WuXi dives in­to com­pu­ta­tion­al drug dis­cov­ery, launch­es New York-based JV with Schrödinger

Glob­al CRO pow­er­house WuXi AppTec has long made it clear that it’s not con­tent just do­ing out­sourced work for its clients. It’s in­vest­ed in R&D fa­cil­i­ties, seed­ed biotech star­tups and teamed up with Juno Ther­a­peu­tics to build a CAR-T com­pa­ny in Chi­na. And in its lat­est move in the US, WuXi is launch­ing a joint drug dis­cov­ery ven­ture with the com­pu­ta­tion­al chem­istry ex­perts at Schrödinger.

Fax­i­an Ther­a­peu­tics — which gets its name from the Chi­nese word for “dis­cov­ery” — will take ad­van­tage of Schrödinger’s “ad­vanced com­pu­ta­tion­al plat­form and ex­per­tise in physics-based drug dis­cov­ery” and WuXi’s lead op­ti­miza­tion prowess from chem­istry, bi­ol­o­gy, to drug me­tab­o­lism and phar­ma­co­ki­net­ics, the com­pa­nies say, with WuXi re­spon­si­ble for car­ry­ing out the ex­per­i­ments de­signed by Schrödinger.

Ed­ward Hu

While Fax­i­an will be head­quar­tered in New York City, it will run on a “vir­tu­al­ly-in­te­grat­ed, glob­al­ly-dis­trib­uted net­work,” ac­cord­ing to Ed­ward Hu, who’s re­cent­ly been pro­mot­ed to be co-CEO at WuXi.

Shi-Yi Liu, Schrödinger’s SVP of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, elab­o­rates in an email:

WuXi has a world­wide pres­ence, as does Schrödinger, and as need­ed, mem­bers from each com­pa­ny from all around the world will work to­geth­er on this col­lab­o­ra­tion, lever­ag­ing in­di­vid­ual ex­per­tise wher­ev­er it re­sides. This vir­tu­al glob­al col­lab­o­ra­tion will be fa­cil­i­tat­ed by Schrödinger’s LiveDesign plat­form, which al­lows all mem­bers of a dis­cov­ery team to com­mu­ni­cate and col­lab­o­rate in re­al time from any­where.

A sto­ried dis­cov­ery shop that’s helped launch splashy biotechs like Nim­bus Ther­a­peu­tics and Mor­phic Ther­a­peu­tic, Schrödinger con­vinced Take­da last year to take a try on its in sil­i­co plat­form — fea­tur­ing mol­e­c­u­lar sim­u­la­tions and soft­ware — for $170 mil­lion per pro­gram in neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases and schiz­o­phre­nia. That fol­lows a sim­i­lar part­ner­ship with Sanofi, which want­ed to look in­to au­toim­mune dis­eases and on­col­o­gy.

The com­pa­ny has yet to de­cide on ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas it will fo­cus on, Liu says. Schrödinger’s world­wide team of around 400 cov­ers an ex­ten­sive range of in­di­ca­tions, from an­ti­fun­gal and fi­bro­sis to meta­bol­ic dis­eases and type 2 di­a­betes.

Late Fri­day ap­proval; Trio of biotechs wind down; Stem cell pi­o­neer finds new fron­tier; Biotech icon to re­tire; and more

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I hope your weekend is off to a nice start, wherever you are reading this email. As for me, I’m trying to catch the tail of the Lunar New Year festivities.

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Pfiz­er lays off em­ploy­ees at Cal­i­for­nia and Con­necti­cut sites

Pfizer has laid off employees at its La Jolla, CA, and Groton, CT sites, according to multiple LinkedIn posts from former employees.

The Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News it has let go of some employees, but a spokesperson declined to specify how many workers were impacted and the exact locations affected. Earlier this month, the drug developer had confirmed to Endpoints it was sharpening its focus and doing away with some early research on areas such as rare disease, oncology and gene therapies.

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Rodney Rietze, iVexSol CEO

Bris­tol My­ers, Charles Riv­er join Se­ries A fund­ing for iVex­Sol

Massachusetts-based iVexSol has secured funding to the tune of $23.8 million in its latest Series A round. The new investors include Bristol Myers Squibb, manufacturer Charles River Laboratories and Asahi Kasei Medical.

iVexSol is a manufacturer of lentiviral vectors (LVV), used in making gene therapies, and this latest round of fundraising brings its total Series A total over $39 million, which will be used to recruit more employees and bolster its technology.

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Jake Van Naarden, Loxo@Lilly CEO

Lil­ly en­ters ripe BTK field with quick FDA nod in man­tle cell lym­phoma

Eli Lilly has succeeded in its attempt to get the first non-covalent version of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, or BTK, inhibitors to market, pushing it past rival Merck.

The FDA gave an accelerated nod to Lilly’s daily oral med, to be sold as Jaypirca, for patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.

The agency’s green light, disclosed by the Indianapolis Big Pharma on Friday afternoon, catapults Lilly into a field dominated by covalent BTK inhibitors, which includes AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica, AstraZeneca’s Calquence and BeiGene’s Brukinsa.

Filip Dubovsky, Novavax CMO

No­vavax gets ready to take an­oth­er shot at Covid vac­cine mar­ket with next sea­son plans

While mRNA took center stage at yesterday’s FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting, Novavax announced its plans to deliver an updated protein-based vaccine based on new guidance.

Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) members voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all future vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

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Eliot Forster, F-star CEO (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

F-star gets down to the wire with $161M sale to Chi­nese buy­er as na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty con­cerns linger

With the clock ticking on F-star Therapeutics’ takeover by a Chinese buyer, the companies are still scrambling to remove a hold on the deal from the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

F-star and invoX Pharma said they are “actively negotiating” with CFIUS “about the terms of a mitigation agreement to address CFIUS’s concerns regarding potential national security risks posed by the transaction.”

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CBER Director Peter Marks (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

FDA ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee votes unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of bi­va­lent Covid shots re­plac­ing pri­ma­ry se­ries

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all current vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

The vote marks an effort to clear up confusion around varying formulations and dosing schedules for current primary series and booster vaccines, as well as “get closer to the strains that are circulating,” according to committee member Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Neu­ralink em­ploy­ees cite lay­offs at Elon Musk’s brain-com­put­er in­ter­face start­up

At least two Neuralink employees have posted to LinkedIn in recent days saying they’ve been laid off from Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface startup, which has received backlash for animal testing.

A former staffer working on preclinical study design and an ex-lab director working on assessing the safety of Neuralink’s implanted devices (prior to human testing) announced recently they’d been laid off, specifically using that terminology. Both had worked at the startup for at least two years.

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Ali Madani, Profluent founder and CEO

Proflu­ent de­buts to de­sign pro­teins with ma­chine learn­ing in bid to move past 'AI sprin­kled on top'

While OpenAI’s Microsoft-allied ChatGPT takes the world by storm, a fledgling startup in Berkeley, CA is debuting to take a similar language-learning model approach, but with the goal of designing new proteins.

Profluent, founded by a former Salesforce AI research leader, has secured $9 million to kick-start its work, with proceeds going toward building out an integrated wet lab and recruiting machine learning scientists and biologists. Insight Partners led the seed round. The investor base also includes Air Street Capital, AIX Ventures and Phoenix Venture Partners.

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