Striv­ing for high­er res imag­ing of cells, Har­vard team de­buts start­up with back­ing from ARCH, North­pond

As sci­en­tists race to find new ways to look in­to what’s go­ing on in­side cells, ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners and North­pond Ven­tures are in­ject­ing $14 mil­lion in­to a Har­vard team promis­ing to vi­su­al­ize ac­tiv­i­ty on a “sub­cel­lu­lar lev­el” — down to every RNA.

Xi­aowei Zhuang

Xi­aowei Zhuang and David Walt are two of the promi­nent sci­en­tists be­hind Viz­gen. Zhuang, a Howard Hugh­es Med­ical In­sti­tute In­ves­ti­ga­tor and Har­vard pro­fes­sor, was the in­ven­tor of an­oth­er pop­u­lar su­per-res­o­lu­tion mi­croscopy method while David Walt was a sci­en­tif­ic founder of the se­quenc­ing gi­ant Il­lu­mi­na.

Viz­gen was found­ed on MER­FISH, or mul­ti­plexed er­ror-ro­bust flu­o­res­cence in situ hy­bridiza­tion, which was in­vent­ed by Jef­frey Mof­fitt while he was a post­doc at Zhuang’s lab. MER­FISH is, in turn, built on FISH — a tech­nol­o­gy that’s been used for decades to de­tect DNA or RNA tar­gets by send­ing flu­o­res­cent probes to bind to them.

David Walt

The new imag­ing tech­nol­o­gy lever­ages new er­ror de­tec­tion and cor­rec­tion tech­niques, in­clud­ing bar­cod­ing schemes and com­bi­na­to­r­i­al la­bel­ing and imag­ing, to achieve high­er ac­cu­ra­cy and save time.

As a re­sult, it al­lows sci­en­tists to in­ves­ti­gate many more RNA species, ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny.

“Giv­en its abil­i­ty to quan­ti­fy RNAs across a wide range of abun­dances with­out am­pli­fi­ca­tion bias while pre­serv­ing na­tive con­text, we en­vi­sion that MER­FISH will en­able many ap­pli­ca­tions of in situ tran­scrip­tom­ic analy­ses of in­di­vid­ual cells in cul­ture or com­plex tis­sues,” Zhuang and Mof­fitt wrote with col­lab­o­ra­tors in a pa­per in­tro­duc­ing the tech in 2015.

Walt fur­ther ex­plained why that’s use­ful in an in­ter­view with Xcon­o­my:

Every im­age that’s tak­en as a con­se­quence of the way that this process is done is done with ap­prox­i­mate­ly 100 nanome­ters of res­o­lu­tion, so you can zoom out all the way to the whole tis­sue and see where the gene ex­pres­sion is oc­cur­ring, then you can zoom in to a sin­gle cell and look at the sub­cel­lu­lar ex­pres­sion of every one of those RNAs that are present in the sam­ple.

Jef­frey Mof­fitt

That can tell re­searchers a lot about cell type, state, or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­ter­ac­tions as well as func­tion with­in the tis­sue.

“The deep in­for­ma­tion un­locked by MER­FISH ex­pos­es bi­ol­o­gy at the net­work lev­el, dri­ving in­sights that will help us build the fu­ture of hu­man health,” Kei­th Cran­dell, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at ARCH, said in a state­ment.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio Therapeutics CEO

An­ti­body leg­end Till­man Gern­gross is el­bow­ing his way in­to the Covid-19 R&D cru­sade: 'I don’t see this end­ing any­time soon'

One of the most influential — and outspoken — scientists at work in the field of antibody discovery is jumping into the frenzied race to create new therapeutics to treat and prevent Covid-19. And he’s operating with the conviction that the current outbreak now once again spreading like wildfire will create plenty of demand for what he has in mind.

Dartmouth professor and Adimab CEO Tillman Gerngross tells me he’s raised $50 million from a group of close VCs to spin out a new company — Adagio Therapeutics — with a full C-suite team assembled to hire up a staff and keep rolling toward the clinic.

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Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (Moderna via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: NI­AID and Mod­er­na spell out a 'ro­bust' im­mune re­sponse in PhI coro­n­avirus vac­cine test — but big ques­tions re­main to be an­swered

The NIAID and Moderna have spelled out positive Phase I safety and efficacy data for their Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 — highlighting the first full, clear sketch of evidence that back-to-back jabs at the dose selected for Phase III routinely produced a swarm of antibodies to the virus that exceeded levels seen in convalescent patients — typically in multiples indicating a protective response.

Moderna execs say plainly that this first stage of research produced exactly the kind of efficacy they hoped to see in humans, with a manageable safety profile.

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Trans­port Sim­u­la­tion Test­ing for Your Ther­a­py is the Best Way to As­sure FDA Ex­pe­dit­ed Pro­gram Ap­proval

Modality Solutions is an ISO:9001-registered biopharmaceutical cold chain engineering firm with unique transport simulation capabilities that support accelerated regulatory approval for biologics and advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMP). Our expertise combines traditional validation engineering approaches with regulatory knowledge into a methodology tailored for the life sciences industry. We provide insight and execution for the challenges faced in your cold chain logistics network.

GSK’s Shin­grix leader Guil­laume Pfe­fer has jumped on board Flag­ship to helm a biotech hy­brid as Afeyan’s lat­est CEO-part­ner

After spending 4 years in a senior post with GlaxoSmithKline’s star team positioning Shingrix for a blockbuster approval, Guillaume Pfefer is headed back to the biotech world — in style.

Pfefer has signed on to join Noubar Afeyan’s busy group of partners at Flagship, and he’s taking the helm of an upstart — which today is being merged with another Flagship startup — with some grand plans of its own. The announcement this morning notes that Pfefer will run Kintai Therapeutics, one of the grads of the Flagship labs.

John Furey, Imvax CEO

A neu­ro­sur­geon spent the past 30 years de­vel­op­ing a neoanti­gen tu­mor vac­cine. Now he has $112M for a piv­otal test

As a neurosurgeon, David Andrews knew there wasn’t much he could do for his glioma patients after resecting — rarely fully — their tumor. Even with the best treatment and care available, median overall survival is just somewhere between 14 and 16 months.

Then in the 1990s, his mentor at Thomas Jefferson University introduced him to Renato Baserga, a pathologist who had been studying the effect of using antisense oligonucleotide to knock out the insulin-like growth factor type 1 receptor in cancers. As IGF-R1 drives tumor growth and metastasis, the preclinical reasoning went, implanting a molecule targeting the receptor together with the tumor material near lymph nodes can slow down the spread of the cancer.

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New biotech Exalys, seek­ing to pre­vent post­op­er­a­tive delir­i­um, launch­es with $15 mil­lion in Se­ries A

An old group of former colleagues will be reuniting to lead a new biotech venture aimed at cultivating a portfolio to treat neuroinflammatory disorders.

Led by Rick Orr, who ran the biotech Adynxx, the group is launching the startup Exalys on Thursday with $15 million in Series A funding from venture firms Catalys Pacific and Domain Associates. The nascent company’s first project will focus on preventing postoperative delirium, licensing a platform of EP4 receptors from Japanese pharma Eisai.

Mer­ck KGaA takes its I/O op­tion on F-star Ther­a­peu­tics; Nephron spends $215M, eye­ing spot in Covid-19 vac­cine chain

→Merck KGaA has taken an early option on an immuno-oncology program developed at F-star Therapeutics. This is their second option in the collaboration. And they added a pair of preclinical discovery programs to the alliance as well.

Any biotech going public these days wouldn’t feel right if they didn’t upsize the offering. And that’s just what Phase I biotech Pandion Therapeutics did. The autoimmune company is now selling 7 million shares, a 1.5 million share bump, for $16 to $18 a share.

Full Bril­in­ta study re­sults show the blood thin­ner re­duces rate of sec­ondary stroke

AstraZeneca once projected its Brilinta drug to peak at $3.5 billion in sales, and though the blood thinner never reached that lofty goal, it received the latest positive signs in a string of recent good news.

The pharma released full details from its THALES study Thursday morning, which measured the effects of Brilinta and aspirin against aspirin alone in treating patients who had an acute ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack. When taken twice daily with once-a-day aspirin for 30 days, the Brilinta combo reduced the risk of stroke and death by 17 percent, meeting the primary endpoint of the study.

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Who are the women blaz­ing trails in bio­phar­ma R&D and lead­ing the fight against Covid-19? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' spe­cial re­port

One of the many inequalities the pandemic has laid bare is the gender imbalance in biomedical research. A paper examining Covid-19 research authorship wondered out loud: Where are the women?

It’s a question that echoes beyond our current times. In the biopharma world, not only are women under-represented in R&D roles (particularly at higher levels), their achievements and talents could also be undermined by stereotypes and norms of leadership styles. The problem is even more dire for women of color.