Tyra co-founders Todd Harris (L) and Daniel Bensen

Why do some tar­get­ed can­cer ther­a­pies stop work­ing? For Tyra, that's the $106M ques­tion

Tar­get­ed can­cer ther­a­pies can be quite ef­fec­tive. Un­til, for some pa­tients, the can­cer mu­tates, and the treat­ment stops work­ing.

“It’s not un­like re­sis­tance in an­tibi­otics,” said Todd Har­ris, an MIT grad and for­mer NIH fel­low. “The can­cer is mu­tat­ing a lot. It’s un­der a lot of pres­sure.”

Of­ten­times, that mu­ta­tion can be as sim­ple as a sin­gle amino acid shift­ing, es­sen­tial­ly block­ing the bind­ing site of a drug. And when that hap­pens, Har­ris said, you need new chem­istry that binds to the pro­tein dif­fer­ent­ly, avoid­ing the mu­tat­ed site.

That’s what Har­ris launched Tyra Bio­sciences to do — and on Wednes­day, the two-year-old biotech un­veiled a $106 mil­lion Se­ries B round for its push to­ward the clin­ic.

“Our goal is to de­sign drugs that are re­al­ly ef­fec­tive against the pro­tein and are still ef­fec­tive when that mu­ta­tion oc­curs,” said Har­ris, the com­pa­ny’s co-founder and CEO.

To do so, Tyra — named af­ter Tyr, the Norse god of war — us­es its x-ray crys­tal­log­ra­phy plat­form dubbed SNAP. The tech­nique isn’t new, Har­ris said. It in­volves shoot­ing x-ray beams to dis­cov­er the three-di­men­sion­al struc­ture of a par­tic­u­lar pro­tein. What dif­fer­en­ti­ates Tyra, though, is an in-house team that col­lects the so-called SNAP­shots two to five times a week — giv­ing the team an atom-by-atom look at how a drug is bind­ing to a spe­cif­ic pro­tein.

“We can lit­er­al­ly look at the types of in­ter­ac­tions that are mak­ing one mol­e­cule work bet­ter than an­oth­er, and then con­tin­ue to op­ti­mize and re­fine the de­signs of new mol­e­cules to ex­ploit, you know, a find­ing or a sur­prise that we get when we look at how this is ex­act­ly bind­ing to the pro­tein,” Har­ris said.

Har­ris has yet to re­lease which tar­gets the team is go­ing af­ter, but said they plan on nom­i­nat­ing a can­di­date this year which they hope to en­ter in­to the clin­ic next year. He plans on us­ing the Se­ries B funds to ad­vance the lead pro­gram and “sev­er­al fol­low-on pro­grams.”

When Tyra reeled in a $50 mil­lion Se­ries A in Jan­u­ary 2020, the team com­prised four peo­ple. Now, the com­pa­ny has 15 full-time staffers. Up­on an­nounc­ing the Se­ries B, Har­ris al­so shared news of two new C-suite ap­point­ments and the pro­mo­tion of Robert Hud­kins to CTO.

Hi­roo­mi Ta­da, whose re­sume in­cludes roles at In­cyte, Glax­o­SmithK­line and As­traZeneca, is join­ing Tyra as CMO. And Piyush Pa­tel, who worked with Hud­kins for a num­ber of years at Cephalon, is com­ing aboard as chief of de­vel­op­ment.

“We’re hav­ing a lot of fun. It’s re­al­ly an ex­cep­tion­al team, and a re­al­ly im­por­tant prob­lem we’re seek­ing to solve,” Har­ris said.

The ar­ti­cle has been up­dat­ed to clar­i­fy that x-ray crys­tal­log­ra­phy in­volves x-ray beams.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (UKBIO19)

Au­to­lus tips its hand, bags $220M as CAR-T show­down with Gilead looms

The first batch of pivotal data on Autolus Therapeutics’ CAR-T is in, and execs are ready to plot a path to market.

With an overall remission rate of 70% at the interim analysis featuring 50 patients, the results set the stage for a BLA filing by the end of 2023, said CEO Christian Itin.

Perhaps more importantly — given that Autolus’ drug, obe-cel, is going after an indication that Gilead’s Tecartus is already approved for — the biotech highlighted “encouraging safety data” in the trial, with a low percentage of patients experiencing severe immune responses.

Dipal Doshi, Entrada Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex just found the next big ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ thing for the pipeline — at a biotech just down the street

Back in the summer of 2019, when I was covering Vertex’s executive chairman Jeff Leiden’s plans for the pipeline, I picked up on a distinct focus on myotonic dystrophy Type I, or DM1 — one of what Leiden called “two diseases (with DMD) we’re interested in and we continue to look for those assets.”

Today, Leiden’s successor at the helm of Vertex, CEO Reshma Kewalramani, is plunking down $250 million in cash to go the extra mile on DM1. The lion’s share of that is for the upfront, with a small reserve for equity in a deal that lines Vertex up with a neighbor in Seaport that has been rather quietly going at both of Vertex’s early disease targets with preclinical assets.

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WIB22: Am­ber Salz­man had few op­tions when her son was di­ag­nosed with a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease. So she cre­at­ed a bet­ter one

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Amber Salzman’s life changed on a cold, damp day in Paris over tiny plastic cups of lukewarm tea.

She was meeting with Patrick Aubourg, a French neurologist studying adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, a rare genetic condition that causes rapid neurological decline in young boys. It’s a sinister disease that often leads to disability or death within just a few years. Salzman’s nephew was diagnosed at just 6 or 7 years old, and died at the age of 12.

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Ahead of ad­comm, FDA rais­es un­cer­tain­ties on ben­e­fit-risk pro­file of Cy­to­ki­net­ic­s' po­ten­tial heart drug

The FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss whether Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug can safely reduce the risk of cardiovascular death and heart failure in patients with symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil and in development for more than 15 years, has seen mixed results, with a first Phase III readout from November 2020 hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as key to breaking into the market.

Ab­b­Vie slapped with age dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit, fol­low­ing oth­er phar­mas

Add AbbVie to the list of pharma companies currently facing age discrimination allegations.

Pennsylvania resident Thomas Hesch filed suit against AbbVie on Wednesday, accusing the company of passing him over for promotions in favor of younger candidates.

Despite 30 years of pharma experience, “Hesch has consistently seen younger, less qualified employees promoted over him,” the complaint states.

Nashville-based CD­MO nets a $65M Se­ries B to ex­pand fa­cil­i­ty and ca­pa­bil­i­ties

Another $65 million is music to the ears of the team at August Bioservices, a contract manufacturer in Nashville.

The company announced the Series B round last week, which will fund equipment in a new building expected to open in 2023, according to CEO Jenn Adams. It was led by Oak HC/FT, the same firm that led August’s Series A round in July 2020.

August Bioservices, a producer of materials such as prefilled syringes, IV bags and vials, was formed back in 2020 after the acquisition of PMI BioPharma Solutions, also based in Nashville. Adams said the goal was to build a business that could “address the scarcity of supply relative to sterile injectable manufacturing based in the US” and provide a broad range of manufacturing services.

Rami Elghandour, Arcellx CEO

Up­dat­ed: Gilead, Ar­cel­lx team up on an­ti-BC­MA CAR-T as biotech touts a 100% re­sponse rate at #ASH22

Gilead and Kite are plunking down big cash to get into the anti-BCMA CAR-T game.

The pair will shell out $225 million in cash upfront and $100 million in equity to Arcellx, Kite announced Friday morning, to develop the biotech’s lead CAR-T program together. Kite will handle commercialization and co-development with Arcellx, and profits in the US will be split 50-50.

Concurrent with the deal, Arcellx revealed its latest cut of data for the program known as CART-ddBCMA, ahead of a full presentation at this weekend’s ASH conference — a 100% response rate among patients getting the therapy. Investors jumped at the dual announcements, sending Arcellx shares $ACLX up more than 25% in Friday’s morning session.

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WIB22: Lead­ing NK cell re­searcher re­flects on roots in Iran, the UK and Texas

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

In a small but widely-cited 11-person study published in NEJM in 2020, seven patients saw signs of their cancer completely go away after getting a new therapy made from natural killer cells. The study was one of the earliest to provide clinical proof that the experimental treatment method had promise.

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