Choon-Peng Ng, ImmunoScape CEO

TCR up­start gets fresh fund­ing as it looks to charge to­ward the clin­ic

While sev­er­al com­pa­nies have been find­ing suc­cess in the TCR-T cell ther­a­py space — with In­tel­lia hav­ing its treat­ment ac­cept­ed by the FDA last year — an­oth­er com­pa­ny is us­ing ma­chine learn­ing to get in on the ac­tion and find a can­di­date to bring to­ward the clin­ic.

Im­munoScape, a biotech based in Sin­ga­pore and Cal­i­for­nia, has raised $14 mil­lion in a fresh round of fi­nanc­ing. The com­pa­ny it­self was found­ed in 2016 as a spin­out from the Sin­ga­pore-based Agency for Sci­ence, Tech­nol­o­gy and Re­search, set­ting up its US op­er­a­tions in San Diego in 2020.

In an in­ter­view with End­points News, Im­munoScape CEO Choon-Peng Ng said the up­start is fo­cused on the dis­cov­ery and even­tu­al de­vel­op­ment of TCR-T cell ther­a­pies in the on­col­o­gy space, with a fo­cus on sol­id tu­mors. Im­munoScape us­es a ma­chine learn­ing-based tech­nol­o­gy plat­form that an­a­lyzes da­ta from its lab to in­ves­ti­gate and even­tu­al­ly de­vel­op TCR-T cell ther­a­pies.

While the com­pa­ny has not un­veiled the de­tails of its ther­a­pies just yet, Ng not­ed that it does have some tar­gets iden­ti­fied and is cen­ter­ing on treat­ments re­lat­ed to breast can­cer, prostate and lung can­cer. He said that Im­munoScape will choose its as­sets and in­sert them in­to the pipeline by the end of the year, with the biotech plan­ning to have an IND filed by 2024.

The $14 mil­lion raise will be go­ing to­ward ex­pe­dit­ing de­vel­op­ment ef­forts and get­ting a can­di­date clos­er to the clin­ic. To date, Im­munoScape has man­aged to raise $41 mil­lion in to­tal through oth­er fundrais­ing ef­forts, in­clud­ing $14 mil­lion last year. Ng said that he would not rule out any fu­ture fund­ing, and while he does rec­og­nize that the IPO can be tough to nav­i­gate cur­rent­ly, he said that the com­pa­ny will be keep­ing its eye on the mar­ket.

As for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, Peng Ng told End­points that, apart from pur­su­ing its IND, they will al­so be hop­ing to part­ner with oth­er groups and com­pa­nies that may have an in­ter­est to de­vel­op its as­sets.

“At the end of the day, (it’s) ful­fill­ing the mis­sion in bring­ing as many of these nov­el ther­a­peu­tics to the clin­ic. And we rec­og­nize that we are a small team, and we want to do the best we can for what we can man­age,” he said.

Ng al­so not­ed that Im­munoScape is sep­a­rat­ing it­self from the pack due to its ma­chine learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy that can dis­cov­er tar­gets at scale and screen hun­dreds of epi­topes. Al­so, by dis­cov­er­ing nat­u­ral­ly oc­cur­ring TCR anti­gens, Ng be­lieves that this will give the com­pa­ny’s ther­a­pies a more pos­i­tive safe­ty pro­file.

Anzu Part­ners led the round, with Am­gen Ven­tures and Sin­ga­pore-based ED­BI al­so par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Justin Klee (L) and Joshua Cohen, Amylyx co-CEOs (Cody O'Loughlin/The New York Times; courtesy Amylyx)

Ad­vo­cates, ex­perts cry foul over Amy­lyx's new ALS drug, cit­ing is­sues with price, PhI­II com­mit­ment

Not 24 hours after earning the first ALS drug approval in five years, Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ Relyvrio is already drawing scrutiny. And it’s coming from multiple fronts.

In an investor call Friday morning, Amylyx revealed that it would charge about $158,000 per year, a price point that immediately drew backlash from ALS advocates and some outside observers. The cost reveal had been highly anticipated in the immediate hours after Thursday evening’s approval, though Amylyx only teased Relyvrio would cost less than previously approved drugs.

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Land­mark Amy­lyx OK spurs de­bate; Some... pos­i­tive? Alzheimer's da­ta; Can­cer tri­al bot­tle­neck; Sanofi's CRISPR bet; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

After brief stops in Paris and Boston, John Carroll and the Endpoints crew are staying on the road in October with their return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London. The hybrid event fireside chats and panels on mRNA, oncology and the crazy public market. We hope you can join him there.

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Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

Up­dat­ed: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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#AAO22: J&J’s first look at com­mon eye dis­ease port­fo­lio pads the case for PhII of gene ther­a­py

CHICAGO — While the later-stage drug developers in the geographic atrophy field are near the finish line, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen is taking a more deliberate route, with a treatment that it hopes to be a one-time fix.

The Big Pharma will take its Hemera Biosciences-acquired gene therapy into a Phase II study later this year in patients with GA, a common form of age-related macular degeneration that impacts about five million people worldwide. To get there, Janssen touted early-stage safety data at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference Saturday morning, half a day after competitors Apellis and Iveric Bio revealed their own more-detailed Phase III analyses.

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George Church (courtesy EnPlusOne BioSciences)

George Church, Wyss sci­en­tists and North­pond chal­lenge con­ven­tion­al RNA man­u­fac­tur­ing with new biotech

RNA medicine has been at the forefront for the past few years, with the first RNA silencing therapy approved in 2018, and mRNA Covid vaccines following after. But flying under the radar has been the process of actually making RNA for these treatments.

That’s what Daniel Wiegand and Jonathan Rittichier have been working on in George Church’s lab for the past six years.

Friday morning, they unveiled EnPlusOne Biosciences, a biotech built on their RNA synthesis platform. Wiegand will serve as the Watertown, MA-based biotech’s CEO, and Rittichier will be CSO. And no different from his other startups, Church will be acting as scientific advisor. Its fourth co-founder, Dan Ahlstedt, joined through a Harvard Business School program, and will be COO.

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Bo Cumbo, new Solid Bio CEO

Sol­id Bio gets a new CEO, $75M cash and drops lead drug as big in­vestors ju­ry-rig a merg­er deal

Three months after Endpoints News broke the story that gene therapy outfit AavantiBio had gutted its CMC group in a reorganization, the biotech’s CEO has helped engineer a merger with struggling penny stock player Solid Bio. And he’s going to remain in charge of the combined operation, as Solid founder Ilan Ganot steps aside.

The merger news this morning features some high-profile investors.

Perceptive Advisors, RA Capital Management and Bain Capital Life Sciences are leading a $75 million raise to add to the pool of cash Solid will have after the tie-up. That will leave Solid $215 million in cash as Bain’s Adam Koppel jumps on the board — enough to pay for ops and get through some key data milestones on their way into 2025.

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Up­dat­ed: Al­ny­lam re­in­forces APOL­LO-B patisir­an da­ta be­fore head­ing to the FDA

Weeks after uncorking some mostly positive data for patisiran in transthyretin-mediated (ATTR) amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, Alnylam is bolstering its package with new exploratory and subgroup data before shipping it off to regulators.

The RNAi drug maintained “generally consistent” benefits in efficacy and quality of life across several prespecified subgroups at month 12, Alnylam announced on Friday afternoon, including age, baseline tafamidis use, ATTR amyloidosis type, baseline six-minute walk test score and others.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.