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.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Gerry Brunk (Lumira)

What will Lu­mi­ra Ven­tures do with $220M? Stay out of the com­fort zone and off the beat­en biotech path

Lumira Ventures closed its largest fund on Monday, raking in $220 million to pump into the life sciences — but instead of targeting biotech hubs like San Francisco and Boston, the company is rolling the dice on “underserved geographies” in the US and Canada.

“We find oftentimes companies located in places like Montreal, or Fort Lauderdale, FL, or Kansas City or Phoenix, AZ just have more capital efficiency and better valuations, without having to compromise anything at all in the quality of the innovation and the management talent,” co-founder and managing partner Gerry Brunk told Endpoints News.