Of Microbes And Men


This post is by Aoife Brennan from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Aoife Brennan, CEO of Synlogic Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

I am the CEO of Synlogic, a synthetic biology company, where the focus of our work is the development of medicines using engineered bacteria.

I love the science of what we do; it is challenging, innovative and has the potential to make a really big impact for patients. I am also challenged by issues related to organizational development; a topic of frequent discussion among CEOs.

Over the past few months, I have started to see parallels between lessons we have learned in the lab and discussions that would occur in the corner office, if I had an office. I will frequently sit in discussions poring over the most recent batch of data with the scientists when an issue that seems unrelated suddenly becomes clearer. I try to keep my

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SPR994:  A Long Shot, With Lots Of Twists And Turns To Phase III


This post is by Ankit Mahadevia from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Ankit Mahadevia, CEO and founder of Spero Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC. 

At Spero we are privileged to be enrolling our pivotal study for SPR994, our oral antibiotic with the bacteria-killing power of an IV to treat patients with serious urinary tract infections.  A frightening sign of our deteriorating antibiotic arsenal is the three million patients in the US alone whose infections do not respond to oral antibiotics used in past decades; if these patients are hospitalized they can cost an average of $4,000 more to treat than if an effective oral agent were available.  In this era of a value conscious health care system, there are few interventions that are more cost-effective than getting patients out of the hospital or keeping them out. SPR994 could provide the tool to make this happen.

We tell the Continue reading “SPR994:  A Long Shot, With Lots Of Twists And Turns To Phase III”

Biotech Startups And The Hard Truth Of Innovation


This post is by Bruce from LifeSciVC


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Gary Pisano’s recent Harvard Business Review piece, The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures, beautifully frames up how innovative corporate environments are frequently misunderstood. Innovative startups aren’t just about being cool and nimble, having beer taps in the kitchen, or an endless bounty of swag. Pisano sums up the harder, harsher reality of truly innovative environments: “These cultures are not all fun and games.”

Pisano’s piece struck a huge chord with my own experience working with both large pharma and small startups over the past 20 years.  And many of the observations are in line with my post from July 2017 on Distinctive Biotech Corporate Cultures.

While reading Pisano’s piece, my brain kept saying “Yes!” and “So true!” every few sentences.  I tweeted out my endorsement of the piece back in January but have finally gotten around to blogging on it; in this post, Continue reading “Biotech Startups And The Hard Truth Of Innovation”

Targeted Protein Degradation Comes of Age


This post is by Nello Mainolfi from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Nello Mainolfi, CSO and co-founder of Kymera Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

Translation of well validated biology into therapeutics remains one of the biggest challenges of modern drug development, in many cases due to lack of appropriate technologies to drug well credentialed biological targets. Examples in this category include driver oncogenes such as MYC, b-catenin and STAT3; catalytically active scaffolding kinases such as IRAK4 and RIPK’s or proteins whose accumulation is associated with well-established pathology such as alpha-synuclein in Parkinsons’s Disease or Tau in dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Over the past decade, several new drug discovery technologies have been proven successful in overcoming some of the challenges of traditional small molecules therapeutics. One of the most successful modalities, therapeutic antibodies have allowed us to target cell surface and circulating proteins, very specifically, with high degree of affinity and most

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Getting Clinical On New Drug Launches


This post is by Bruce from LifeSciVC


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The IQVIA Institute released a data-rich report in April 2019 on the state of clinical R&D in the US pharmaceutical industry titled “The Changing Landscape of Research and Development: Innovation, Drivers of Change, and Evolution of Clinical Trial Productivity”.  The report is a fascinating deep-dive into lots of data cuts around what’s going on.

The increasing role of biotech in marketing their own drugs was the subject of much of the coverage on the report (here, here), which is indeed an interesting trend to see.  But rather than opine on that observation or the full scope of the report, I wanted to highlight a number of findings, largely glossed over elsewhere, relevant to the state of clinical trial activity and approvals that are relevant to biotech investors.

With clinical trial activity in the industry up 35% over the past few years, with over

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A Decade of Discovery


This post is by Jeb Keiper from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Jeb Keiper, CEO of Nimbus Therapeutics LLC, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

It is with great excitement that we at Nimbus are ringing in our 10th birthday this month. It’s been a momentous decade of ups and downs, many of them chronicled in dozens of posts here on LifeSciVC. At 10 years and still going, we’re proud to have reached a milestone that only about 10% of startups achieve.

We are using this 10th birthday as a time to look back on how well Nimbus has carried out its founding principles and to look ahead – as we define our vision for how the next decade of Nimbus should look. So, first, to revisit where we came from…

“Project Troubled Water”

The idea for Nimbus started kicking around in 2008 after Bruce Booth of Atlas Venture met Ramy

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An Encyclopedia Of Advice For Startup Boards


This post is by Bruce from LifeSciVC


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Startups management teams often have a love-hate relationship with their Board of Directors: while Boards can be hugely helpful and constructive in the best of times, they can be dysfunctional and damaging in the worst. And most CEOs enjoy complaining about their Boards, even if just for entertaining effect on conference panels and the like.

But it is critically important for every CEO (and lead investor) to work together to best optimize the way a startup Board interacts with a management team. As a venture creation firm, we spend a lot of time engaging with our CEOs around board governance and strategy.

In 2012, under a post titled “High-Performing Boards in Early Stage Biotech”, I outlined nine themes of good Board management: insist on a prepared board, set the context, right-size your board, get independents onboard, include the senior management team, ensure quality Exec sessions, communicate frequently off-cycle,

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Maybe It’s Innate


This post is by Samantha Truex from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Samantha Truex, Atlas EIR and CEO of Quench Bio, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

Recently I read the article What’s Wrong With Me? that I saw re-posted on Twitter.  It’s a 2013 New Yorker article chronicling one woman’s journey through years of multi-symptom autoimmune/autoinflammatory disease with undiagnosed and untreated maladies.  It’s a long read, but one that I could not leave unfinished as I thought about my multiple friends who followed similar paths for years, each trying to understand what caused her symptoms.  Amongst my close friends are one with multiple sclerosis, one with ulcerative colitis, one with lupus and two with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  Their diseases are given these titles that imply crisp definitions, but these are heterogenous diseases with overlapping symptoms, so they are difficult to diagnose and treat.  I’ll come back to

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Why Reputation Is More Important Than Ever For Biotech Companies … And What You Can Do About It


This post is by Deanna Petersen from LifeSciVC


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This blog was co-written by Deanna Petersen, Chief Business Officer of AVROBIO, and Paul Newman, head of Corporate Communications, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it,” Warren Buffett said, and added “If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” In biotech, a strong reputation is difficult to build, is even harder to establish quickly, and can be easily tarnished. So, what’s the landscape and what should we do about it?

Reputation has always been significant.  Today, reputation is increasingly important because trust in institutions and companies is being eroded in the U.S. and around the world.

On top of the general rise in emphasis on company reputation, the building and management of reputation is especially challenging for biotech companies because:

  1. Volatility is par for the course in the biotech

    Continue reading “Why Reputation Is More Important Than Ever For Biotech Companies … And What You Can Do About It”

Sheer Heart Attack: What Happens When Your Partner Gets Acquired in The Middle of Negotiations


This post is by Tariq Kassum from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Tariq Kassum, COO of Obsidian Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

Every morning before I go to work, I review my calendar for the day. This gets me into the right frame of mind and helps me set my priorities. On Thursday, January 3, 2019, I reviewed my schedule and saw that I had a clear calendar: dermatologist appointment, management team meeting, and nothing else.

My schedule was light because I had cleared my calendar a few days before. I knew what was coming and I needed free time to work. We were in the last steps of completing a major research collaboration with Celgene covering two of Obsidian’s lead programs for use in CAR-T therapies. We were finalizing the agreements and were aiming to announce the deal at JPMorgan in a few days.

On that Thursday, I was awaiting

Continue reading “Sheer Heart Attack: What Happens When Your Partner Gets Acquired in The Middle of Negotiations”

Cats And The Future Of Machine Learning In Drug Discovery


This post is by Jonathan Montagu from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Jonathan Montagu, CEO and founder of HotSpot Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

The predictions around the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) have been broad reaching but it’s clear that not everyone is convinced (here and here) and the trajectory of the current AI hype cycle feels downwards.

In this blog, I want to make the case that artificial intelligence (AI) will make a significant difference in drug discovery over the long run but it’s important to see AI like other big industry shifts such as the genomics revolution of the early 2000’s.  Incremental changes over time lead to big and even transformational impacts. Today there are structural constraints in descriptors, data and algorithms that are limiting the role of AI but in the longer term innovation in these areas will enable real impact.  Overall,

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Sharing An Innate Desire To Address Inflammation: Novartis and IFM Team Up


This post is by Bruce from LifeSciVC


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Today Novartis announced the acquisition of IFM Therapeutics’ portfolio of NLRP3 antagonists, via the purchase of IFM Tre, a subsidiary of IFM (here, here). These immunomodulatory medicines target the inflammasome, a key innate immune node whose pathologic chronic activation is associated with several metabolic, fibrotic, autoimmune, and neurological diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, IFM will receive $310 million in upfront payments and will be eligible for up to $1.265 billion in milestone payments, for a total of $1.575 billion in total consideration.

IFM’s programs complement the existing Novartis pipeline of anti-inflammatory medicines, and build off of the strong clinical validation around the role of IL-1 signaling in a broad range of inflammatory disorders established by the CANTOS trial, among others.  The three assets Novartis will be acquiring include IFM-2427, a clinical-stage systemic NLRP3 inhibitor for an array of chronic inflammatory disorders (e.g., gout,

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Arteaus’ Final Chapter: Monetization Of The Emgality Royalties


This post is by Bruce from LifeSciVC


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Back in September 2018, the FDA approved Lilly’s Emgality, an anti-CGRP antibody therapy, for the preventative treatment of episodic and chronic migraine.

Arteaus Therapeutics, a biotech company founded by Atlas Venture in 2011, played a critical role in Emgality’s early development, helping it rapidly advance from its first-in-human studies through a randomized, controlled, double-blinded Phase 2 Proof of Concept (PoC) trial in only 30 months. 

While the antibody was discovered by Lilly, it was licensed to Arteaus as part of an R&D externalization initiative in order to test the drug’s potential in migraine patients. This license was done via a novel built-to-buy structure, where Lilly had a predefined right to reacquire the asset.  They exercised that right in January 2014 and brought the program back into their late development pipeline, as was detailed in a blog post titled “The Arteaus Therapeutics Story: R&D Externalization with Eli Lilly

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If You Build It, Will They Come? Addressing The Value Equation


This post is by Ankit Mahadevia from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Ankit Mahadevia, CEO and founder of Spero Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

Over my experience building several therapeutics companies, I’ve sometimes observed a Field of Dreams approach to therapeutics: if we build it, they (patients, health system, payors) will come.  Last month’s hearing in Congress on pharmaceutical access, and the overall debate on how to pay for new therapies drives home that adoption of a therapy doesn’t always naturally follow an approval. Articulating the value of each therapy we deliver to the health care system is a critical complement to all of the clinical data we generate to maximize the likelihood that our innovations get to patients who need them.  @LifeSciVC also drives this home in his excellent year in review.  

When’s the right time to think about value?

For those of us developing emerging therapies

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Sharing The Adaptive Ski Experience With The Biotech Community


This post is by Bruce from LifeSciVC


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JB Harvey broke his personal record earlier this winter by skiing over 22 trails in a single day at Loon Mountain. It was an awesome day. And 22 runs would be a huge day for anyone, but it was particularly so for JB, as he’s an 11-year-old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

He skied with three coaches, of which I was a lucky team member, in a sit-ski that enables him to initiate turns by leaning his body to each side while we use tethers attached to the device for control down the mountain. We were all exhausted at the end of the day, but left with a wonderful sense of accomplishment reflected in our big smiles. JB crushed it, like he does most weekends at Loon.

JB’s time on the ski slopes helps provide an outlet for a very positive, engaged quality of life – he leaves the terrestrial

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Keep Calm and Carry On: How to Survive an FDA Inspection


This post is by Aoife Brennan from LifeSciVC


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This blog was written by Aoife Brennan, CEO of Synlogic, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

It was apparently random, although I secretly suspect it was karmic punishment for my lack of imagination in writing the 2019 quality goal. It has been ‘Maintain the quality management system and documentation in inspection-ready form’ for the past 3 years. While we take quality and regulation seriously, our assumption, like that of many early-phase companies, had been that an actual FDA inspection was several years off. I had previously been involved in pre-approval inspections and the questions regarding early studies were always the most difficult to piece together; the team who ran the study had moved on or the asset was in-licenced. For this reason, we had invested in making sure we had a good filing structure from the start and were maintaining the appropriate documentation. It now appeared

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Leave A Ladder Down


This post is by Ros Deegan from LifeSciVC


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This post was written by Ros Deegan, President and CBO of Bicycle Therapeutics, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.  

In May 2007, I trekked to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Situated at an altitude of over 17,000 feet, Base Camp is the starting point for an ascent of the world’s highest mountain. The first feature on the climbing route is also the deadliest: the Khumbu Icefall. The Icefall is a frozen waterfall that cascades for more than two miles in length – and 2000 feet in height – from a spectacular hanging valley known as the Western Cwm to a point just a few minutes’ walk from the tents at Base Camp. At half a mile wide, you can’t go around the Icefall: you have to go through it.

The Khumbu Icefall is an especially formidable barrier to aspiring summiteers because of its imperceptible yet relentless downward

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All A-Board


This post is by Samantha Truex from LifeSciVC


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This blog is written by Samantha Truex, Atlas EIR and CEO of a stealth-stage biotech, as part of the From The Trenches feature of LifeSciVC.

In a 2014 analysis  of biotech boards and a reprise analysis in 2016, Bruce Booth worked with life science recruiter Catalyst Advisors on this board talent blog. They estimated the demand for talent at >600 biotech Board Director spots needing to be filled in the few years following October 2016.

A critical question posed by Bruce and Catalyst Advisors was, from where will the talent come?   This issue is not unique to biotech.  According to Spencer Stuart’s 2018 board report on S&P 500 boards,  428 new directors were appointed to S&P 500 boards during the 2018 proxy year, the most since 2004.  So the search for talent to fill board seats is vast.

In the original post, Bruce stated, “When I’ve brought this

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Our Year In Review: Annual Talk On Macro, Biotech, and Atlas


This post is by Bruce from LifeSciVC


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At the end of every year, we host both our Atlas Venture Annual Meeting for our fund investors (Limited Partners) and our Atlas Retreat for senior industry executives.  As a kickoff for these two meetings, we typically open with a “Year In Review” to frame up some of the important themes facing biopharma.

Our most recent Year In Review (“YinR”) tackles three areas: macro themes facing the pharmaceutical industry, some of the dynamics in the biotech ecosystem, and a brief update on Atlas Venture itself. Despite being a couple months old, these topics all remain very timely and relevant.

This year’s macro themes include a deeper exploration of the global revenue growth challenge by examining the component parts of revenue, namely aggregate volume and price, and the forces shaping them. Positive volume drivers include demographics, geography, and new product launches, which are constrained by forces like the orphanization of

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Biotech Insider Stock Sales: Peer Benchmarks And Guidelines


This post is by Bruce from LifeSciVC


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Over the past six years, the biotech sector has experienced an incredible run of IPOs, reflecting the longest and largest “open window” for new offerings.

Much has been written about post-IPO performance here and elsewhere, but there’s been little discussion about equity sales by executive teams following these IPOs.

In many ways, it’s a taboo subject, raising questions like “does a CEO who sells some of their stock signal a lack of conviction”?  Insider sales/purchases are commonly tracked by public market investors seeking to understand internal sentiment changes.

But given the typical equity holdings of most senior biotech executives, much of their net worth is often locked up in these positions.  And as any financial planner will tell you, when the vast majority of your net worth is in one security, taking some steps to even modestly diversify is often smart and prudent.  As an example, having

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