Flagship's machine learning startup Generate bags $370M in latest round with plans for a big hiring spree – Endpoints News

As the fu­ture of ma­chine learn­ing and AI promis­es to make ma­jor break­throughs in drug de­vel­op­ment, a suite of star­tups is look­ing to scale their own com­pet­ing ro­bot brain trusts. An am­bi­tious start­up out of Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing’s in­cu­ba­tor un­cloaked last year with its own spin in that arms race — and now it’s primed and ready for a ma­jor ex­pan­sion in the com­ing years.
Gen­er­ate Bio­med­i­cines has closed a gi­ant $370 mil­lion Se­ries B from found­ing in­vestor Flag­ship as well as Alas­ka Per­ma­nent Fund, Al­ti­tude Life Sci­ence Ven­tures, ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners, and funds and ac­counts ad­vised by T. Rowe Price As­so­ci­ates, the com­pa­ny said.
Gen­er­ate, which de­buted in late 2020, is Flag­ship’s shot at us­ing ma­chine learn­ing ad­vances to change the game in the de­vel­op­ment of pro­tein ther­a­peu­tics, with the com­pa­ny promis­ing much faster de­vel­op­ment times and dis­cov­ery suc­cess rates. It’s a mod­el be­ing tried else­where from com­pa­nies like Ex­sci­en­tia and In­sil­i­co, but Gen­er­ate sets it­self apart with its fo­cus on pro­tein se­quenc­ing and the goal to pro­duce de no­vo bi­o­log­ics.
Since launch, Gen­er­ate has been hard at work crunch­ing da­ta through its sys­tem in an at­tempt to give it the broad­est pos­si­ble plat­form for dis­cov­ery. Now, the com­pa­ny is ready to great­ly ex­pand its “wet lab” and bi­ol­o­gy ca­pa­bil­i­ties, CEO Mike Nal­ly told End­points News, and that will spell a huge hir­ing spree for the com­pa­ny as well as new cor­po­rate digs in the Somerville, MA area and an­oth­er site in An­dover.
Cur­rent­ly op­er­at­ing with a work­force of around 80, Gen­er­ate is plan­ning to make the quan­tum leap to 500 em­ploy­ees over the course of the next two years while al­so mov­ing in­to two new fa­cil­i­ties in the com­ing weeks and months. The An­dover site will be used to ex­pand the biotech’s range in struc­tur­al bi­ol­o­gy, in­clud­ing a big in­vest­ment in cryo­genic elec­tron mi­croscopy (cryo-EM), a cut­ting-edge tech­nique used to de­ter­mine the struc­ture of pro­teins.
The im­me­di­ate goal is to move past the work of the past two years, pri­mar­i­ly prov­ing Gen­er­ate’s plat­form could pro­duce high­er bind­ing affin­i­ty pro­teins from pre­cur­sor ref­er­ence bi­o­log­ics, in­to the realm of de­vel­op­ing pro­tein drugs from scratch us­ing pro­pri­etary da­ta learn­ing, Gen­er­ate’s chief strat­e­gy and in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer and co-founder Mol­ly Gib­son told End­points.
“Since in­cep­tion, we’ve set out to an­swer this ques­tion whether we can pro­gram pro­teins at the DNA lev­el, and what we’ve done over the past year is take those first in­sights … re­al­ly show that at scale and push pro­grams for­ward,” Gib­son said. “We’ve shown that we’ve been able to make sig­nif­i­cant ad­vances over where we start­ed cre­at­ing these ma­chine learn­ing al­go­rithms us­ing pub­lic da­ta.”
Now, the team said it will be ready to start churn­ing out pre­clin­i­cal can­di­dates by the end of the year with some of those pro­grams ex­pect­ed to hit hu­man tri­als as ear­ly as 2023.
As the clin­ic moves clos­er, the Gen­er­ate team is keep­ing a close eye on the po­ten­tial for strate­gic part­ner­ships giv­en the po­ten­tial breadth of its plat­form’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Those strate­gic part­ner­ships, more in the line of sub­stan­tial R&D team-ups, are a key part of the com­pa­ny’s BD strat­e­gy mov­ing for­ward, Nal­ly said, which the com­pa­ny will have to lever­age with its own in-house work.
“The re­al­i­ty is … we can pro­duce far more than we can con­sume so we want to make sure we com­ple­ment our ex­per­tise in pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing with oth­ers’ dis­tinct ca­pa­bil­i­ty in ar­eas like dis­ease-area bi­ol­o­gy, man­u­fac­tur­ing and clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment,” Nal­ly said. “Ul­ti­mate­ly there’s a huge in­vest­ment across biotech and phar­ma in un­der­stand­ing tar­get bi­ol­o­gy so we think if there’s an ap­pro­pri­ate task, this tech­nol­o­gy may be able to ad­dress it in a way that very few oth­er tech­nolo­gies can.”
For years, paper-based processes and individual point solutions dominated the clinical research landscape, and patient participation in clinical trials was largely an in-person engagement. But when the COVID-19 pandemic took a stronghold, traditional clinical trial methods emerged as inadequate, putting clinical trials and the life sciences industry at a crossroads. Practically overnight, the industry had to rapidly shift to decentralized clinical trial methods, while maintaining data quality and regulatory compliance.
Early this year researchers at Novo Nordisk were beaming as they announced the first drug identified in their RNAi alliance with Dicerna was headed into the clinic. And now they’re coming back for the whole thing.
This morning the Copenhagen-based pharma giant put out word that it is buying Dicerna $DRNA — an RNAi pioneer that has had its up and downs over the years — for $3.3 billion. Novo is paying $38.25 a share — an 80% premium.
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Gilead is going all in — hook, line and sinker — on its oncology alliance with Arcus. And they are going for broke.
The big biotech unveiled a deal that now delivers $725 million in opt-in payments covering the clinical development programs for Arcus, ranging from their closely watched anti-TIGIT programs for domvanalimab and AB308 to etrumadenant (the A2a/A2b adenosine receptor antagonist) and quemliclustat, the small molecule CD73 inhibitor. Gilead will also cover half of the development costs, handing Terry Rosen’s biotech a deal that gives them a clear cash runway to achieving all its goals in oncology.
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Protein degradation is one of the hot drug classes of the future, but competitors are piling in with the likes of C4, Arvinas, Frontier Medicines and Vividion jostling for position. A new startup wants to apply the lessons learned from degradation outside the cell, and it now has the greenlight from RA Capital to steam ahead.
Avilar Therapeutics launched Thursday with $60 million from founding investor RA to chase a novel protein degradation drug class the startup is calling ATACs— short for “ASGPR Targeting Chimeras” — that looks to trash unwanted proteins circulating outside the human cell.
RBC analyst Brian Abrahams is back with an update on the death of an Alzheimer’s patient on Biogen’s controversial aducanumab, and this time he says that there are solid reasons to believe that the event was likely drug related and may have been preventable.
Abrahams, a physician, notes that he obtained new information using FOIA, getting the “detailed case report” about the aducanumab patient he was first to report on.
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A 178-acre property on a stretch of the Pittsburgh riverfront used to be the home of an old steel mill that shut down in the 1990s. Now, it will get an upgrade from a $100 million grant out of the Richard King Mellon Foundation to turn it into a bio manufacturing facility run by the University of Pittsburgh.
The site, known as Hazelwood Green, is nearly half the size of Pittsburgh’s downtown and will be transformed into a home for cell and gene therapy. It will be dubbed Pitt BioForge, and offer research teams, commercial and research partners high-tech manufacturing capabilities, a wet lab and other spaces for innovation.
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Another week, another win for the North Carolina biotech community.
This time, it’s Thermo Fisher Scientific, the Massachusetts-based contract giant, that recently announced it had plans to build a manufacturing plant. The winner is? Mebane, NC, a 15,000-person town 25 miles northwest of Durham.
The 375,000-square-foot plant at the Buckhorn Industrial Park will manufacture pipette tips for laboratory research and bioscience use. It’s a result from a $192.5 million contract with the Department of Defense that was announced back in September, in which the company pledged to increase its ability to support Covid-19 testing.
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BAKX Therapeutics emerged from stealth in a big way back in July, striking an $852 million deal with Ipsen for its lead cancer candidate, a small molecule designed to activate the body’s natural process for programmed cell death. And Ipsen’s putting a bit more cash in the company’s coffers to see that program into the clinic.
CEO Sree Kant unveiled a $25 million Series A round on Thursday, led by AB Magnitude Ventures Group with a hand from Ipsen and Sherpa Healthcare Partners. The funds will be used to advance the company’s BAKX activator program, which traces back to pioneering work around apoptosis by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Loren Walensky and Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Evripidis Gavathiotis.
The way BridgeBio tells it, it’s been up to some big things recently. And on Thursday, the biotech just got a whole lot more cash to turn its dreams into reality.
BridgeBio took out a $750 million loan on Thursday, separated into two tranches of $450 million and $300 million. The first, larger tranche will be available for BridgeBio to spend immediately, while the biotech can opt into the second, smaller tranche after one of two conditions related to its pipeline is met.
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