Little Dog clients powered forward in 2018, with scientific and regulatory milestones, major financing rounds, industry partnerships and more. It has been an honor to work with them and to watch their achievements reverberate around the world. Here’s a month-by-month round-up of some of our top stories from 2018.
As always, the biopharma year started with a healthy dose of chaos as the vast majority of companies prepared for the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. Little Dog’s mission was to launch Primmune Therapeutics’ new website in time for the event. The wider team pulled together to deliver the website and logo in record time, arming Primmune with a well-branded company site that reinforced its innovative approach to cancer immunotherapy.
February: Banyan, BioUtah
The FDA granted Banyan Biomarkers’ De Novo request for the commercialization of Banyan BTI (Brain Trauma Indicator), the first-ever blood test approved to help evaluate patients with suspected traumatic brain injury (concussion). Banyan’s news received wide coverage—it was even highlighted on an episode of NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” See media coverage.
Also in February, Little Dog joined forces with BioUtah to draft the region’s 2018 Life Sciences Report. We were happy to help highlight the strength of Utah’s growing life science industry, which leads the country in job growth. Interesting fact: Utah is also the third-biggest hub for employment in advanced diagnostics. Read more.
Four months into the year, Little Dog helped announce Synthorx’s impressive $63 million Series C financing, led by Orbimed with support from new investors Medicxi and Osage University Partners. The funding was earmarked for Synthorx’s lead program using interleukin-2 (IL-2) cytokines to treat cancer. This news was especially exciting for the Little Dog office—which worked with Synthorx since its inception in 2014. Since then, the company has made huge strides using an expanded DNA alphabet to develop novel biologic treatments. Read more at Endpoints.
May: Little Dog
ICYMI—Little Dog founder Jessica Yingling was also profiled in SDVoyager this spring, where she shared her story of moving from the lab to the PR world. Read more.
June: ViaCyte, Epic Sciences, COI Pharma
Little Dog worked closely with ViaCyte to announce STEP ONE clinical trial data for PEC-Encap (VC-01) at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Annual Meeting. Two-year data showed evidence for survival of mature endocrine islet cells in regions of the PEC-Encap cell delivery device that were adequately vascularized. Although work continues to optimize engraftment, this represented an important Proof of Concept for the program. ViaCyte’s PEC-Encap combination product candidate consists of stem cell-derived pancreatic progenitor cells (PEC-01) encapsulated in a delivery device called the Encaptra® Cell Delivery System. Read more at Diabetes.co.uk.
Also in June, our client Epic Sciences announced that the Oncotype DX AR-V7 Nucleus Detect blood test is the first test that can predict treatment response and demonstrate a survival benefit for men who have metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. This test, available through Genomic Health and developed by Epic Sciences, can tell doctors whether a patient will respond to hormone therapy or if they need to switch to chemotherapy. Read more at Xconomy.
ICYMI: American Healthcare Leader interviewed Jay Lichter, president and CEO of COI Pharma and managing director of Avalon Ventures, about bringing newcos to San Diego. Read more.
July: Peptron, Recursion
Korea-based Peptron published data showing positive results from preclinical tests of their sustained-release version of exenatide—a peptide that can cross the blood brain barrier and potentially protect the brain in Parkinson’s disease. Little Dog publicized Peptron’s scientific findings that showed the company’s novel formulation reduces dopaminergic neurodegeneration in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease. Read more at FierceBiotech.
July was also a milestone month for Recursion Pharmaceuticals, which had its Investigational New Drug (IND) application approved by the FDA. This allowed it to start a Phase 1 study of REC-994 in cerebral cavernous malformation, a disease that affects up to 1.5 million Americans. Recursion uses an extensive proprietary database with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to discover new drug candidates. The approach has caught the eye of scientific collaborators and the media. In fact, the company’s synthesis of technology and biology earned Recursion CEO Chris Gibson a place among PharmaVoice’s “Commanders & Chiefs” this year. About the IND application approval | Read more in PharmaVoice.
August: Molecular Assemblies, Little Dog
Did you notice that Little Dog has a new look? We launched our redesigned website in August. It’s been a great way to showcase the impact of our PR strategies (and glamour shots of a few office pups). Visit the site.
Little Dog also welcomed two new Little Dog partners this summer: content partner Juliet Preston and scientific PR partner Charya Wickremasinghe.
We wrapped up the summer with news that Molecular Assemblies successfully completed an end-to-end run to store and retrieve digital information in DNA. Storing digital information in DNA has the potential to revolutionize the data storage industry by converting large amounts of data into nanograms of stable, easily replicable material. Molecular Assemblies’ unique method earned it a place as one of C&EN’s “2018’s 10 Start-Ups to Watch.” Read more | See the C&EN news list.
September: Epic Sciences, ViaCyte
In late Summer, we were thrilled to announce Epic Sciences’ $52 million Series E financing, led by Blue Ox Healthcare Partners, with participation by Deerfield Management and Varian. With the proceeds from the financing, Epic will advance a portfolio of predictive tests and decision support analytics that can guide clinicians and patients toward the best-suited cancer drugs to prolong life and minimize spend on ineffective therapies. Read more at MedCity News.
ViaCyte also joined forces with CRISPR Therapeutics in September. The companies are now partnering to design “off-the-shelf” immune-evasive therapies that combine their regenerative medicine and gene editing expertise. Read more at Endpoints.
October: Deep Lens
After a couple months of preparation, we helped digital pathology startup Deep Lens, Inc., exit stealth mode with $3.2 million in seed funding and the launch of the company’s Virtual Imaging for Pathology Education and Research (VIPER) technology to pathologists around the world. Deep Lens is also using the technology for more efficient clinical trial recruitment, and the VIPER service supports pathologists by offering diagnosis matching, confirmation, and pathology expert consultation. Read more at FierceBiotech.
November: Recursion, Organovo, ViaCyte, Banyan
Towards the end of the year, Recursion gave a TEDMED talk on how the team combines machine learning and experimental biology, with an aim to discover 100 new drugs by 2025. They also opened a 100,000-plus square foot R&D facility in downtown Salt Lake City. Read more about TEDMED. | Read about the new facility in Deseret News.
Meanwhile, Organovo Holdings presented data at the Liver Meeting 2018 in San Francisco on the performance of its liver therapeutic tissue in an animal model of hereditary tyrosinemia Type 1. The company’s 3D bioprinted liver tissues continued to show retention and functionality in a range of animal disease models. Importantly, the company reported that treated animals showed an improvement in the median survival rate versus non-treated control animals. Read more.
ViaCyte capped off an exciting and productive year with an $80 million financing round, which we helped share with local and trade media. Read more at The San Diego Union-Tribune.
And finally, Banyan Biomarkers was honored by San Diego’s CONNECT at their 31st annual Most Innovative New Product Awards (MIP) gala. Banyan earned the “Most Innovative” title in the life sciences diagnostics category for its Banyan BTI blood test for mild traumatic brain injury. Read more.
Looking back, our clients have pulled off some fantastic and varied accomplishments throughout the year. We are grateful to be partners in their journey, sharing their story as they work to change the face of science and medicine.