Novo Nordisk A/S and Microsoft Inc have entered a partnership to investigate how artificial intelligence can be applied to drug discovery and development. The collaboration draws on Novo’s experience in pharma R&D and Microsoft’s computational services and AI expertise to develop a series of case studies showing applications of the new technologies. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Finance, Grants, Deals
Novo Nordisk A/S, whose main therapeutic focus is diabetes, has expanded its presence in the field of rare blood disorders with an agreement to acquire Forma Therapeutics Holdings Inc of the US. Forma’s lead product etavopivat is a small molecule allosteric activator of the red blood cell isoform of pyruvate kinase. It is being developed to improve anaemia and red blood cell health in people with sickle cell disease.
The BioInnovation Institute of Denmark, a non-profit foundation, has added three new start-up companies to its portfolio of enterprises that it believes will significantly contribute to the development of new medicines and health technologies in Europe. The companies are Sevenless Therapeutics Ltd of the UK; Veil.ai Oy of Finland; and Myopax GmbH of Germany.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $5 million in a Danish company that is developing a new type of biologic to strengthen the gut microbiome and overcome resistance to antibiotics. In a statement on 30 August, Bactolife A/S said its technology is designed to reduce the risk of bacterial infections in both humans and animals. Novo Seeds, a unit of Novo Holdings A/S, led a €7 million seed financing round for Bactolife in April 2021.
Finland-based Kaiku Health Oy and Novartis have expanded their partnership in digital medicine in order to use machine learning to predict symptoms of multiple diseases. The two companies have been collaborating since June 2021 on a project involving the monitoring of patients with melanoma. Using Kaiku’s digital platform, data is collected from cancer patients and then fed back to healthcare workers to help them personalise care.
A spin-out of the Belgian university KU Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) has raised €30 million from a large group of venture capitalists in order to develop a new generation of vaccines. AstriVax NV will use the seed funding to bring a thermostable yellow fever vaccine into clinical development and further develop candidate vaccines for rabies and chronic hepatitis B.
Belgium-based eTheRNA NV has changed its business strategy in order to exploit the potential of its technology platform to provide services to the RNA therapeutics industry. Previously, the company’s focus was on proprietary messenger RNA (mRNA) drug development. But with the support of a new €39 million financing round, the company has changed its model to focus on services.
Merck & Co Inc has entered into a collaboration with the Cambridge, US biotech company Orna Therapeutics Inc to discover new therapeutics using engineered RNA molecules. Simultaneously, Orna has raised $221 million in a Series B financing round to accelerate development of its technology platform which includes a proprietary lipid nanoparticle delivery system. Orna calls its engineered RNA molecules circular RNA therapeutics (oRNA) because they have been transformed from a linear format into a circular format.
Verona Pharma Plc has raised $150 million from a public share offering on Nasdaq in order to support development of ensifentrine, its small molecule drug for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The UK company recently completed the first of two Phase 3 trials of ensifentrine in preparation for a possible regulatory submission to the US Food and Drug Administration in the first half of 2023.
GlaxoSmithKline Plc has obtained an exclusive option to co-develop and commercialise an experimental antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) that is designed to activate the innate immune system in order to fight cancers expressing the HER2 protein. The partner is Mersana Therapeutics Inc of Cambridge, US which has a pipeline of clinical and preclinical ADCs.