Jim Roberts and Brian Finrow (Lumen Bioscience)

With a $4M fed­er­al grant, Lu­men jumps in­to the Covid-19 treat­ment race

It’s been less than a month since Lu­men Bio­science an­nounced a $16 mil­lion Se­ries B to en­gi­neer spir­uli­na — a nu­tri­ent-packed su­per food — for dis­eases like trav­el­er’s di­ar­rhea, norovirus and C. dif­fi­cile col­i­tis. And now, the biotech has pulled in an­oth­er $4 mil­lion to do the same for Covid-19.

The ap­proach is quite sim­i­lar to oth­er gas­troin­testi­nal tar­gets the com­pa­ny is pur­su­ing, co-founders and Bri­an Fin­row and Jim Roberts said. The Seat­tle-based com­pa­ny is work­ing on a camelid an­ti­body cock­tail to com­bat GI in­fec­tion com­mon among Covid-19 pa­tients. In a study pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Gas­troen­terol­o­gy, a ma­jor­i­ty of Covid-19 pa­tients showed GI and res­pi­ra­to­ry symp­toms, and 25% had on­ly GI symp­toms.

Fin­row and Roberts, CEO and CSO re­spec­tive­ly, told End­points News they saw a “big gap” here — while many drug de­vel­op­ers are fo­cused on res­pi­ra­to­ry ther­a­pies, few, if any, are honed in on GI symp­toms.

“The clin­i­cal con­se­quences of lung in­fec­tion are ob­vi­ous. And that’s why most or es­sen­tial­ly all ex­ist­ing ther­a­pies are tar­get­ed at lung in­fec­tion,” Roberts said.

“There’s just not re­al­ly good tools for go­ing af­ter dis­eases of the GI tract. And so the in­dus­try — and aca­d­e­m­ic re­searchers — for lack of tools haven’t done much. But … what we’ve got is a new tool that makes it ac­tu­al­ly quite straight­for­ward to do this,” Fin­row added lat­er.

The fi­nanc­ing comes from the US Army Med­ical Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Com­mand, op­er­at­ing through the Med­ical Tech­nol­o­gy En­ter­prise Con­sor­tium. It will fund de­vel­op­ment of the oral can­di­date through IND sub­mis­sion, and ini­tial en­gi­neer­ing for a new man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Wash­ing­ton state, which will have the ca­pac­i­ty to pro­duce 1 bil­lion-plus dos­es per year.

The goal is to hit the clin­ic by late spring, ac­cord­ing to Roberts. The com­pa­ny is sift­ing through a pan­el of 10 to 20 an­ti­bod­ies to find the right com­bi­na­tion, which could be al­tered in the fu­ture if the virus mu­tates. “That’s an ad­van­tage of our plat­form, and it’s very easy for us to swap things in and out like that,” Roberts said.

Lu­men be­gan its Covid-19 pro­gram at the on­set of the pan­dem­ic. “This (Seat­tle) was ground ze­ro for the US … We start­ed think­ing about what we might be able to do to help the sit­u­a­tion,” Fin­row said.

The duo be­lieves they can de­vel­op the treat­ment on a large scale —  and do so in­ex­pen­sive­ly. Oth­er bi­o­log­ic drugs can cost be­tween $100 to $200 per gram to make, Fin­row told End­points ear­li­er this month. But spir­uli­na — which is so cheap to grow that peo­ple eat it — could “break this cost prob­lem,” he said. The man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tem, he added, is as sim­ple as a fish tank with LED lights on the out­side.

So far, on­ly two treat­ments have been grant­ed emer­gency use au­tho­riza­tion to treat Covid-19 in the US: Gilead’s remde­sivir and con­va­les­cent plas­ma. The lat­ter has been the cen­ter of con­tro­ver­sy, with a pan­el of ex­perts con­vened by the NIH con­clud­ing ear­li­er this month that “there are cur­rent­ly no da­ta from well-con­trolled, ad­e­quate­ly pow­ered ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­als that demon­strate the ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty of con­va­les­cent plas­ma for the treat­ment of COVID-19.” Gilead, on the oth­er hand, said back in June that it would charge US in­sur­ers $520 per vial, or $3,120 for a full course of remde­sivir.

“Our ther­a­peu­tics are so in­ex­pen­sive, that they cer­tain­ly could be tak­en as a pre­ven­ta­tive when you’re at risk, which is vir­tu­al­ly all peo­ple for the time be­ing,” Roberts said. “And if ei­ther route of ini­tial in­fec­tion is through the GI tract, which it seems to be in many cas­es, then this would be con­sid­ered a pre­ven­ta­tive.”

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Marisol Peron, Genmab SVP of communications and corporate affairs

Gen­mab launch­es cor­po­rate cam­paign am­pli­fy­ing its ‘knock your socks off’ an­ti­bod­ies

Genmab often talks about its “knock-your-socks-off” antibodies — and now the term is getting its own logo and corporate campaign.

The teal and purple logo for the acronym KYSO — Genmab pronounces it “ky-so” — debuts on Wednesday and comes on the heels of Genmab’s newly announced 2030 vision. That aspiration aims to expand Genmab’s drug development beyond oncology to include other serious diseases, while also doubling down on its own drug development.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Bosch Health Campus)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs since 2020.

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Kate Haviland, Blueprint Medicines CEO

Blue­print met all its end­points in bid for ex­pand­ed Ay­vak­it la­bel — but stock trends low­er any­way

Blueprint Medicines announced this morning that the second part of its study on Ayvakit in non-advanced systemic mastocytosis (SM) — a rare disease in which a type of white blood cells known as mast cells builds up — met all endpoints, but the biopharma left key questions unanswered.

In 212 patients, with 141 in the treatment arm and 71 in the control arm, patients who got Ayvakit saw an average 15.6-point decrease in their symptom scores compared to a 9.2-point decrease in the placebo arm at 24 weeks. In an extension study, those on Ayvakit saw their symptom scores drop by 20.2 points by week 48.