Insilico Medicine raises USD 255 Million for AI drug discovery

Insilico Medicine, a Hong Kong-based global leader in end-to-end artificial intelligence for target discovery, small molecule chemistry, and clinical development, closed a USD 255 Million Series C financing.

Warburg Pincus led the round with participation from present investors Qiming Venture Partners, Pavilion Capital, Eight Roads Ventures, Lilly Asia Ventures, Sinovation Ventures, BOLD Capital Partners, Formic Ventures, Baidu Ventures, and new investors CPE, OrbiMed, Mirae Asset Capital, B Capital Group, Deerfield Management, Maison Capital, Lake Bleu Capital, President International Development Corporation, Sequoia Capital China and Sage Partners. In alliance with the funding, Min Fang, Managing Director at Warburg Pincus, will meet Insilico Medicine’s Board of Directors.

The company intends to utilize the funds to support its current therapeutic programs into human clinical trials, commence multiple new programs for novel and challenging targets, and further develop its AI and drug discovery capabilities.

Led by Alex Zhavoronkov, Ph.D., founder, and CEO, Insilico Medicine develops artificial intelligence systems that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning (RL), transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for the generation of new molecular structures with specific properties. The company also creates software for the generation of synthetic biological data, target identification, and the prediction of clinical trial outcomes.

Sanofi and Translate Bio initiate Phase 1 clinical trial of mRNA influenza vaccine

Sanofi and Translate Bio have initiated a phase 1 clinical trial of an mRNA vaccine for seasonal influenza. The commencement of the study puts the partners ahead of Moderna and Pfizer in the race to prove mRNA vaccines are as good or better at stopping flu than current technologies. 

The validation of mRNA technology by vaccines against COVID-19 has increased interest in using the approach to protect against seasonal flu. Moderna revealed three flu vaccines in January and schedules to get into the clinic this year. Pfizer has also shown an interest in mRNA flu vaccines, while CureVac has been working on the idea for many years with the funding of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Sanofi and Translate Bio have superseded their rivals to the clinic, though, hailing the initiation of their study as the first human trial of a seasonal mRNA flu vaccine candidate. The study will evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of various doses of two mRNA vaccine formulations designed to protect against A/H3N2, a strain of influenza-associated with more severe flu seasons.

Medtronic gains expanded FDA approval for Arctic Front cryoablation catheters

Medtronic has gained expanded FDA approval for its Arctic Front cardiac cryoablation catheters to be used as a first-line treatment for recurrent atrial fibrillation (AFib). The company’s entire line of Arctic Front cryoablation catheters is covered in this approval.

As per Medtronic, this is the first time cryoablation has been approved as a first-line treatment for heart rhythm issues. The expanded approval was based on the STOP AF First trial results, a randomized study that comprised data from 225 patients receiving care at 24 different U.S. facilities. In that analysis, the treatment success rate was much higher for cryoablation patients than patients who underwent antiarrhythmic drug therapy.

Rebeca Seidel, Medtronic’s president of cardiac ablation solutions, said in a prepared statement that Medtronic now has the only ablation catheter approved by the FDA to be used as a first-line treatment in the U.S. to treat AFib. The indication expansion shows how Medtronic continues to lead the way in cardiac ablation solutions for arrhythmia management and meet a market need for an early rhythm control strategy for very progressive disease. In addition, for the millions of Americans who struggle with simple, daily tasks, the expanded indication proffers an alternative treatment option to antiarrhythmic drug therapy.

Patients can now be referred for cryoablation to effectively manage their AFib rather than trying drug therapy first, potentially letting them get back to living their lives without the added anxiety of progressing AFib symptoms and potential health complications, as said by Oussama Wazni, MD, principal investigator for the STOP AF First trial.

Blackstone, Cellex, and Intellia form USD 250 Million CAR-T startup

Blackstone Life Sciences, Cellex Cell Professionals, and Intellia Therapeutics have teamed to develop a CAR-T therapy startup. The biotech begins life with USD 250 million from Blackstone, universal CAR-T platforms from Cellex, and CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology from Intellia.

GEMoaB, a subsidiary of Cellex, is developing platforms to enhance the therapeutic window of CAR T-cell therapies and let them be silenced in less than four hours. Intellia and GEMoaB formed a research collaboration and license agreement last year to evaluate the combination of their genome editing technologies and quickly switchable universal CAR-T platform RevCAR, respectively. 

Involving Blackstone positions GEMoaB and Intellia to step up the CAR-T work. The new company will take over GEMoaB and its offices in Germany and set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Led by Andrew Schiermeier, currently a chief operating officer at Intellia, the company will advance a pipeline of cell therapies based on its exclusive license to combine Intellia’s CRISPR/Cas9 allogeneic platform with GEMoaB’s two switchable, universal CAR T-cell platforms and UniCAR and RevCAR.