Greg Miller, Transition Bio CEO

The tar­get is the sys­tem: Con­den­sates biotech as­pires to ‘rewrite the rule­book’ on drug dis­cov­ery

An­oth­er biotech has burst in­to the buzzy but still bud­ding field of bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates with $50 mil­lion in Se­ries A fund­ing.

Tran­si­tion Bio, based in both Cam­bridge, UK, and Cam­bridge, MA, is look­ing to bring con­den­sate drug dis­cov­ery, a field that orig­i­nat­ed in neu­ro­science, to can­cer. Co-found­ed by two bio­physics pro­fes­sors — David Weitz of Har­vard and Tuo­mas Knowles of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge — the 18-month-old biotech is build­ing a ma­chine learn­ing plat­form that maps out con­den­sates in what Knowles de­scribed as a “phase di­a­gram.”

First ob­served in worm cells in 2009, con­den­sates are tran­sient droplets that help or­ga­nize the in­sides of cells, “bring­ing to­geth­er what needs to be to­geth­er,” Knowles said. But un­like or­ganelles, which sep­a­rate out a cell’s con­tents with phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers, con­den­sates act like liq­uids, con­dens­ing (hence the name) and dis­solv­ing to bring pro­teins to­geth­er or set them apart.

Tuo­mas Knowles

“Typ­i­cal­ly a healthy con­den­sate would be formed in a high­ly re­versible man­ner, such that when it’s no longer re­quired it can dis­solve and not clog up any of the oth­er cel­lu­lar ma­chin­ery,” Knowles said.

How­ev­er, dis­ease-re­lat­ed con­den­sates can mal­func­tion in a num­ber of ways. In some cas­es, they may gel to­geth­er so they’re no longer liq­uid and dis­solv­able, Knowles said. In oth­ers, con­den­sates may bring to­geth­er the wrong com­bi­na­tion of mol­e­cules or ap­pear where they don’t in healthy cells.

Us­ing its plat­form, Tran­si­tion Bio plans on map­ping out the many dif­fer­ent con­di­tions that lead to con­den­sate for­ma­tion and func­tion in cells. By do­ing so, the biotech hopes it can use ma­chine learn­ing to fig­ure out how to reg­u­late con­den­sates.

“Ar­guably, much of what we know about what makes a drug-like mol­e­cule is based on drug­ging sin­gle pro­teins,” Knowles said, “so those rules are like­ly to look very dif­fer­ent once we start to drug these very high­ly mul­ti­mer­ic and dy­nam­ic sys­tems.

“So we re­al­ly have to — in some sense — rewrite and re­dis­cov­er the rule book,” Knowles added.

There are a hand­ful of oth­er con­den­sate biotechs out there, in­clud­ing Dew­point Ther­a­peu­tics and Nereid, found­ed by the bio­physi­cists that penned the ini­tial worm study. In Feb­ru­ary, Dew­point, which has part­ner­ships with Bay­er and Mer­ck, raised an­oth­er $150 mil­lion hop­ing to get in­to the clin­ic by the end of next year.

For Tran­si­tion Bio, the next step will be to gen­er­ate in vi­vo val­i­da­tion for their con­den­sate sys­tem tar­gets, CEO Greg Miller said.

The Se­ries A round was led by North­pond Ven­tures and in­clud­ed Tai­ho Ven­tures, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb, Mag­net­ic Ven­tures, and Life­force Cap­i­tal, which led Tran­si­tion Bio’s seed round.

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.

Geoffrey Porges, new Schrödinger CFO

Long­time an­a­lyst Ge­of­frey Porges de­parts SVB to lead fi­nances at a drug dis­cov­ery shop

Geoffrey Porges has ended his two-decade run as a biotech analyst, as the former SVB Securities vice chair began as CFO of Schrödinger on Thursday.

The long-running analyst, who previously headed up vaccines marketing at Merck before the turn of the millennium, will lead the financial operations of the 700-employee company as Schrödinger broadens its focus from a drug discovery partner to also building out an in-house pipeline, with clinical trial No. 1 set to begin next quarter.

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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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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Bosch Health Campus)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs since 2020.

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James Sabry, Roche global head of pharma partnering

Roche, Genen­tech plunk down $60M up­front to part­ner with Chi­nese phar­ma on PRO­TAC-based prostate can­cer drug

Roche and Genentech are always on the hunt for deals, and on Thursday they found their newest partner.

The pair will team up with the Chinese pharma company Jemincare to push forward a new program for prostate cancer, the companies announced. Roche is ponying up $60 million upfront to get its hands on the candidate and promising up to $590 million in biobucks, plus royalties, down the line.

In return, Genentech will get a worldwide license to develop the program, known as JMKX002992, and bring it to market.

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Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

Ex­sci­en­tia ter­mi­nates Bay­er pact half a year ear­ly, col­lect­ing small por­tion of €240M promised

Bayer and Exscientia are winding down their three-year collaboration, leaving the big German pharma to take the AI-designed compounds born out of the pact further.

London-based Exscientia revealed in its Q2 update that the partners have “mutually agreed to end” their collaboration, which kicked off in early 2020, after recently achieving a drug discovery milestone. In an SEC filing, Exscientia said it terminated the pact on May 30, about six months early.

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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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.”