Rosamond Deegan (OMass)

Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford spin­off nets a nine-fig­ure Se­ries B, but it won't bee­line to­ward the clin­ic

Four years af­ter com­plet­ing a Se­ries A, an Ox­ford spin­out has re­turned to the ven­ture well and gar­nered in­ter­est for how its tech­nol­o­gy is be­ing ap­plied to drug dis­cov­ery.

OMass Ther­a­peu­tics has raised $100 mil­lion in a Se­ries B round with par­tic­i­pants that in­clude GV, North­pond Ven­tures and Sanofi Ven­tures. Syn­cona, Ox­ford Sci­ence En­ter­pris­es and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford, who were a part of the Se­ries A round, al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed this time around.

CEO Ros Dee­gan told End­points News the new fund­ing came in a rel­a­tive­ly quick turn­around, es­pe­cial­ly in the cur­rent mar­ket cli­mate.

Ac­cord­ing to Dee­gan, this round will be used to ad­vance OMass’s pipeline port­fo­lio to­ward clin­i­cal tri­als. This in­cludes the de­vel­op­ment of drugs for con­gen­i­tal adren­al hy­per­pla­sia, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases, and in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease, as well as two ear­li­er-stage pro­grams tar­get­ing solute car­ri­ers.

But Dee­gan isn’t putting a time­line on any­thing yet, not­ing on­ly that she wants to push to the clin­i­cal stage by the time OMass is ready for the next round of fi­nanc­ing — when­ev­er that might come.

“So we’ve not set a time­line where we need more fi­nanc­ing in years,” she said. “What we are able to say is that we ex­pect to be in a clin­i­cal-stage when we need to raise more mon­ey. And al­so be­cause busi­ness de­vel­op­ment may well end up be­ing part of our op­er­a­tions dur­ing that time pe­ri­od too, we will ap­proach the next fund­ing round at the right time as ap­pro­pri­ate.”

The com­pa­ny uti­lizes mass spec­trom­e­try, as well as cus­tom chem­istry and oth­er nov­el tech­niques, for its pro­pri­etary drug dis­cov­ery plat­form called Odys­sION. Mass spec­trom­e­ters on their own usu­al­ly iden­ti­fy un­known com­pounds, quan­ti­fy them and de­ter­mine the struc­ture and chem­i­cal prop­er­ties of mol­e­cules.

In civil­ian us­age, it can be used to iden­ti­fy ex­plo­sives and oth­er pro­hib­it­ed items at se­cu­ri­ty check­points. But OMass wants to mea­sure the mass of in­di­vid­ual mol­e­cules to ad­vance its drug de­vel­op­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties, claim­ing they can do so much more ac­cu­rate­ly than oth­er meth­ods.

“Our longer-term strat­e­gy is to build a com­pa­ny that can take its prod­ucts to mar­ket in rare dis­eases and spe­cial­ty im­munol­o­gy in­di­ca­tions,” Dee­gan said. “But we will look to do part­ner­ships for as­sets in broad im­munol­o­gy in­di­ca­tions and al­so strate­gic dis­cov­ery col­lab­o­ra­tions that al­low us to ex­tend the reach of the tech­nol­o­gy plat­form.”

For the type of drug dis­cov­ery the com­pa­ny is em­bark­ing on, it typ­i­cal­ly will take a cou­ple of years for drug de­vel­op­ment, with pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment tak­ing just over a year. OMass has both pro­grams in lead op­ti­miza­tion and oth­ers that will en­ter lead op­ti­miza­tion through­out the next cou­ple of years.

Dee­gan al­so not­ed that de­spite the mar­ket not be­ing the most ac­com­mo­dat­ing to biotechs at the mo­ment, she hopes it won’t have an im­pact on the com­pa­ny or its cur­rent strat­e­gy.

“We’re now well-fi­nanced so we set out to raise less than $100 mil­lion when we first set out, but there was high in­ter­est be­cause of the ca­pa­bil­i­ties (of the tech­nol­o­gy),” she said. “Now that we’ve raised that cap­i­tal, it gives us an abil­i­ty to re­al­ly fo­cus on the pipeline, rather than be seek­ing ad­di­tion­al cap­i­tal at this time, so it puts us in a great po­si­tion.”

The tech­nol­o­gy was de­vel­oped by pro­fes­sor Dame Car­ol Robin­son, the first fe­male pro­fes­sor of chem­istry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford. Her pi­o­neer­ing re­search in the field led to her cre­at­ing the com­pa­ny in 2016 along with her for­mer stu­dents.

OMass’ Se­ries A round came back in 2018, with an add-on to that round oc­cur­ring in 2020. That round saw the com­pa­ny raise $50.9 mil­lion to get its lead pro­gram in­to pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Late Fri­day ap­proval; Trio of biotechs wind down; Stem cell pi­o­neer finds new fron­tier; Biotech icon to re­tire; 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.

I hope your weekend is off to a nice start, wherever you are reading this email. As for me, I’m trying to catch the tail of the Lunar New Year festivities.

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Am­gen lays off about 300 work­ers, cit­ing 'in­dus­try head­wind­s'

Amgen has laid off about 300 employees, a company spokesperson confirmed to Endpoints News via email Sunday night.

Employees posted to LinkedIn in recent days about layoffs hitting Amgen last week. The Thousand Oaks, CA-based biopharma, which employs about 24,000 people, said the reduction “mainly” impacted US-based workers on its commercial team.

Drug developers of all sizes, including small upstarts and pharma giants, have let employees go in recent months as the biopharma market drags through a quarters-long winter doldrum.

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Boehringer In­gel­heim touts pre­ven­tion re­sults in rarest form of pso­ri­a­sis

Boehringer Ingelheim uncorked some positive results suggesting that Spevigo can help prevent flare-ups in patients with a severe form of psoriasis, months after the drug was approved to treat existing flares.

Spevigo, an IL-36R antibody also known as spesolimab, met its primary and a key secondary endpoint in the Phase IIb EFFISAYIL 2 trial in patients with generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP), Boehringer announced on Monday. While the company is keeping the hard numbers under wraps until later this year, it said in a news release that it anticipates sharing the results with regulators.

As­traZeneca, No­vo Nordisk and Sanofi score 340B-re­lat­ed ap­peals court win over HHS

AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi won an appeals court win on Monday, as the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the companies cannot be forced to provide 340B-discounted drugs purchased by hospitals from an unlimited number of community and specialty pharmacies.

“Legal duties do not spring from silence,” the decision says as the court makes clear that the federal government’s interpretation of the “supposed requirement” that the 340B program compels drugmakers to supply their discounted drugs to an unlimited number of contract pharmacies is not correct, noting:

Ap­peals court toss­es J&J's con­tro­ver­sial 'Texas two-step' bank­rupt­cy case

A US appeals court has ruled against Johnson & Johnson’s use of bankruptcy to deal with mounting talc lawsuits, deciding that doing so would “create a legal blind spot.”

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous bankruptcy court decision on Monday, calling for the dismissal of a Chapter 11 filing by J&J’s subsidiary LTL Management.

Faced with more than 38,000 lawsuits alleging its talc-based products caused cancer, J&J spun its talc liabilities into a separate company called LTL Management back in October 2021 and filed for bankruptcy, a controversial move colloquially referred to as a “Texas two-step” bankruptcy. Claimants argued that the strategy is a misuse of the US bankruptcy code — and on Monday, a panel of judges agreed.

Chad Mirkin, Flashpoint co-founder

‘The field is at a flash­point’: New Chad Mirkin-found­ed biotech hopes to make more ef­fec­tive can­cer vac­cines

Following the success of the mRNA Covid vaccines, cancer vaccines are seeing renewed interest after years of middling results. But a group of researchers suggests that more attention needs to be paid not to what goes into those vaccines, but how the parts are put together.

In a recent paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers led by Northwestern University’s Chad Mirkin describe how the placement of different antigens in a cancer vaccine impacts its efficacy. The paper builds on past work done by Mirkin’s lab that suggests the structure, or how the parts of a vaccine are arranged, impact a vaccine’s efficacy, not just its components.

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#JPM23: Reg­u­la­to­ry un­cer­tain­ty? What about M&A? Da­ta rule? Alessan­dro Masel­li and John Car­roll take out their crys­tal balls

Endpoints editor and founder John Carroll sat down the Catalent CEO Alessandro Maselli to talk about what’s ahead in 2023. Right or wrong, this covers all the big issues faced by biopharma. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

John Carroll:

I think 2022 had to be one of the worst years ever for crystal balls. You went into 2022 thinking all sorts of nice things about what was ahead, not thinking about a European land war, maybe not thinking that the Federal Reserve was going to be jacking up interest rates as fast as they could to get ahead of inflation. Just a tremendous number of macroeconomic issues that were out there. The sudden and complete collapse of support on the markets in Nasdaq for biotech. A lot of darlings in the industry that had been out there for a while suddenly found themselves moving from a really hot market to a really cold market all of a sudden and had to make a lot of different changes in terms of strategizing.

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

Al­to Neu­ro­science bags $25M for four Phase II drugs

Another $25 million is flowing the way of a California biotech attempting to fix the “trial and error” system in neuroscience drug R&D.

Alto Neuroscience picked up the capital from Alpha Wave Ventures via an extension to its Series B, bringing total equity raised to $100 million since the startup’s 2019 founding. The biotech also recently signed up for a $35 million credit facility.

All that capital will help the biotech investigate four drugs through four Phase II readouts, Alto said Monday morning. That means enough money to keep the lights on into 2025, a year longer than projected under the original Series B close.

Tyler Golato, VitaDAO co-initiator

Pfiz­er-backed de­cen­tral­ized co­op­er­a­tive rais­es $4.1M to fund longevi­ty re­search

Months after Pfizer Ventures put a decentralized cooperative on the map by announcing a $500,000 infusion into its mission of funding human longevity research, the group — VitaDAO — is tying the bow around a $4.1 million fundraising round.

As its name implies, VitaDAO calls itself a DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization. Like many other such groups, it aims to run on a relatively flat, global structure using contracts on blockchains and crypto-tied tokens in hopes of proving a new way to fund big ideas and bridge the valley of death for very early-stage research on anti-aging.