RA Session II, Taysha Gene Therapies CEO (Taysha)

Taysha Gene Ther­a­pies gears up to ap­proach reg­u­la­tors with a new can­di­date for a de­bil­i­tat­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease

Af­ter launch­ing ear­ly last year, Taysha Gene Ther­a­pies quick­ly went about check­ing off key mile­stones. With­in five months, it pulled in a hefty Se­ries B round and made the jump to Nas­daq. And now, it has a late-stage can­di­date that CEO RA Ses­sion II says is just about ready for reg­u­la­tors.

The Dal­las-based biotech on Mon­day un­veiled a deal for glob­al rights to TSHA-120 — a gene ther­a­py dis­cov­ered in the lab of UT South­west­ern’s Steven Gray to treat a de­bil­i­tat­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease called gi­ant ax­on­al neu­ropa­thy (GAN). It’s the first gene ther­a­py to be ad­min­is­tered in hu­mans in­trathe­cal­ly (in­to the spinal canal), ac­cord­ing to Ses­sion, who’s cur­rent­ly lin­ing up an end-of-phase meet­ing with the FDA.

“It ba­si­cal­ly, for us, val­i­dates the sci­en­tif­ic ap­proach that we cur­rent­ly use on the rest of the port­fo­lio,” Ses­sion said.

The AveX­is and Bridge­Bio vet­er­an found­ed Taysha back in Jan­u­ary 2020 with the help of for­mer AveX­is CEO Sean Nolan. At the time, they want­ed to take what they learned build­ing the first-ever gene ther­a­py for spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy and scale the process. The com­pa­ny launched in April with $30 mil­lion in Se­ries A fund­ing and a pipeline of gene ther­a­pies from UT South­west­ern, which Ses­sion has called an “un­der-rec­og­nized gem.”

Suyash Prasad

A Se­ries B round and $181 mil­lion IPO fol­lowed in Au­gust and Sep­tem­ber, re­spec­tive­ly. CMO and R&D chief Suyash Prasad called it  “three years of fi­nanc­ing in six months.”

“RA and I chat­ted fre­quent­ly dur­ing our ear­ly fi­nanc­ings,” Prasad said. “We just re­al­ized things were go­ing so well af­ter the Se­ries B, we just turned around and said, ‘Let’s go pub­lic.’”

TSHA-120 is now Taysha’s 26th pro­gram. So far, 14 pa­tients have been dosed with the AAV9 can­di­date in an open-la­bel dose-es­ca­la­tion study launched in 2015 by the NIH and the pa­tient ad­vo­ca­cy group Han­nah’s Hope. Re­searchers ob­served a halt in dis­ease pro­gres­sion at the sec­ond-high­est dose lev­el one year post-treat­ment, and six pa­tients have shown dose-de­pen­dent im­prove­ments for more than three years, ac­cord­ing to Taysha.

The biotech has rough­ly 6 months of da­ta on the high­est dose co­hort, and ex­pects to read out more da­ta lat­er this year.

“If we con­tin­ue to see that dose im­prove­ment, who knows what we would ex­pect,” Ses­sion said.

GAN is a rare au­to­so­mal re­ces­sive dis­ease of the cen­tral and pe­riph­er­al ner­vous sys­tems caused by mu­ta­tions in the gene cod­ing for gi­gax­onin. Chil­dren with GAN usu­al­ly show symp­toms be­fore the age of five, in­clud­ing pro­gres­sive sco­l­io­sis, con­trac­tures, and at­ro­phy of the spinal cord. Some pa­tients lose their abil­i­ty to walk, and end up in a wheel­chair. And too of­ten, pa­tients die in their late teens or ear­ly 20s.

There’s cur­rent­ly no treat­ment for GAN, and an es­ti­mat­ed 2,400 pa­tients in the US and Eu­rope.

“When you think about brain dis­eases and dis­eases of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and the pe­riph­er­al ner­vous sys­tem, and in fact, philo­soph­i­cal­ly, for any drug ap­proach — you should re­al­ly tar­get the or­gan that’s mal­func­tion­ing, to try and lim­it any kind of off-tar­get tox­i­c­i­ty,” Prasad said.

That’s why Taysha is dos­ing the can­di­date in­trathe­cal­ly, he said. The process al­so al­lows them to start on the right side of the blood-brain bar­ri­er.

“The biodis­tri­b­u­tion of AAV9 from an IV per­spec­tive, on­ly 1% to 3% of the drug ac­tu­al­ly cross­es in­to the blood-brain bar­ri­er,” Ses­sion said. “And so as Suyash said, we could de­liv­er … a low­er to­tal dose, but put the drug ex­act­ly where it needs to be.”

Taysha is giv­ing Han­nah’s Hope $5.5 mil­lion up­front, plus up to $19.3 mil­lion in mile­stones. The ad­vo­ca­cy group stands to make low sin­gle-dig­it roy­al­ties on net sales.

“With the da­ta that we have in-house to­day, we’re ex­treme­ly ex­cit­ed about what the pos­si­ble reg­u­la­to­ry path­way could look like,” Ses­sion said. “With that be­ing said we need to have the con­ver­sa­tions with the reg­u­la­tors.”

He plans on dis­cussing with reg­u­la­tors in the US, Eu­rope and Japan “as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Up­date: Han­nah’s Hope is el­i­gi­ble for up to $19.3 mil­lion in mile­stones

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Atomwise CEO and co-founder Abraham Heifets (left) and co-founder Izhar Wallach

A cou­ple bil­lion for Ex­sci­en­tia was on­ly part of Sanofi's AI am­bi­tions, as the Big Phar­ma adds Atom­wise to the ta­ble

Sanofi made clear its AI ambitions were real at the beginning of this year when the Big Pharma took its drug discovery collaboration with Exscientia to the next level, inking a pact that could birth 15 drugs and deliver $5.3 billion to the UK partner.

Seven months later, the AI blueprint is far from over at the French Big Pharma, as another of the much-hyped drug discovery startups is coming to the table in a five-drug deal. Sanofi will pay Atomwise $20 million to kick off the hunt for up to five targets, which are aimed at leading to the creation of new small molecules. Another $1 billion is on the line — as are royalties — and the companies kept mum on the specific diseases or broader therapeutic areas of interest.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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FDA ap­proves one of the prici­est new treat­ments of all time — blue­bird's gene ther­a­py for be­ta tha­lassemia

The FDA on Wednesday approved the first gene therapy for a chronic condition — bluebird bio’s new Zynteglo (beti-cel) as a potentially curative treatment for those with transfusion-dependent thalassemia.

The thumbs up from the FDA follows a unanimous adcomm vote in June, with outside experts pointing to extraordinary efficacy, with 89% of subjects with TDT who received beti-cel having achieved transfusion independence.

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Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Marisol Peron, Genmab SVP of communications and corporate affairs

Gen­mab launch­es cor­po­rate cam­paign am­pli­fy­ing its ‘knock your socks off’ an­ti­bod­ies

Genmab often talks about its “knock-your-socks-off” antibodies — and now the term is getting its own logo and corporate campaign.

The teal and purple logo for the acronym KYSO — Genmab pronounces it “ky-so” — debuts on Wednesday and comes on the heels of Genmab’s newly announced 2030 vision. That aspiration aims to expand Genmab’s drug development beyond oncology to include other serious diseases, while also doubling down on its own drug development.

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