UK start­up NodThera banks a $40M round with plans to con­quer a close­ly-stud­ied in­flam­ma­to­ry tar­get

A start­up in Cam­bridge, UK called NodThera has banked a $40 mil­lion A round to dig deep­er in­to de­vel­op­ing small mol­e­cules tar­get­ing NL­RP3, a rather no­to­ri­ous in­flam­ma­some that’s been linked to a va­ri­ety of in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions.

Alan Watt

CEO Alan Watt ex­plains that he was re­search­ing this tar­get a decade ago when he worked at Glax­o­SmithK­line in a se­nior re­search po­si­tion. “At that point,” he says, “we didn’t find any chem­i­cal leads.”

Pfiz­er, though, did find a se­lec­tive NL­RP3 in­hibitor, dubbed CP-456773, which nev­er re­al­ly went any­where. And NodThera is fol­low­ing up on that ef­fort — now pub­lic do­main — with its own small mol­e­cules which it hopes to put through the clin­ic.

There is an in­ter­est­ing back sto­ry here.

NL­RP3 is one of the in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­ease tar­gets that fig­ures in the ke­to­genic di­et. The ke­tones pro­duced by a high fat, mod­er­ate pro­tein and low carb di­et the­o­ret­i­cal­ly at least tamp down on NL­RP3, which plays on the IL-1β path­way, spurring the pro­duc­tion of pro-in­flam­ma­to­ry cy­tokines. An­oth­er con­nec­tion: No­var­tis’ heart drug canakinum­ab broad­ly tar­gets IL-1β, and has demon­strat­ed its ef­fi­ca­cy in a large pop­u­la­tion of pa­tients. More re­cent­ly, it’s al­so proved its an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry qual­i­ties in a late-stage study of gout.

Watt be­lieves that the biotech can do some­thing im­por­tant with a tar­get­ed small mol­e­cule, though, which could prove far more at­trac­tive in in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions than an an­ti­body — where you could get brain pen­e­tra­tion — that tack­les all of IL-1β.

NodThera is a tiny lit­tle group with 5 ex­pert staffers, but they still have a glob­al reach, with key ex­ecs in Boston and Seat­tle. This new mon­ey should be enough to get through a proof-of-con­cept stage with a lead drug. That will like­ly oc­cu­py a three or 4 year time frame.

Sofinno­va Part­ners and 5AM Ven­tures led this sec­ond close for the com­pa­ny, with Ep­i­darex Cap­i­tal and F-Prime Cap­i­tal Part­ners jump­ing in­to the syn­di­cate. Ep­i­darex seed­ed the biotech two years ago based on work done by Selvi­ta, a Pol­ish drug dis­cov­ery com­pa­ny which now has a stake in NodThera. Hen­ri­jette Richter, man­ag­ing part­ner of Sofinno­va Part­ners and Scott Rock­lage, found­ing part­ner of 5AM Ven­tures, are join­ing the board while Richter will serve as chair.

“I re­al­ly be­lieve that there are im­por­tant meds go­ing to come out of this work,” says Watt. And he’s stak­ing the next chap­ter of his ca­reer on it.

Im­age: Aer­i­al view of Cam­bridge, UK Shut­ter­stock

Adap­tive De­sign Meth­ods Of­fer Rapid, Seam­less Tran­si­tion Be­tween Study Phas­es in Rare Can­cer Tri­als

Rare cancers account for 22 percent of cancer diagnoses worldwide, yet there is no universally accepted definition for a “rare” cancer. Moreover, with the evolution of genomics and associated changes in categorizing tumors, some common cancers are now characterized into groups of rare cancers, each with a unique implication for patient management and therapy.

Adaptive designs, which allow for prospectively planned modifications to study design based on accumulating data from subjects in the trial, can be used to optimize rare oncology trials (see Figure 1). Adaptive design studies may include multiple cohorts and multiple tumor types. In addition, numerous adaptation methods may be used in a single trial and may facilitate a more rapid, seamless transition between study phases.

Marianne De Backer (L) and Jeff Hatfield

Bay­er nabs star biotech Vi­vid­ion with a $2B buy­out and an ‘arms-length’ pact, pulling a part­ner out of the IPO con­ga line

Vividion is canceling that IPO it filed. Instead of following the industry-wide migration to Nasdaq, the biotech that has captured considerable attention for its still-preclinical work finding cryptic pockets to bind to on proteins is going to work for Bayer now.

The pharma giant is putting out word today that it has bought out Vividion for $1.5 billion in cash and another half-billion dollars in milestones.

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Josh Hoffman, outgoing Zymergen CEO (Zymergen)

UP­DAT­ED: Syn­bio uni­corn Zymer­gen jet­ti­sons found­ing CEO, cuts guid­ance as cus­tomers re­port lead prod­uct does­n't work

Zymergen, just months off a $500 million IPO that put the synthetic bio firm in rarified air, has now ejected its founding CEO and downgraded its revenue forecasts after customers reported its lead film product doesn’t work as advertised, the company said Tuesday afternoon.

CEO Josh Hoffman will leave his role and sacrifice his board seat immediately in favor of Jay Flatley, the former CEO of Illumina who will take the lead role on an interim basis as the company conducts a search for its next leader.

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Zymergen co-founders Zach Serber, Josh Hoffman, and Jed Dean (Zymergen via website)

Zymer­gen's sud­den im­plo­sion shocked biotech. A lin­ger­ing loan could make things even worse

As former synbio unicorn Zymergen picks up the pieces from its spectacular implosion Tuesday, an outstanding loan from Perceptive Advisors — the only blue-chip biotech crossover investor to touch Zymergen’s fundraising efforts — could make the situation worse, according to public documents.

In December 2019, more than a year before Zymergen filed for what would eventually become a $500 million IPO, the “biofacturing” firm signed a $100 million credit facility with Perceptive to help supplement the nearly $700 million the company had raised across four VC rounds.

Jeffrey Bluestone, Sonoma CEO (Photo credit: Steve Babuljak)

Jeff Blue­stone just raised $265M to de­vel­op cu­ra­tive cell ther­a­pies. We asked him how

Jeff Bluestone had some big goals in mind when he decided to make a switch from a decades-long career in academia and non-profit research to a biotech startup CEO. And now — 18 months after the $40 million launch party — he has a whole lot more money on hand to pay for the considerable amount of work ahead at Sonoma Biotherapeutics.

This morning Bluestone is taking the wraps off a $265 million B round after boosting the core syndicate of A-list investors he started with. Even by today’s standards, that sum dwarfs the kind of $100 million-plus megarounds that have become standard fare in biotech over the last 2 years.

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Bio­gen, Ei­sai are push­ing for an­oth­er ac­cel­er­at­ed Alzheimer's OK — this time for BAN2401

Now that the door at the FDA has been opened wide for Alzheimer’s drugs that can demonstrate a reduction in amyloid, Biogen and its partners at Eisai are pushing for a quick OK on the next drug to follow in the controversial path of aducanumab.

In a presentation to analysts, Eisai neurology chief Ivan Cheung outlined some bullish expectations for their newly-approved treatment and set the stage for what he believes will be a fast follow for BAN2401 (lecanemab) — after a dry spell in new drug development that’s lasted close to 20 years.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Sanofi buys mR­NA play­er Trans­late Bio for $3.2B. And the price fits a pop­u­lar range for biotech M&A

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson is dead serious about his intention to vault directly into contention for the future of mRNA vaccines.

A year after paying Translate Bio $TBIO a whopping $425 million in an upfront and equity payment to help guide the pharma giant to the promised land of mRNA vaccines, Sanofi closed the deal with a buyout early Tuesday, spending $38 a share in a $3.2 billion buyout.

Translate’s stock $TBIO soared after the market closed Monday when Reuters reported the first word of the acquisition just hours ahead of the formal announcement. The wire service, though, didn’t have a price to report in its scoop, and investors chased the stock up 78% in the wild ride that followed. Once the price was announced, gains shriveled to 29% ahead of the bell.

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Matt Gline (L) and Pete Salzmann

UP­DAT­ED: Roivant bumps stake in Im­muno­vant with a $200M deal. But with M&A off the ta­ble, shares crater

Roivant has worked out a deal to pick up a chunk of stock in its majority-owned sub Immunovant $IMVT, but the stock buy falls far short of its much-discussed thoughts about buying out all of the 43% of shares it doesn’t already own.

Roivant, which recently inked a SPAC move to the market at a $7 billion-plus valuation, has forged a deal to boost its ownership in Immunovant by 6.3 points, ending with 63.8% of the biotech’s stock following a $200 million injection. That cash will bolster Immunovant’s cash reserves, giving it a $600 million war chest to fund a slate of late-stage studies for its big drug: the anti-FcRn antibody IMVT-1401.

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Tadataka Yamada (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sci­ence pi­o­neer, phar­ma re­search chief, glob­al health ad­vo­cate and biotech en­tre­pre­neur Tadata­ka ‘Tachi’ Ya­ma­da has died

Tadataka Yamada, a towering physician-scientist who made his name in academia before transforming drug development at GSK and developing vaccines for malaria and meningitis at the Gates Foundation, died unexpectedly of natural causes at his home in Seattle Wednesday morning.

He was 76. Frazier Venture Partner David Socks confirmed his death.

Known widely by the mononym “Tachi,” Yamada had a globetrotting career and arrived in industry relatively late in life. A 2004 Independent article noted GSK had asked Yamada to stay on beyond his approaching 60th birthday, the company’s usual retirement age. Yamada would continue working for the next 17 years, steering the Gates Foundation’s global health division for 6 years, funding Jim Wilson’s gene therapy work when few would touch it, launching Takeda Vaccines and co-founding a series of high-profile biotechs.