The next Nim­bus? Head of bil­lion-dol­lar drug pro­gram launch­es HotSpot with $45M A round

Re­mem­ber that bil­lion-dol­lar drug idea that got lit­tle Nim­bus on Gilead’s radar back in 2016? Well, the folks be­hind that drug are build­ing a whole plat­form on a sim­i­lar con­cept. And they’re not just tack­ling NASH, but a whole line­up of pre­vi­ous­ly un­drug­gable tar­gets.

The ven­ture, called HotSpot Ther­a­peu­tics, came out Tues­day with news that it’s be­ing backed by Nim­bus’ lead in­vestor — At­las Ven­ture — in a $45 mil­lion Se­ries A round co-led by Sofinno­va.

HotSpot was launched last year by Geral­dine Har­ri­man, the for­mer Nim­bus ex­ec­u­tive who led the com­pa­ny’s NASH pro­gram — the very one that earned the Boston biotech a $1.2 bil­lion part­ner­ship with Gilead. That drug, at the time called NDI-01097, used a way (rel­a­tive­ly new to phar­ma) to ma­nip­u­late pro­teins out­side the ac­tive site, go­ing in­stead af­ter some­thing called “reg­u­la­to­ry hotspots.” These, I’m told, are al­losteric sites that the body us­es to reg­u­late pro­tein func­tion. Har­ri­man says tar­get­ing these hotspots could be a boon for drug de­vel­op­ment, which is why she’s co-found­ed an en­tire­ly new ven­ture on the con­cept.

“The ac­tive sites of pro­teins tend to look a lot like each oth­er, so get­ting mol­e­cules that can be se­lec­tive is a hur­dle,” she said. “It takes a lot of ef­fort and some­times the prob­lem isn’t solved. Reg­u­la­to­ry hotspots, on oth­er hand, are how na­ture con­trols the pro­teins — turn­ing things on and off. And reg­u­la­to­ry hotspots are unique to the pro­tein.”

Bruce Booth

Short­ly af­ter the Gilead deal, Har­ri­man, to­geth­er with an­oth­er ex-Nim­bus ex­ec Jonathan Mon­tagu, formed HotSpot to har­ness what they know about reg­u­la­to­ry hotspots to build a whole slew of drug pro­grams. Mon­tagu is serv­ing as HotSpot’s CEO, while Har­ri­man is CSO.

With its plat­form, the com­pa­ny says it’s iden­ti­fied reg­u­la­to­ry hotspots in over 100 pro­teins span­ning sev­er­al path­ways and dis­eases. Mon­tagu says they’re hom­ing in on im­munol­o­gy, im­muno-on­col­o­gy, and NASH.

Mon­tagu says HotSpot has five pro­grams in the pipeline, al­though they’re mum on de­tails. We do know they’re tar­get­ing PKC-theta, which plays a role in au­toim­mune dis­eases, and S6 ki­nase, a meta­bol­ic en­zyme in­volved in reg­u­lat­ing he­pat­ic in­sulin sen­si­tiv­i­ty and mi­to­chon­dr­i­al func­tion.

Ce­ment­ing its ties to Nim­bus, HotSpot al­so sports the same chair­man: At­las Ven­ture part­ner Bruce Booth.

“HotSpot’s el­e­gant and sys­tem­at­ic ap­proach to al­lostery, fo­cused unique­ly on reg­u­la­to­ry hotspots, sets it apart from every­thing else we have seen in the field,” Booth said in a state­ment. “From the out­set, we knew that reg­u­la­to­ry hotspots were crit­i­cal to pro­tein func­tion and now we see vivid­ly that the known foot­print of the nat­ur­al pro­tein lig­and ac­cel­er­ates our chem­istry ef­forts. HotSpot is chang­ing the way al­losteric drug dis­cov­ery is con­duct­ed in a pro­found way and At­las is very ex­cit­ed about the launch of this com­pa­ny.”

Im­age: Jonathan Man­tagu and Geral­dine Har­ri­man. HOTSPOT

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

Clay Siegall, Morphimmune CEO

Up­dat­ed: Ex-Seagen chief Clay Sie­gall emerges as CEO of pri­vate biotech

Clay Siegall will be back in the CEO seat, taking the helm of a private startup working on targeted cancer therapies.

It’s been almost a year since Siegall resigned from Seagen, the biotech he co-founded and led for more than 20 years, in the wake of domestic violence allegations by his then-wife. His eventual successor, David Epstein, sold the company to Pfizer in a $43 billion deal unveiled last week.

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No­vo Nordisk oral semaglu­tide tri­al shows re­duc­tion in blood sug­ar, plus weight loss

Novo Nordisk is testing higher levels of its oral version of its GLP-1, semaglutide, and its type 2 diabetes trial results released today show reductions in blood sugar as well as weight loss.

In the Phase IIIb trial, Novo compared its oral semaglutide in 25 mg and 50 mg doses with the 14 mg version that’s currently the maximum approved dose. The trial looked at how the doses compared when added to a stable dose of one to three oral antidiabetic medicines in people with type 2 diabetes who were in need of an intensified treatment.

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Ly­me vac­cine test com­ple­tion is pushed back by a year as Pfiz­er, Val­ne­va say they'll ad­just tri­al

Valneva and Pfizer have adjusted the end date for the Phase III study of their investigational Lyme disease vaccine, pushing it back by a year after issues at a contract researcher led to thousands of US patients being dropped from the test.

In a March 20 update to, Valneva and Pfizer moved the primary completion date on the trial, called VALOR, from the end of 2024 to the end of 2025.

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Stuart Peltz, former PTC Therapeutics CEO

Stu­art Peltz re­signs as PTC Ther­a­peu­tics CEO af­ter 25 years

Stuart Peltz, the longtime CEO of PTC Therapeutics who’s led the rare disease drug developer since its founding 25 years ago, is stepping down.

Succeeding him in the top job is Matthew Klein, who joined PTC in 2019 and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2022. In a call with analysts, he said the CEO transition has been planned for “quite some time” — in fact, as part of it, he gave the company’s presentation at the JP Morgan healthcare conference earlier this year.

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Bet­ter Ther­a­peu­tics cuts 35% of staff while await­ing dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tic ap­proval

Digital therapeutics company Better Therapeutics announced on Thursday that it’s cutting 35% of its staff as it awaits FDA clearance for its first product.

The company, which launched eight years ago, is one of a growing group of companies seeking a digital alternative to traditional medicine. The space saw a record $7.5 billion in investments in 2021, according to Chris Dokomajilar at DealForma, with uses spanning ADHD, PTSD and other indications. However, private insurers have been slow to hop on board.

FDA spells out how can­cer drug de­vel­op­ers can use one tri­al for both ac­cel­er­at­ed and full ap­provals

The FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence has been a bright spot within the agency in terms of speeding new treatments to patients. That flexibility was on full display this morning as FDA released new draft guidance spelling out exactly how oncology drug developers can fulfill both the accelerated and full approval’s requirements with just a single randomized controlled trial.

While Congress recently passed legislation that will allow FDA to require confirmatory trials to be recruiting and ongoing prior to granting an accelerated approval, the agency is now making clear that the initial trial used to win the AA, if designed appropriately, can also serve as the trial for converting the accelerated approval into a full approval.

Steven James, Pionyr Immunotherapeutics CEO

Gilead pass­es on ful­ly ac­quir­ing Pi­o­nyr, as eyes now turn to Tizona, a fel­low sum­mer 2020 buy­out op­tion

Gilead and Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, a biotech trying to follow up on the first generation of checkpoint inhibitors, have “mutually agreed” on a rewrite to their 2020 terms, with Gilead deciding not to buy out the company.

The California biopharma waived its option to acquire the remaining 50.1% of Pionyr, which would have triggered a $315 million upfront payment and up to $1.15 billion down the road. Had Gilead waited to decide, the drugmaker would have had a potential payment to make in the near term under their agreement, a spokesperson said in an email to Endpoints News.

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Zhi Hong, Brii Biosciences CEO

Brii Bio­sciences stops man­u­fac­tur­ing Covid-19 an­ti­body com­bo, plans to with­draw EUA re­quest

Brii Biosciences said it will stop manufacturing its Covid-19 antibody combination, sold in China, and is working to withdraw its emergency use authorization request in the US, which it started in October 2021.

The Beijing and North Carolina biotech commercially launched the treatment in China last July but is now axing the work and reverting resources to other “high-priority programs,” per a Friday update. The focus now is namely hepatitis B viral infection, postpartum depression and major depressive disorders.

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