From L-R: Bogdan Knezevic, David Yen and Ahmed Elnaiem (Kaleidoscope)

'Struc­ture, beau­ty and clar­i­ty': With seed fi­nanc­ing, Kalei­do­scope aims to syn­chro­nize R&D teams

High school friends Bog­dan Kneze­vic and Ahmed El­naiem kept in touch in the years fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion, and about a decade lat­er found them­selves hop­ping on calls every week to “catch up and riff on things.”

Kneze­vic, af­ter work­ing on a clin­i­cal med­i­cine PhD at Ox­ford and tak­ing a sum­mer stint at Fre­quen­cy Ther­a­peu­tics, be­came an­noyed by the siloed na­ture of drug R&D.

“The crux of my frus­tra­tion was the amount of time I was wast­ing and spend­ing not do­ing sci­ence,” Kneze­vic told End­points News, speak­ing of his vent­ing-and-catch­ing-up calls with El­naiem, who’d been work­ing his way through mul­ti­ple prod­uct en­gi­neer­ing roles at a se­ries of star­tups and Google.

So the two quit their jobs and came to­geth­er with their friend David Yen to form an up­start that would aim to tack­le the com­mu­ni­ca­tion gaps be­tween re­search teams, start­ing with the world of biotech and even­tu­al­ly mov­ing in­to oth­er R&D-in­tense in­dus­tries, like food man­u­fac­tur­ing, bat­tery and oth­er fields. They named the ven­ture Kalei­do­scope and to­day are emerg­ing with $6 mil­lion in seed fi­nanc­ing.

“By the time No­vem­ber [2021] came around, we had had many hun­dreds of con­ver­sa­tions rang­ing from 1-2 peo­ple biotechs through to the like Roches of the world and were con­sis­tent­ly hear­ing the same thing,” re­calls Kneze­vic, “which is ‘R&D is a mess. I of­ten don’t know what ex­per­i­ments our com­pa­ny is do­ing, how they re­late to one an­oth­er, where da­ta is sit­ting.’”

The goal is to cre­ate an op­er­at­ing sys­tem that helps R&D teams syn­chro­nize, un­der­stand what da­ta they have gen­er­at­ed, co­or­di­nate on projects and be more gen­er­al­ly aware of what’s go­ing on with­in their com­pa­ny’s wet and com­pu­ta­tion­al labs, Kneze­vic ex­plained. Ul­ti­mate­ly, they want sci­en­tists to fo­cus on the sci­ence.

Pablo Lu­broth

In­vestor Pablo Lu­broth from Hum­ming­bird Ven­tures told End­points the pre-seed and seed ven­ture firm has be­come in­trigued by a new type of biotech founder that they’ve come across in re­cent years.

“Peo­ple that have a huge sense of ur­gency, don’t as­cribe to the same time­lines and re­al­ly want to push the scale of bi­ol­o­gy for­ward,” Lu­broth said, not­ing the Lon­don firm has beefed up its pres­ence in biotech in­vest­ing in the past three years, bankrolling ear­ly rounds at the likes of Enve­da Bio­sciences, Lad­der Ther­a­peu­tics and Base­camp Re­search.

Hum­ming­bird co-led the round with Di­men­sion. Oth­er back­ers in­clude Caf­feinat­ed Cap­i­tal, SV An­gel, Hawk­tail Man­age­ment and in­di­vid­u­als.

Kneze­vic wants to rein­vig­o­rate the child­hood mem­o­ries of play­ing with kalei­do­scopes to “cel­e­brate that nerdi­ness and ob­ses­sion with sci­ence.”

“Kalei­do­scope it­self is a tool through which you get struc­ture and beau­ty and clar­i­ty, but in­side is just like a jum­ble of pieces and shapes and a mess oth­er­wise,” the co-founder said of the name choice. “We saw that as a good par­al­lel to what we think is the world of R&D.”

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

Clay Siegall, Morphimmune CEO

Up­dat­ed: Ex-Seagen chief Clay Sie­gall emerges as CEO of pri­vate biotech

Clay Siegall will be back in the CEO seat, taking the helm of a private startup working on targeted cancer therapies.

It’s been almost a year since Siegall resigned from Seagen, the biotech he co-founded and led for more than 20 years, in the wake of domestic violence allegations by his then-wife. His eventual successor, David Epstein, sold the company to Pfizer in a $43 billion deal unveiled last week.

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Zhi Hong, Brii Biosciences CEO

Brii Bio­sciences stops man­u­fac­tur­ing Covid-19 an­ti­body com­bo, plans to with­draw EUA re­quest

Brii Biosciences said it will stop manufacturing its Covid-19 antibody combination, sold in China, and is working to withdraw its emergency use authorization request in the US, which it started in October 2021.

The Beijing and North Carolina biotech commercially launched the treatment in China last July but is now axing the work and reverting resources to other “high-priority programs,” per a Friday update. The focus now is namely hepatitis B viral infection, postpartum depression and major depressive disorders.

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Sergio Traversa, Relmada Therapeutics CEO

Rel­ma­da makes 'crit­i­cal changes' to PhI­II tri­al to try and save de­pres­sion drug

Relmada Therapeutics is making changes to its Phase III study of its lead drug for major depressive disorder, in an attempt to avoid problems with a prior trial that showed little difference between the drug and a placebo.

That failure in October wiped 80% from Relmada’s stock price, and was followed by another negative readout a few months later. In both cases, the company said that there had been trial sites that were associated with what it called surprising placebo effects that skewed the results compared with the drug, REL-1017.

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Paul Song, NKGen Biotech CEO

NK cell ther­a­py-fo­cused biotech eyes SPAC deal

A small, Santa Ana-based biotech created in 2017 is looking to enter a SPAC deal as it lays out plans to begin trials in its lead cell therapy candidates and bring on new executives.

Graf Acquisition Corp. IV and NKGen Biotech announced Thursday, with few other details, that the two companies signed a non-binding letter of intent to “pursue a business combination.” Graf Acquisition II and III withdrew their IPOs last year.

In­cyte hit by CRL on ex­tend­ed-re­lease JAK tablets, mud­dy­ing plans for Jakafi fran­chise ex­pan­sion

The FDA has rejected Incyte’s extended-release formulation of ruxolitinib tablets, in a surprise setback for the company’s plans to build on its blockbuster Jakafi franchise.

The ruxolitinib XR tablets are designed to be taken once a day, whereas Jakafi is indicated for twice daily dosage (although some patients can take it once daily).

According to Incyte, the FDA acknowledged in its complete response letter that the study submitted in the NDA “met its objective of bioequivalence based on area under the curve (AUC) parameters but identified additional requirements for approval.”

Peter Hecht, Cyclerion Therapeutics CEO

Hard pressed for cash, Cy­cle­ri­on looks for help fund­ing rare dis­ease drug

Cyclerion Therapeutics may have the design of a Phase IIb study ready to go, but it’s scrambling for a way to fund it.

The company said in a press release that it’s “actively evaluating the best combination of capital, capabilities, and transactions available to it to advance the development of zagociguat,” its lead candidate for a rare, genetic mitochondrial disease known as MELAS.

In a separate SEC filing, Cyclerion once again flagged “substantial doubt about (its) ability to continue as a going concern.” As of the end of 2022, it had cash and cash equivalents of only $13.4 million.

FDA ad­vi­sors unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for Bio­gen's ALS drug

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA unanimously recommended that the agency grant accelerated approval to Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen despite the drug failing the primary goal of its Phase III study, an endorsement that could pave a path forward for the treatment.

By a 9-0 vote, members of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee said there was sufficient evidence that tofersen’s effect on a certain protein associated with ALS is reasonably likely to predict a benefit for patients. But panelists stopped short of advocating for a full approval, voting 3-5 against (with one abstention) and largely citing the failed pivotal study.

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Steven James, Pionyr Immunotherapeutics CEO

Gilead pass­es on ful­ly ac­quir­ing Pi­o­nyr, as eyes now turn to Tizona, a fel­low sum­mer 2020 buy­out op­tion

Gilead and Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, a biotech trying to follow up on the first generation of checkpoint inhibitors, have “mutually agreed” on a rewrite to their 2020 terms, with Gilead deciding not to buy out the company.

The California biopharma waived its option to acquire the remaining 50.1% of Pionyr, which would have triggered a $315 million upfront payment and up to $1.15 billion down the road. Had Gilead waited to decide, the drugmaker would have had a potential payment to make in the near term under their agreement, a spokesperson said in an email to Endpoints News.

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