Third Rock de­buts im­munome­tab­o­lism start­up Rheos with $60M launch round

Third Rock is push­ing one of its stealthy star­tups in­to the lime­light this morn­ing, with $60 mil­lion in fresh cap­i­tal and a plat­form tech that op­er­ates in the in­creas­ing­ly pop­u­lar field of im­munome­tab­o­lism.

The start­up, called Rheos Med­i­cines, has a drug dis­cov­ery tech that’s al­ready churned out two leads for the com­pa­ny that are both mov­ing in­to pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Lar­ry Tur­ka

Rheos, found­ed last sum­mer, is dig­ging in­to the new field of im­munome­tab­o­lism, which ba­si­cal­ly tries to un­der­stand — and lat­er har­ness — how a cell’s me­tab­o­lism af­fects dis­ease pro­gres­sion.

“We want to un­der­stand which cells are dri­ving which dis­eases, and which meta­bol­ic path­ways are be­ing dys­reg­u­lat­ed by cells,” said Ab­bie Cel­niker, a Third Rock part­ner who’s cur­rent­ly serv­ing as the start­up’s in­ter­im CEO.

The com­pa­ny hopes to learn how to “tune” the meta­bol­ic path­ways to bring pa­tients with im­mune sys­tem-re­lat­ed dis­eases “back in­to bal­ance.”

The com­pa­ny has re­cruit­ed Lar­ry Tur­ka, an ex­pert in the field of reg­u­la­to­ry T cell bi­ol­o­gy, from his post at Har­vard Med­ical School and Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal, to serve as the start­up’s CSO.

“I’ve been see­ing pa­tients with au­toim­mune dis­ease my whole pro­fes­sion­al life, and the op­por­tu­ni­ty to bring drugs in­to the clin­ic to help pa­tients with tremen­dous un­met need was too good to pass up,” Tur­ka tells me.

Tur­ka said Rheos is build­ing a cat­a­logue of com­par­isons be­tween im­mune cells in dif­fer­ent states, fo­cus­ing on the meta­bol­ic dif­fer­ences of those cell types.

“If we un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween an im­mune cell that caus­es in­flam­ma­tion ver­sus an im­mune cell that sup­press­es in­flam­ma­tion, then we can use that da­ta to de­vel­op prod­ucts,” Tur­ka says.

Rheos is call­ing its cat­a­logue the Im­mune Cell En­cy­clo­pe­dia (ICE), and the plat­form has al­ready de­liv­ered two tar­gets to pur­sue. Cel­niker said the com­pa­ny isn’t yet dis­clos­ing de­tails of the pro­grams, but not­ed the com­pa­ny is fo­cus­ing on ther­a­peu­tics that tar­get CD4 and CD8 T cell sub­types, which are in­volved in au­toim­mune dis­eases like in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease, pso­ri­a­sis, vi­tili­go, and could have ap­pli­ca­tions in im­muno-on­col­o­gy.

Ryan Cohlhepp

Oth­er than pur­su­ing its own drug pro­grams, Rheos will al­so use its tech plat­form to bet­ter de­fine sub­sets of au­toim­mune dis­ease pa­tients, cre­at­ing bio­mark­ers that will help cre­ate more tai­lored drugs for in­di­vid­ual pa­tients.

“Cel­lu­lar phys­i­ol­o­gy is some­thing we un­der­stand pret­ty well, and now we’re learn­ing to mod­u­late in­di­vid­u­als’ meta­bol­ic path­ways in­stead of the one-size-fits-all ap­proach that most drugs for au­toim­mune dis­eases take now,” Cel­niker said. “It’s a much more so­phis­ti­cat­ed ap­proach.”

Cel­niker said the com­pa­ny just re­cruit­ed Ryan Cohlhepp, a for­mer VP at Take­da, to lead Rheos’ R&D. Now the com­pa­ny is on the hunt for a more per­ma­nent CEO.

Ab­bie Cel­niker. Third Rock Ven­tures

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.

FDA ad­vi­sors unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for Bio­gen's ALS drug

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA unanimously recommended that the agency grant accelerated approval to Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen despite the drug failing the primary goal of its Phase III study, an endorsement that could pave a path forward for the treatment.

By a 9-0 vote, members of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee said there was sufficient evidence that tofersen’s effect on a certain protein associated with ALS is reasonably likely to predict a benefit for patients. But panelists stopped short of advocating for a full approval, voting 3-5 against (with one abstention) and largely citing the failed pivotal study.

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Alaa Halawa, executive director at Mubadala’s US venture group

The ven­ture crew at Mubadala are up­ping their biotech cre­ation game, tak­ing care­ful aim at a new fron­tier in drug de­vel­op­ment

It started with a cup of coffee and a slow burning desire to go early and long in the biotech creation business.

Wrapping up a 15-year discovery stint at Genentech back in the summer of 2021, Rami Hannoush was treated to a caffeine-fueled review of the latest work UCSF’s Jim Wells had been doing on protein degradation — one of the hottest fields in drug development.

“Jim and I have known each other for the past 15 years through Genentech collaborations. We met over coffee, and he was telling me about this concept of the company that he was thinking of,” says Hannoush. “And I got immediately intrigued by it because I knew that this could open up a big space in terms of adding a new modality in drug discovery that is desperately needed in pharma.”

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Flare Therapeutics biochemists Yong Li (L) and Valerie Vivat

A $123M Flare will get Third Rock on­col­o­gy biotech in­to the clin­ic this year

Flare Therapeutics will start its first human trial this year with an investigational urothelial cancer drug after pulling together a $123 million Series B from Big Pharmas, VCs and its incubator, Third Rock Ventures.

Launched in 2021 on the idea that a biotech could finally succeed at drugging the much-sought-after but stubborn transcription factor, Flare Therapeutics said Wednesday it is now primed for the clinic after closing its large financing haul earlier this year. The raise is a relatively stark figure in a tough startup financing environment but further buoys the upbeat signals coming out of other Third Rock biotechs in recent weeks, including the $200 million CARGO Therapeutics and $100 million Rapport Therapeutics rounds.

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Chat­G­PT with phar­ma da­ta de­buts for med­ical meet­ings, be­gin­ning with AACR

What do you get when you combine ChatGPT generative AI technology with specific pharma and clinical datasets? A time-saving tool that can answer questions about medical conference abstracts and clinical findings in seconds in one new application from ZoomRx called FermaGPT.

ZoomRx is debuting a public version of its generative AI product specifically for medical conferences beginning this week for the upcoming American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting that runs April 14-19.

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Quince Ther­a­peu­tics faces takeover bid from share­hold­er Echo Lake Cap­i­tal

A bid to take over the biotech Quince Therapeutics has been put forward by one of its shareholders.

On Tuesday, Echo Lake Capital sent a letter to Quince’s board of directors putting forth a proposal to acquire all the biotech’s stock for $1.60 per share, which would value a takeover at around $58 million.

In the letter, Echo Lake said that it believes Quince’s stock is severely undervalued and that no drugs are being actively marketed or developed that require cash expenditures. It’s trading below the value of its assets, Echo Lake said.

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Sanofi, Re­gen­eron boast PhI­II win with Dupix­ent in COPD, clear­ing first bar for ex­pan­sion

Dupixent, the blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug from Sanofi and Regeneron, has cleared a high-stakes Phase III study in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the companies announced Thursday morning.

If they hold up in a second, identical trial, the data pave the way for Dupixent to become the first biologic to treat patients whose COPD remains uncontrolled despite being on maximal standard-of-care inhaled therapy — the patient population studied in the pivotal program. The companies had spotlighted this as a key readout as they look to expand the Dupixent franchise and explore its full potential.

Genen­tech to stop com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing at Cal­i­for­nia head­quar­ters

Genentech is halting commercial manufacturing at its California headquarters — and laying off several hundred employees.

The move is the result of a decision Genentech made in 2007 to relocate manufacturing operations from its South San Francisco headquarters location to other facilities or move the work to CDMOs, said Andi Goddard, Genentech’s SVP of quality and compliance for pharmaceutical technical operations, in an interview with Endpoints News. Genentech has made changes in capabilities and invested more in technology, so it doesn’t need as many large-scale manufacturing facilities as it did in the past, she said.

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Francesco Marincola, newly-appointed Sonata Therapeutics CSO

Kite's head of re­search leaves for Flag­ship start­up Sonata

Another leader is departing Kite Pharma, and will to spend the “last part” of his career exploring how cancer evades the immune system.

Kite’s senior VP and global head of cell therapy research Francesco Marincola left the Gilead CAR-T unit last week for Sonata Therapeutics. Flagship last May unveiled the startup, which was pieced together from two fledgling biotechs Inzen and Cygnal Therapeutics. As CSO, Marincola will lead Sonata’s push to reprogram cancer cells to make them more immunogenic.

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