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

Nick Leschly via Getty

UP­DAT­ED: Blue­bird shares sink as an­a­lysts puz­zle out $1.8M stick­er shock and an un­ex­pect­ed de­lay

Blue­bird bio $BLUE has un­veiled its price for the new­ly ap­proved gene ther­a­py Zyn­te­glo (Lenti­Glo­bin), which came as a big sur­prise. And it wasn’t the on­ly un­ex­pect­ed twist in to­day’s sto­ry.

With some an­a­lysts bet­ting on a $900,000 price for the β-tha­lassemia treat­ment in Eu­rope, where reg­u­la­tors pro­vid­ed a con­di­tion­al ear­ly OK, blue­bird CEO Nick Leschly said Fri­day morn­ing that the pa­tients who are suc­cess­ful­ly treat­ed with their drug over 5 years will be charged twice that — $1.8 mil­lion — on the con­ti­nent. That makes this drug the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py on the plan­et, just be­hind No­var­tis’ new­ly ap­proved Zol­gens­ma at $2.1 mil­lion, with an­a­lysts still wait­ing to see what kind of pre­mi­um can be had in the US.

Bain’s biotech team has cre­at­ed a $1B-plus fund — with an eye to more Big Phar­ma spin­outs

One of the biggest investors to burst onto the biotech scene in recent years has re-upped with more than a billion dollars flowing into its second fund. And this next wave of bets will likely include more of the Big Pharma spinouts that highlighted their first 3 years in action.

Adam Koppel and Jeff Schwartz got the new life sciences fund at Bain Capital into gear in the spring of 2016, as they were putting together a $720 million fund with $600 million flowing in from external investors and the rest drawn from the Bain side of the equation. This time the external investors chipped in $900 million, with Bain coming in for roughly $180 million more.

They’re not done with Fund I, with plans to add a couple more deals to the 15 they’ve already posted. And once again, they’re estimating another 15 to 20 investments over a 3- to 5-year time horizon for Fund II.

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Adding mar­quee in­vestors, Black­Thorn bags $76M to back an AI-dri­ven strat­e­gy for pre­ci­sion neu­ro med­i­cine

As ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ma­chine learn­ing loom ever larg­er in drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment, a biotech op­er­at­ing at the “nexus” of tech­nol­o­gy and neu­ro­sciences has cashed in with $76 mil­lion in fresh fi­nanc­ing.

The big idea at Black­Thorn Ther­a­peu­tics is to do for neu­robe­hav­ioral dis­or­ders what ge­net­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed ther­a­py has done for on­col­o­gy: Re­de­fine pa­tient pop­u­la­tions by the un­der­ly­ing bi­ol­o­gy — dys­reg­u­lat­ed brain cir­cuits, or neu­rotypes — in­stead of symp­toms, there­by find­ing the pa­tients who are most like­ly to ben­e­fit at en­roll­ment phase.

Neil Woodford, Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Un­der siege, in­vest­ment man­ag­er Wood­ford faces an­oth­er in­vest­ment shock

Em­bat­tled UK fund man­ag­er Neil Wood­ford — who has con­tro­ver­sial­ly blocked in­vestors from pulling out from his flag­ship fund to stem the blood­let­ting, af­ter a slew of dis­ap­point­ed in­vestors fled fol­low­ing a se­ries of sour bets — is now pay­ing the price for his ac­tions via an in­vestor ex­o­dus on an­oth­er fund.

Har­g­reaves Lans­down, which has in the past sold and pro­mot­ed the Wood­ford funds via its re­tail in­vest­ment plat­form, has re­port­ed­ly with­drawn £45 mil­lion — its en­tire po­si­tion — from the in­vest­ment man­ag­er’s In­come Fo­cus Fund.

Ted Love. HAVERFORD COLLEGE

Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics poised to sub­mit ap­pli­ca­tion for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval, with new piv­otal da­ta on its sick­le cell dis­ease drug

Global Blood Therapeutics is set to submit an application for accelerated approval in the second-half of this year, after unveiling fresh data from a late-stage trial that showed just over half the patients given the highest dose of its experimental sickle cell disease drug experienced a statistically significant improvement in oxygen-wielding hemoglobin, meeting the study's main goal.

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Gene ther­a­pies seize the top of the list of the most ex­pen­sive drugs on the plan­et — and that trend has just be­gun

Anyone looking for a few simple reasons why the gene therapy field has caught fire with the pharma giants need only look at the new list of the 10 most expensive therapies from GoodRx.

Two recently approved gene therapies sit atop this list, with Novartis’ Zolgensma crowned the king of the priciest drugs at $2.1 million. Right below is Luxturna, the $850,000 pioneer from Spark, which Roche is pushing hard to acquire as it adds a gene therapy group to the global mix.

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Fol­low­ing CAR-T pi­o­neer­s' foot­steps, Tes­sa launch­es Chi­na JV in $120M deal

These days just about every biotech se­ri­ous about glob­al de­vel­op­ment — and not just com­mer­cial­iza­tion — has a Chi­na strat­e­gy. Tes­sa Ther­a­peu­tics, a Bay­lor as­so­ci­at­ed out­fit based out of Sin­ga­pore, is no ex­cep­tion.

Tak­ing a page out of the CAR-T pi­o­neers’ play­book, Tes­sa is es­tab­lish­ing a joint ven­ture with Chi­na-Sin­ga­pore Guangzhou Knowl­edge City, which is ini­tial­ly putting down $40 mil­lion for a 13% stake with $40 mil­lion more to come in a sec­ond stage. The biotech, which now re­tains an 87% con­trol, is al­so rolling out its own con­tri­bu­tions in two phas­es, start­ing with $20 mil­lion and all its tech­nol­o­gy li­cense rights for Chi­na.

News­mak­ers at #EHA19: Re­gen­eron, Ar­Qule track progress on re­sponse rates

Re­gen­eron’s close­ly-watched bis­pe­cif­ic con­tin­ues to ring up high re­sponse rates

Re­gen­eron’s high-pro­file bis­pe­cif­ic REGN1979 is back in the spot­light at the Eu­ro­pean Hema­tol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion sci­en­tif­ic con­fab. And while the stel­lar num­bers we saw at ASH have erod­ed some­what as more blood can­cer pa­tients are eval­u­at­ed, the re­sponse rates for this CD3/CD20 drug re­main high.

A to­tal of 13 out of 14 fol­lic­u­lar lym­phomas re­spond­ed to the drug, a 93% ORR, down from 100% at the last read­out. In 10 out of 14, there was a com­plete re­sponse. In dif­fuse large B-cell lym­phoma the re­sponse rate was 57% among pa­tients treat­ed at the 80 mg to 160 mg dose range. They were all com­plete re­spons­es. And 2 of these Cars were for pa­tients who had failed CAR-T ther­a­py.

Search­ing for the next block­buster to fol­low Darza­lex, J&J finds a $150M an­ti-CD38 drug from part­ner Gen­mab

Now that J&J and Genmab have thrust Darzalex onto the regulatory orbit for first-line use in multiple myeloma, the partners are lining up a deal for a next-gen follow-on to the leading CD38 drug.


Janssen — J&J’s biotech unit — has its eyes on HexaBody-CD38, a preclinical compound generated on Genmab’s tech platform designed to make drugs more potent via hexamerization.


Genmab is footing the bill on studies in multiple myeloma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; once it completes clinical proof of concept, Janssen has the option to license the drug for a $150 million exercise fee. There’s also $125 million worth of milestones in play.

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