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.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee lobs more bi­par­ti­san pres­sure on­to PBMs

Congress is honing in on how it wants to overhaul the rules of the road for pharmacy benefit managers, with a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday serving as the latest example of the Hill’s readiness to make changes to how pharma middlemen operate.

While pledging to ensure patients and pharmacies “don’t get a raw deal,” Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) laid out the beginning of what looks like a major bipartisan effort — moves the PBM industry is likely to challenge vigorously.

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Nicklas Westerholm, Egetis Therapeutics CEO

Ac­qui­si­tion talks on­go­ing for Swedish rare dis­ease biotech Egetis, shares up al­most 40%

Shares of the Sweden-based rare disease biotech Egetis Therapeutics skyrocketed on Thursday afternoon as the company said it’s engaged in “ongoing discussion” with external parties regarding a “potential acquisition.”

Egetis confirmed rumors with a statement on Thursday while noting that there is no certainty that a takeover offer will be made.

Nonetheless, the possibility of an acquisition has shot up Egetis’ share price. By the afternoon on Thursday, its stock price was {$EGTX.ST} up over 38%. An Egetis spokesperson told Endpoints News in an email that it has no further comments.

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Lu­pus drug de­vel­op­ment mar­ket heat­ing up, while FDA links with ad­vo­ca­cy group to fur­ther ac­cel­er­ate re­search

The long-underserved systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) market is suddenly buzzing with treatment possibilities. Less than two years after AstraZeneca’s approval for Saphnelo — the first new SLE drug in a decade and joining just one other approved in GSK’s Benlysta – the pipeline of potential drugs numbers in the dozens.

Although most are very early stage — Spherix Global Insights estimates five in Phase II/III — the pharma R&D enthusiasm is catching on among doctors, patients and advocacy groups. On Wednesday, the Lupus Research Alliance and the FDA formed a novel private-public partnership called Lupus Accelerating Breakthroughs Consortium (Lupus ABC) to help advance lupus clinical trial success.

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Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Mod­er­na so­lid­i­fies deal with Kenya to build mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

The mRNA player Moderna is further cementing its presence on the African continent.

Moderna announced on Thursday that it has finalized an agreement with Kenya’s government to partner up and bring an mRNA manufacturing facility to the east African nation. The new facility aims to manufacture up to 500 million doses of vaccines annually. Moderna also said the new facility will have the ability to spike its production capabilities to respond to public health emergencies on the continent or globally.

Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

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John Flavin, Portal Innovations CEO

Por­tal In­no­va­tions takes its Chica­go biotech in­vest­ing, lab space mod­el to Boston with Bob Langer start­up in tow

Life sciences investor and lab operator Portal Innovations is taking the blueprint it set in Chicago and expanding to Massachusetts, where it will deploy $25 million, and help house new startups in the former Boston Globe headquarters.

Portal CEO and founder John Flavin told Endpoints News the company will open its Boston-area operations in the coming weeks, and its first lab occupant will be Syntis Bio, an early-stage biotech out of Moderna co-founder Bob Langer, MIT professor Giovanni Traverso and Sherlock Biosciences co-founder Rahul Dhanda.

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Deborah Waterhouse, ViiV Healthcare CEO

MPP re­cruits three gener­ic man­u­fac­tur­ers to ex­pand use of Vi­iV's in­jectable PrEP drug

ViiV Healthcare has teamed up with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool and three generic manufacturers to expand access to medicine that can prevent HIV.

ViiV and the Medicines Patent Pool jointly announced Thursday that the MPP signed sub-licensing agreements with Aurobindo, Cipla and Viatris to manufacture generics of a long-acting form of cabotegravir for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). As a result of the agreement, the manufacturers will be able to develop, manufacture and supply generic versions of cabotegravir LA in 90 countries — subject to regulatory approvals.