Sean Harper, Stefan Scherer

Search­ing for new TCR tar­gets, im­munother­a­py start­up emerges with Stan­ford tech, $40M round

In the last decade, im­munother­a­py, which in­volves the us­age of a pa­tient’s own im­mune cells to fight can­cers, has gained great mo­men­tum. In one vari­a­tion, the treat­ment in­volves re­mov­ing a pa­tient’s T cells, a type of white blood cell, and en­abling them to rec­og­nize pro­teins that are on­ly present in can­cer cells. Up­on find­ing its neme­sis the T cells at­tack the can­cer cells. But the ma­jor chal­lenge re­searchers face is dis­cov­er­ing more and more of these pro­teins that are dis­played specif­i­cal­ly on can­cer cells, said Ste­fan Scher­er, CEO of 3T Bio­sciences, a San Fran­cis­co-based biotech.

“To iden­ti­fy nov­el tar­gets is not triv­ial,” he added.

His com­pa­ny has de­vel­oped an AI-based plat­form to iden­ti­fy nov­el tar­gets and an­nounced Thurs­day morn­ing it has raised $40 mil­lion in Se­ries A fund­ing. The round was led by West­lake Vil­lage BioPart­ners with par­tic­i­pa­tion from Light­speed Ven­ture Part­ners.

In ad­di­tion to cell ther­a­pies, the com­pa­ny be­lieves its tar­gets can lead to new bis­pecifics and pep­tide vac­cines. To that end, it’s al­so de­vel­op­ing a tech­nique to find new pep­tides — or binders — that hook to the can­cer pro­teins at one end and T cells on the oth­er hand.

“The prob­lem is pep­tides which are cur­rent­ly used in im­munother­a­py is that some­times [they] close­ly rep­re­sent what is present in hu­man pep­tides and you see un­spe­cif­ic bind­ing to non­cancer cells, which leads to side ef­fects,” said Scher­er.

When these pep­tides bring the T cell and can­cer pro­teins in prox­im­i­ty, the T cells at­tack the can­cer cells. 3T’s AI plat­form iden­ti­fies pep­tides that are dif­fer­ent from hu­man pep­tides but close­ly bind on­ly to the can­cer cells.

“That way the risk that the pep­tide binds to a re­cep­tor ran­dom­ly in the gut, in the eye, in the brain is not there,” he added.

In the last five years, the team iden­ti­fied more than a dozen tar­get pro­teins on can­cer cells from colon can­cer to breast can­cers. The new fund­ing will go to­ward bring­ing a cou­ple of them to the clin­i­cal stage.

“We will ap­ply for in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al new drug next year and hope to bring our first tar­get in­to the clin­ic in 2023 or ear­ly 2024,” said Scher­er.

The com­pa­ny was found­ed in 2017 by Leah Siben­er, Mar­vin Gee and Chris Gar­cia, the for­mer two of whom fin­ished their PhDs at Gar­cia’s lab at Stan­ford. Their com­pa­ny ex­clu­sive­ly in-li­censed the tech­nol­o­gy from the uni­ver­si­ty.

3T is not alone in its pur­suits. Long­wood has backed a num­ber of star­tups promis­ing to un­earth new ways to un­lock im­muno-on­col­o­gy, in­clud­ing Pyx­is and Im­mu­ni­tas. This month, New York-based En­vis­agen­ics an­nounced that it was award­ed a $2 mil­lion Small Busi­ness In­no­va­tion Re­search Di­rect to Phase II grant from the Na­tion­al Can­cer In­sti­tute to com­mer­cial­ize its pro­pri­etary drug dis­cov­ery plat­form, Spli­ceIOTM, for the dis­cov­ery of new I/O tar­gets.

3T’s in­vestors how­ev­er be­lieve that the com­pa­ny is en­ter­ing a space where mul­ti­ple play­ers can con­tribute. “3T Bio­sciences’ tech­nol­o­gy en­ables us to ad­dress one of the biggest chal­lenges in can­cer treat­ment – de­vel­op­ing next-gen­er­a­tion ther­a­pies for sol­id tu­mors and oth­er im­mune-me­di­at­ed dis­eases with cu­ra­tive po­ten­tial,” said Sean Harp­er, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at West­lake Vil­lage BioPart­ners.

“In ad­di­tion, the 3T tech­nol­o­gy is of great in­ter­est to a large num­ber of bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies ac­tive in the on­col­o­gy and au­toim­mune spaces,” he added.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Look­ing to push CAR-T in sol­id tu­mors, Bay Area biotech goes pub­lic in SPAC flip — with slight name change

SPACs might be slowly creeping back.

Monday evening, Estrella Biopharma said it was going public via a SPAC deal with TradeUP Acquisition Corp. The deal is set to close in the first half of 2023, and if all goes as planned, the public version of Estrella — dubbed Estrella Immunopharma — will be worth around $398.5 million.

The Bay Area biotech will also get around $45.4 million in cash, and TradeUp stockholders will get around 15% stock in the public biotech.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Astel­las, Pan­th­er­na add or­gan to mR­NA tie-up; Rock­et launch­es sale of six fig­ures worth of stock

Astellas and Pantherna have expanded their November 2021 pact surrounding the latter’s mRNA platform to include a new target organ, the duo announced Tuesday morning, though they did not specify what that target is.

German biotech Pantherna is home to two platform technologies — one that designs mRNAs for non-vaccine therapies and another that designs LNPs. Astellas and Pantherna’s deal appears to mainly revolve around the first platform, which Astellas said it is using to research direct reprogramming, or turning cells from one kind into another without an intermediate stem cell phase.