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Updated: 6 hours 1 min ago

High-Flying Ginkgo Nets Another $290M to Program Cells Like Computers

10 hours 40 min ago

Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic biology specialist that has become worth billions, has raised another $290 million to expand the breadth of a technology that tinkers with a cell’s genetic code and reprograms it—like programming a computer.

Boston-based Ginkgo uses a combination of software and robotic systems to design organisms. It started out making microbes engineered to secrete a compound, like a chemical used in a flavor or a fragrance. But Ginkgo now has broader ambitions. The company says its synthetic biology approach can help with life sciences research and potentially replace a slew of conventional manufacturing practices that are more expensive... Read more »

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Eying “Extra” DNA As Cancer Driver, Boundless Bio Debuts With $46M

15 hours 22 min ago

In the nucleus of human cells sit our chromosomes, comprised mainly of tightly wound DNA. In some cells, however, some pieces of genetic material that exist within the nucleus are not attached to a chromosome—and a new company, Boundless Bio, believes these “extra” pieces of DNA play a key role in driving some especially aggressive solid-tumor cancers.

The San Diego-based biotech came out of stealth mode Thursday with an announcement that it had raised a $46.4 million Series A financing round to fund the development of cancer drugs targeting tumors that have what’s known as extrachromosomal DNA.

Zach Hornby, former chief... Read more »

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Gilliland to Step Down as Head of Fred Hutch in 2020

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 17:18

Gary Gilliland, who has led Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as president and director for the past four-plus years, plans to step down in 2020, the nonprofit organization announced Tuesday.

He joined the research center, which is often abbreviated as Fred Hutch, in 2015. Under his leadership, the organization has increased its endowment and grant funding levels, expanded its faculty, and forged numerous research collaborations with outside parties, according to a news release.

Gilliland will stay on until the institution names a successor, it said in the release. After Fred Hutch’s trustees, faculty, and administrators conduct a search... Read more »

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Amplyx Inks Novartis Deal for Another Compromised-Immune System Drug

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 05:00

Amplyx Pharmaceuticals, which is testing a new type of drug against life-threatening infections acquired by patients with compromised immune systems, has acquired the rights to another drug that could also be of use in treating those with limited ability to fight off sickness.

On Monday, the clinical-stage San Diego biotech company announced it had added an experimental drug developed by Swiss pharma giant Novartis (NYSE: NVS) to its pipeline through a licensing deal. That compound, MAU868, is designed to target a protein associated with BK viral disease, an infection that occurs most often in people who have received a kidney... Read more »

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Lundbeck Paying Nearly $2B for Alder to Follow Migraine Rivals to Market

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 14:50

Denmark’s neuroscience-focused pharma firm Lundbeck has agreed to pay $1.95 billion to acquire Seattle-based Alder BioPharmaceuticals to boost its late-stage pipeline and biologics capabilities.

Barely a year at the helm, Lundbeck CEO Deborah Dunsire (pictured) is making her second major acquisition as she continues to look for new growth drivers to offset generics erosion of the firm’s top-selling epilepsy treatment clobazam (Onfi), which lost US patent exclusivity in October 2018. The acquisition of Alder (NASDAQ: ALDR) will include eptinezumab, a migraine drug that is under marketing review at the FDA, which will make an approval decision by next February 21.... Read more »

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Advisory Body Backs Aimmune Peanut Allergy Drug, Next Up: the FDA

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:03

A panel of independent advisors to the FDA voted on Friday to recommend approval of an experimental peanut allergy drug from Aimmune Therapeutics. But concern about the risks of an allergic reaction to the therapy led the committee of mostly physicians to also recommend a safety plan to ensure that clinicians, patients, and their families understand the dangers that can come with treatment.

The vote was 7-2 in favor of recommending approval based on data that Brisbane, CA-based Aimmune (NASDAQ: AIMT) presented about its therapy, Palforzia. Asked whether to recommend approval of the therapy with additional safeguards, panelists voted... Read more »

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BACEless: Eisai, Biogen Pull Plug on Alzheimer’s Drug in Final Stage

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 09:29

Add another once-promising Alzheimer’s disease drug to the scrap heap.

Eisai and Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) are halting a Phase 3 test after an independent safety review concluded the risks of experimental Alzheimer’s drug elenbecestat outweigh the benefits. The companies did not explain what the independent board found. Some drugs that work the same way have failed because of safety problems, while others have failed to boost cognition sufficiently. The companies said detailed data would be presented at a future medical meeting.

Elenbecestat is known as a BACE inhibitor, a type of drug that blocks the enzyme beta secretase 1 (BACE1),... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: Award Winners, Lung Data, Dems on Drug Pricing & More

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 03:40

For decades, advanced lung cancer was a quick death sentence. That’s no longer a given, thanks in part to the arrival of immunotherapy. If a medical meeting in Barcelona this week was any indication, more help could be on the way.

Targeted medicine isn’t new to lung cancer, but only a fraction of patients have the eligible mutations, such as EGFR and ALK, and thus have a chance to avoid chemotherapy and its toxic side effects. New drugs targeting other alterations, like KRAS-G12C and RET fusions, could expand that pool. A few of them continued to show promise in clinical... Read more »

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SpringWorks and Satsuma Boost This Week’s Biotech IPO Haul to $595M

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 19:15

Wall Street welcomed three life science companies to the public markets this week. 10x Genomics led the way Wednesday, followed by SpringWorks Therapeutics and Satsuma Pharmaceuticals on Thursday. Combined, the three companies raised more than $595 million from their IPOs.

According to IPO research firm Renaissance Capital, 153 IPOs have been filed to date in 2019, 48 in healthcare—more than any other sector. Here’s a look at the three life science companies that went public this week.

—The biggest IPO of the week belongs to 10x Genomics (NASDAQ: TXG), which raised $351 million. The Pleasanton, CA, company sold... Read more »

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The Winners of the 2019 Xconomy Awards Boston Are…

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 17:24

Even after three years, it doesn’t get any easier to choose the winners of the Xconomy Awards in Boston. There were multiple deserving winners in each category this year. But after much discussion and debate among our judges and the editors, we decided that these winners represent the best of the Boston life sciences community.

The winners (listed below) were announced and presented with their awards tonight at our Awards Gala in Boston. Stay tuned for a slideshow of the event.


Big Idea
Talaris Therapeutics

Jeff Jonas, Sage Therapeutics

Commitment to Diversity
Melodie... Read more »

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Tocagen Stock Tanks After Gene Therapy Drug for Brain Cancer Fails

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 11:15

Tocagen’s experimental gene therapy for brain cancer therapy has failed a late-stage test, sinking the biotech’s stock price below $1.

San Diego’s Tocagen (NASDAQ: TOCA), has been testing its drug in recurrent high-grade glioma, the most common and deadly type of brain cancer in adults. The company said Thursday that the drug combination, Toca 511 and Toca FC, didn’t prolong patient survival in the Phase 3 trial compared to chemotherapy, the standard treatment. The experimental Tocagen therapy also didn’t meet any of its secondary goals.

About 400 patients with brain tumors—including glioblastomas, the most aggressive form of brain cancer—that had... Read more »

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FDA Doesn’t Shell Peanut Allergy Drug Pre-Hearing, Aimmune Shares Climb

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 13:42

Peanut allergy sufferers know they need to stay away from certain foods that can put them in danger. But what about accidental exposure? Even trace amounts of peanut protein in their food or someone else’s can trigger an allergic reaction that sends them to the hospital.

That’s what makes Palforzia, an experimental peanut allergy treatment from Aimmune Therapeutics (NASDAQ: AIMT), a potentially big deal. Palforzia could become the first FDA-approved therapy that reduces peanut sensitivity enough to make those allergic reactions less frequent and less severe. The agency is expected to make an approval decision in January, but only after... Read more »

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After Investing, GSK to Buy Out Celiac Drug Developer Sitari Pharma

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 11:47

GlaxoSmithKline is acquiring a startup it helped launch in 2013 as part of an alliance with life sciences venture capital firm Avalon Ventures.

Avalon said Tuesday that GSK (NYSE: GSK) has agreed to buy the company, Sitari Pharmaceuticals, which has been developing a treatment for celiac disease.

Sitari was the first of eight companies spun up through the partnership between the Southern California investment outfit and British pharma company. As part of the deal, Sitari received $10 million in Series A financing. The company hasn’t raised any additional funds since that initial financing round.

Financial terms of the acquisition were... Read more »

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Phil Sharp, CRISPR’ing the Heart & the Duchenne Data Gap on Oct. 17

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 05:47

Phil Sharp is one of the godfathers of biotech. He’s an MIT biologist, Nobel laureate and, as a Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) co-founder, one of the people responsible for turning Kendall Square into the biopharma epicenter it is today.

Next month, he will share his story, the lessons he’s learned along the way, what he’s up to now, and much more. On Oct. 17 at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA, Xconomy will host “Boston’s Life Science Disruptors.” This year, we’re featuring three interactive, candid, fireside chat-style discussions with a cross section of biomedical innovators, patient advocates, and startup... Read more »

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After First Look at House Drug Plan, Stocks Rise Slightly

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 14:28

The first details of the long-awaited House Democrat plan to lower drug prices leaked out Monday night, with elements that have long been anathema to the biopharma industry and its supporters in Washington.

While the world digested the details Tuesday, however, biopharma investors didn’t seem fazed. Some individual companies saw shares dip, but the biopharma indices of the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange were both up slightly at Tuesday’s close. Full details of the proposal could come this week, according to the Washington Post.

In current form the House bill “stands no chance of passing the Senate,” wrote SVB... Read more »

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BlackThorn Therapeutics Names Monique Levy Chief Strategy Officer

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 09:01

Monique Levy has been appointed chief strategy officer of BlackThorn Therapeutics. Levy most recently worked at iCarbonX as global head of strategy and partnerships. Her experience also includes positions at PatientsLikeMe and Decision Resources Group. San Francisco-based BlackThorn is using artificial intelligence to help develop psychiatric drugs. In June, the company raised $76 million in Series B funding.

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Herceptin Inventors, Immunology Pioneers Take Home 2019 Lasker Awards

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 06:21

This year’s Lasker Awards, the US’s most prestigious biomedical honor, are going to five scientists whose work led to a critical breast cancer treatment and significant basic research advances that have helped pave the way for immunotherapy.

H. Michael Shepard, Dennis Slamon, and Axel Ullrich won the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for inventing trastuzumab (Herceptin), the Genentech antibody drug for HER2-positive breast cancer, a form of the disease that afflicts more than 50,000 women each year.

Herceptin is the first monoclonal antibody to target a cancer-causing protein—HER2, over-expressed on some breast cancer tumors. It has been followed by several... Read more »

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Challenging CRISPR, Trucode Raises $34M for New Gene-Editing System

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 05:30

Gene-editing technology offers the potential to treat inherited disorders with selective edits and corrections to an afflicted individual’s genetic code. But with such molecular tinkering comes with the risk of unintended changes to the genome.

Biotech startup Trucode Gene Repair is developing technology that it claims can edit genes in a way that reduces the risk of these so-called “off-target effects.” The South San Francisco company is announcing Tuesday that it has raised $34 million to support its research. Trucode disclosed that its investors in the financing include Kleiner Perkins and GV.

Another innovative gene editing technique, CRISPR, grabs most of... Read more »

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San Diego Life Sciences Roundup: SGI-DNA, ZeaKal, DelMar Pharma & More

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 04:00

Fall is finally arriving, as indicated by the recent shortened work week, and few may object given the unseasonably hot, muggy weather San Diego has been experiencing recently. Track down somewhere with AC, then catch up on recent developments in the local life sciences scene.

—SGI-DNA, a recent spinout of Synthetic Genomics (SGI), has raised a $25 million Series A financing round led by Northpond Ventures. Oxford Finance and BroadOak Capital Partners also participated. The La Jolla, CA, company, which was founded as an SGI subsidiary in 2014 but was formally spun out about six months ago, is headed by CEO... Read more »

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Acadia Stock Jumps on Positive Dementia-Related Psychosis Drug Data

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 15:08

An Acadia Pharmaceuticals drug that’s already approved for psychosis associated with Parkinson’s disease could soon be heading to an FDA review to expand the use of the drug to dementia patients.

On Monday, Acadia (NASDAQ: ACAD) reported that its drug, pimavanserin, met the goal of delaying relapse of psychosis in dementia patients compared to a placebo. Based on the results, the San Diego company said it would end the study early and seek a meeting with the regulator to discuss filing next year for approval in dementia-related psychosis.

Pimavanserin was approved in 2016 as a treatment for psychosis associated with... Read more »

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