With a 'monopoly' on gly­co­pro­teomics, In­ter­Venn rais­es $34M to push can­cer di­ag­nos­tic in­to the clin­ic, woos Il­lu­mi­na BD ex­ec

For a few years now, ear­ly de­tec­tion of can­cer has been the sex­i­est top­ic in all of di­ag­nos­tics. With bil­lions of VC dol­lars poured in­to the pur­suit of tests to sniff out tu­mors ear­ly, the field is full of new ap­proach­es that promise to ac­cu­rate­ly pick up traces of can­cer, when pa­tients are more like­ly to be cured. But amid all the -omics — rang­ing from next-gen­er­a­tion ge­net­ic se­quenc­ing to high-through­put pro­tein screen­ing — one par­tic­u­lar type of mol­e­cule is al­ways ab­sent.

Al­do Car­ras­coso

What’s miss­ing is an analy­sis of pro­tein gly­co­sy­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to In­ter­Venn Bio­sciences, which has just raised $34 mil­lion to com­mer­cial­ize its first di­ag­nos­tics.

While In­ter­Venn may lack the glam­our of big-mon­ey out­fits such as Grail (now ac­quired by Il­lu­mi­na), Thrive, Kar­ius, Seer and Freenome, the South San Fran­cis­co-based com­pa­ny boasts of two star founders who’ve spent years to un­earth the in­tri­ca­cies of gly­co­bi­ol­o­gy: Car­olyn Bertozzi of Stan­ford and Car­l­i­to Le­bril­la of UC Davis.

It’s al­so re­cruit­ed a new chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, John Leite, from di­ag­nos­tics gi­ant Il­lu­mi­na to scout deals for some of the 24 dif­fer­ent tests in the port­fo­lio.

In­ter­Venn CEO Al­do Car­ras­coso, whose en­tre­pre­neur­ial ef­forts have pre­vi­ous­ly re­volved around busi­ness man­age­ment, dig­i­tal me­dia and blockchain, crossed paths with the sci­en­tists af­ter his cousin, fol­low­ing his moth­er and a close rel­a­tive, suc­cumbed to breast can­cer in 2016. The fam­i­ly tried every type of se­quenc­ing to no avail. The in­tense frus­tra­tion in un­der­stand­ing what’s go­ing on even­tu­al­ly led him to Le­bril­la’s lab, where he took a blood test.

He wait­ed a few hours for the blood to be processed by the mass spec­trom­e­ter. Then he was asked to come back in 12 months.

Car­l­i­to Le­bril­la

“I said, what do you mean come back in 12 months?” Car­ras­coso re­called to End­points News. The stu­dents and post­docs need­ed the time to run through the da­ta, re­peat­ing the process a few hun­dred thou­sand times to iden­ti­fy spec­tral sig­na­tures.

He had an idea of how you can su­per­charge what they were do­ing and trans­form the “in­sane process” with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence — a re­cur­rent neur­al net­work to be spe­cif­ic — and Le­bril­la took in­ter­est. The next year was spent build­ing a hand-cu­rat­ed dataset of gly­co­pro­teomics and us­ing it to train their first neur­al net­work.

The re­sult­ing al­go­rithm could spit out re­sults in 12 min­utes, some­times even 12 sec­onds.

John Leite

“That was the biggest bot­tle­neck for Car­l­i­to Le­bril­la and Car­olyn Bertozzi,” Car­ras­coso said. “The abil­i­ty to man­age the im­mense in­for­ma­tion that gly­co­pro­teomics gen­er­ate. It’s just over­whelm­ing for sci­en­tists.”

Through run­ning sam­ples for bio­phar­ma, hos­pi­tal and aca­d­e­m­ic clients, In­ter­Venn has dis­cov­ered bio­mark­ers that formed the ba­sis of 24 di­ag­nos­tics. In ear­ly 2021 they hope to com­plete en­roll­ment of a tri­al to com­pare its pan­el, VO­CAL, against the wide­ly used CA 125.

Af­ter that comes a slew of tests for re­nal, lung, liv­er, prostate, pan­cre­at­ic, na­sopha­ryn­geal, col­orec­tal can­cer and oth­ers, all con­sist­ing of dis­tinct sets of gly­copep­tides. In­ter­Venn al­so sees po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tion of its tech in im­muno-on­col­o­gy, where it may help drug de­vel­op­ers iden­ti­fy the pa­tients who would ben­e­fit from ther­a­pies that to­day on­ly helps 20% to 30% of pa­tients.

Er­win Es­ti­gar­rib­ia

“That’s some­thing that to­day doesn’t ex­ist,” COO Er­win Es­ti­gar­rib­ia, a vet­er­an of the di­ag­nos­tics space, said.

The re­al test lies ahead. With­out for­mal FDA ap­proval, In­ter­Venn’s pan­els must be processed cen­tral­ly at its San Fran­cis­co fa­cil­i­ty. But there’s a plan to ex­pand the over­sub­scribed ser­vice, not just by ex­pand­ing ca­pac­i­ty but ob­tain­ing reg­u­la­to­ry clear­ance to al­low oth­ers to run their di­ag­nos­tics, com­plete with a “plat­form ag­nos­tic” soft­ware that can han­dle da­ta from any mass spec­trom­e­ter. With the new cash com­ing in from Anzu Part­ners, Genoa Ven­tures, Am­pli­fy Part­ners, True Ven­tures, Xer­aya Cap­i­tal and the Oj­jeh Fam­i­ly, Car­ras­coso ex­pects the head­count to grow dra­mat­i­cal­ly from the cur­rent 50.

But for now, In­ter­Venn is con­tent oc­cu­py­ing what the CEO de­scribes as a mo­nop­oly.

“I wait for the day that there is an­oth­er In­ter­Venn,” he said. “But we’ve been search­ing for years. There hasn’t.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; 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.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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