Subscribe for email alerts

Don’t miss a single Science & Enterprise post. Sign up for our daily email alerts.

Please share Science & Enterprise

Pharma, Synthetic Bio Companies to Find Antibody Therapies

DNA chip graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

10 Sept. 2021. A pharmaceutical company and developer of synthetic genomic materials are collaborating on discovery of therapeutic antibodies to treat a range of diseases. The deal with drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH in Ingelheim, Germany could bring Twist Bioscience Corp. in South San Francisco as much as $710 million in milestone payments.

Twist Biosciences develops synthetic genetic materials on a silicon platform, patterned after semiconductors, instead of traditional plastic plates and receptacles. This process, says the company, overcomes conventional limitations and inefficiencies to design and construct genes, and from these synthetic genes, produce libraries of genetic variations. Moreover, Twist Biosciences created a subsidiary, Twist Biopharma, that applies the technology to create collections of synthetic antibodies the company says match genomic sequences occurring in the body.

These collections, says Twist Bio, are made from phage display libraries, protein interactions derived from viruses that infect bacteria called bacteriophages, and a tool used increasingly to discover immunotherapies. Under the agreement, Twist Biopharma will use its collections of phage display libraries, or “library of libraries” as the company calls it, to identify therapeutic antibody candidates that match existing human genomic sequences.

Antibodies that control blood glucose

Twist Bio and Boehringer Ingelheim will collaborate on optimizing and validating these antibody candidates. And Boehringer Ingelheim will gain exclusive worldwide rights to further develop and commercialize antibody therapy candidates discovered in the partnership. Twist Bio will receive an undisclosed initial payment for each antibody program created from the partnership, and as much as $710 million for achieving clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones for the anticipated multiple antibodies.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in March 2021, Twist Bioscience published a paper on synthetic antibodies it discovered that control blood glucose levels in lab animals. The company discovered these antibodies from a phage display representing some 10 billion receptor proteins, with the researchers focusing on glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1 receptor agonists known to promote insulin production. This screening tool, say the authors, made it possible to find 13 antibody candidates with desirable binding properties and peptide chemistry. Also among the candidates are antibodies that depress GLP-1 receptors, which can help reduce hypoglycemia incidents.

From these antibodies, the Twist Bio team created synthetic antibody drug candidates addressing GLP-1 receptors. And the researchers designed another synthetic antibody, this one acting as an antagonist or reducer of GLP-1 receptors.

Boehringer Ingelheim expects the partnership to add more innovative product candidates to its pipeline. Clive Wood, who heads drug discovery research at the company says in a statement, “Boehringer Ingelheim believes Twist’s ability to generate potent, diverse therapeutic antibodies by mining its comprehensive libraries, combined with our extensive capabilities and experience in drug discovery and development, will enable us to deliver breakthrough opportunities to patients.”

Emily Leproust, Twist Bio’s co-founder and CEO adds, “We have the ability to generate precise antibodies to a diverse range of targets, which together with Boehringer Ingelheim’s strength in drug development capabilities, could mean multiple new, more personalized treatments in the future for patients.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Digital Biofeedback Device Shown to Reduce PTSD

Road-side bomb

Road-side bomb explosion in Afghanistan (Stephen Szczurek, U.S. Air Force).

9 Sept. 2021. Results from a clinical trial show an electronic device reporting carbon dioxide content in breath helps people with PTSD reduce symptoms of the disorder. Findings from the trial testing the device made by Freespira Inc. in Kirkland, Washington appear in the 1 Sept. issue of the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.

PTSD is a chronic debilitating condition traced to fearful or dangerous experiences — such as military combat — that lead to recurring flashbacks, fearful thoughts, or dreams that interfere with everyday routines and relationships. Symptoms can also include avoidance of situations that remind the individual of fearful experiences, difficulty sleeping, angry outbursts, distorted guilt or blame feelings, and negative thoughts about oneself. Current treatments for PTSD, according to National Institute of Mental Health, are mainly psychotherapy or medications, or both.

The Freespira device was originally designed to provide objective physiological feedback to people with panic attacks, often marked by hyperventilating. As reported by Science & Enterprise in February 2017, the device has sensors that measure and report CO2 concentrations and respiration rate in exhaled breath, with data reported on a tablet app. Individuals use the device twice a day for 17 minutes to stabilize breathing patterns and reduce the fear associated with panic attacks. Results from a clinical trial at that time show the Freespira device reduces panic attack severity as much as 12 months following treatment.

The new study tests the Freespira device as a tool for people with PTSD to reduce their symptoms. The paper’s authors, led by Michael Ostacher, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, note that carbon dioxide hypersensitivity in people with PTSD is similar to panic attacks, with seven in 10 individuals with PTSD also experiencing panic attacks.

Combat veterans and sexual assault victims

The clinical trial enrolled 55 participants at a Veterans Administration facility in Palo Alto, California, with 65 percent of participants male and 35 percent female. About three in 10 participants (29%) traced their PTSD to military combat, with a few more (33%) victims of sexual assaults. Seven in 10 participants (71%) were military veterans. Participants were given the Freespira device, which they used twice a day for four weeks.

The study team measured participants’ scores on the standard CAPS-5 rating scale of PTSD symptoms, administered by a clinician, at the beginning of the study, then two and six months following the four-week treatment period. The trial had no separate control or comparison group.

Some 48 participants completed the four-week treatment, with 42 reporting results two months later and 38 reporting six months later. The study team defined in advance a response to treatment as a reduction of six or more points on the CAPS-5 rating scale, and remission as scores of 25 points or lower on the scale. Results show after two months following treatment, 88 percent of participants show some response from using the Freespira device, with nearly half achieving remission. Average CAPS-5 scores among participants fell from 49.5 to 27.1 points. Average CAPS-5 scores continued at about this level after six months following treatment.

“There is a need for safe, tolerable, acceptable, and effective treatments for the symptoms of PTSD,” says Ostacher in a Freespira Inc. statement, “that can be easily and widely disseminated for use in a patient’s home, including to rural residents who have difficulty accessing in-person services. The combination of clinical improvement to six months and high adherence and participant satisfaction rates suggests that this non-invasive, digital therapeutic is a promising intervention for PTSD.”

The Freespira or precursor devices were cleared by FDA as a treatment for panic attacks in 2013, and for PTSD in 2018.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

FDA Sends Warning on Covid-19 Food Therapy Trials

Gut microbes illustration

Gut microbes illustration (NASA.gov)

8 Sept. 2021. The Food and Drug Administration released yesterday a warning letter sent in late August to a company conducting clinical trials of a food therapy for Covid-19 symptoms. FDA sent the letter to Kaleido Biosciences Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts, after an inspection showed the company conducting trials of its microbiome Covid-19 therapy without first submitting an investigational new drug application, or IND, required for conducting trials of experimental drugs.

Kaleido Biosciences creates therapies for infectious, metabolic, and immune-related diseases, as well as cancer designed to act on the microbiome, microbial communities found naturally in the body, particularly in the gut. The microbiome is an emerging area of research and opportunity for therapies, including for diseases not usually associated with bacteria or the gut, including disorders linked to the immune system and neurological diseases.

Kaleido Bio develops its therapies with synthetic glycans, simple to complex carbohydrate compounds with many known interactions with microorganisms in the gut. The company says it maintains a library of more than 1,500 synthetic glycans designed to influence metabolic functions of gut microbes. From this library, Kaleido Bio develops treatment candidates it calls microbiome metabolic therapies, or MMTs designed to act on classes of gut microbes with enzymes to produce metabolites with therapeutic effects.

The company is testing its MMT-derived product code-named KB109 as a treatment for symptoms in patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 infections. Kaleido Bio says KB109 consists of metabolites called short chain fatty acids that are known to influence immune responses. The company cites data showing short chain fatty acids may mitigate inappropriate immune responses to Covid-19, thus helping avoid more serious complications. Science & Enterprise reported in March 2021 on Kaleido Bio’s release of results from a clinical study that show KB109 reduces health care use and recovery times in people with mild to moderate Covid-19 disease.

No nutritional requirements for treating Covid-19

The company contends its MMTs meet FDA’s requirements for “generally accepted as safe” substances applied to food additives, thus can often bypass IND requirements. In the 26 Aug. letter, David Burrow, who heads FDA’s scientific investigations office, notes however, that Kaleido Bio’s clinical trial protocols test for changes in factors used to measure drug efficacy, such as symptom scores, from before treatment to after, as well as quality of life, hospital admissions, and health care utilization. Another trial protocol calls for measuring changes in biomarkers and lab tests indicating physiological characteristics of the microbiome, resulting from KB109.

In addition, Burrow points out medical foods are intended for dietary management to meet nutritional requirements for treating a disease or condition. However, no nutritional requirements for treating Covid-19 are yet established, and the trials’ endpoints, or measurable objectives, clearly exceed any reasonable definition of dietary management. Moreover, says the letter, meeting the “generally accepted as safe” standard for food substances does not preclude also testing the product as a drug.

FDA says its inspection team sent Kaleido Bio its findings in advance of the letter, to which the company responded. The agency’s letter says the company’s response indicates Kaleido Bio is establishing a procedure to determine the need for an IND, in consultation with FDA, where products may be considered a medical diagnostic or treatment. FDA says it is still waiting for more details from the company to determine if that process is sufficient.

Science & Enterprise asked Kaleido Biosciences to comment on FDA’s warning letter, and will update this story with the company’s comments.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Rosh Hashanah 5782

Honey and paple

Honey and apple, symbolic food for the new year (Edsel Little, Flickr)

7 Sept. 2021. Science and Enterprise is taking off today to observe Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. We wish everyone of any faith or without, a happy and healthy new year, 5782 in our calendar. We will resume regular posting tomorrow.

*     *     *

Health Journals Call for Emergency Climate Action

Climate change skyline

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

6 Sept. 2021. An editorial published in more than 200 journals calls for governments worldwide to take immediate action to mitigate climate changes affecting public health. The journals published the editorial today in advance of next week’s 76th meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, and later a biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, and the climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow, U.K.

The editorial, signed by 18 health journal editors, notes …

Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades. The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.

The essay cites specific health outcomes from the climate crisis, beginning with an increase of more than 50 percent in global mortality of people age 65 and over. In addition, the editorial points out higher temperatures are resulting in, “increased dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality.”

The essay notes as well effects of climate changes on agriculture. Heating of the climate, say the editors, “is also contributing to the decline in global yield potential for major crops, falling by 1.8-5.6% since 1981; this, together with the effects of extreme weather and soil depletion, is hampering efforts to reduce undernutrition.” And the climate crisis is destroying habits and species, eroding water and food security, and increasing the likelihood of new pandemics.

“Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with Covid-19,” say the editors, “we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.”

Current pledges not enough

The essay notes that the most vulnerable communities are also those contributing least to the problem worldwide, yet are those bearing the brunt of climate changes. And the editors point out, “Allowing the consequences to fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable will breed more conflict, food insecurity, forced displacement, and zoonotic disease — with severe implications for all countries and communities.”

Current pledges by businesses and governments to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 are not enough to do the job, says the editorial. “Emissions reduction plans do not adequately incorporate health considerations.” And the editors add, “They are yet to be matched with credible short and longer term plans to accelerate cleaner technologies and transform societies.”

Governments in wealthier countries, says the essay, will need to take most of the steps to meet this challenge. The editors say, “governments must make fundamental changes to how our societies and economies are organized and how we live.” And the editorial notes, “Governments must intervene to support the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, health systems, and much more.”

The cost will be high, says the editorial. “High income countries must meet and go beyond their outstanding commitment to provide $100 billion a year, making up for any shortfall in 2020 and increasing contributions to and beyond 2025.” The editors say, health professionals need to join in the effort to achieve environmentally health care practices, and divesting more fossil fuel assets.

The journals publishing the editorial include leading health research publications such as The Lancet, BMJ, and New England Journal of Medicine. The list also includes journals from China and India, as well as smaller and more specialized publications.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Infographic – Most of World Waits for Vaccines

Chart: Global vaccination timetable

Click on image for full-size view (Statista)

4 Sept. 2021. The global Covid-19 pandemic requires a global response, but so far delivery and administration of vaccines are spread unevenly across the world. As we’ve noted in earlier infographics, developed nations are making most Covid-19 vaccines and buying up the bulk of the production.

A recent report from The Economist shows developed countries are vaccinating their populations faster than the rest of the world, and published in chart form this week by Statista. The U.S., Canada, western Europe, China, Israel, UAE, and a few countries in South America are expected to vaccinate at least 60 percent of their residents by the end of this year. Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and most of South America are expected to reach the 60 percent vaccinated mark by the middle of 2022.

While Serum Institute of India is a major producer of vaccines, the country of India is not expected to reach the 60 percent vaccinated level until late in 2022. And outside South Africa, most of the rest of Africa is not expected to reach the 60 percent level until at least 2023. The Economist estimates delays in vaccinating the world’s population will cost the global economy some $2.3 trillion in lost GDP by 2025.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Single Tax Rate to Challenge International Businesses

– Sponsored content –

Facing laptops on table

(Scott Winterroth, Unsplash)

4 Sept. 2021. Most of the world’s countries and leading economies approved a common corporate tax rate that could well change the way business is conducted and taxes are calculated worldwide. The proposals are expected to particularly affect technology enterprises doing business worldwide, where research generates discoveries and intellectual property that can be easily managed across borders from the most tax-friendly sites.

The new framework for international tax reform is an initiative of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD, is a group of 38 countries with developed economies, mainly in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, but also Israel, Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica. The OECD proposal establishes a minimum common corporate tax rate of 15 percent, to prevent relocating a business’s headquarters to find locations with the lowest tax rates. The proposal also creates a mechanism for transferring taxing rights from home-office countries to locations where multi-national companies, particularly those in digital industries, do business and earn profits.

OECD estimates the common minimum 15 percent corporate tax rate will generate an additional $US150 billion in additional global tax revenues each year. And taxing rights on more than $100 billion are expected to be reallocated from multi-national enterprises’ home-office countries to countries where the companies earn their money. The organization says the new tax scheme will ensure a fairer distribution of profits and taxing rights, and put a floor on competition among countries to lure businesses with preferential corporate tax rates.

“This package does not eliminate tax competition, as it should not,” says OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann in a January 2021 organization statement, “but it does set multilaterally agreed limitations on it. It also accommodates the various interests across the negotiating table, including those of small economies and developing jurisdictions.”

End the “race to the bottom”

OECD issued the statement after gaining agreement to the proposal from 130 countries and jurisdictions that the organization says represents more than 90 percent of worldwide gross domestic product. In June 2021, finance ministers of the Group of Seven advanced Western economies also endorsed the common minimum corporate tax rate. In a statement reported by the New York Times, U.S. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen said the “global minimum tax would end the race to the bottom in corporate taxation, and ensure fairness for the middle class and working people in the U.S. and around the world.”

Although much of the minimum tax proposal is aimed at large companies in the technology industry, multinational enterprises can comprise companies of all sizes and in a range of sectors. Businesses often turn to their accountants for tax advice, and this issue will likely generate many questions for accountants. Companies doing business in France should seek advice on taxes from an accountant in France, for example, or elsewhere in countries where companies do business.

A chart compiled by CNBC shows a wide variation in corporate tax rates, from 50 percent for some types of businesses in the Comoros Islands to less than six percent in Barbados. In addition, notes CNBC, 15 countries have no corporate tax rates, including so-called tax havens like Bermuda, Cayman Islands, and British Virgin Islands. The CNBC story quotes an international tax expert saying, “It’s unclear where things will settle in a few years.” He notes as well that many questions remain how the new minimum tax will be applied and which parts of corporate incomes are taxable.

Because of those outstanding questions, businesses will need timely advice about their tax liabilities. For those international companies doing business in France, Vachon Associes is a certified public accountant to consider for advice on taxes about the OECD initiative.

*     *     *

Small Biz Grant Funds Superbug Therapy Technology

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Pseudomonas aeruginosa colony (Harvard Medical School, NIH)

3 Sept. 2021. A company designing synthetic viruses that attack antibiotic-resistant bacteria is receiving National Science Foundation funds to advance its work. NSF awarded Felix Biotechnology Inc. in South San Francisco a one-year $256,000 grant to create an engineered virus with artificial intelligence that combats a range of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Microbes resistant to antibiotics are a continuing problem, particularly in health care facilities. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria or fungi mutate making current antibiotics ineffective in controlling their spread, leaving patients with fewer options in treating infections. The problem is compounded by overuse of antibiotics by humans or with animals, creating more opportunities for microbes to mutate and become resistant to current antibiotics. As a result, according to World Health Organization, a growing number of infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonella, are becoming more difficult to treat as conventional antibiotics become less effective.

Felix Bio designs synthetic viruses that resemble bacteriophages, or phages, natural enemies of bacteria. Bacteriophages infect and replicate inside bacteria, during which time the viruses produce lysin enzymes. Lysins then break down the walls of bacterial cells, destroying the bacteria. In their natural state, phages attack specific bacteria, not various types of microbes, and host bacteria can become resistant to phages. The company says it uses machine learning algorithms to find genetic underpinnings for a range of bacteria, and design synthetic phages that attack those targets.

Predict genetics common to a range of bacteria

The NSF award funds Felix Bio’s development of a machine learning model to better understand the ways phages interact with bacteria. The model aims to determine the parts of phages most effective at combating specific microbes, starting with Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, and use those findings to design an engineered phage for treating a range of infections from similar antibiotic resistant bacteria. Pseudomonas aeruginosa were implicated in some 32,600 health care-associated infections in 2017, and are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

The model will seek to predict the variants, genes, or genomic regions common to a range of bacterial hosts. And from the data, Felix Bio aims to design an engineered phage that attacks the range of bacteria identified by the model. The company believes the NSF project can provide a platform for designing other phages with engineered properties to meet needs in health care, agriculture, and the environment.

“Felix is tackling the most challenging technical hurdles limiting the broad application of phage therapy to the clinic,” says company co-founder Natalie Ma in a statement released through Cision. “With the antimicrobial resistance crisis only growing, new solutions to treat bacterial infections are absolutely essential for ensuring our global future health.” Ma is also the principal investigator on the project.

The NSF award is made under the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR program that sets aside funds for U.S.-based companies commercializing scientific research. The grant is a first-phase award to prove the concept, after which a company can apply for more funds to build a prototype or complete preclinical work. NSF says it awards more than $200 million each year in SBIR grants to some 400 start-up companies.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Biotechs Partner on Agitation Detection Technology

Sad, depressed

(Daniel Reche, Pixabay)

2 Sept. 2021. Two developers of treatments and tools for neurological diseases are developing a system for early detection of agitation, a symptom of psychiatric disorders. MindMed in New York and BioXcel Therapeutics Inc. in New Haven, Connecticut filed for an international patent on the technology to detect early signals of agitation in patients before full-fledged symptoms occur.

MindMed, short for Mind Medicines Inc., is a two year-old biotechnology company that discovers and develops therapies from psychedelic compounds to treat mental health disorders, including addiction, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD in adults. The company also develops tools for for therapists to help find personalized treatments for patients with psychiatric disorders. MindMed’s previous collaborations, however, appear to be with academic labs on treatments rather than diagnostics.

BioXcel Therapeutics develops cancer therapies and treatments for agitation that results from neurological disorders. The company uses artificial intelligence algorithms and big data analytics to identify new applications for current drugs or those already tested in clinical trials. The company’s lead product, code-named BXCL501, is a treatment for agitation, now in clinical trials among patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, dementia, and opioid withdrawal. BXCL501 is a formulation of the FDA-approved sedative dexmedetomidine, given as a thin film dissolved under the tongue.

Detect “fight-or-flight” signals

The system under development by the two companies is designed to detect early signals from the sympathetic nervous system that regulates the body’s “fight-or-flight” reactions in individuals predisposed to agitation. According to the patent application, sensors in a wearable device such as a wristband or ring, monitor signals associated with agitation on the individual’s skin surface and relay the signals to a mobile app.

The app converts the signals into data sent to a local server that can alert a caregiver of the wearer’s impending agitation episode. The mobile app also transmits data to a network server, where they’re relayed to databases for storage and analysis. Those data are then used to train and refine the algorithms detecting agitation in signals from the nervous system.

“This project,” says MindMed’s chief medical officer Daniel Karlin in a company statement, “serves as an example of the kind of impact that can be achieved at the cross-section of digital medicine, applied machine learning, and traditional development of pharmaceutical compounds. The early detection of any clinically important symptom can bring significant value to patients across a range of conditions.” Karlin is one of the inventors listed on the patent application.

For Martin Majernik, MindMed’s digital product lifecycle director and co-inventor of the technology, the project is more personal. “This collaboration hits close to my heart,” notes Majernik, “because the first subject who helped us develop prototypes was my now deceased grandfather, while he was in his later stages of dementia. Watching him become increasingly confused and ultimately become aggressive was heartbreaking for our family, yet through this project, that heartbreak was sublimated into motivation for me.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Immunotherapy Biotech Gains $108M in New Funds

T-cells illustration

T-cells (NASA.gov)

1 Sept. 2021. A company developing more precise immunotherapies for cancer and other diseases is raising $108 million in its second venture funding round. Asher Biotherapeutics, a biotechnology enterprise in South San Francisco, has raised more than $163 million since it began two years ago, formed by life science venture investor Third Rock Ventures.

Asher Bio is designing immunotherapies that address a continuing problem from pleiotropy, a condition where changes in a single gene can affect multiple human traits. In cancer immunotherapies, pleiotropy can cause unintended changes in cells and tissue other than the tumors, when the treatment’s cancer targets are attacked. Asher Bio’s technology, called cis-targeting, addresses receptor proteins at two sites on surfaces of a single immune system cell, the therapeutic antigen target and a separate receptor that simulates immune responses, called an immunomodulator.

The company says it applies computational techniques to screen immune system cells and sub-types for therapeutic benefits, but also for possible unintended toxicities or reverse effects that block the therapy. Asher Bio then engineers selected immune system cells to produce cytokine enzymes that bind only on specific tumor targets and boost their potency.

Asher Bio’s technology is based on research by its scientific founders, immunologist Ton Schumacher at Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam and pathology/immunology professor Robert Schreiber at Washington University in St. Louis. Schumacher and Schreiber investigate neoantigens, unique sets of mutations expressed in cancer patients’ tumors, as cancer targets. Schreiber and colleagues design precise genomic techniques for targeting neoantigens characteristic of specific tumors, while Schumacher’s lab uses high-throughput genomic analysis to better target tumor neoantigens with T-cells in the immune system.

“A systematic, modular process”

The company’s first product, code-named AB248 is an engineered protein that addresses receptor pathways for cancer-killing CD8+ T-cells in the immune system for interleukin-2 or IL-2 cytokines. Various IL-2 forms are already approved for treating some metastatic solid tumor cancers, but because of pleiotropy, IL-2 can also stimulate other unintended immune system cell types. And, because of its short active lifetime, IL-2 is needed in high doses, which can be toxic, causing heart and blood damage.

“We designed our cis-targeting platform to leverage a systematic, modular process,” says Ivana Djuretic, Asher Bio’s co-founder and chief scientist in a company statement, “which can be applied across an array of immunomodulatory molecules and cell types. This enables us to continuously apply learnings from our research and development efforts across our earlier-stage portfolio, rapidly creating and de-risking additional programs.

Science & Enterprise reported on Asher Bio’s first venture funding round in March, raising $55 million. According to Crunchbase, the company also raised $150,000 in pre-seed funds at its formation in 2019. The new $108 million financing is led by venture investor Wellington Management Company in Boston, joined by existing investors Third Rock Ventures, Invus, Boxer Capital of Tavistock Group, Mission BioCapital, and new investors RA Capital Management, Janus Henderson Investors, Logos Capital, Marshall Wace, and Alexandria Venture Investments.

Asher Bio expects to apply the round’s proceeds to advancing AB248 through preclinical stages, leading to an investigational new drug application with FDA — in effect, a request to begin clinical trials — in the third quarter of 2022. The company also plans to apply the new funds to a second immunotherapy and invest further in its technology platform.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *