Today Alkermes announced its acquisition of Rodin Therapeutics, a leader in the field of synaptic dysfunction and neuronal epigenetics.
Alkermes extensive experience in CNS diseases made them an ideal partner for Rodin, and this acquisition helps expand Alkermes’ efforts into a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders. Importantly, Alkermes appreciated the broad nature of Rodin’s epigenetic HDAC complex-selective pipeline of small molecule therapeutics. Under the terms of the definitive agreement, Alkermes will purchase the company for $100 million and Rodin’s shareholders will be eligible to receive future payments of up to $850 million for development, regulatory, and commercial milestones.
Here’s a summary of the scientific story behind Rodin’s approach. The loss of synapses in neurodegenerative patients is the best correlate of cognitive decline, and synaptic dysfunction drives clinical symptoms regardless of the underlying pathology. Decades of literature have demonstrated the pro-synaptic, pro-cognitive effects of HDAC inhibitors, including compelling work from the MIT lab of Li-Huei Tsai on memory and learning (here, here, here). Historically, the challenges for using conventional HDAC modulators in CNS diseases have been their hematopoietic toxicity, limited HDAC class selectivity, and poor brain penetration – and Rodin was set up to address these and bring pro-synaptic epigenetic modulators to patients.
Several different discovery approaches were explored by Rodin to overcome those challenges and resulted in an extensive chemistry estate of complex-selective HDAC modulators. As a primer in epigenetics, HDAC enzymes only function in large multi-protein complexes inside the cell that direct their activity towards different loci in the genome: the major Class I HDAC complexes include CoREST, NCoR, Sin3, and NuRD. By using state-of-the-art enzymatic complex assays, the Rodin team was able to establish structure-activity relationships for inhibiting the CoREST complex vs the others. This selectivity profile completely changes their safety and tolerability profile, while maintaining the efficacy on synaptic function. In preclinical studies, our CoREST modulators address the molecular, structural, and functional deficits that occur in many synaptopathies, like Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Based on its stellar preclinical profile, we took our lead program, RDN-929, into Phase 1 studies in late 2018, where our SAD/MAD data support that the compound is safe, well-tolerated, and active in engaging the target (including pharmacodynamic measures of epigenetic changes). It’s the first reported brain-penetrant, complex-selective HDAC inhibitor and shows no signs of hematological toxicity.
From a corporate perspective, Rodin’s history reveals much about the journey: Atlas Venture started looking at HDAC inhibition for memory and learning as early as 2006, and we almost started a company in the space on several occasions over the next seven years. In 2013, the venture creation stars aligned around a credible non-conventional chemistry strategy, and we embarked on a seed investment with J&J (in the “seed class” of 2013). With emerging signal that the discovery effort was advancing, we closed a Series A in 2014. I had the privilege of being the Acting CEO of Rodin for its early years while it incubated at Atlas, but in 2015 we recruited serial entrepreneur Adam Rosenberg to run the startup. Shortly thereafter, we closed on an option deal with Biogen that brought capital and a possible exit path to the story. As can happen with option deals, a change in strategy and a new head of R&D at Biogen led to terminating that agreement in 2017, which enabled us to raise a Series B financing, bringing several great co-investors to the story, including GV, Hatteras Venture Partners, Remeditex Ventures, and Third Point Ventures.
With the support of the Series B funding, we advanced into the clinic and continued to build out a platform of complex-selective compounds in preclinical studies. Other promising, earlier-stage molecules are being directed at multiple additional indications where safe HDAC-complex inhibitors could be explored, such as sickle cell disease and oncology. With modest seed, Series A, and Series B funding rounds, Rodin was incredibly capital efficient over the last six years, having spent only ~$40M to deliver the story to this point.
We look forward to watching Alkermes progress Rodin’s platform forward to longer term studies in patients.
A few notable themes jump out from the Rodin experience:
- Biotech, like life, isn’t linear. We started out on 2013 focused on a chemistry strategy with one discovery partner, but followed the data to find a new path with a different angle. J&J was involved, and then wasn’t. We had a deal with Biogen, and then we didn’t. The story evolved, and like most stories in the real world this one wasn’t a straight line. But amidst all the chutes and ladders in this story we’ve brought a potential medicine forward into the clinic.
- Success is 100% dependent on the team. The Rodin team, under Adam’s exemplary leadership, has been an incredibly productive and capital efficient crew, and the esprit de corps of this tight roup is very strong. I’ll call out the leadership team specifically – Michael Ryan, Anne Sullivan, Ajim Tamboli, Magnus Ivarsson, and Steve Sweeney – but there is also a great bench of scientists behind this story that have delivered impressively, including Nate Fuller, Rodin’s head of chemistry, who was instrumental in driving Rodin’s successful efforts to design complex-selective molecules. Teams also change over time, as per the first theme: it’s interesting to note that the current leadership team all joined after 2015, recruited to the story by Adam as he added talent over time, reflecting a common reality in many biotechs around team turnover and evolution.
- Better living through chemistry. Riffing off that great DuPont slogan, it’s very true here that the chemistry advances made by the Rodin team have been central to our success. Cracking open new frontiers in complex-selective modulation with novel chemotypes created the opportunity to bring these medicines to patients. Nate and the rest of the chemistry team (along with our very engaged chemistry advisory board of “greybeards” John McCall, Bill Greenlee, and John Lowe) delivered an impressive chemical estate for Rodin (here).
- New tools can open up translational research. Because neuroscience is so challenging, early translational tools are critical. One of the reasons for our optimism has been the advances in disease-relevant fluid and neuroimaging biomarkers, like the SV2A PET ligand that we’ve explored in a non-interventional clinical study in both healthy volunteers and Alzheimer’s patients. A key Rodin team member, Berkley Lynch, was part of the group that characterized SV2A years ago at UCB Pharma. This allows for the imaging of synaptic density in the brain real-time, and has now been used across multiple diseases to observe the changes in the brains of patients over time.
- Contrarian neuroscience is exciting neuroscience. Neuroscience isn’t easy and with large pharma’s deprioritizing R&D in the space (like Amgen recently, and Pfizer, AZ before that), it’s been a contrarian bet for years. Even within neuro, there’s been a lack of diversity in approaches (e.g., all the investment “oxygen” has been consumed by amyloid in AD), and typically small biotechs generally shy away from diving into Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Further, epigenetics outside of cancer has also fallen out of favor, amplifying the contrarian nature of Rodin’s approach. Adam has been on the bully pulpit multiple times with his blogs on the subject (here, here, here).
- Conviction of the few is critical. Because it’s contrarian, finding partners to help fund projects in neuroscience isn’t easy. But we found a great group of likeminded co-investors at Rodin, who share the conviction that these are approaches worth advancing to patients: Clay Thorp of Hatteras, Ben Robbins at GV, John Creecy at Remeditex, and Jason Hong at Third Point. Neuroscience isn’t in the risk appetite for every investor, but finding a coalition of the willing is critical – and we found that with these great partners.
- Rodin’s science is personal. Everyone knows someone with dementia, and almost all of us have a family member that suffers or did suffer from it. Rodin embraced that and really integrated that aspect into their culture. In fact, the “Why” page of their corporate website (look at it soon before it disappears!) so beautifully captures the personal nature of dementia by showing pictures of our team’s loved ones affected by dementia.My grandmother, Evelyn, is one of the pictures. She passed away from dementia, likely Alzheimer’s Disease, almost 25 years ago.
It’s been a wonderful and dynamic six-year journey for Rodin, and it’s been an honor to be a part of it.
I’m truly excited to see Rodin’s cutting-edge neuronal epigenetic approaches advance deeper into the clinic and to patients in the hands of a neurology leader like Alkermes.
The post Thinking Boldly: Alkermes Acquires Rodin Therapeutics appeared first on LifeSciVC.
Avricore Health Signs Master Agreement to Pilot HEALTHTAB™ Platform For Diabetes Management in Select Shoppers Drug Mart® Pharmacies
Avricore Health (AVCR) announces that patients will soon have access to its innovative point-of-care blood screening and health-data management platform, HealthTab™…
“Next Level Dystopian Sh*t”: Amazon Rolls Out Portable Panic Booth For Warehouse Employees To Collect Themselves
"Next Level Dystopian Sh*t": Amazon Rolls Out Portable Panic Booth For Warehouse Employees To Collect Themselves
After years of reports of Amazon warehouse employees being forced to urinate in bottles, forego medical care, and work through…
After years of reports of Amazon warehouse employees being forced to urinate in bottles, forego medical care, and work through injuries - causing hundreds to launch petitions and revolt, the online retail giant has come up with a solution...
...a special sensory deprivation booth that allows stressed out employees to collect themselves before heading back out to the floor.
Known simply as the “ZenBooth,” the new apparatus, according to a video released by the company on Wednesday, is an “interactive kiosk where you can navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge that internal battery.” -daily dot
Amazon's Leila Brown used her background in sports medicine and her passion in alternative therapies to create a space where our employees could focus on their mental well-being. https://t.co/bvk2bw9Lke pic.twitter.com/cEQhsTH0Od— Amazon News (@amazonnews) May 26, 2021
The "ZenBooth" is part of Amazon's WorkingWell program, which allows employees to "recharge and reenergize" with a series of "physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating support."
The panic booth features a small fan, some plants, and a library of meditation videos. Hopefully it features a toilet too.
(Did we mention most COVID-19 transmission occurs via aerosolized particles hanging in the air, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces?)
As the daily dot notes, the announcement received lots of pushback from Twitter users.
"why not just improve working conditions?" said one user.
"Or you could pay your employees well, not treat them like garbage, and accept unionization," added another.
"This is some next level dystopian shit. Maybe just pay people more and let them have bathroom breaks," read yet another tweet.
This is some next level dystopian shit. Maybe just pay people more and let them have bathroom breaks— katie ???? ???? (@Ah_occ_o) May 27, 2021
At least this is a step up from their now-abandoned, patented 'worker cages.'
Avricore Health’s CEO Discusses Abbott Diagnostics and Rapid COVID-19 Testing Rollout
Hector Bremner, CEO of Avricore Health Inc. (AVCR:CSE & AVCRF:OTC) Explains How HealthTab works with Abbott’s IDNow for Rapid COVID-19 testing
The following is an interview with Hector Bremner, CEO of Avricore Health Inc. (AVCR:CSE & AVCRF:OTC)
Avricore Health Inc. (AVCR) has been generating a lot of interest and excitement recently on the news of a partnership with U.S. health giant Abbott Laboratories and sizeable financings. In an exclusive interview, Avricore CEO Hector Bremner explains the upside at the Vancouver-based company.
Corona Stocks: Investors have zeroed in on your relationship with Abbott Diagnostics. Can you explain how you are well positioned to assist in Canada’s COVID-19 response?
Hector Bremner: For us it is huge. Abbott’s commitment to human health and point of care is by far second to none. Abbott is as equally focused on pharmacy as us and we have been really grateful to their team, we work quite closely right now and we think that relationship is going to mature over this year. Their device offerings have been fantastic and offer us the type of product offerings that we think fit pharmacy, particularly with the Afinion 2 which is the device that this quarter people will read and see a bit about from us. The Afinion 2 is a blood chemistry device, uses a very small sample, it is right there in the pharmacy. The test is conducted right there and it is screening for diabetes, conducting an A1C test and also testing lipids. So we think that the relationship with Abbott has been really tremendous. It is a really powerful partnership. We have this totally unique service that really brings the devices to life.
Corona Stocks: There was a disclosure that you are meeting with federal health officials along with Abbott and you are together seeking a federal government contract to create a platform using Abbott’s ID Now molecular testing device and Avicore’s HealthTab to test patients for COVID-19. The platform would use Avicore’s software to automatically report results from Abbott’s ID Now, presumably to government health authorities. Can you share any details on that?
Hector Bremner: We are actively pursuing conversations at all levels of government as we think HealthTab is missing piece to a truly successful rapid testing program and this is going very well. And, thankfully in the past few weeks, the focus of the conversation in the media and in government announcements has been moving positively towards rapid testing again. Up until very, very recently rapid testing has been seen as not as important as [getting vaccines]. Now everyone is stepping back and realizing that we are better off using these rapid tests as a way of getting a better line of sight as to what we are actually fighting, and quarantining, containing the virus into areas, really getting on top of it. You can’t fight something when you are in the dark.
Corona Stocks: What role would you play in this effort?
Hector Bremner: Fundamentally, we are a data generating and reporting platform, so that means using HealthTab to better track test results being done with rapid tests. There have several stories lately showing that much of the tests purchased by government have not been deployed. We are also hearing that tests are ending up on the black market. And, what is used, has created a lot of labor and questions about who and how to report this information to. So, HealthTab can automate a great deal of the labor and workflow and ensure timely disclosures and increase people’s confidence in these testing programs overall.
Corona Stocks: More testing will likely mean more cases, correct?
Hector Bremner: Yes, there was even a study this weekend that current estimates are that there are many times more cases than are ever announced at any time due to the lack of testing. We think rapid testing in 2021 and 2022 is going to play a critical role. And going forward for travel, and for certain workplaces and major events, having a real-time rapid reporting system in place to watch for virus outbreaks is something that is going to be part of the 21st century. This isn’t the first major virus outbreak over the last 20 years, it certainly has been the most impactful. We are seeing these viruses mutate very rapidly. The vaccine will get out there but we will be living with virus outbreaks. We have an incredible number of humans on the planet and they are very mobile and traveling all over the place, interacting with each other. The reality is we need to be very, very vigilant and we can’t let this happen again. Testing and real-time reporting is critical to this.
“Rapid testing, and having real-time reporting of [virus outbreaks], and breaking down the silos of communication, which is what HealthTab does, that is going to be critical to maintaining and avoiding future shutdowns.”
Corona Stocks: COVID-19 made for a crazy year for markets, but is a net positive for Avricore, correct?
Hector Bremner: It certainly opened up a business line that didn’t exist in the sense that viral testing – our platform is really fantastic for rapid response and getting real time eyes on the pandemic. We are still in those conversations and we are very bullish on where they are going. Canada in particular hasn’t been as progressive on the rapid testing front as other jurisdictions.
This said, we are making great strides in advancing our blood screening of diabetes and heart disease in pharmacy, and this demonstrates that while we can operate and succeed in today’s environment, we are going to excel beyond it.
Corona Stocks: It also seems given vaccine shortages becoming political dynamite, that governments are very motivated to be seen doing something positive?
Hector Bremner: I think so. We don’t want to do this again. This is a very costly endeavor and I am confident that the economy is going to rebound very quickly when we reopen and the fundamentals are still strong. But the reality is we got to this situation and after Bird Flu, Swine Flu, all of these outbreaks were contained and we were not vigilant, we were not taking them seriously. We need to ensure the infrastructure is there to monitor and respond quickly. We also need a healthcare approach of proactiveness. We offer an important tools in these efforts.
And it’s not just viruses, it’s the big costly killers like diabetes and heart disease that need more screening and monitoring. These issues are linked, and the expenses and deaths associated with them are avoidable. That’s our responsibility today, to act now and make tomorrow safer and healthier.
Corona Stocks: You already have Ontario pharmacy operators endorsing HealthTab, what support do you see coming from the health care industry this year?
Hector Bremner: Pharmacists recognize that they need to change their scope of practice. The future looks like point of care technology and cognitive services. We provide that platform so they are really leaning in on that. We know the patient has also made that decision. Good examples are 23andMe and Ancestry and health apps. With HealthTab and their community pharmacist, patients can take direct control and don’t have to spend huge amount so time to find out what they can now find out in minutes. They can walk in and learn if they have diabetes or if they already have it work with their pharmacists to manage it better. And the drug companies have already been going towards real-world evaluation and modifying the way they are doing studies to lower studies, which HealthTab facilitates in some really powerful ways.
All the players are making the decisions and right now the process is being adopted. Over the course of this year people are going to see from us that major pharmacy groups are really leaning in on the (HealthTab) system, they are going to be see drug makers and private players like insurance companies really leaning in on using our platform and trying to engage their customers better and also enhance their own operation.
Corona Stocks: Is there a competitor to HealthTab in the market?
Hector Bremner: Not directly, everybody is sort of adjacent to us. There are a million and one health dashboard apps, as I call them, that seek to be a digital interface for healthcare. But they are limited in terms of plug-ins and who can connect to them, which reduces their true effectiveness. There are also B2B enterprise solutions, and there are some device specific solutions, but again we are so successful is that we bring the patient, healthcare team, and researcher together by acting as a middleware, allowing for other technologies to be enhanced by the data we are able to generate and share.
So, our approach is entirely unique, and while someone else might have something similar, we have solved the shortcomings out there and will win the sector. It’s kind how Facebook overtook Myspace, both may seem similar, but won was just built better and put the focus on the user experience. That is what we are doing with HealthTab.
Corona Stocks: You are raising a lot of money, $3 million in the last few months. What is the reasoning behind that?
Hector Bremner: When you are running a public company, you are actually running two businesses as the same time. You are running the actual business where you are expected to be a subject matter expert and that is more than enough to fill your day. Then you have the market side of your business which is a whole other universe of activities. We did not want to head into this year, given our very full business development hopper, being split in our focus.
So late last year and into January-February we wanted to make sure we were fully capitalized, we will be debt free at the close of this current round and we will have sufficient capital to roll out what we plan to this year. As much of a dumpster fire that 2020 was, Avricore had a 10X year and we’re going to have another one. We think that we have got a lot of wind at our backs.
Corona Stocks: With your government background, coming to Avricore a year ago, it seems like the company is much more focused today on delivering the promise of HealthTab and playing a key role in fighting COVID-19.
Hector Bremner: My career has largely been in strategic communications and turning things around. We were no doubt in a tough situation when I first got involved, however we’ve done the hard work and sacrifices it takes to succeed and today, we are much more focused.
We fundamentally believe that all the sacrifices, all the hard work, were worth it because HealthTab is just that important. This team has done so much. Roger Seccombe, who developed HealthTab, our CTO, and everybody involved, they have all leaned in and made a lot of sacrifices, especially last year.
Today, we are getting to a place where other people are starting to now see it too and we are really excited. There are big things to come.
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