Ameet Nathwani, Dewpoint CEO (Viva Technology/Sipa/L.Chamussy, Sipa via AP Images)

Soft­Bank leads $150M round in­to Dew­point as con­den­sate biotech nears clin­ic

In an­oth­er mar­ket, Dew­point Ther­a­peu­tics may have gone pub­lic about now and raised a prince­ly sum.

Al­though they’re still around two years from hu­man tri­als, the biotech al­ready has blue-chip VC back­ers, three Big Phar­ma part­ner­ships, and a com­pelling sto­ry about be­ing the first and biggest en­trant to a new field of bi­ol­o­gy. But Wall Street isn’t buy­ing much of any­thing these days.

So Dew­point will have to set­tle for the next best thing: a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm that of­ten acts as if it has as much mon­ey as Wall Street — Soft­Bank.

The tech-fo­cused mega-VC led a $150 mil­lion Se­ries C for Dew­point, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Thurs­day. Those funds will be enough to car­ry Dew­point in­to the clin­ic at the end of 2023, while ad­vanc­ing of suite of 19 oth­er pro­grams as the com­pa­ny tries to fash­ion it­self in­to one of the next ma­jor biotechs,  in the vein of Al­ny­lam.

“The play­book is look, we’ve got new bi­ol­o­gy,” CEO Ameet Nath­wani said. “Let’s go as broad as we can and let’s go as fast as we can.”

Dew­point, of course, is still far from achiev­ing that. Their cen­tral fo­cus — what’s known as bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates — were dis­cov­ered bare­ly a decade ago, al­though they’re al­ready im­pli­cat­ed in a host of cell process­es, from cell sig­nal­ing to gene ex­pres­sion, and a host of dis­eases, from ALS to in­fec­tions like RSV.

Con­den­sates are es­sen­tial­ly com­part­ments a cell can form to per­form a giv­en func­tion. In the nu­cle­us, for ex­am­ple, cells can use them to both bring tran­scrip­tion ma­chin­ery to­geth­er to make new pro­teins faster, and block off genes from be­ing tran­scribed al­to­geth­er.

They’re formed by liq­uid-liq­uid phase sep­a­ra­tion, the same physics that keeps oil droplets sus­pend­ed in wa­ter. (Ex­act­ly how the cell forms these droplets is still a mat­ter of de­bate. Quan­ta does a good job ex­plain­ing the com­pet­ing the­o­ries.)

Nath­wani’s com­pe­ti­tion al­so now faces com­pe­ti­tion. Dew­point, co-found­ed by An­tho­ny Hy­man, the prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor who first wrote about con­den­sates, was the first ma­jor com­pa­ny to ex­plore their po­ten­tial in ther­a­peu­tics. But they are no longer alone. Hy­man’s post­doc stu­dent, Clif­ford Brang­wynne, now a pro­fes­sor at Prince­ton, found­ed his own con­den­sate-fo­cused com­pa­ny in No­vem­ber 2020 called Nereid. Third Rock fol­lowed up a month lat­er with Faze Med­i­cines.

Nath­wani said the com­pa­ny dif­fer­en­ti­ates it­self with its breadth: It has in­ter­nal pro­grams in neu­ro­science and on­col­o­gy, and is team­ing with Mer­ck in HIV and with Bay­er in women’s health and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. They’re try­ing, in oth­er words, to tack­le near­ly every ap­pli­ca­tion of con­den­sate bi­ol­o­gy.

Dew­point al­so boasts that it’s built ma­chine learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy to match ge­net­ic mu­ta­tions to changes to con­den­sates in the cell, along with a screen­ing plat­form for new mol­e­cules that can in­ter­fere with them.

“It’s go­ing to be a nov­el ge­net­ics ap­proach, it’s go­ing to be a nov­el com­put­er vi­sion ap­proach,” he said. “The bi­ol­o­gy plat­form is ex­treme­ly broad.”

It’s the kind of tech-first talk that can at­tract in­vestors like Soft­Bank. The firm has not al­ways been as the most dis­cern­ing VC, fa­mous­ly giv­ing We­Work $4.4 bil­lion af­ter a 12-minute tour and hand­ing a dog-walk­ing app $300 mil­lion. (A for­mer Soft­Bank ex­ec­u­tive once re­marked of Masayoshi Son, the founder: “Masa is not a par­tic­u­lar­ly deep thinker, but he has one strength: he’s de­vot­ed to buy­ing more lot­tery tick­ets than any­one else.”)

But in the last cou­ple years, Soft­Bank’s lat­est fund, led by Vikas Parekh, has wad­ed in­to biotech, most­ly in places tech VCs of­ten do: a com­pa­ny us­ing AI to screen mol­e­cules, an­oth­er promis­ing to use ma­chine learn­ing to en­gi­neer bet­ter gene ther­a­pies, Bren­dan Frey’s RNA-fo­cused AI start­up.

The same thing drew them to Dew­point, Nath­wani said.

“It’s the dig­i­tal as­pect com­bined with the bi­ol­o­gy,” he said.

And yet Faze and Nereid have promised to bring sim­i­lar lev­els of dig­i­tal so­phis­ti­ca­tion to in­ter­ro­gate con­den­sates and de­sign new med­i­cines, the lat­ter re­ly­ing in part on ap­proach­es Brang­wynne has de­vel­oped over the years in his lab.

None have yet de­liv­ered da­ta. They’ll like­ly be com­pet­ing for years, each hop­ing that new bi­ol­o­gy doesn’t bring too much of what it al­ways brings: new sur­pris­es.

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.

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.

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.

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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No stranger to gene ther­a­py woes, Astel­las runs in­to an­oth­er safe­ty-re­lat­ed clin­i­cal hold

Astellas Pharma, which has been at the forefront of uncovering the risks associated with gene therapies delivered by adeno-associated viruses, must take another safety alarm head-on.

The FDA has slapped a clinical hold on Astellas’ Phase I/II trial of a gene therapy candidate for late-onset Pompe disease, after investigators flagged a serious case of peripheral sensory neuropathy.

It marks the latest in a streak of setbacks Astellas has encountered since making a splashy entry into the gene therapy space with its $3 billion buyout of Audentes. But the lead program, AT132 for the treatment of X-linked myotubular myopathy (XLMTM), had to be halted more than once after a total of four patients died in the trial — and the scientific community still doesn’t have all the answers of what caused the deaths.

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