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The Readout Damian Garde

Targeting cancer’s genetic bandoliers

One way tumors evolve beyond the clutches of cancer-killing drugs is by tapping a spare genetic arsenal that keeps them alive. A startup that just raised $46 million has a plan to cut off the resupply.

Boundless Bio, funded by a syndicate including Arch Venture Partners, is focused on extrachromosomal DNA, circles of genetic material that float within cancer cells and offer a just-break-glass survival mechanism for tumors under attack. The idea is to target DNA and disarm cancers that have outfoxed standard treatments.

It’s early days yet, and Boundless has years of work before it’ll be ready for human trials, but the founders believe they’ve hit on an idea that can subvert the concept of precision medicine.

Read more.

Ginkgo scores an eye-popping valuation

Ginkgo Bioworks bills itself as the “organism company,” custom-designing cells to transform everyday yeast and bacteria into living factories that produce flavors, scents, and other products. Maybe you’ve heard of it.
You’ll be hearing more, now that Pitchbook values the startup at about $4.8 billion, the Boston Globe’s Jonathan Saltzman reports. PitchBook provided the figure as Ginkgo announced today that it raised another $290 million from investors, bringing the startup’s total funding to $719 million. That makes Ginkgo the second-most valuable VC-backed biotech startup in the U.S., behind Samumed in San Diego, which PitchBook says is worth $12.4 billion. 
Jason Kelly, Ginkgo’s CEO and cofounder, said the firm plans to use the cash to expand its laboratory and buy more robots for use in production.
That’s a lot of robots.

The FDA is embracing the cloud

Gone are the days when drug companies would deliver reams of data by the truckload when seeking FDA approval for a new drug. But even the current system, requiring unwieldy PDFs and a few hand-lettered forms, is not exactly the vanguard of modern technology.

That’s why, as STAT’s Matthew Herper reports, the FDA is embarking upon a sweeping modernization project. Dr. Amy Abernethy, the agency’s principal deputy commissioner, is rolling out a plan to automate some of the FDA’s more arduous work and allow drug companies to upload data to the cloud.

“If we’re going to really change the way that we use data both within the agency but also across all biomedicine, the agency needs to fundamentally prepare the ground,” Abernethy said.

Read more.

Genetics firms push back on FDA crackdown

Last month, the FDA started quietly cracking down on genetic testing companies offering results on whether patients’ DNA might make it unwise to take certain drugs. Now the industry is pushing back.

As STAT’s Rebecca Robbins reports, a trade group that represents clinical laboratories sent a stern letter to regulators, warning that the FDA’s move could stifle a growing industry and make it harder for patients to get the right types and doses of their medications.

Whether the letter goes anywhere remains to be seen, but its author, the American Clinical Laboratory Association, requests a meeting with the FDA and a legislative solution to clear up the rules around pharmacogenetic testing.

Read more.

More reads

  • Sandoz halts global distribution of heartburn med over carcinogen link while Canada tells other manufacturers to stop. (STAT Plus)
  • Medicxi founds biotech to Divide & Conquer tough solid tumors. (FierceBiotech)
  • Lawmakers ask FTC to scrutinize pharma mergers over antitrust concerns. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, September 19, 2019


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