Lea Hachigian, ImmuneID

Stephen Elledge's Har­vard lab takes $17M to birth Im­muneID, a high-through­put an­ti­body start­up

Stephen Elledge

Lea Hachi­gian, a prin­ci­pal at the Long­wood Fund, re­calls work­ing with Har­vard pro­fes­sor Stephen Elledge three years ago on the launch of TCR-fo­cused TScan Ther­a­peu­tics. Elledge ini­tial­ly set out to screen anti­gen-TCR match­es in a faster, more sys­tem­at­ic way and spent sev­en years putting to­geth­er the tech for a plat­form that could run mul­ti­ple T cell re­cep­tors against anti­gen epi­topes and pin­point the ex­act pairs that ap­pear to in­ter­act.

And last month, that project, TScan, land­ed a $100 mil­lion crossover round to con­tin­ue the work. The biotech is al­so sev­er­al months in­to a part­ner­ship with No­var­tis.

“As we were work­ing with him on TScan, we start­ed to get to know some of the oth­er work in his lab a lit­tle bit more deeply, and re­al­ly we kind of cen­tered on the Im­muneID tech­nol­o­gy,” Hachi­gian said.

This past spring, Long­wood ap­proached Elledge about form­ing a new biotech around the plat­form. And on Wednes­day, Im­muneID was born with $17 mil­lion in seed fund­ing to iden­ti­fy and tar­get the an­ti­body in­ter­ac­tions that dri­ve im­mune dis­eases. Hachi­gian, who al­so helped found TScan, is tak­ing the helm as CEO.

While TScan is fo­cused on T cell tar­gets, Im­muneID is look­ing at an­ti­body tar­gets. Its screen­ing plat­form, which uti­lizes AI tech­nol­o­gy, is de­signed to give a read­out of the tar­gets cho­sen by an­ti­bod­ies in a par­tic­u­lar pa­tient sam­ple. And every time they run the plat­form, a huge amount of da­ta is col­lect­ed on hun­dreds of thou­sands of an­ti­body in­ter­ac­tions.

“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.,” Hachi­gian said.

In the case of al­ler­gies, which will be the com­pa­ny’s main fo­cus to start, a pa­tient might be mount­ing an im­prop­er an­ti­body re­sponse to a peanut. Once you know the an­ti­bod­ies and where they’re tar­get­ing on peanut pro­teins, you can in­ter­fere with that in­ter­ac­tion, Hachi­gian ex­plained.

Im­muneID’s oth­er fo­cus ar­eas will in­clude au­toim­mu­ni­ty, on­col­o­gy, and in­fec­tious dis­ease. By the end of this year, the CEO ex­pects the small five- or six-per­son com­pa­ny to grow to 10 or 12. Long­wood led the seed round, with help from Arch Ven­ture Part­ners, Pi­tan­go HealthTech, In-Q-Tel, Xfund, and oth­er undis­closed in­vestors.

“The tar­gets are al­ready there, they’re just wait­ing for us to es­sen­tial­ly… go through with our plat­form and pull them out,” Hachi­gian said.

 

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

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Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

FDA au­tho­rizes Pfiz­er's vac­cine boost­er for se­niors, those at high risk for se­vere Covid-19

The Biden administration’s goal of kicking off its booster shot drive for the entire US population this week is not quite going as planned.

First, Pfizer applied for approval of a supplemental application for the booster shots, but since last Friday’s adcomm reviewing them, the plan has devolved into an EUA, which the FDA issued late Thursday evening.

The population that is now eligible for the booster, six months after receiving the first pair of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, also narrowed from what Pfizer applied for (everyone who’s eligible for the initial Pfizer shots) to just those who are 65 or older, or at high-risk of a Covid infection, including health care workers and others with occupational hazards.

Stéphane Bancel, AP Images

Fi­nal analy­sis of US-fund­ed Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine tri­al shows 98% ef­fi­ca­cy against se­vere dis­ease

A final look at the results of the placebo-controlled Moderna trial in the New England Journal of Medicine, published Thursday afternoon, shows how the vaccine continues to prevent Covid-19 and severe cases after more than five months following the second shot.

Of the more than 30,000 enrolled in the trial that ultimately led to the vaccine’s EUA, only two people in the vaccine group got a severe form of the disease, compared to 106 in the placebo group — leading to an efficacy of 98%.

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

The fire un­der Glax­o­SmithK­line's Em­ma Walm­s­ley grows as an­oth­er well-known ac­tivist in­vestor grabs its pitch­fork — re­port

Bluebell Capital Partners, a proxy brawler fresh off a campaign to oust global food giant Danone’s CEO and most of its board of directors, has bought a stake in UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline with its eyes trained directly on Emma Walmsley, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The London-based hedge fund joins another notorious activist firm in Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, which earlier this year called for a shakeup in leadership at GSK to handle what the company described as a wealth of riches across the drug giant’s portfolio hindered by limited vision from top staff.

Maureen Hillenmeyer, Hexagon Bio CEO

Hexa­gon Bio rais­es $61M to con­tin­ue ef­forts to turn fun­gi in­to drugs

A year after raising a $47 million launch round, the fungi-loving drug hunters at Hexagon Bio have more than doubled their coffers.

Hexagon announced today that it raised another $61 million for its efforts to design cancer and infectious disease drugs based on insights mined from the DNA in millions of species of fungi. The new financing brings Hexagon’s committed funding to over $108 million.

FDA+ roundup: Bs­U­FA III ready for show­time, court tells FDA to re-work com­pound­ing plan, new guid­ance up­dates and more

The FDA has now spelled out what exactly will be included in the third iteration of Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA) from 2023 through 2027, which similarly to the prescription drug deal, sets fees that industry has to pay for submitting applications, in exchange for firm timelines that the agency must meet.

This latest deal includes several sweeteners for the biosimilar industry, which has yet to make great strides in the US market, with shorter review timelines for safety labeling updates and updates to add or remove an indication that does not contain efficacy data.

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