What's up at stealthy Cal­i­co Labs? AI star Daphne Koller makes an abrupt ex­it as top team shrinks

Daphne Koller

When the not­ed AI ex­pert and ex-Stan­ford star Daphne Koller was re­cruit­ed to Google’s Cal­i­co Labs in 2016, it fit in­to an up­beat nar­ra­tive about how Arthur Levin­son was build­ing an amaz­ing team of top pro­fes­sion­als to pi­o­neer an­ti-ag­ing re­search. A few days ago, though, Koller abrupt­ly left the com­pa­ny and that nar­ra­tive is get­ting some fresh scruti­ny in R&D cir­cles.

“I have de­cid­ed to leave Cal­i­co to pur­sue oth­er pro­fes­sion­al op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Koller said in an emailed state­ment to Bloomberg, which first re­port­ed the de­par­ture. “I very much en­joyed my time at Cal­i­co, and have the great­est re­spect for the Cal­i­co team and their im­por­tant and as­pi­ra­tional mis­sion.”

This is the sec­ond big de­fec­tion for Cal­i­co in re­cent months. Top sci­en­tist Hal Bar­ron jumped to helm the R&D group at Glax­o­SmithK­line. But Bar­ron was wooed away with a top job and a turn­around mis­sion, with a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar an­nu­al pay pack­age and his own of­fice in the Bay Area, where GSK has lit­tle pres­ence.

Arthur Levin­son

Koller had on­ly re­cent­ly at­tract­ed at­ten­tion for her dis­cus­sion of new mouse da­ta they were ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in the lab, part of a pricey ef­fort to de­vel­op new ther­a­pies that could make longer lives health­i­er. That was a de­par­ture for Cal­i­co, which has kept its head down low since Levin­son was brought in by Google’s Lar­ry Page to build the com­pa­ny.

More re­cent­ly, there were some ru­mors cir­cu­lat­ing in the AI world that Koller had grown some­what dis­en­chant­ed with Cal­i­co.

That cer­tain­ly wasn’t part of her pub­lic pro­file, though. Here’s a com­ment from Koller’s LinkedIn page.

Cal­i­co al­lowed me to re­turn to my pas­sion of ap­ply­ing ma­chine learn­ing to im­prove hu­man health. As Cal­i­co’s first Chief Com­put­ing Of­fi­cer, I built an amaz­ing team work­ing on new com­pu­ta­tion­al meth­ods for an­a­lyz­ing bi­o­log­i­cal da­ta sets to help bet­ter un­der­stand the process of ag­ing and de­vel­op­ing in­ter­ven­tions that en­able peo­ple to live longer, health­i­er lives.

The use of new ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech in drug dis­cov­ery is fast be­com­ing one of the biggest trends in drug R&D as the ma­jors start to de­vel­op am­bi­tious in­ter­nal ef­forts to find a faster and more ef­fi­cient way to iden­ti­fy po­ten­tial break­throughs. But it still has a long way to go be­fore it can prove it­self to the in­dus­try.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Adeno-associated virus-1 illustration; the use of AAVs resurrected the gene therapy field, but companies are now testing the limits of a 20-year-old technology (File photo, Shutterstock)

Af­ter 3 deaths rock the field, gene ther­a­py re­searchers con­tem­plate AAV's fu­ture

Nicole Paulk was scrolling through her phone in bed early one morning in June when an email from a colleague jolted her awake. It was an article: Two patients in an Audentes gene therapy trial had died, grinding the study to a halt.

Paulk, who runs a gene therapy lab at the University of California, San Francisco, had planned to spend the day listening to talks at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, which was taking place that week. Instead, she skipped the conference, canceled every work call on her calendar and began phoning colleagues across academia and industry, trying to figure out what happened and why. All the while, a single name hung in the back of her head.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

Jackie Fouse, Agios CEO

Agios scores its sec­ond pos­i­tive round of da­ta for its lead pipeline drug — but that won't an­swer the stub­born ques­tions that sur­round this pro­gram

Agios $AGIO bet the farm on its PKR activator drug mitapivat when it recently decided to sell off its pioneering cancer drug Tibsovo and go back to being a development-stage company — for what CEO Jackie Fouse hoped would be a short stretch before they got back into commercialization.

On Tuesday evening, the bellwether biotech flashed more positive topline data — this time from a small group of patients in a single-arm study. And the executive team plans to package this with its earlier positive results from a controlled study to make its case for a quick OK.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Vir's CMO says he's sur­prised that a low dose of their he­pati­tis B drug ap­pears promis­ing in ear­ly slice of da­ta — shares soar

Initial topline data from a Phase I study of a new therapeutic for chronic hepatitis B virus was so promising that it surprised even the CMO of the company that produces it.

Vir Biotechnology on Tuesday announced that its VIR-3434 molecule reduced the level of virus surface antigens present in a blinded patient cohort after eight days of the trial with just a single 6 mg dose. Six of the eight patients in the cohort were given the molecule, and the other two a placebo—all six who received the molecule saw a mean antigen reduction of 1.3 log10 IU/mL, Vir said.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Eli Lil­ly demon­strates that 2 an­ti­bod­ies beat 1 for guard­ing against se­vere Covid-19. But can that solve the first an­ti­body’s prob­lem amid slow up­take?

It seems safe to say that two antibodies are better than one.

Eli Lilly released the largest results yet on Tuesday for their Covid-19 neutralizing antibody cocktail, announcing that the combo reduced deaths and hospitalizations in coronavirus patients by 70%. Across 1,000 patients, there were 11 such events in the treatment group and 36 in the placebo group.

The breakdown for deaths alone was even starker: 10 in the placebo group and 0 in the treatment group. Lilly added that the drug hit secondary endpoints for reducing viral load and alleviating symptoms, although they did not disclose numbers.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

George Yancopoulos (L) and Len Schleifer (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron touts pos­i­tive pre­lim­i­nary im­pact of its Covid an­ti­body cock­tail, pre­vent­ing symp­to­matic in­fec­tions in high-risk group

Regeneron flipped its cards on an interim analysis of the data being collected for its Covid-19 antibody cocktail used as a safeguard against exposure to the virus. And the results are distinctly positive.

The big biotech reported Tuesday morning that their casirivimab and imdevimab combo prevented any symptomatic infections from occurring in a group of 186 people exposed to the virus through a family connection, while the placebo arm saw 8 of 223 people experience symptomatic infection. Symptomatic combined with asymptomatic infections occurred in 23 people among the 223 placebo patients compared to 10 of the 186 subjects in the cocktail arm.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

End­points poll: Janet Wood­cock takes the (in­ter­im) helm at the FDA. And a large ma­jor­i­ty of our read­ers want her to stay there

It’s official: Janet Woodcock is now the acting chief of the FDA.

And — according to an Endpoints poll — most industry readers would like her to stay there, although a significant minority is strongly opposed.

To recap: Joe Biden is reportedly choosing between Woodcock and former deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as his nominee for the permanent position. Given their respective track records, the decision is set to determine the agency’s lodestar for years to come.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Matt Gline (L) and Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ra­maswamy and Matt Gline pen share­hold­er let­ters about the changes now un­der­way at Roivant

Friends and colleagues,

I am writing to provide our annual update on Roivant. These updates are usually restricted to our shareholders, but we are sharing this year’s letter more broadly to announce an upcoming change in my role from CEO to Executive Chairman and the promotion of Matt Gline to Chief Executive Officer.

Reflections on 2020

Much has transpired in the world and at our company since my last annual update in January 2020. One year ago we had just completed our $3 billion transaction with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma (DSP), and we were evaluating how to reinvest in our business. At the same time, SARS-CoV-2 was still a distant virus barely on our minds. Today it has afflicted the entire world sparing literally no one from its effects.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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