Tony Coles, Yumanity chairman and co-founder

Tony Coles takes sec­ond neu­ro­science start­up pub­lic as Yu­man­i­ty re­verse merges

Maybe Tony Coles just doesn’t like IPOs.

A month af­ter tak­ing one of his two neu­ro­science biotechs — Cerev­el — pub­lic as part of a $445 mil­lion SPAC trans­ac­tion, the long­time ex­ec­u­tive and drug de­vel­op­er is tak­ing the oth­er one pub­lic as part of a re­verse merg­er. Yu­man­i­ty Ther­a­peu­tics will re­verse merge with strug­gling cys­tic fi­bro­sis biotech Pro­teosta­sis Ther­a­peu­tics.

In an in­ter­view af­ter Cerev­el went pub­lic, Coles not­ed the sta­bil­i­ty a SPAC could give over an IPO dur­ing a tur­bu­lent mar­ket. On Mon­day, he talked up the shared sci­en­tif­ic back­ground be­tween Yu­man­i­ty and Pro­teosta­sis.

“To­day’s an­nounce­ment brings to­geth­er two or­ga­ni­za­tions that share a com­mon sci­en­tif­ic her­itage in the sci­ence of pro­tein mis­fold­ing and brings that sci­ence one step clos­er to nov­el so­lu­tions for pa­tients suf­fer­ing from the de­bil­i­ta­tion of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases,” Coles said in a state­ment.

In an in­ter­view, Yu­man­i­ty CEO Richard Pe­ters echoes those com­ments, sin­gling out  the pre­clin­i­cal pipeline Pro­teosta­sis has built around pro­tein mis­fold­ing. He al­so not­ed the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits, say­ing it was an “ef­fi­cient” way of ac­cess­ing pub­lic mar­kets and point­ing to con­cur­rent in­vest­ments from Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, Bio­gen, Fi­deli­ty, Mer­ck, Pfiz­er, Red­mile Group, and Sanofi Ven­tures. The to­tal raised re­mains undis­closed.

He al­so framed their merg­er in the con­text of the Cerev­el raise and re­cent neu­ro­science in­ter­est from Big Phar­ma, in­clud­ing a Mer­ck col­lab­o­ra­tion with Yu­man­i­ty and a No­var­tis col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sang­amo.

”“That’s just in the span of 3 months,” he told End­points News. “The mo­men­tum is just phe­nom­e­nal.”

Still, Pro­teosta­sis won’t play a ma­jor role post-merg­er. The com­pa­ny cut its own staff by 79%, leav­ing just five em­ploy­ees to sup­port the merg­er and ef­forts to spin off their CF pro­gram to an­oth­er com­pa­ny.

Yu­man­i­ty, built around an MIT-de­signed plat­form to find new treat­ments for Alzheimer’s, ALS and oth­er neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­ders, pulled Coles out of brief de­par­ture from biotech in 2014. The com­pa­ny has on­ly grown in ca­chet since, even as Coles took the CEO spot at Cerev­el and switched over to the chair­man­ship at Yu­man­i­ty. They say they’ve raised over $100 mil­lion from pri­vate in­vestors.

In June, the com­pa­ny an­nounced a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mer­ck that had an undis­closed up­front in­vest­ment — part of a larg­er Se­ries C — and $500 mil­lion in mile­stones to de­vel­op treat­ments for ALS and a groups of de­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­ders called fron­totem­po­ral lo­bar de­men­tia. That work re­mains from the clin­ic, but it marked the first ma­jor val­i­da­tion for the start­up. Since aban­don­ing an Alzheimer tri­al built around the BACE hy­poth­e­sis in 2017, Mer­ck had descaled its neu­ro­science ef­forts, fo­cus­ing large­ly on ear­ly-stage work.

Mean­while, Yu­man­i­ty is just be­gin­ning to en­ter the clin­ic on its in­ter­nal pipeline. The com­pa­ny’s plat­form is built on work from Su­san Lindquist, who en­gi­neered yeast as a mod­el for the mis­fold­ed pro­teins that play a role in nu­mer­ous neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases. They kicked off a healthy vol­un­teer study for their first drug in Parkin­son’s last year, and bio­mark­er re­sults in Parkin­son’s pa­tients are ex­pect­ed ear­ly next year. They al­so plan to start a study in Lewy body de­men­tia in 2021.

Aside from the Se­ries C — the long­time ex­ec­u­tive and drug de­vel­op­er is tak­ing the one pub­lic as part of a re­verse merg­er­whose full sum was undis­closed — Yu­man­i­ty was al­so one of a hand­ful of pri­vate biotechs that se­cured loans from the pay­check pro­tec­tion pro­gram, the fa­cil­i­ty set up by Con­gress to help small busi­ness­es pay em­ploy­ees de­spite lost rev­enue from Covid-19. They re­ceived $1 mil­lion to $2 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to fed­er­al dis­clo­sures.

Asked at the time if the com­pa­ny, which like many biotechs is pre-rev­enue, was in dan­ger of lay­ing off em­ploy­ees, CBO Paulash Mohsen de­clined to com­ment, but said “we are grate­ful for the PPP loan and the sta­bil­i­ty it pro­vid­ed for us dur­ing an un­cer­tain macro en­vi­ron­ment.”

”It al­lowed us to sta­bi­lize things and nav­i­gate through a chal­leng­ing time,” Pe­ters added, not­ing they didn’t lay any­one off.

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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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.

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.”

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Atomwise CEO and co-founder Abraham Heifets (left) and co-founder Izhar Wallach

A cou­ple bil­lion for Ex­sci­en­tia was on­ly part of Sanofi's AI am­bi­tions, as the Big Phar­ma adds Atom­wise to the ta­ble

Sanofi made clear its AI ambitions were real at the beginning of this year when the Big Pharma took its drug discovery collaboration with Exscientia to the next level, inking a pact that could birth 15 drugs and deliver $5.3 billion to the UK partner.

Seven months later, the AI blueprint is far from over at the French Big Pharma, as another of the much-hyped drug discovery startups is coming to the table in a five-drug deal. Sanofi will pay Atomwise $20 million to kick off the hunt for up to five targets, which are aimed at leading to the creation of new small molecules. Another $1 billion is on the line — as are royalties — and the companies kept mum on the specific diseases or broader therapeutic areas of interest.

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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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