Sonde wants to lis­ten for dis­ease — M Ven­tures heard the Boston biotech, and led a $16M round to su­per­charge re­search

Sight, touch and even smell are in­tu­itive and large­ly sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-backed tools used to di­ag­nose dis­ease, and re­searchers are even eval­u­at­ing the clin­i­cal po­ten­tial of  breath analy­sis. Sound — the fi­nal fron­tier — has been gain­ing trac­tion as a health care tool, and Boston-based biotech Sonde is in the mix, work­ing on de­vel­op­ing con­sumer-friend­ly tech­nol­o­gy to dis­cern ill­ness by an­a­lyz­ing sub­tle changes in voice.

On Thurs­day, the com­pa­ny said it had se­cured $16 mil­lion in a se­ries A round led by the cor­po­rate ven­ture cap­i­tal arm of Ger­many’s Mer­ck, M Ven­tures, to shep­herd its tech­nol­o­gy — which is de­signed to arm con­sumer de­vices, (in­clud­ing smart­phones and smart speak­ers) with the tools to de­tect dis­ease us­ing voice — across the fin­ish line.

“One of the old­est tools in our health care ar­se­nal, the ther­mome­ter, is ar­guably still one of the most valu­able be­cause of its sim­plic­i­ty and wide­spread avail­abil­i­ty out­side the clin­i­cal set­ting. Our long­stand­ing vi­sion has been to har­ness the health in­for­ma­tion present in bil­lions of dai­ly voice in­ter­ac­tions to cre­ate a 21st cen­tu­ry…‘vo­come­ter’” said CEO Jim Harp­er in a state­ment.

Sonde’s tech­nol­o­gy, which is cur­rent­ly be­ing test­ed in hu­man sub­jects in In­dia, is aimed to work by sens­ing and an­a­lyz­ing sub­tle changes in the voice to cre­ate a range of per­sis­tent brain, mus­cle, and res­pi­ra­to­ry health mea­sure­ments that ren­der a snap­shot of health. So far, the com­pa­ny has col­lect­ed da­ta from over 10,000 sub­jects.

The round al­so in­clud­ed the par­tic­i­pa­tion of VC arm of Mit­subishi Tan­abe Phar­ma (MP Health­care Ven­ture Man­age­ment), Neote­ny 4, LP, Canepa Health­care, and founder PureTech Health.

Sonde is hard­ly the on­ly com­pa­ny look­ing in­to har­ness­ing the po­ten­tial of us­ing sound to de­tect dis­ease, a slate of oth­er re­searchers are work­ing on sim­i­lar projects: in­clud­ing Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty spin­off PeakPro­fil­ing — which in­spired by mu­si­col­o­gy — is de­vel­op­ing al­go­rithms de­signed to de­tect emo­tion­al states and phys­i­cal con­di­tions from sound da­ta. The US army joined forces with MIT in 2016 to con­struct com­put­er al­go­rithms to iden­ti­fy vo­cal bio­mark­ers that could help di­ag­nose mild trau­mat­ic brain in­jury or con­cus­sions. Is­rael-based Be­yond Ver­bal is al­so work­ing voice-en­abled AI so­lu­tions to vo­cal bio­mark­ers for per­son­al­ized health­care screen­ing.


Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Sanofi brings in 4 new ex­ec­u­tives in con­tin­ued shake-up, as vac­cines and con­sumer health chief head out the door

In the middle of Sanofi’s multi-pronged race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, David Loew, the head of their sprawling vaccines unit, is leaving – part of the final flurry of moves in the French giant’ months-long corporate shuffle that will give them new-look leadership under new CEO Paul Hudson.

The company also said today that Alan Main, the head of their consumer healthcare unit, is out, and they named 4 executives to fill new or newly vacated positions, 3 of whom come from both outside both Sanofi and from Pharma.

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As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Head­ed to PhII: Al­lo­gene CEO David Chang com­pletes a pos­i­tive ear­ly snap­shot of their off-the-shelf CAR-T pi­o­neer

Allogene CEO David Chang has completed the upbeat first portrait of the biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T contender ALLO-501 at virtual ASCO today, keeping all eyes on a drug that will now try to go on to replace the first-wave personalized pioneers he helped create.

The overall response rate outlined in Allogene’s abstract for treatment-resistant patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma slipped a little from the leadup, but if you narrow the patient profile to treatment-naïve patients — removing the 3 who had previous CAR-T therapy who didn’t respond, leaving 16 — the ORR lands at 75% with a 44% complete response rate. And 9 of the 12 responders remained in response at the data cutoff, offering a glimpse on durability that still has a long way to go before it can be completely nailed down.

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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No­var­tis jumps in­to Covid-19 vac­cine hunt, as Big Phar­ma and big biotech com­mit to bil­lions of dos­es

After spending most of the pandemic on the sidelines, Novartis is offering its aid in the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

AveXis, the Swiss pharma’s gene therapy subsidiary, has agreed to manufacture the vaccine being developed by Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. The biotech will begin manufacturing this month, while the vaccine undergoes further preclinical testing. They’ve agreed to provide the vaccine for free for clinical trials beginning in the second half of 2020, but have not disclosed financials for after.

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