Michael Kamdar, Molecular Assemblies CEO

With a new method to syn­the­size DNA, San Diego's Mol­e­c­u­lar As­sem­blies notch­es $24M Se­ries A

A San Diego biotech is tak­ing a clos­er look at the way syn­thet­ic DNA is en­gi­neered, aim­ing to po­ten­tial­ly re­vamp the decades-old process and serve as a part­ner to com­pa­nies with­out the re­sources to cre­ate the DNA them­selves.

And now they have sig­nif­i­cant in­vestor back­ing to do so. Mol­e­c­u­lar As­sem­blies closed an over­sub­scribed Se­ries A on Thurs­day morn­ing, lock­ing down $24 mil­lion in the round to ad­vance their syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy plat­form.

The big idea here start­ed more than 30 years ago, when Mol­e­c­u­lar As­sem­blies’ co-founder J. William Ef­cav­itch helped com­mer­cial­ize the first method of syn­the­siz­ing DNA through a chem­i­cal-based method at an­oth­er com­pa­ny. Though it en­abled growth in bio­phar­ma, the method uti­lized ma­te­ri­als that caused waste is­sues and dam­aged the DNA even as it pro­duced the nu­cleotides.

Not on­ly is this process cum­ber­some and ex­pen­sive, it’s still the pri­ma­ry way in which com­pa­nies cre­ate DNA for ther­a­peu­tic pur­pos­es, CEO Michael Kam­dar told End­points News. Where Mol­e­c­u­lar As­sem­blies, found­ed in 2013, hopes to step in is with a new tech­nique to syn­the­size DNA strands while cut­ting down on costs and the tox­ic waste.

Their goal is to es­sen­tial­ly cre­ate DNA in the same way the body makes it, and re­searchers have de­vel­oped a two-step, aque­ous ap­proach. It can de­liv­er high­ly-pure, se­quence-spe­cif­ic DNA on de­mand, Kam­dar said, and do so with­out a tem­plate.

It can scale to longer DNA se­quences, some­thing Kam­dar said he be­lieves can be a “game-chang­er” in the are­na. Where­as the old method can be lim­it­ed to short­er DNA strands of about 70 to 75 nu­cleotides and more nar­row ap­pli­ca­tions, Mol­e­c­u­lar As­sem­blies says their process can cre­ate strands of 150 nu­cleotides or longer.

Ul­ti­mate­ly, the com­pa­ny as­pires to get to a point where their cus­tomers are ask­ing for DNA strands that are as long as genes — 1,500 nu­cleotides.

“We’re go­ing to be the ink in all the print­ers,” Kam­dar told End­points. “If a ther­a­peu­tic or biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny needs DNA to ad­vance their ef­forts in CRISPR, or ad­vance their ef­forts in CAR-T, or ad­vance their ef­forts in vac­cines, we can be the ink in that ap­proach. And then what they de­vel­op be­comes the fin­ished prod­uct that you see go­ing to pa­tients.”

There are a host of ap­pli­ca­tions for these types of long DNA, rang­ing from ther­a­peu­tics and agri­cul­ture to da­ta stor­age, Kam­dar said. Right now, though, the com­pa­ny is fo­cus­ing on its work with part­ners. Last year, Mol­e­c­u­lar As­sem­blies signed on­to a deal with Codex­is, cou­pling their syn­thet­ic DNA tech­nol­o­gy with Codex­is’ pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. That deal has served as a sort of proof-of-con­cept, Kam­dar said, il­lus­trat­ing that the tech works to pro­duce pure, long DNA strands.

Thurs­day’s fi­nanc­ing al­so comes about a month af­ter Mol­e­c­u­lar As­sem­blies signed on to a DARPA project for DNA- and RNA-based vac­cines and ther­a­pies. Led by GE re­search, the ini­tia­tive aims to cre­ate a mo­bile, on-de­mand plat­form that can be de­ployed to re­gions ex­posed to dis­ease. Mod­er­na is al­so in­volved in the pro­gram, the gov­ern­ment says.

Next up is work­ing to­ward more part­ner­ships with biotechs, and Kam­dar says they in­tend to forge some new al­liances over the next 12 to 18 months. The com­pa­ny has seen in­ter­est from those fo­cused on gene ther­a­py, but Mol­e­c­u­lar As­sem­blies is look­ing at sev­er­al po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tions.

In­vestors in­volved in the raise in­clud­ed Ag­i­lent Tech­nolo­gies, iS­e­lect Fund, Codex­is, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, and Arg­onau­tic Ven­tures. In ad­di­tion, LYFE Cap­i­tal joined the syn­di­cate.

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis de­tails plans to axe 8,000 staffers as Narasimhan be­gins sec­ond phase of a glob­al re­org

We now know the number of jobs coming under the axe at Novartis, and it isn’t small.

The pharma giant is confirming a report from Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that it is chopping 8,000 jobs out of its 108,000 global staffers. A large segment will hit right at company headquarters in Basel, as CEO Vas Narasimhan axes some 1,400 of a little more than 11,000  jobs in Switzerland.

The first phase of the work is almost done, the company says in a statement to Endpoints News. Now it’s on to phase two. In the statement, Novartis says:

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Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Some phar­ma com­pa­nies promise to cov­er abor­tion-re­lat­ed trav­el costs — while oth­ers won't go that far yet

As the US Department of Health and Human Services promises to support the millions of women who would now need to cross state lines to receive a legal abortion, a handful of pharma companies have said they will pick up employees’ travel expenses.

GSK, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, BeiGene, Alnylam and Gilead have all committed to covering abortion-related travel expenses just four days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked women’s constitutional right to an abortion.

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Aurobindo Pharma co-founders P. V. Ram Prasad Reddy (L) and K. Nityananda Reddy

Au­robindo Phar­ma re­ceives warn­ing let­ter from In­di­a's SEC fol­low­ing more FDA ques­tion marks

Indian-based generics manufacturer Aurobindo Pharma has been in the crosshairs of the FDA for several years now, but the company is also attracting attention from regulators within the subcontinent.

According to the Indian business news site Business Standard, a warning letter was sent to the company from the Securities Exchange Board of India, or SEBI.

The letter is related to disclosures made by the company on an ongoing FDA audit of the company’s Unit-1 API facility in Hyderabad, India as well as observations made by the US regulator between 2019 and 2022.

New Charles River Laboratories High Quality (HQ) Plasmid DNA Centre of Excellence at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. (Charles River)

Charles Riv­er Lab­o­ra­to­ries to start cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing at UK site in Sep­tem­ber

While Massachusetts-based Charles River Laboratories has been on an acquisition spree, they are not against planting their flag. The latest move by the company sees them crossing the pond to establish a manufacturing site in the UK.

The company on Tuesday opened its cell and gene therapy manufacturing center at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. The expansion follows Charles River’s acquisition of Cognate BioServices and Cobra Biologics in 2021 for $875 million. Cognate is a plasmid DNA, viral vector and cell therapy CDMO.

Bristol Myers Squibb (Alamy)

CVS re­sumes cov­er­age of block­buster blood thin­ner af­ter price drop fol­lows Jan­u­ary ex­clu­sion

Following some backlash from the American College of Cardiology and patients, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer lowered the price of their blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis, thus ensuring that CVS Caremark would cover the drug after 6 months of it being off the major PBM’s formulary.

“Because we secured lower net costs for patients from negotiations with the drug manufacturer, Eliquis will be added back to our template formularies for the commercial segment effective July 1, 2022, and patient choices will be expanded,” CVS Health said in an emailed statement. “Anti-coagulant therapies are among the non-specialty products where we are seeing the fastest cost increases from drug manufacturers and we will continue to push back on unwarranted price increases.”

#Can­nes­Lions2022: Con­sumer health ex­ecs call on agen­cies to in­volve pa­tients in cre­ative process

CANNES — When Tamara Rogers joined GSK back in 2018, “science was king and R&D were the gods.” Now the global chief marketing officer of consumer healthcare wants to make room for another supreme being: the consumer.

As health and wellness becomes more relevant to consumers amid the pandemic, four health-focused executives called on marketers to involve patients in their creative process in a panel discussion at the Cannes Lions advertising creativity festival.

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