Trendy an­ti-ag­ing biotech Uni­ty adds $55M as it preps first hu­man tri­al to flush senes­cent cells

Uni­ty Biotech­nol­o­gy is fill­ing up its cash re­serves with an­oth­er ven­ture round be­fore it goes in­to its first an­ti-ag­ing hu­man stud­ies.

Kei­th Leonard

The Bay Area biotech bagged a $116 mil­lion celebri­ty round in 2016, with Jeff Be­zos and oth­ers join­ing the syn­di­cate for the Arch-seed­ed com­pa­ny, launched with Bob Nelsen’s help. That fol­lowed an $11 mil­lion seed round and a $35 mil­lion ex­ten­sion on the B. And now it’s set­tling for a rel­a­tive­ly mod­est $55 mil­lion for the C round, bring­ing the to­tal to 217 mil­lion so far for the pre­clin­i­cal com­pa­ny.

An­ti-ag­ing re­search has been grow­ing steadi­ly over the past few years, as re­searchers look in­to the ways ag­ing trig­gers the grad­ual ero­sion of health. Google launched the se­cre­tive Cal­i­co to go af­ter an­ti-ag­ing reme­dies al­most 5 years ago, hir­ing Arthur Levin­son to take the helm.

In their case Uni­ty is all about senes­cent cells, the cranky non-di­vid­ing cells that clut­ter an ag­ing body. The buildup in senes­cent cells is as­so­ci­at­ed with the re­lease of dozens of pro­teins that pro­mote in­flam­ma­tion, and re­mov­ing them — with­out al­ter­ing the bal­ance of cells the body needs — could pro­mote a longer, health­i­er life.

Or at least that’s Uni­ty’s the­o­ry.

Uni­ty’s first tri­al will fo­cus on senes­cent cells and os­teoarthri­tis.

Kei­th Leonard, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Uni­ty, not­ed:

With this lat­est round of fi­nan­cial sup­port, UNI­TY is on track to file its first In­ves­ti­ga­tion­al New Drug ap­pli­ca­tion and ini­ti­ate a clin­i­cal study dur­ing the first half of this year for the po­ten­tial treat­ment of os­teoarthri­tis.

New Se­ries C in­vestors in­clude EcoR1 Cap­i­tal Fund, 6 Di­men­sions Cap­i­tal and Al­ti­tude Life Sci­ence Ven­tures. Al­so par­tic­i­pat­ing are ex­ist­ing in­vestors Fi­deli­ty Man­age­ment & Re­search Com­pa­ny, Bail­lie Gif­ford, Part­ner Fund Man­age­ment, Piv­otal Al­pha Lim­it­ed, In­vus Op­por­tu­ni­ties, ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners, Ven­rock, Founders Fund and the Longevi­ty Fund.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock is in the run­ning for FDA com­mis­sion­er — what does that mean for the agen­cy's fu­ture?

Just a day after reports emerged that Janet Woodcock will serve as interim chief of the FDA, word has gotten out that she is also in the running for the permanent job.

The decision, as the initial wave of reactions suggest, could have dramatic implications for where the agency is headed in the next four years — if not beyond.

Woodcock, the longtime CDER director, is being vetted alongside former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Bloomberg reported. Already tapped as acting head of the agency, she’s set to take over from Stephen Hahn right after Biden’s inauguration next week.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock to be act­ing FDA com­mis­sion­er while Biden team fi­nal­izes nom­i­nee — re­ports

Janet Woodcock is set to be the most powerful person at the FDA in less than a week.

The veteran regulator and longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has been tapped as acting commissioner of the FDA, according to reports by BioCentury’s Steve Usdin and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

The appointment was requested by the incoming Biden team, Karlin-Smith added, as they sort out the nomination of a permanent successor to Stephen Hahn — whose one-year tenure has been defined by Covid-19.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

Paint­ing by the num­bers, Sana founders carve up a gi­ant uni­corn-sized IPO — for a biotech that has­n't quite made it to the clin­ic

Sana Biotechnology is one of those startups that was sketched in on the chalkboard day one in the shape of a unicorn.

A giant unicorn.

And from the numbers the cell therapy 2.0 play spelled out in their S-1 $SANA, it’s clear that the company founders — led by a pair of major VCs aligned with some high-profile industry figures — are hunting a big chunk of that value for themselves.

The raise they penciled in — $150 million — isn’t likely what they actually have in mind, and it doesn’t do justice to the size of their ambitions.

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Eli Lil­ly re-ups di­ver­si­ty pledge, pitch­ing in $30M to ven­ture fund for mi­nor­i­ty-owned health­care firms

The fight against racial injustice spurred by a series of high-profile shootings of Black men by police earlier this year put Big Pharma and healthcare — industries targeted for their lack of diversity — in the hot seat. Eli Lilly made an early pledge to change its ways and put more back into the community, and now it’s continuing to make good on that commitment.

Lilly will infuse $30 million into the Unseen Capital Health Fund, a venture fund looking to invest in early-stage minority-owned healthcare companies that have been historically “unseen” by the investment community, the pharma said Friday.

Laurie Glimcher, Dana-Farber president and CEO (Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: With its rank-and-file churn­ing out star­tups, Dana-Far­ber launch­es ven­ture fund to cap­i­tal­ize on that suc­cess

The pace of innovation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in recent years has seen a wave of startups launch with IP or leadership sourced from the nonprofit’s ranks. Now, looking for its own returns on that success, Dana-Farber has launched a new venture fund to invest in those fledgling businesses.

On Thursday, Dana-Farber unveiled Binney Street Capital — its first-ever venture fund. Roche and Verily veteran Luba Greenwood has been tapped to lead the fund, which was named after the location of the institute’s Boston site.

CEO Brett Monia (Ionis)

Can Brett Mo­nia push Io­n­is be­yond Spin­raza?

For 30 years, Brett Monia struggled as one of Ionis’ top scientists to get their antisense technology to work. Now, as CEO, he’s trying to use it to turn Ionis into one of the industry’s biggest biotechs.

Monia, one of the handful of young scientists who in 1989 followed Stanley Crooke across the country from SmithKline (now GSK) in Philadelphia to found Ionis in Northern California, replaced Crooke as CEO last January. By then, they had proven antisense, an RNA-based method for manipulating gene expression, could work dramatically well in at least some instances, transforming spinal muscular atrophy with the Biogen-partnered blockbuster Spinraza.

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David Kessler in April 2009 (Eric Risberg/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Hack­ers start re­leas­ing 'ma­nip­u­lat­ed' Covid-19 vac­cine docs; Ex-FDA com­mish David Kessler to re­place Mon­cef Slaoui as Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief — re­port

There’s a new twist on the EMA Covid-19 hacking story.

Friday the European agency put out the 5th in a series of statements about the hackers who broke into their system, noting that some of the information on vaccines that was gleaned in the attack is showing up online — altered to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaccines now in use.

This included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines. Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.

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Nadim Ahmed (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Bris­tol My­er­s' top hema­tol­ogy ex­ec is on his way out — right on the heels of a $6B CVR im­plo­sion

Fourteen days after the $6.3 billion CVR tied to the approval of liso-cel went up in smoke, one of the top execs in charge of the work at Bristol Myers Squibb is preparing to step out of his job.

Mizuho analyst Salim Syed, who’s been following every twist and turn in the CVR saga, told investors on Thursday morning that Nadim Ahmed is on his way out. Syed’s note:

Recall, Ahmed is EVP and President of Hematology at BMY (i.e. JCAR017 and bb2121 are both hematological drugs). He’s still listed on the BMY management page. This is true — he’s still technically there. However, I have confirmed w/ BMY that his last day is tomorrow, Friday 1/15. To my best knowledge, Ahmed does not have another job lined up post his departure tomorrow.

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UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen tops cost watch­dog's price gougers list based on 'un­sup­port­ed' in­creas­es for En­brel with­out mean­ing­ful da­ta

In a top 10 ranking of the most egregious price gougers from 2019, Amgen’s Enbrel topped US cost watchdog ICER’s naughty list with “unsupported” markups that added as much as $403 million to the nation’s drug spend during that time.

Price increases for some of pharma’s most popular drugs have long been a focus of consumer ire, but the industry has argued those increases are routine and meant to cover the cost of R&D innovation. Without meaningful guidance at the state or federal level, ICER looked to connect how much a drug had progressed in the clinic compared with its increase in both wholesale and net price in 2019.

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