Philip Vickers, Faze Medicines CEO

Up­dat­ed: Two years af­ter launch, Third Rock-backed neu­ro start­up Faze Med­i­cines is clos­ing its doors — re­port

In 2020, the biotech mar­ket was pro­pelled up­ward by Covid-19, as mon­ey flowed quick­ly in­to the in­dus­try. In De­cem­ber of that year, Faze Med­i­cines launched with an $81 mil­lion Se­ries A and a goal of de­vel­op­ing a treat­ment for ALS and oth­er neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases through mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates — mem­brane­less, flu­id­like schools of pro­tein and nu­cle­ic acids that im­pact a range of cell func­tions.

Fast for­ward to 2022. That “sug­ar high,” as one in­dus­try ex­pert put it, has large­ly stalled, and biotechs have been lay­ing off em­ploy­ees, prun­ing pipelines, and find­ing oth­er so-called ‘strate­gic al­ter­na­tives.’ And Faze Med­i­cines is shut­ting its doors, ac­cord­ing to em­ploy­ee so­cial me­dia posts and a re­port in STAT.

In an emailed state­ment to End­points News, Third Rock said:

Faze was built on a unique con­den­sate bi­ol­o­gy plat­form and a tar­get-based ap­proach to con­den­sate drug dis­cov­ery. While ad­vance­ments were made in the com­pa­ny’s ALS and On­col­o­gy pro­grams since launch in late 2020, the sci­ence did not progress suf­fi­cient­ly to meet our bar for fur­ther in­vest­ment. When Faze man­age­ment made the rec­om­men­da­tion to wind down the com­pa­ny, we – and the Board – sup­port­ed that de­ci­sion. We ap­pre­ci­ate the ded­i­ca­tion of the ex­cel­lent sci­en­tists ad­vanc­ing this com­plex bi­ol­o­gy, and the dis­ci­pline of the lead­ers at Faze in mak­ing this dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion.

Faze de­cline to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.

Faze Med­i­cines was found­ed by four HH­MI in­ves­ti­ga­tors — Roy Park­er, Mike Rosen, J. Paul Tay­lor and Ron Vale, a UCSF pro­fes­sor. Al­ny­lam vet Rachel Mey­ers, who was an en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence at Third Rock, led the sci­ence as CSO.

Faze start­ed from con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Mey­ers, Vale, and Charles Hom­cy, Third Rock part­ner and al­so a UCSF pro­fes­sor. They want­ed to ex­plore how RNA pro­tein struc­tures were in­volved in dis­eases, Mey­ers pre­vi­ous­ly told End­points. While it start­ed as a team of 12, the biotech now em­ploys some 40 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to LinkedIn.

Be­yond Third Rock, Faze was backed by the ven­ture arms of No­var­tis, Eli Lil­ly, and Ab­b­Vie, along with In­vus, Catalio Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Cas­din Cap­i­tal and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments.

Faze is not the on­ly biotech to close up shop in this year’s bear mar­ket. Ear­li­er this year, Triplet Ther­a­peu­tics, an At­las-backed Hunt­ing­ton’s play­er, and mi­cro­bio­me biotech Kalei­do Bio­sciences shut down.

Pub­lic can­cer biotech Clo­vis On­col­o­gy al­so faces the pos­si­bil­i­ty of clos­ing for good. This morn­ing, Clo­vis sig­naled that it may file for bank­rupt­cy. The news comes as the biotech faces de­clin­ing rev­enue from its PARP in­hibitor Rubra­ca and new da­ta that could be grounds for the FDA to yank its ap­proval as a sec­ond-line ther­a­py in ovar­i­an can­cer.

This sto­ry was up­dat­ed with a state­ment from Third Rock and a note that Faze Med­i­cines de­clined to com­ment.

Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

As you start planning for #JPM23, we hope you will consider joining Endpoints News for our live and virtual events. For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving, we hope you are enjoying the long weekend with loved ones. And if you’re not — we’ll see you next week!

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL lands FDA ap­proval for he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py, sets $3.5M list price

The FDA has approved the world’s first gene therapy for hemophilia B, ushering into the market a treatment that’s historic in both what it promises to do and how much it will cost.

CSL will be marketing the drug, Hemgenix, at a list price of $3.5 million — which sets a new record for the most expensive single-use gene therapy in the US.

In a statement provided to Endpoints News, the Australian company noted that the current costs of treating people with moderate to severe hemophilia B can be significant over a lifetime. By some estimates, healthcare systems could spend more than $20 million per person.

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Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Biggest drug com­pa­nies halt­ed Twit­ter ad buys af­ter Lil­ly in­sulin spoof

Almost all of the drug industry’s biggest advertisers cut their spending on Twitter to zero or near-zero over the last two weeks amid worries about impersonation of their brands by pranksters and the future of the social media company.

Among 18 of the biggest pharmaceutical advertisers in the US market, 12 cut their Twitter ad spending to nothing for the week beginning Nov. 14, according to Pathmatics, which tracks data on prescription drug ad spending as well as general corporate advertising. The list of drugmakers cutting spending to zero includes Merck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer and others.

J&J's Spra­va­to pulls a PhI­II win against Sero­quel XR in treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion

A day before Thanksgiving, J&J’s Janssen has a new cut of Phase III Spravato data to be grateful for.

The pharma giant announced on Wednesday that its nasal spray, also known as esketamine, beat extended-release quetiapine, previously sold by AstraZeneca as Seroquel XR, in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Of 676 adults, a significantly higher number of patients on Spravato were able to achieve remission and avoid relapse after 32 weeks, according to J&J.

Rob Davis, Merck CEO

Up­dat­ed: No Seagen here: 'Do more' means a small $1.35B pur­chase of Ima­go for Mer­ck

Merck is making an acquisition, the Big Pharma announced before Monday’s opening bell. No, Seagen is not entering the fold, as had been speculated for quarters.

Folding under Merck’s wings will be Pfizer-backed Imago BioSciences. For nearly a year, Merck CEO Rob Davis has been saying the pharma giant needs to “do more” on the business development front after its 2021 $11.5 billion acquisition of Acceleron.

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Andrew Phillips, Nexo Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Ver­sant, NEA launch new biotech helmed by ex-CEO of pro­tein de­grad­er C4 Ther­a­peu­tics

Long-time biotech venture firms Versant and New Enterprise Associates are backing a new startup run by former C4 Therapeutics chief executive Andrew Phillips.

The fledgling biotech has raised at least $30 million so far, according to paperwork filed with the SEC this week. The round could balloon to $60 million.

Phillips, who left protein degradation startup C4 in 2020 to be a managing director at Cormorant Asset Management, is running the show of the new venture as president, the SEC filing outlines. He also served as interim CEO of Cormorant-backed and Hansoh Pharmaceutical-partnered Blossom Bioscience last year.

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Isao Teshirogi, Shionogi president and CEO (Kyodo via AP Images)

Sh­ionogi's Covid an­tivi­ral lands first ap­proval in Japan's new emer­gency ap­proval path­way

Japanese regulators on Tuesday signed off on Shionogi’s homegrown antiviral for Covid-19, known as Xocova (ensitrelvir), making it the first approval under Japan’s emergency regulatory approval system.

The emergency approval, following a back-and-forth with regulators since last February, is based on a safety profile with more than 2,000 patients who have accessed the pill, and clinical symptomatic efficacy for five typical Omicron-related symptoms (primary endpoint) and antiviral efficacy (key secondary endpoint) in patients with mild to moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of risk factors or vaccination status, and during the Omicron-dominant phase of the pandemic.

Alzheimer’s drug bites the dust; Re­struc­ture, re­struc­ture, re­struc­ture; Land­mark di­a­betes OK; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Being in the news business can give one a warped sense of time — it feels like quite a while since we published some of these stories below. But next Saturday’s Endpoints Weekly will definitely be shorter, as we take off Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. We will still have the abbreviated edition in your inbox at the usual time.

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Image: Shutterstock

MIT re­searchers re­veal DNA "Paste" tech be­hind lat­est gene edit­ing start­up

MIT scientists have developed a tool that they say can insert large gene sequences where they want in the genome.

In a paper published Thursday in Nature Biotechnology, MIT fellows Omar Abudayyeh, Jonathan Gootenberg and colleagues detail a technology they call PASTE, which they say can potentially be used to insert long strands of DNA and treat genetic diseases caused by many different mutations, such as cystic fibrosis and Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare eye disorder that causes blindness.