Start­up mak­ing Cas9 proxy for gene edit­ing gets $55M to de­vel­op tools/soft­ware

Boul­der-based start­up In­scrip­ta — which you might re­mem­ber as the com­pa­ny that dis­cov­ered a new CRISPR en­zyme… and then gave it away for free — just land­ed $55.5 mil­lion in a Se­ries C round.

In­scrip­ta made head­lines last De­cem­ber when it an­nounced the com­pa­ny had un­earthed what its call­ing “MAD7,” an al­ter­na­tive en­zyme to CAS9 that could be used to ed­it DNA. Hav­ing a proxy for Cas9 can get more com­pa­nies jump­ing in­to the gene edit­ing game, In­scrip­ta’s CEO Kevin Ness tells me.

Kevin Ness

“CAS9 is a spe­cial en­zyme that acts like a mol­e­c­u­lar scis­sor that cuts up the DNA at a very pre­cise lo­ca­tion,” Ness said. “Some peo­ple don’t have ac­cess to it be­cause it’s been ex­clu­sive­ly li­censed to a few play­ers, and ones that do have ac­cess must pay ex­treme­ly high up­front fees and reach through roy­al­ties. It’s back­break­ing and it stops in­no­va­tion. We re­leased our own en­zyme that’s free for all re­searchers to use.”

It’s not sim­ply al­tru­is­tic, of course. The com­pa­ny hopes to grow the pool of com­pa­nies edit­ing genes so that they have more cus­tomers to make tools and soft­ware for (not dis­sim­i­lar to Il­lu­mi­na’s strat­e­gy, come to think of it).

In fact, In­scrip­ta has an in­ter­est­ing link to Il­lu­mi­na. John Stuelp­nagel, the chair­man of In­scrip­ta’s board, was a co-founder and the very first CEO of Il­lu­mi­na, pre­dat­ing Jay Flat­ley by a year. In­scrip­ta is al­so led by oth­er ge­nom­ic tech vet­er­ans, in­clud­ing Ness him­self, who co-found­ed Quan­taLife and 10x Ge­nomics.

Bryan Roberts

The team and the com­pa­ny’s plans caught the at­ten­tion of in­vestors, with a syn­di­cate that in­cludes Ven­rock (which led the com­pa­ny’s $23 mil­lion Se­ries B round).

“We have ex­pe­ri­enced first­hand how the ca­pac­i­ty and cost of genome se­quenc­ing has ad­vanced faster than Moore’s Law,” said Ven­rock part­ner Bryan Roberts in a state­ment. “With In­scrip­ta we have the op­por­tu­ni­ty to un­lock that po­ten­tial at an even faster rate for genome writ­ing. Broad dis­sem­i­na­tion of In­scrip­ta’s high­ly mul­ti­plexed, cost ef­fi­cient, easy-to-use plat­form will help un­leash the next gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­ery.”

For this lat­est $55.5 mil­lion C round, new in­vestors Mérieux Développe­ment and Pal­adin Cap­i­tal Group led and were joined by ex­ist­ing in­vestors. The new cash will be used to ex­pand In­scrip­ta’s staff and in­vest in com­mer­cial­iza­tion, Ness said.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images)

Up­dat­ed: Hit by an­oth­er PhI­II flop, Sanofi culls breast can­cer drug — sound­ing alarm for the class

Sanofi is officially giving up on its oral SERD.

The French drugmaker put out word Wednesday morning that it will discontinue the global development program of amcenestrant, the selective estrogen receptor degrader once billed as a top late-stage prospect. Having already failed a Phase II monotherapy test earlier this year, a combo with the drug also missed the bar in a second trial for breast cancer, triggering the decision to drop the whole program.

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Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Bosch Health Campus)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs since 2020.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Marisol Peron, Genmab SVP of communications and corporate affairs

Gen­mab launch­es cor­po­rate cam­paign am­pli­fy­ing its ‘knock your socks off’ an­ti­bod­ies

Genmab often talks about its “knock-your-socks-off” antibodies — and now the term is getting its own logo and corporate campaign.

The teal and purple logo for the acronym KYSO — Genmab pronounces it “ky-so” — debuts on Wednesday and comes on the heels of Genmab’s newly announced 2030 vision. That aspiration aims to expand Genmab’s drug development beyond oncology to include other serious diseases, while also doubling down on its own drug development.

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