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.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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David Loew (Ipsen)

Ipsen snags an ap­proved can­cer drug in $247M M&A deal as an­oth­er bat­tered biotech sells cheap

You can add Paris-based Ipsen to the list of discount buyers patrolling the penny stock pack for a cheap M&A deal.

The French biotech, which has had plenty of its own problems to grapple with, has swooped in to buy Epizyme $EPZM for $247 million in cash and a CVR with milestones attached to it. Epizyme shareholders, who had to suffer through a painfully soft launch of their EZH2a inhibitor cancer drug Tazverik, will get $1.45 per share along with a $1 CVR tied to achieving $250 million in sales from the drug over four consecutive quarters as well as an OK for second-line follicular lymphoma by 1 Jan. 2028.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Sanofi, GSK tout 72% Omi­cron ef­fi­ca­cy in PhI­II tri­al of next-gen, bi­va­lent shot — with an eye to year-end roll­out

Sometimes, being late can give you an advantage.

That’s what Sanofi and GSK are trying to say as the Big Pharma partners report positive results from a late-stage trial of their next-gen bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which was designed to protect against both the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Beta variant. Specifically, against Omicron, they note, the vaccine delivered 72% efficacy in all adults and 93.2% in those previously infected.

Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

Matt Kapusta, uniQure CEO

In trou­bled Hunt­ing­ton’s space, uniQure’s gene ther­a­py shows ear­ly promise

In randomized clinical trial data from a small number of patients, Dutch biotech uniQure shared that its gene therapy for Huntington’s disease seems to reduce the amount of the mutant protein responsible for the disease over the course of a year.

In seven patients with early-stage Huntington’s — four who got the treatment and three who got a placebo — mutant huntingtin protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid decreased by an average of just over 50% in patients who got the gene therapy compared to around a 17% drop in patients who got the placebo after a year.

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