50 of the best-funded biotechs of 2023

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As the year draws to a close, it is clear that molecular science and diagnostics is the hottest funding area in the biotech industry. In an analysis of 50 of the best-funded biotechs of 2023 focused on human health, molecular and science and diagnostics startups collectively attracting roughly $945 million, dwarfing the figures in other segments. The next popular two niches, gene therapies and oncology, had average funding levels of approximately $245 million and $170 million, respectively. While AI has received a significant amount of attention this year, biotechs specializing in that field garnered an average funding of only about $66 million. Outside of the life sciences, startups with a broader focus on AI raised a cumulative average of $202.47 million, based on an analysis of close to 1000 companies.

Caris Life Sciences has raised nearly $1.7B to date

In terms of best-funded companies overall,…

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Understanding cellular heterogeneity and its implications for disease diagnosis and treatment

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Cellular heterogeneity enables cells in the body to perform an array of functions, but it also plays a role in diseases like cancer as well. In oncology, this fact influences molecular therapy targets, tumor evolution as well as drug sensitivity and resistance. Cellular heterogeneity is also a consideration in areas such as immunotherapy, neuroscience, stem cell research and infectious diseases. By probing cellular heterogeneity in diseased tissues, drug developers can help uncover potential molecular targets for treatment, highlight varying drug sensitivities and unravel the mechanisms responsible for treatment resistance.

To learn more about the importance of cellular heterogeneity, we recently conducted an email interview with two executives at Bio-Rad Laboratories, Mina Zeinali, single cell field application specialist and Joby Chesnick, senior segment manager, single cell technologies …

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Localizing next-generation sequencing testing for cancer patients

Output from a DNA sequencer. [Image courtesy of National Human Genome Research Institute]

The concept of “locality” differentiates a business or company and conveys its value. Phrases like “shop local,” “locally sourced” or “local place” demonstrate the importance of something that doesn’t require significant time, travel or expense, offers convenience and is trustworthy. Locality breeds familiarity and comfort, particularly in healthcare, where it can heavily influence decisions. Patients trust local physicians. Those physicians have faith in local laboratories where they conduct tests and send samples for analysis. The ability to say something is “local” is important in healthcare decisions because time and resources are minimized when consultations, procedures, and tests are done in familiar venues, in close proximity to patients.

For people battling cancer, the concept of locality is essential. Local oncolog…

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President Biden reboots Cancer Moonshot project 

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

In 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden announced a Cancer Moonshot initiative to speed the development of new therapies to treat cancer.

Biden is now launching a new initiative committed to improving the cancer survival rate by at least 50% by 2047. The plan also aims to improve the quality of life for patients with cancer.

“We can end cancer as we know it,” Biden said in an announcement introducing the initiative.

Biden named Dr. Danielle Carnival as the White House Cancer Moonshot coordinator. Carnival is currently the senior advisor to the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

One of the short-term goals of the initiative will be to bolster cancer screening rates, which have plummeted during the pandemic.

Biden seeks to form a Cancer Cabinet with officials from a range of government offices.

Biden als…

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7 potential applications of mRNA-based therapeutics

mRNA image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists have experimented with mRNA for decades, but the pandemic foisted the platform into the limelight. The Pfizer-BioNTech (NYSE:PFE/NSDQ:BNTX) and Moderna (NSDQ:MRNA) COVID-19 vaccines have since emerged as two of the best-selling pharmaceutical products in recent memory.

Researchers are now exploring dozens of new possibilities for the mRNA platform.

Here, we summarize several areas where mRNA could find use in the coming years.

1. Cardiovascular applications

Image by Raman Oza from Pixabay

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently shared positive data related to the use of mRNA and CAR-T cell therapy to treat cardiac fibrosis in a mouse model.

Last year, AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) announced positive results from a Phase…

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Lilly wins Erbitux label expansion for colorectal cancer indication

FDA has approved a new indication for Lilly‘s (NYSE:LLY) Erbitux (cetuximab injection) in combination with Pfizer’s Braftovi (encorafenib) to treat adults with metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC) with a BRAF V600E mutation confirmed with an FDA-approved test.

The indication covers previously-treated patients.

Erbitux is currently the only FDA-approved antibody that targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Merck (NYSE:MRK) was also involved in developing the drug.

The recent label expansion is based on data from Pfizer’s Phase 3 BEACON CRC study, which focused on patients with metastatic colorectal cancer with a BRAF V600E mutation.

The latest approval gives Erbitux a total of seven indications covering various colorectal and head-and-neck cancers.

“The BEACON study showed that the combination of ERBITUX and encorafenib significantly improved overall survival in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer with a BRAF V600E mu…

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Immunotherapy against cancer: Challenge and opportunities

Image from Wikipedia.

With some of the recently developed drugs showing unprecedented response rates and consistent improvement in overall survival in some indications, we face the dawn of a new era in anticancer research. New therapeutic targets, novel classes of products, booming and competing pipelines, innovative statistical methods, and a changing regulatory environment are all features of this new era.  

More than ever, we need clinical trials that can incorporate the required innovations into their design, conduct, infrastructure and analysis. Fortunately, specialist CROs stand ready to take what they have learned from the past 10 years of oncology drug development and apply it to the new world in which we find ourselves. 

These CROs already know how to meet the challenges of segmented study populations and an increasingly competitive development landscape, how to implement complex and adaptive…

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Investigational drug promises to reverse wasting syndrome in cancer patients

Endevica Bio (formerly TCI Peptide Therapeutics) was founded in 2009 with a focus on peptides that affect the melanocortin system, which mammals use to regulate food intake and energy homeostasis. The company’s core focus is on a drug candidate known as TCMCB07, which is a potential treatment for cachexia in cancer patients. Cachexia, a wasting disorder that can result in significant weight loss, is common in patients with advanced cancers, AIDS and kidney failure.

Endevica Bio anticipates that clinical trials for TCMCB07 will begin in the fourth quarter of 2021.

To learn more about the company and its TCMCB07 candidate, we spoke with the company’s chief commercial officer, LeAnn Kuhlmann Qi. In the following interview, Kuhlmann Qi provides an overview of cachexia and the potential to reverse the condition and explains why a dog model of disease can be considerably more useful than a rodent model.

Drug Discovery &a…

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BioNTech and Moderna set their sights on treating cancer

Nodular melanoma. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

COVID-19 vaccines launched BioNTech and Moderna into the limelight, making these once little-known companies prominent companies. But neither wants to be pigeonholed as a COVID-19 vaccine company.

BioNTech cofounder Özlem Türeci stressed in a recent interview with AP that the mRNA vaccine technology that is its focus could be a powerful weapon against cancer. “We have several different cancer vaccines based on mRNA,” said Türeci, BioNTech’s chief medical officer.

Such therapy could be available to people within a “couple of years,” Türeci said, stressing that it is difficult to predict regulatory timelines involving emerging therapies. 

BioNTech is currently working on several novel immunotherapies for oncology targeting melanoma, prostate cancer and cancers associated with human papillomavirus. 

Moderna is also exploring the possibility of…

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4D Path and University of Leeds extend partnership to validate oncology platform

The precision oncology company 4D Path has committed to partnering with the U.K.-based University of Leeds at least until 2027. The two entities are already collaborators, having worked together on three completed breast cancer clinical trials. In particular, researchers at the University of Leeds have used 4D Path’s Q-plasia OncoReader Breast software to analyze data from more than 1,000 patients over the past three years. 4D Path says its technology can help in various levels in clinical trials starting from patient recruitment for therapy eligibility, which can be challenging for rare mutations, to designing trials for therapy benefit and potentially suggesting drug target screens. The company's technology supports biomarker profiling and stratification from hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) whole slide biopsy and resection images. The platform can help researchers identify the cancer subtype, grade, presence of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) and horm…
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Are predictive diagnostics the Doppler radar of disease?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

What do cupcakes have to do with oncology, and more specifically, predictive diagnostics?

Before I explain, I’ll provide some context. I recently came across an image that illustrated the difference between how Doppler radar detects conditions for a Tornado Watch versus a Tornado Warning using cupcakes.1 One side of the graphic shows each of the ingredients measured in individual containers. This visual represents when you have everything you need to make a cupcake; in weather terms, the conditions are favorable for a cupcake. A cupcake watch could be declared, but no fully-baked, devourable cupcake is visible yet. On the other side of the image, once the ingredients are assembled and baked, it’s much clearer that we have an actual cupcake on our hands and, therefore, a warning would be in place. For meteorologists, this is when Doppler radar has detected a full tornado, com…

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