Two Genen­tech vets re­unite at Im­mune-Onc to help steer its $33M dri­ve to the clin­ic

Adri­an Jubb

Look for yet an­oth­er play­er work­ing in the im­muno-on­col­o­gy space to en­ter the clin­ic with a nim­ble team of ex­pe­ri­enced ex­ecs fo­cused on dis­man­tling im­muno­sup­pres­sion.

Pa­lo Al­to-based Im­mune-Onc an­nounced to­day that co-founder Char­lene Liao has wooed fel­low Genen­tech vets Adri­an Jubb and An Song to join her in prep­ping the start­up for first-in-hu­man stud­ies, fu­eled by $33 mil­lion in Se­ries B fund­ing. North­ern Light Ven­ture Cap­i­tal, Vi­vo Cap­i­tal and the Stan­ford-StartX Fund are tout­ed as the star in­vestors in the round.

An Song

For Jubb, the chief med­ical of­fi­cer, this marks a re­turn to on­col­o­gy af­ter a four-year stint at an­tibi­otics com­pa­ny Achao­gen. There, as head of ear­ly de­vel­op­ment, he had a di­rect hand in build­ing the case for the ex­per­i­men­tal pla­zomicin, which even­tu­al­ly gained ap­proval for one (but not the oth­er) in­di­ca­tion it filed for.

Song jumps di­rect­ly from Genen­tech, leav­ing be­hind a 16-year tenure and a se­nior di­rec­tor po­si­tion su­per­vis­ing the as­say de­vel­op­ment and tech­nol­o­gy group. She will now have broad au­thor­i­ty over the start­up’s trans­la­tion­al de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing “pre­clin­i­cal PKPD and tox­i­col­o­gy eval­u­a­tion, clin­i­cal phar­ma­col­o­gy, bio­an­a­lyt­i­cal and bio­mark­er/di­ag­nos­tic de­vel­op­ment and cer­tain an­a­lyt­i­cal as­pects of tech­ni­cal de­vel­op­ment.”

Char­lene Liao

“As we pre­pare to move from trans­la­tion­al re­search in­to the clin­ic, Adri­an and An’s decades of in­dus­try ex­per­tise in drug de­vel­op­ment will be crit­i­cal in ad­vanc­ing our mis­sion to de­vel­op nov­el bio­ther­a­peu­tics for hard-to-treat can­cers,” said Liao, who’s al­so pres­i­dent and CEO of Im­mune-Onc.

With 14 years of drug de­vel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ence at Genen­tech un­der her belt, Liao struck out on her own in 2016 to start Im­mune-Onc with Guo-Liang Yu, who pre­vi­ous­ly found­ed and sold the an­ti­body com­pa­ny Epit­o­mics to Ab­cam. They got start­ed with a $7 mil­lion Se­ries A and are now pur­su­ing IND-en­abling stud­ies for the lead pro­gram, which might have ap­pli­ca­tions in acute myeloid leukemia as well as oth­er hema­to­log­ic and sol­id tu­mors.

Guo-Liang Yu

The com­pa­ny isn’t di­vulging much about the pro­gram, ex­cept that it tar­gets “an im­mune in­hibito­ry re­cep­tor.” That fits in­to Im­mune-Onc’s over­all strat­e­gy to dis­arm im­mune sup­pres­sion and tu­mor in­fil­tra­tion — a strat­e­gy ce­ment­ed on li­cens­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion deals with lead­ing re­search in­sti­tu­tions like Al­bert Ein­stein Col­lege of Med­i­cine, Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter and The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas South­west­ern Med­ical Cen­ter.

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.

Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 107,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Saurabh Saha at Endpoints News' #BIO19

On the heels of $250M launch, Centes­sa barges ahead with an IPO to fu­el its 10-in-1 Medicxi pipeline

Francesco De Rubertis made no secret of IPO plans for Centessa, his 10-in-1 legacy play. Barely two months later, the S-1 is in.

The hot-off-the-press filing depicts the same grand vision that the longtime VC touted when he did the rounds in February: Take the asset-centric mindset that he’s been preaching at Medicxi over the years, and roll up a bunch of biotech upstarts, with unrelated risk profiles, into 1 pharma company that can carry on the development at scale.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­a­tors to NIH: Do more to pro­tect US bio­med­ical re­search from for­eign in­flu­ence

Although Thursday’s Senate health committee hearing was focused on how foreign countries and adversaries might be trying to steal or negatively influence biomedical research in the US, the only country mentioned by the senators and expert witnesses was China.

Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made clear in her opening remarks that the US cannot “let the few instances of bad actors” overshadow the hard work of the many immigrant researchers in the US, many of which have won Nobel prizes for their work. But she also said, “There is more the NIH can be doing here.”

Steffen Schuster, ITM CEO

Ra­dio­phar­ma re­mains hot as Ger­many's ITM rais­es $109M to ad­vance neu­roen­docrine can­cer pro­gram

The world of radiopharmaceuticals has been heating up over the last few years, and Thursday saw another company focused on the field pull in a new nine-figure raise.

Germany’s ITM, or Isotopen Technologien München, scored a $109 million round of loan financing to push forward its precision oncology pipeline and fund late-stage development for its lead program. As part of the agreement, the loan will convert to shares in the event of future financial or corporate transactions, ITM said.