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.”

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, oncology R&D, at EUBIO22 (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca jumps deep­er in­to cell ther­a­py 2.0 space with $320M biotech M&A

Right from the start, the execs at Neogene had some lofty goals in mind when they decided to try their hand at a cell therapy that could tackle solid tumors.

Its founders have helped hone a new approach that would pack in multiple neoantigen targets to create a personalized TCR treatment that would not just make the leap from blood to solid tumors, but do it with durability. And they managed to make their way rapidly to the clinic, unveiling their first Phase I program for advanced tumors just last May.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi and DN­Di aim to elim­i­nate sleep­ing sick­ness in Africa with promis­ing Ph II/III re­sults for new drug

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Sanofi today said that their potential sleeping sickness treatment saw success rates of up to 95% from a Phase II/III study investigating the safety and efficacy of single-dose acoziborole.

The potentially transformative treatment for sleeping sickness would mainly be targeted at African countries, according to data published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal. The clinical trial was led by DNDi and its partners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guinea, with the authors noting:

Ei­sai’s ex­pand­ed Alzheimer’s da­ta leave open ques­tions about safe­ty and clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Researchers still have key questions about Eisai’s investigational Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab following the publication of more Phase III data in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday night.

In the paper, which was released in conjunction with presentations at an Alzheimer’s conference, trial investigators write that a definition of clinical meaningfulness “has not been established.” And the relative lack of new information, following topline data unveiled in September, left experts asking for more — setting up a potential showdown to precisely define how big a difference the drug makes in patients’ lives.

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Lex­i­con slams FDA over hear­ing de­nial fol­low­ing a CRL for its SGLT2 in­hibitor can­di­date

Lexicon Pharmaceutical is not giving up on its Type I diabetes candidate, despite FDA’s repeated rejections. This week the company laid out is argument again for a hearing on sotagliflozin in response to the FDA’s most recent denial.

The issue goes back to March 2019 when the FDA made very clear to Lexicon and its now departed partner Sanofi that it would not approve their application for a potential Type I diabetes drug because it does not appear to be safe.

Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (ddp images/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech bets on dif­fi­cult STING field via small mol­e­cule pact with a Pol­ish biotech

BioNTech is beefing up its relatively thin small molecule pipeline by adding weight to a clinically difficult corner of oncology R&D: STING agonists. To do so, BioNTech is teaming up with a 15-year-old Polish biotech and doling out €40 million, about $41.5 million, to start.

The deal is broken into two parts: First, BioNTech obtains an exclusive global license to develop and market Ryvu Therapeutics’ STING agonist portfolio as small molecules, whether alone or in combination with other agents.

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Digital render of CPI's Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Glasgow, Scotland (Image: uk-cpi.com)

CPI opens the doors to a new $100M+ man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Scot­land

A manufacturing site that has received interest and investments from large pharma companies and the UK government is opening its doors in Scotland.

The manufacturer CPI (Centre for Process Innovation) has opened a new £88 million ($105 million) “Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre” in Glasgow, Scotland, to accelerate the development of manufacturing tech and solve longstanding challenges in medicine development and manufacturing.

Pro­tect­ing its megablock­buster, Janssen chal­lenges Am­gen's Ste­lara biosim­i­lar ahead of planned 2023 launch

Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen on Wednesday sued Amgen over the company’s proposed biosimilar to its megablockbuster Stelara (ustekinumab), after Amgen said it was ready to launch next May or as soon as the FDA signs off on it.

If Amgen carries through with that plan, Janssen told the Delaware district court that the Thousand Oaks, CA-based company will infringe on at least two Janssen patents.

CRO start­up Vial scores $67M Se­ries B led by Gen­er­al Cat­a­lyst

Vial, a CRO specializing in offering clinical trial services to biotech companies, raised $67 million in a new round of funding, bringing its total money raised to $100 million.

The San Francisco-based company’s Series B round was led by General Catalyst and supported others such as Byers Capital and BoxGroup.

Vial co-founder and CEO Simon Burns said the company will use the funding to expand its clinical operations and strategy teams in the US and across the European Union and Asia-Pacific in order to support its clients globally.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

Twit­ter dis­ar­ray con­tin­ues as phar­ma ad­ver­tis­ers ex­tend paus­es and look around for op­tions, but keep tweet­ing

Pharma advertisers on Twitter are done — at least for now. Ad spending among the previous top spenders flattened even further last week, according to the latest data from ad tracker Pathmatics, amid ongoing turmoil after billionaire boss Elon Musk’s takeover now one month ago.

Among 18 top advertisers tracked for Endpoints News, only two are spending: GSK and Bayer. GSK spending for the full week through Sunday was minimal at just under $1,900. Meanwhile, German drugmaker Bayer remains the industry outlier upping its spending to $499,000 last week from $480,000 the previous week. Bayer’s spending also marks a big increase from a month ago and before the Musk takeover, when it spent $16,000 per week.

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