Siddhartha Mukherjee (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

With lessons learned from Vor, Sid­dhartha Mukher­jee takes a dif­fer­ent route to tar­get sol­id tu­mors with start­up Myeloid

Sid­dhartha Mukher­jee is a busy man these days.

The Pulitzer Prize-win­ning au­thor, Co­lum­bia pro­fes­sor, on­col­o­gist, hema­tol­o­gist and lead­ing can­cer re­searcher in 2016 launched Vor, a Cam­bridge, MA-based start­up fo­cused on a new can­cer treat­ment in which cell sur­face anti­gens such as CD33 are re­moved from hematopoi­et­ic stem cells. They can then un­leash a CAR-T ther­a­py — made from T cells in a pa­tient’s blood and ge­net­i­cal­ly en­gi­neered to hunt for the anti­gens — to treat can­cer us­ing the body’s own im­mune sys­tem with­out at­tack­ing healthy cells that would’ve shared those anti­gens.

Now, Mukher­jee is adding a new start­up to his plate, still fo­cused on treat­ing can­cer us­ing the im­mune sys­tem. But this time, his fo­cus is on types of can­cers that have demon­strat­ed they can’t be cured by the CAR-T cell tech­nol­o­gy he pri­or­i­tizes at Vor.

This start­up, al­so based in Cam­bridge, is called Myeloid Ther­a­peu­tics, named for the spe­cif­ic cells which play a crit­i­cal role in a new ther­a­py found­ed by Mukher­jee and renowned bio­chemist Ronald Vale. The two are backed by over $50 mil­lion in Se­ries A fund­ing from around the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try, led by New­path Part­ners out of Boston.

Mukher­jee told End­points News in an in­ter­view that us­ing myeloid cells to tar­get can­cers — most­ly those in sol­id tu­mors — has the po­ten­tial to meet an “enor­mous” un­met med­ical need.

“Most sol­id can­cers such as ovar­i­an can­cer or col­orec­tal can­cer or esophageal can­cer for what­ev­er rea­son are not amenable to CAR-T cell ther­a­py or to so-called check­point in­hibitor ther­a­pies, which ac­ti­vat­ed T cells against these can­cers,” he said. “We now know a lot about why, and that’s be­cause when you look at these can­cers, even af­ter you treat them with these (ther­a­pies), you find that they form a kind of shell and re­sis­tance shell around the can­cer … which ex­clude T cells from en­ter­ing the tu­mor.”

It’s al­most like the shell on the out­side of a Star Wars bat­tle­ship, Mukher­jee said.

Ronald Vale

This is where myeloid cells come in­to play. Un­like T cells, myeloid cells are ac­tu­al­ly “in­trin­si­cal­ly de­signed” to pen­e­trate sol­id can­cer tu­mors, he said, as if they have a free pass to in­vade the mass and sur­vey what’s hap­pen­ing in­side of it.

Mukher­jee and Vale dis­cov­ered that they could ge­net­i­cal­ly en­gi­neer re­cep­tors in the myeloid cells to not on­ly pen­e­trate a tu­mor, but to rec­og­nize the tu­mor and be ac­ti­vat­ed by the tu­mor it­self. In oth­er words, the tech­nol­o­gy bridges the gap be­tween the hu­man body’s in­nate im­mune sys­tem, which can gen­er­al­ly scan the body for virus­es and the like, and the im­mune sys­tem’s ca­pac­i­ty to rec­og­nize and lat­er at­tack can­cer cells.

Thus be­came Myeloid There­apeu­tics.

“Those were the two cru­cial in­sights that drove this com­pa­ny and the ther­a­pies that this com­pa­ny is pro­duc­ing,” Mukher­jee said. “The fact that you can take the in­nate im­mune sys­tem, which is not de­signed to rec­og­nize one par­tic­u­lar virus or mi­crobe or can­cer, but en­gi­neer the im­mune sys­tem to rec­og­nize can­cer and be­come ac­ti­vat­ed by the can­cer … We’re en­abling the most an­cient part of the im­mune sys­tem to be­come can­cer-spe­cif­ic and can­cer-ac­ti­vat­ed.”

Daniel Getts

Myeloid will ded­i­cate much of the ini­tial $50 mil­lion fund­ing to­ward ini­ti­at­ing clin­i­cal tri­als for its two main pro­grams, which tar­get T cell lym­phoma, glioblas­toma and oth­er sol­id tu­mors. The team will al­so con­tin­ue to de­sign and ad­vance a broad pipeline of tar­get­ed myeloid cell ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing primed myeloid cells, myeloid mul­ti-spe­cif­ic en­gagers and oth­er de­vel­op­ment can­di­dates cre­at­ed with Myeloid’s nov­el mR­NA de­liv­ery tech­nolo­gies.

The com­pa­ny ex­pects to en­ter the clin­ic with its two lead pro­grams in glioblas­toma and T cell lym­phoma in 2021.

Myeloid CEO Daniel Getts told End­points that through­out his ca­reer in the biotech in­dus­try, he’s been in­volved with oth­er ven­tures that looked at the use of T cells in fight­ing can­cer­ous tu­mors. But be­fore now, it’s seemed like the tech­nolo­gies and can­cer reme­dies avail­able were dis­joint­ed, he said. Where Myeloid hopes to be dif­fer­ent is that it com­bines the con­cepts of those past ther­a­pies in­to a sin­gle ther­a­peu­tic through the myeloid-cell mech­a­nism.

“I think the pow­er of what we have is un­sur­passed right now. And, you know, we’re ben­e­fi­cia­ries,” Getts said. “We’re stand­ing on the shoul­ders of a lot of these oth­er gene en­gi­neer­ing com­pa­nies be­cause they’re show­ing the world what’s pos­si­ble.”

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.”

Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Tempus Labs)

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 from 2020.

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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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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL CEO Paul Per­reault de­ter­mined to grow plas­ma col­lec­tion af­ter full-year sales dip

As the ink dries on CSL’s $11.7 billion Vifor buyout, the company posted a dip in profits, due in part to a drop in plasma donations amid the pandemic.

However, CEO Paul Perreault assured investors and analysts on the full-year call that the team has left “no stone unturned” when assessing options to grow plasma volumes. The chief executive also spelled out positive results for the company’s monoclonal antibody garadacimab in hereditary angioedema (HAE), though he isn’t revealing the exact numbers just yet.

Blaise Coleman, Endo International CEO

En­do files for Chap­ter 11 as it looks to fin­ish off its opi­oid lit­i­ga­tion

Irish drugmaker Endo International is entering into bankruptcy as it faces the weight of serious litigation related to its involvement in the opioid epidemic in the US.

The company has filed Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, with the company expected to file recognition proceedings in Canada, the UK and Australia. The company’s bankruptcy filing showed the company had assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion.