Two young sci­en­tists bag $20M to per­fect their CRISPR at­tack on dis­ease-caus­ing bac­te­ria at up­start Eli­go

What if you could find a way to de­liv­er new tech­nol­o­gy like CRISPR in­to the teem­ing mi­cro­bio­me re­gions in­side the hu­man body, de­liv­er­ing in­struc­tions to slice in­to spe­cif­ic strains of trou­ble­some bac­te­ria. Your de­liv­ery ves­sels made of bits of DNA and pro­teins would have to sur­vive an acid washed storm in the stom­ach and then ap­pear where need­ed for an at­tack on a spe­cif­ic tar­get — such as a rare dis­ease trig­gered by bac­te­ria.

No easy task, to be sure. But if it worked, you’d have a mi­cro­bio­me en­gi­neer­ing plat­form on which you could build a line­up of pro­grams. And along the way you might make your av­er­age an­tibi­ot­ic look like a rel­ic of the last cen­tu­ry.

That, in its sim­plest form, is what Eli­go Bio­science is af­ter. And they now have a $20 mil­lion round led by Sev­en­ture and Khosla — one of those VCs that like noth­ing bet­ter than bankrolling cut­ting-edge sci­ence is search of cool new tech.

At 29, com­pa­ny co-founder and CEO Xavier Du­portet has been in­cu­bat­ing the tech­nol­o­gy with €2 mil­lion of seed cash at the In­sti­tute Pas­teur. He’s us­ing tech that he and his co­founder — David Bikard — hatched in labs at MIT and Rock­e­feller. And now he says the com­pa­ny is ready to move through the fi­nal two years of pre­clin­i­cal work as they set the stage for a first-in-hu­mans study in 2020.

“We’re just cut­ting (DNA),” Du­portet tells me, not mod­i­fy­ing it as some of the more am­bi­tious CRISPR in­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing to do. Over the past two years, they’ve man­aged to do that suc­cess­ful­ly in mice. Now one of the big chal­lenges is scal­ing up a new man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­o­gy so they can start to in­dus­tri­al­ize the process.

The young biotech ex­ec and his part­ner have in­creased the com­pa­ny staff, grow­ing from 7 to 15 with an eye now to build that up to 20. And while France of­ten gets a bad rep among the ma­jor R&D play­ers for of­ten con­tentious la­bor dis­putes, Du­portet is hap­py to have his small biotech based in Paris, where the gov­ern­ment pro­vides gen­er­ous tax in­cen­tives for re­search spend­ing and will re­im­burse the first two years salary of a new­ly hired PhD.

Right now, that two years is well mapped out. And he has the mon­ey for what comes next.

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Mer­ck scraps Covid-19 vac­cine pro­grams af­ter they fail to mea­sure up on ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er ma­jor set­back in the glob­al fight

After turning up late to the vaccine development game in the global fight against Covid-19, Merck is now making a quick exit.

The pharma giant is reporting this morning that it’s decided to drop development of 2 vaccines — V590 and V591 — after taking a look at Phase I data that simply don’t measure up to either the natural immune response seen in people exposed to the virus or the vaccines already on or near the market.

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Bahija Jallal, Immunocore

Buried in Im­muno­core's IPO fil­ings? A kick­back scheme from a now for­mer em­ploy­ee

Immunocore spent much of 2019 dealing with the fallout of the Neil Woodford scandal, as the former star investor’s fall crashed the biotech’s valuation out of unicorn range. Now it turns out that the company spent 2020 dealing with another internal scandal.

The longtime UK biotech darling disclosed in their IPO filing last week that they had fallen victim to an alleged kickback scheme involving one of their employees. After a whistleblower came forward, they said in their F-1, they spent the summer and spring investigating, finding fraud on the part of an employee and two outside vendors.

IPO track­er: 2021 gets start­ed with a flur­ry of new of­fer­ings

A global pandemic couldn’t slow down what turned out to be a record year for biotech IPOs. With the calendar turning toward 2021, the Endpoints News team is prepped to track each new filing this year, and the outcome. We’re off to another hot start at least.

Below, you’ll find the companies that have filed to go public, in addition to those that have already priced. Through the first two business weeks of January, there have already been 9 biotechs that have filed or priced, and the number is only expected to grow. We’ll keep the tracker updated as it does.

Matt Gline (L) and Vivek Ramaswamy

Scoop: Vivek Ra­maswamy is hand­ing the CEO job to a top lieu­tenant at Roivant — but he’s not ex­act­ly leav­ing the biotech scene

Over the past 7 years since founding Roivant, Vivek Ramaswamy has been a constant blur of biotech building motion.

He launched his first biotech with an Alzheimer’s drug he picked up cheap, and watched the experiment implode in one of the highest profile pivotal disasters seen in the last decade. But it didn’t slow the 30-something exec down; if anything, he hit the accelerator. Ramaswamy blazed global paths and went on to raise billions to spur the creation of a large lineup of little Vants promising big things at a fast pace. He sold off a section of the Vant brigade to Sumitomo Dainippon for $3 billion. And more recently the relentless dealmaker has been building a computational discovery arm to add an AI-driven approach to kicking up new programs and companies, supplementing the in-licensing drive while pursuing advances that have created more than 700 jobs at Roivant, with $2 billion in reserves.

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Can strug­gling Iterum turn the cor­ner to an an­tibi­ot­ic suc­cess sto­ry? They will know in six months

More than five years after Corey Fishman and Michael Dunne dusted sulopenem off Pfizer’s shelves — the second castoff antibiotic they’ve brought out of the pharma giant — and founded Iterum Therapeutics around that single drug, they have lined up a quick shot at approval with priority review from the FDA.

The decision, six months from now, will mark a make-or-break moment for a struggling biotech that has just enough cash to keep the lights on until the third quarter.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na dou­bles down on Covid-19 with new boost­er tri­als; Aus­tralia plans do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of As­traZeneca vac­cine amid dis­tri­b­u­tion lag

As Merck bows out of the global race to develop vaccines for Covid-19, Moderna is doubling down to make sure they can quell new variants that have recently emerged and quickly spread.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech put out word on Monday that in vivo studies indicate their mRNA vaccine works well enough against two strains first detected in the UK and South Africa. But with a six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers observed against the latter strain, the company is launching a new study of a booster version to make sure it can do the job.

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Jean-Christophe-Hyvert, Lonza

Lon­za look­ing to build on 'd­if­fer­en­ti­at­ed ad­van­tage' in Covid-19, CD­MO mar­ket­place in 2021

It’s not new for Lonza, the Swiss CDMO nearing its quasquicentennial anniversary, to be in the upper echelon of the biotech manufacturing industry.

But 2020 — as it was for many CDMOs — was a special year even by Lonza’s standards. The company inked a deal to produce 1 billion worldwide doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and tapped pharma vet Pierre-Alain Ruffieux to lead its operations, moves which have allowed Lonza to make a myriad of other deals that will continue to ramp up its global production capacity.

News brief­ing: Jef­frey Lei­den to chair Tmu­ni­ty board of di­rec­tors; Op­di­vo wins new ap­proval in ad­vanced RCC

Longtime Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden is taking on a new role.

Leiden has been appointed chairman of Tmunity’s board of directors, the company announced Monday. The move comes about a year and a half after Leiden announced he’d be stepping down from his position at Vertex.

Vertex saw immense growth under Leiden, leading the company from its exit out of hepatitis C, when cures were moving in, and into cystic fibrosis. The company’s cystic fibrosis triple combo therapy Trikafta is already its best-seller, reaching the distinction just six weeks after launch and recording the strongest first quarter of sales for any drug, per some estimates.