Stephen Elledge (Emmanuel Ording, Harvard)

Stephen Elledge's Har­vard lab again proves fruit­ful with the launch of high-through­put an­ti­body start­up

Af­ter work­ing with es­teemed Har­vard pro­fes­sor Stephen Elledge to launch TCR-fo­cused TScan Ther­a­peu­tics three years ago, the Long­wood Fund ap­proached the sci­en­tist last spring about spin­ning out more of his work.

To­geth­er, they launched a Cam­bridge, MA-based start­up in De­cem­ber called Im­muneID, which us­es Elledge’s plat­form to iden­ti­fy and tar­get the an­ti­body in­ter­ac­tions that dri­ve im­mune dis­eases, like se­vere al­ler­gies. And on Wednes­day morn­ing, the com­pa­ny un­veiled a $50 mil­lion Se­ries A round, bring­ing its to­tal raise to over $70 mil­lion.

Christoph West­phal

“Im­muneID’s unique and pow­er­ful im­muno­log­i­cal tar­get iden­ti­fi­ca­tion plat­form un­locks the com­plex­i­ty of hu­man im­mune re­spons­es to guide the de­vel­op­ment of pre­ci­sion im­munol­o­gy ther­a­peu­tics in ar­eas where there re­mains sig­nif­i­cant un­met pa­tient need,” Long­wood’s Christoph West­phal said in a state­ment.

The round was led by Al­ta Part­ners, with a hand from Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, Red­wood Cap­i­tal In­vest­ments, Sec­tion 32, Tekla Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Arch Ven­ture Part­ners, the Long­wood Fund, Pi­tan­go Health Tech, In-Q-Tel, Xfund and oth­ers.

While Elledge set out with TScan to screen anti­gen-TCR match­es in a faster, more sys­tem­at­ic way, Im­muneID is look­ing at an­ti­body tar­gets. The plat­form is based on tech de­vel­oped along with Johns Hop­kins’ Ben Lar­man and Har­vard’s Tomasz Ku­la, and us­es next-gen se­quenc­ing, ro­bot­ic au­toma­tion and AI to “in­ter­ro­gate and ul­ti­mate­ly drug” the im­mune sys­tem. It re­quires small vol­umes of flu­ids (like plas­ma or sali­va), that can be fresh or frozen, pro­vid­ing the com­pa­ny flex­i­bil­i­ty to sur­vey broad pa­tient pop­u­la­tions. And every time the team runs the plat­form, they col­lect a huge amount of da­ta on hun­dreds of thou­sands of an­ti­body in­ter­ac­tions.

David Don­abe­di­an

“So you can imag­ine what you find are an­ti­bod­ies against virus­es if that’s what you’re in­ter­est­ed in; you find IgE an­ti­bod­ies against al­ler­gens that could cause ana­phy­lax­is, you find au­toan­ti­bod­ies that might be mark­ers of au­toim­mune dis­ease, can­cer, etc.,” said Lea Hachi­gian, who was CEO be­fore David Don­abe­di­an took the helm in April.

The com­pa­ny plans on de­vel­op­ing its own, in-house pipeline of next-gen pre­ci­sion ther­a­pies, though Don­abe­di­an says the team will “re­main open to oth­er busi­ness de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties as they arise.” He de­clined to com­ment on a time­line for reach­ing the clin­ic.

“Though we can’t pro­vide more de­tail at this time, we have en­gaged in promis­ing con­ver­sa­tions with po­ten­tial biotech and phar­ma part­ners,” he said via email.

While Hachi­gian told End­points News in Feb­ru­ary that al­ler­gies will be the team’s main fo­cus to start, Don­abe­di­an says the com­pa­ny is al­so con­tin­u­ing its work on oth­er ar­eas of fo­cus, in­clud­ing au­toim­mune dis­eases, can­cer and in­fec­tious dis­eases.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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