launch a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion al­liance with a star play­er in the ma­chine learn­ing world

Bristol Myers Squibb is turning to one of the star upstarts in the machine learning world to go back to the drawing board and come up with the disease models needed to find drugs that can work against two of the toughest targets in the neuro world.

Daphne Koller’s well-funded insitro is getting $70 million in cash and near-term milestones to use their machine learning platform to create induced pluripotent stem cell-derived disease models for ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks at the Rose Garden, May 26, 2020 (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Eli Lil­ly lines up a block­buster deal for Covid-19 an­ti­body, right af­ter it failed a NI­AID tri­al

Two days after Eli Lilly conceded that its antibody bamlanivimab was a flop in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, the US government is preparing to make it a blockbuster.

The pharma giant reported early Wednesday that it struck a deal to supply the feds with 300,000 vials of the drug at a cost of $375 million — once it gets an EUA stamp from the FDA. And once that 2-month supply deal is done, the government has an option on another 650,000 doses on the same terms — which could potentially add another $812 million.

CMO Merdad Parsey (Gilead)

Gilead hits the brakes on a tri­fec­ta of mid- and late-stage stud­ies for their trou­bled fil­go­tinib pro­gram. It's up to the FDA now

Gilead $GILD execs haven’t decided exactly what to do with filgotinib in the wake of the slapdown at the FDA on their rheumatoid arthritis application, but they’re taking a time out for a slate of studies until they can gain some clarity from the agency. And without encouraging guidance, this drug could clearly be axed from the pipeline.

In their Q3 report out Wednesday afternoon, the company says researchers have “paused” a Phase III study for psoriatic arthritis along with a pair of Phase II trials for ankylosing spondylitis and uveitis. Late-stage studies for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s are continuing, but you can see for yourself how big a hole this leaves in the inflammatory disease pipeline, with obvious implications if the company abandons filgo altogether.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 92,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Patrick Soon-Shiong at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jan. 13, 2020 (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers, dissed by some ex­perts, biotech show­man Patrick Soon-Sh­iong fi­nal­ly gets his Covid-19 vac­cine ready for a tri­al. But can it live up to the hype?

In January, when dozens of scientists rushed to start making a vaccine for the then-novel coronavirus, they were joined by an unlikely compatriot: Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor most famous for making big, controversial promises on cancer research.

Soon-Shiong had spent the last 4 years on his “Cancer Moonshot,” but part of his project meant buying a small Seattle biotech that specialized in making common-cold vectors, called adenoviruses, to train the immune system. The billionaire had been using those vectors for oncology, but the company had also developed vaccine candidates for H1N1, Lassa fever and other viruses. When the outbreak began, he pivoted.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 92,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sanofi teams up with Mer­ck to pair Keytru­da with a next-gen IL-2 can­di­date from the Syn­thorx buy­out

Nearly a year after snapping up a next-gen immuno-oncology candidate in its $2.5 billion Synthorx buyout, Sanofi is joining forces with Merck to pair the drug with blockbuster Keytruda.

The pharmas are planning a Phase II trial of Sanofi’s non-alpha IL-2 candidate THOR-707 in combination or sequenced administration with Keytruda for various cancers. While the companies are keeping mum about the financial terms and targets, they said the trials will be Sanofi-sponsored.

Charles Baum, Mirati CEO

UP­DAT­ED: Mi­rati plots a march to the FDA for its KRAS G12C drug, breath­ing down Am­gen’s neck with bet­ter da­ta

Mirati Therapeutics $MRTX took another closely-watched step toward a now clearly defined goal to file for an approval for its KRAS G12C cancer drug adagrasib (MRTX849), scoring a higher response rate than the last readout from the class-leading rival at Amgen but still leaving open a raft of important questions about its future.

Following a snapshot of the first handful of responses, where the drug scored a tumor response in 3 of 5 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the response rate has now slid to 45% among a pooled group of 51 early-stage and Phase II patients, 43% — 6 of 14 — when looking solely at the Phase I/Ib. Those 14 patients had a median treatment duration of 8.2 months, with half still on therapy and 5 of 6 responders still in response.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 92,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Managing partner Stefan Fischer (TVM)

Eli Lil­ly part­ner TVM Cap­i­tal rais­es $478M for their new life sci­ences fund, a 'sub­stan­tial' over­sub­scrip­tion

A German-Canadian VC fund and high-profile Eli Lilly partner has nearly half a billion dollars in new cash to play with.

TVM Capital Life Science, based out of Munich and Montreal, announced the closing of its second and latest fund Tuesday with $478 million in hand. That total represents a “substantial” oversubscription, managing partner Stefan Fischer said, and a good 36.5% more than the $350 million initially expected.

Christian Rommel (via Roche)

Bay­er fol­lows R&D deal spree by raid­ing Roche's can­cer group for its new re­search chief

The day after Bayer signed off on a $4 billion deal designed to put the company among the leaders in gene therapy development, the pharma giant has recruited a new chief for its R&D division. And they opted for an expert in the cancer field.

Christian Rommel, Roche’s head of discovery and early-stage oncology development, has been tapped to take over the job. Joerg Moeller, who got the top research post after early- and late-stage development roles were combined 2 years ago, is hitting the exit “to pursue other career opportunities.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 92,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Albert Bourla, AP

UP­DAT­ED: Where's the Pfiz­er ef­fi­ca­cy read­out? CEO Bourla says 'soon,' but you're go­ing to have to wait for it

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had promised repeatedly that the pharma giant would know if its leading Covid-19 vaccine is effective by the end of this month — now just a few days away.

Instead, the company reported early Tuesday that it has yet to conduct any interim efficacy analyses. And it won’t now until sometime next month.

The news was included in a slide for their Q3 report.

In the morning Q3 call with analysts, Bourla says that they expect efficacy data “soon,” but noted that they wouldn’t be able to say anything until all the administrative work was done on the interim, which would take about a week. And he added that Pfizer isn’t going to say anything else about that hot topic until they have the data in hand.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 92,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.