Soft­Bank, Morn­ing­side help put US-Chi­na AI play­er on the map with $318M bet

Be­fore Ten­cent made its first for­ay in­to AI-aid­ed drug dis­cov­ery this Ju­ly, the Chi­nese tech gi­ant had bought it­self a line in­to the bur­geon­ing field.

Ten­cent had backed a US-Chi­na AI start­up by the name of XtalPi late 2015, and kept fol­low­ing up through two $15 mil­lion and $46 mil­lion rounds through 2018. Now Soft­Bank, Morn­ing­side and the ven­ture arm of a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment-owned in­sur­ance group are all fol­low­ing its lead, head­lin­ing a Se­ries C that brings in a whop­ping $318.8 mil­lion.

Wen Shuhao

Af­ter putting the com­pa­ny to­geth­er at MIT in 2014 where they were each do­ing re­search in physics, the three founders soon opened their first busi­ness de­vel­op­ment of­fice in Cam­bridge’s Kendall Square. With­in that year, they set up head­quar­ters in Shen­zhen, where XtalPi’s com­pu­ta­tion­al R&D cen­ter and ex­per­i­men­tal cen­ter are now lo­cat­ed.

For the full pack­age, XtalPi al­so boasts of an AI re­search hub in Bei­jing.

Like many of its coun­ter­parts in the West, the big idea at XtalPi is to short­en the drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment time­frame by ap­ply­ing a mix of AI, quan­tum physics al­go­rithms and cloud com­put­ing tech­nolo­gies.

In par­tic­u­lar, the com­pa­ny ini­tial­ly leaned heav­i­ly on CEO Wen Shuhao’s ex­per­tise in pre­dict­ing crys­tal struc­tures, which in turn sheds light on the prop­er­ties of drug can­di­dates. That fo­cus is hint­ed in its name, with Xtal be­ing the ab­bre­vi­a­tion of crys­tal in aca­d­e­m­ic-speak.

For now, XtalPi al­so ap­pears con­tent with be­ing just a part­ner to bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies, who still shoul­der much of the R&D work es­pe­cial­ly when it comes to clin­i­cal tri­als, putting them in the same group as In­sitro and In­sil­i­co (Oth­ers, such as Schro­ding­er, Atom­wise and Re­cur­sion, have in­creas­ing­ly wad­ed in­to drug de­vel­op­ment).

The new fi­nanc­ing will fu­el fur­ther ad­vances on its plat­form, XtalPi not­ed, strength­en­ing al­go­rith­mic pow­er, al­go­rithm de­sign as well as data­base.

A slew of heavy­weight VC firms in Chi­na joined the round, in­clud­ing CI­CC Cap­i­tal, CMB In­ter­na­tion­al, CITIC Cap­i­tal, Shun­wei Cap­i­tal, Ocean­pine Cap­i­tal, Foursquare Cap­i­tal and IMO Ven­tures, in ad­di­tion to Ko­rea’s Mi­rae As­set. Ear­li­er in­vestors such as Se­quoia al­so came back for more.

The Fac­tors Dri­ving a Rapid Evo­lu­tion of Gene & Cell Ther­a­py and CAR-T Clin­i­cal Re­search in APAC

APAC is the fastest growing region globally for cell & gene therapy trials representing more than a third of all cell & gene studies globally, with China leading in the region. 

APAC is the leading location globally for CAR-T trials with China attracting ~60% of all CAR-T trials globally between 2015-2022. The number of CAR-T trials initiated by Western companies has rapidly increased in recent years (current CAGR of about 60%), with multiple targets being explored including CD19, CD20, CD22, BCMA, CD30, CD123, CD33, CD38, and CD138.

The End­points 11; blue­bird's $3M gene ther­a­py; Bio­gen tout new neu­ro da­ta; Harsh re­views for can­cer 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.

Reading about John Carroll’s pick of biotech’s most promising startups has become a treasured tradition. If you ever get curious about previous classes of the Endpoints 11, you can find all of them (plus a number of our other regular specials) here.

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EMA warns of short­ages of two Boehringer heart drugs due to a spike in de­mand

The EMA is putting EU member states on alert over the shortage of two drugs that counter heart attacks due to an uptick in demand.

On Friday, the EMA sent out a warning that two Boehringer Ingelheim drugs are experiencing a shortage: Actilyse and Metalyse. The drugs are used as emergency treatments for adults experiencing acute myocardial infarction, or a heart attack, by dissolving blood clots that have formed in the blood vessels.

The End­points 11: The top pri­vate biotechs in pur­suit of new drugs. Push­ing the en­ve­lope with pow­er­ful new tech­nolo­gies

Right around the beginning of the year, we got a close-up look at what happens after a boom ripples through biotech. The crash of life sciences stocks in Q1 was heard around the world.

In the months since, we’ve seen the natural Darwinian down cycle take effect. Reverse mergers made a comeback, with more burned out shells to go public at a time IPOs and road shows are out of favor. And no doubt some of the more recent arrivals on the investing side of the business are finding greener pastures.

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Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar

Should SCO­TUS hear Am­gen's Repatha case? So­lic­i­tor gen­er­al says no

Back in April, Amgen said it was encouraged by the solicitor general’s anticipated review of its Supreme Court petition to rehear a Repatha patent case. They’re likely much less optimistic about the outcome now.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in a recent 27-page brief that Amgen’s arguments “lack merit and further review is not warranted.”

The case traces back to a suit filed in 2014 against Sanofi and Regeneron’s Praluent, which ended up beating Amgen’s PCSK9 blockbuster Repatha to market by a month just a year later.

Phil Sharp, Nobel Prize laureate (L), and John Carroll, Endpoints News co-CEO (via Michael Last)

The End­points 11: Fire­side chat with No­bel Prize lau­re­ate Phil Sharp

On Thursday evening in Boston I had the great good fortune to talk about the creation of the biotech industry with Nobel Prize-winning scientist Phil Sharp. I learned quite a bit about the early days of Genentech, Biogen and Alnylam, which all helped birth this unusual drug development ecosystem. And that’s why we can do things like the Endpoints 11. Here’s my talk with Phil Sharp, which you can either watch or read below.

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Klick Health gath­ers biotech and phar­ma lu­mi­nar­ies to dis­cuss in­dus­try in­no­va­tions, in­vest­ments and fu­ture

At Klick Health’s first Ideas Exchange conference with biotech and pharma industry insiders since before the pandemic began, it was no surprise many conversations included Covid topics. Yet while vaccines and treatments were discussed, so too were the effects on drug development, federal responses, health inequities — and what to do now and next.

George Yancopoulos, chief scientist and cofounder of Regeneron, opened the conference responding to a question from Acorda CEO Ron Cohen about the spotlight on the industry during Covid and some of the “flak” biopharma has taken in the past.

Neil Desai, Aadi Bioscience CEO (via YouTube)

Pre­ci­sion on­col­o­gy biotech agrees to $72M cash in­fu­sion as it seeks to in­crease rev­enue

Almost a year after the FDA gave the green light to LA-based Aadi Bioscience’s first drug, the biotech is looking to private investors to keep itself going.

The oncology player announced Thursday that it has engaged with both new and existing investors in a PIPE financing — selling 3.3 million shares at $12.50 a share, the biotech’s closing price at Nasdaq on Wednesday. The company is also selling off pre-funded warrants to purchase over 2.4 million more shares at $12.4999 per pre-funded warrant.

FDA's out­side ex­perts vote in fa­vor of Fer­ring's fe­cal trans­plant for C. dif­fi­cile, set­ting the stage for Seres

FDA’s outside advisors voted in favor of Ferring Pharmaceuticals’ RBX2660, an experimental poop-based drug implant that the company says would be the first microbiota-based live biotherapeutic to receive an FDA green light.

That was a point repeatedly discussed during the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC, meeting Thursday when evaluating Ferring’s fecal microbiota transplant, or FMT, for reducing the recurrence of Clostridioides difficile infection in adults who have received antibiotics. Multiple members brought up the need for a regulated product amid a landscape of unregulated FMTs already happening in clinical care.

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