David Halbert, Caris Life Sciences CEO (Caris via Twitter)

The grow­ing liq­uid biop­sy field sees a uni­corn en­trant as Caris pulls in $830M megaround

Caris Life Sci­ences has pulled in an­oth­er mas­sive raise, and this time they’re re­port­ed­ly one step clos­er to launch­ing their IPO.

The AI-fo­cused Caris pulled in an $830 mil­lion growth eq­ui­ty round, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Tues­day af­ter­noon, earn­ing a val­u­a­tion of about $7.83 bil­lion. Tues­day’s raise al­so brings their to­tal fi­nanc­ing amount to $1.3 bil­lion since 2018 and $1.14 bil­lion since last Oc­to­ber. Ac­cord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal, which first re­port­ed on the raise, Caris ex­pects to com­plete their IPO some­time with­in the next 12 months.

Caris’ strat­e­gy uti­lizes ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to map a can­cer pa­tient’s ge­net­ic make­up and de­ter­mine which kinds of treat­ments would be best suit­ed for an op­ti­mal out­come. The com­pa­ny says their plat­form al­lows doc­tors to as­sess all 22,000 genes in both DNA and RNA to do so, uti­liz­ing whole ex­ome se­quenc­ing, whole tran­scrip­tome se­quenc­ing and pro­tein analy­sis in ad­di­tion to its AI mod­els.

Funds from Tues­day’s raise will al­low Caris to push their ef­forts in­to liq­uid biop­sies, in ad­di­tion to the sol­id tu­mor biop­sy ser­vices they cur­rent­ly pro­vide. One of these new pro­grams comes in the form of a blood-based pan-can­cer test, which Caris hopes can be used to de­tect can­cers in their ear­li­er stages.

“This re­cent raise will help us bring our mar­ket-lead­ing sci­ence and tech­nolo­gies to as many pa­tients as pos­si­ble, ul­ti­mate­ly rein­vent­ing can­cer care,” CEO David Hal­bert said in a state­ment. “We plan to un­lock the full po­ten­tial of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine through com­pre­hen­sive in­ter­ro­ga­tion of can­cer at the mol­e­c­u­lar lev­el.”

Pre­ci­sion med­i­cine — and all the tools that make it pos­si­ble — is a high-fly­ing area of the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try, ev­i­denced by Caris’ own fi­nanc­ing and uni­corn val­u­a­tion. One of its main com­peti­tors in ge­nom­ic pro­fil­ing is Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine, which was ac­quired by Roche for $2.4 bil­lion back in 2018. The buy­out had fol­lowed a sim­i­lar $1.9 bil­lion deal where Roche pur­chased Flat­iron Health and their health records sys­tem.

Mean­while, Caris’ move in­to the liq­uid biop­sy are­na will see it join a rel­a­tive­ly new but crowd­ed field, pit­ting it against well-known play­ers like Guardant Health and Third Rock-backed Thrive Ear­li­er De­tec­tion. There’s al­so the Il­lu­mi­na spin-out Grail, which notched its own hefty raise in May 2020 with $390 mil­lion in new fi­nanc­ing and sub­se­quent­ly planned an IPO.

Be­fore it could go pub­lic, how­ev­er, Il­lu­mi­na an­nounced it would be re-ac­quir­ing Grail last Sep­tem­ber for $8 bil­lion. That merg­er was put on hold ear­li­er this year af­ter the FTC moved to block the deal from go­ing through.

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

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Lisa Deschamps, AviadoBio CEO

Ex-No­var­tis busi­ness head hops over to a gene ther­a­py start­up — and she's reeled in $80M for a dash to the clin­ic

Neurologist and King’s College London professor Christopher Shaw has been researching neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and collaborating with drugmakers for the last 25 years in the hopes of pushing new therapies forward. But unfortunately, none of those efforts have come anywhere close to fruition.

“So, you know, after 20 years in the game, I said, ‘Let’s try and do it ourselves,’” he told Endpoints News. 

Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Radek Spisek, Sotio CEO (Cellestia)

A qui­et Czech biotech bags $315M to dri­ve its blos­som­ing can­cer pipeline through the clin­ic

In the rather insular world of biotech, most innovation inevitably comes from a cluster of R&D hubs — Cambridge, San Francisco, etc. But sometimes success stories sprout from rocky soil, which is most certainly the case with Prague-based Sotio Biotech and its suddenly jam-packed pipeline of cancer drugs.

After years in quiet development, Sotio now has $315 million in new funds to play with from parent company PPF Group, an investment group founded in the Czech Republic, as the biotech looks to advance its growing pipeline through early- and mid-stage trials.

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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