Howard Liang, Tessera CFO

Tessera Ther­a­peu­tics taps for­mer BeiGene CFO Howard Liang to join race to CRISPR 3.0

A day af­ter Prime Med­i­cines emerged from se­mi-stealth with new CRISPR tech that made even ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Bob Nelsen say “holy crap,” a Cam­bridge, MA-based com­pa­ny with sim­i­lar am­bi­tions in the works is beef­ing up its ex­ec­u­tive suite — start­ing with for­mer BeiGene CFO Howard Liang.

Tessera Ther­a­peu­tics has tapped Liang as its first CFO, in ad­di­tion to sev­er­al oth­er new hires in­clud­ing Mana Ther­a­peu­tics vet Mad­husu­dan Pesh­wa as CTO for cell ther­a­py; Avro­bio alum Bill Querbes as se­nior VP of ther­a­peu­tic dis­cov­ery and trans­la­tion­al sci­ences; and in­sitro’s for­mer head of func­tion­al ge­nomics Ce­cil­ia Cot­ta-Ra­musi­no as se­nior VP of plat­form de­vel­op­ment.

“This is an area in ge­net­ic med­i­cine which ob­vi­ous­ly is very, very ex­cit­ing,” Liang told End­points News. “There are many, many things that can be done that are not en­abled by the cur­rent tools with CRISPR.”

Like Prime, Tessera CEO Ge­of­frey von Maltzahn claims Tessera’s gene writ­ing tech­nol­o­gy can make sub­sti­tu­tions, ad­di­tions and dele­tions to DNA — es­sen­tial­ly turn­ing the hu­man genome in­to a word proces­sor.

Ge­of­frey von Maltzahn

“In par­tic­u­lar, we have been fo­cused on en­gi­neer­ing retro­trans­posons, which write DNA in­to the genome via a process called tar­get primed re­verse tran­scrip­tion,” von Maltzahn said via email.  “This tech­nol­o­gy in­volves RNA-on­ly de­liv­ery and en­ables Tessera to both add new func­tions to the genome and fix dis­ease-caus­ing mu­ta­tions.”

This ap­proach is much dif­fer­ent from CRISPR 1.0, which the CEO com­pared to scis­sors that de­stroy in­va­sive DNA.

Af­ter spend­ing six years at BeiGene, Liang said he was ready for some­thing dif­fer­ent. The CFO got his start as a se­nior sci­en­tist at Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries, then spent a good por­tion of his ca­reer on Wall Street be­fore jump­ing back in­to the in­dus­try. Now he want­ed to do some­thing on the “cut­ting edge of sci­ence.” And he knew the Flag­ship team very well — af­ter all, they are just two floors away from his old of­fice at BeiGene.

“I would say that the team is one of the most im­por­tant at­trac­tions at Tessera,” he said. “This is not just a hot idea, but re­al­ly a lot of great work has been done.”

The team hasn’t yet an­nounced a time­line to the clin­ic (Prime says it’s still years away). But even so, it was able to se­cure a mas­sive $230 mil­lion Se­ries B round back in Jan­u­ary.

When asked if an IPO could be next, Liang re­spond­ed: “We’re for­mu­lat­ing a fi­nanc­ing plan for the com­pa­ny, but  I think we as a com­pa­ny are quite am­bi­tious, so I’m sure we’ll work with part­ners on the cap­i­tal mar­ket,” and added that he’s open to “oth­er means to help fi­nance the com­pa­ny.”

“This is an amaz­ing time for the field of ge­net­ic med­i­cine,” von Maltzahn said. “All of the work be­ing done by Tessera and across the field will re­sult in bet­ter health out­comes for pa­tients around the world.”

Op­ti­miz­ing Cell and Gene Ther­a­py De­vel­op­ment and Pro­duc­tion: How Tech­nol­o­gy Providers Like Corn­ing Life Sci­ences are Spurring In­no­va­tion

Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

David Baker working with a student on their protein design (Jason Mast)

Sci­en­tists are fi­nal­ly learn­ing how to de­sign pro­teins from scratch. Drug de­vel­op­ment may nev­er be the same

SEATTLE — It’s a cloudy Thursday afternoon in mid-July and David Baker is reclining into the futon in his corner office at the University of Washington, arms splayed out like a daytime talk show host as he coaches another one of his postdocs through the slings and arrows of scientific celebrity.

“Be jealous of your time,” he says, before plotting ways of sneaking her out of Zooms. “It’s this horrible cost to science that you’re tied up in some stupid meeting.”

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Pre­sent­ing a live End­points News event: Man­ag­ing a biotech in tur­bu­lent times

Biotech is one of the smartest, best educated industries on the planet. PhDs abound. We’ve had a long enough track record to see a new generation of savvy, experienced execs coming together to run startups.

And in these times, they are being tested as never before.

Biotech is going through quite a rough patch right now. For 2 years, practically anyone with a decent resume and some half-baked ideas on biotech could start a company and get it funded. The pandemic made it easy in many ways to pull off an IPO, with traditional road shows shut down in exchange for a series of quick Zoom meetings. Generalist investors flocked as the numbers raised soared into the stratosphere.

Clay Siegall (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Gabrielle's Angel Foundation)

UP­DAT­ED: Clay Sie­gall re­signs from Seagen amid in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence claims

A week after Seagen revealed that longtime CEO Clay Siegall was on leave due to an allegation of domestic violence, he has resigned.

Since that shocking revelation, more details about the claims have emerged into the public eye. As Endpoints News reported, Siegall was arrested on April 23. A police report about that night and a subsequent temporary restraining order described a pattern of abusive behavior against his wife and a physical altercation that left her with multiple bruises. Siegall denied the claims.

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Patty Murray, D-WA (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­ate user fee reau­tho­riza­tion bill omits ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval re­forms, shows wide gaps with House ver­sion

The Senate health committee on Tuesday released its first version of the bill to reauthorize all the different FDA user fees. But unlike the House version, there are only a few controversial items in the Senate’s version, which does not address either accelerated approval reforms or clinical trial diversity (as the House did).

While it’s still relatively early in the process of finalizing this legislation (the ultimate statutory deadline is the end of September), the House and Senate, at least initially, appear to be starting off in different corners on what should be included.

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Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway CEO

Berk­shire Hath­away pulls out of Ab­b­Vie, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb in­vest­ments

It looks like Warren Buffett is sticking to ice cream and railroads for the moment.

The billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway backed out of two major holdings in the pharma industry, Forexlive first reported, including a $410 million investment in AbbVie and a $324.4 million stake in Bristol Myers Squibb.

The move comes after Berkshire abandoned its Teva shares just last quarter, Bloomberg reported.

Long-ex­pect­ed UK lay­offs im­mi­nent for No­var­tis fol­low­ing sale

Nearly a year ago, more than 200 workers at Novartis’ Grimsby, UK, facility were able to hang on to their jobs after the pharma closed a Switzerland site as a part of its workforce restructuring plan. Now, it looks like those employees’ time is up, as the site has been sold, Grimsby Telegraph reported today.

The manufacturing site has been sold to Humber Industrials, a subsidiary of International Process Plants. None of the current staff members will be working with the new owners, however.

FDA lob­bies Con­gress over rare dis­ease court rul­ing with wide im­pli­ca­tions

Usually reserved for making decisions on drug applications or enforcing what Congress stipulates, the FDA is now dipping its toe into the wild world of congressional politics as it attempts to fix a major court decision that could have a chilling effect on rare disease R&D.

The case in question from last October saw a US appeals court overturn a prior FDA court win, saying that the agency never should’ve approved a rare disease drug because a previously approved but more expensive drug with the same active ingredient has orphan drug exclusivity barring such an approval.

Peter Marks (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

Even FDA's Pe­ter Marks is wor­ried about the com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­i­ty of gene and cell ther­a­pies

When bluebird bio’s gene therapy to treat beta thalassemia won European approval in 2019, the nearly $2 million per patient price tag for the potential cure seemed like a surmountable hurdle.

Fast forward two years later, and bluebird has withdrawn Zynteglo, the beta thal drug, along with the rest of its gene therapy portfolio from Europe, which the company said is generally unwilling to pay a fair price for the treatment.