News briefing: Nestlé whips up research collaboration with newly-unveiled Flagship upstart; Marianne De Backer joins Kronos board

Flagship Pioneering tapped into a variety of trendy R&D themes when it officially debuted Senda Biosciences a few months ago, most prominently its focus on the microbiome, computational biology and cellular interactions. And while it’s all still in its infancy, the founders clearly elicited some high-profile attention from a major player which straddles the line between food and medicine.

Nestlé Health Science has partnered with Senda on one of its initial slate of R&D focuses, aligning itself with the biotech on metabolics, with a focus on some big targets, including obesity and glycemia.

According to Senda, they’ve generated the preclinical animal data needed to demonstrate that this new approach of theirs can spur weight loss and glucose clearing. Now Nestlé will help engineer a move into the clinical sphere with human studies.

Nestlé proved with its Aimmune buyout that it is willing to go big into biotech when it finds the right opportunity. But this new deal is being announced without a biobuck to its name — all terms are being kept on the qt.

But each retains ownership where it counts. Nestlé holds the global commercial rights to any nutritional product that can be developed, while Senda is keeping rights to any therapeutic that can be advanced. — John Carroll

Marianne De Backer joins Kronos Bio board

Longtime J&J vet and current Bayer business chief Marianne De Backer is joining a new board.

Kronos Bio announced Tuesday that De Backer has been appointed to the company’s board of directors. The move comes about three months after Kronos went public with an impressive $250.8 million IPO.

De Backer isn’t the only prominent name with Big Pharma experience at the company. 30-year Gilead R&D veteran Norbert Bischofberger has been running the show at Kronos since the company launched in 2018.

De Backer’s “significant experience in forging and managing strategic partnerships coupled with her broad business and commercial acumen and strong science background will be valuable as the company continues to grow,” Bischofberger said in a statement.

The biotech was making plenty of moves in recent months, having acquired entospletinib — which was shelved when Bischofberger still worked at Gilead — as well as another SYK inhibitor, lanraplenib. — Max Gelman

German gene therapy biotech grabs $10M plus to advance toward clinic 

A German biotech that’s been working on a new gene therapy approach aimed at turning “tissues or organs that need to be treated into factories for local production of therapeutic proteins” has raised a new round aimed at getting them into a human study.

GeneQuine Biotherapeutics GmbH grabbed more than $10 million — which includes a loan combined with investment cash — from a syndicate of investors intrigued by its platform tech, which relies on helper-dependent adenoviral — HDAd — vectors, to do the work.

Their lead program:

GQ-303, currently at preclinical stage, is an HDAd vector expressing the protein proteoglycan 4 for local treatment of OA (osteoarthritis). Proteoglycan 4 (also known as lubricin) has been shown to have a dual mechanism of action in OA: 1) a biomechanical effect due to its lubricating properties, and 2) effects on molecular pathways leading to suppression of pain, inflammation and cartilage degeneration.

Pacira BioSciences led the raise, which included High-Tech Gründerfonds,  Noshaq SA and Samum Vermögensverwaltungs GmbH. — John Carroll

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