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2022-01-12| Special

JPM22 Highlights: Amgen Sees Potential in Arrakis, Freenome Gets Boosted by Roche Again

by Joy Lin
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Two deals punctuate the second day of J.P. Morgan’s healthcare conference 2022. They include Amgen tapping Arrakis to hunt for a new class of drugs that target RNA and Roche investing once again in multiomics player Freenome to help them realize their early cancer detection goals.  

Amgen and Arrakis Join Forces to Hunt for RNA Degraders

 

Amgen and Arrakis Therapeutics have closed a deal to develop small molecules that bind to disease-causing RNA and label them for destruction. 

Arrakis will lead drug discovery efforts to identify RNA-binding small molecules against targets selected by Amgen. Both companies will work together to fine-tune identified candidates to specifically degrade targeted RNAs, while Amgen will take over preclinical and clinical work. . 

Amgen offers its expertise in induced proximity – bringing molecules close together to make reactions more likely – to help develop multi-specific molecules that could bring RNA strands closer to nucleases for degradation. 

Amgen will pay $75 million upfront to Arrakis for five initial programs, and could opt to add more programs. The deal could balloon into “several billion dollars” for Arrakis if milestones for all future programs are met. 

Roche Chips In Again to Help Freenome Pass $1 Billion Investment Milestone 

 

After raising $300 million in a Series D financing joined by Roche Venture Fund, multiomics developer Freenome has secured another $290 million from Roche. The latest cash injection brought Freenome’s total fundraising to over $1.1 billion since its 2014 founding. 

The extra funds will help push Freenome’s blood test to detect early colorectal cancer (CRC), which employs machine learning, to completion. The liquid biopsy test is wrapping up the final stages of patient enrolment in a study where it will be used to screen for CRC. 

Freenome is also working to expand its multiomics platform to screen for biomarkers of other cancer types, and has presented promising data for one test for pancreatic cancer. The company said that it will launch more multicancer clinical trials next month that will focus on screening based on individual risk. 

“We are happy to support Freenome’s innovative approach to early cancer detection,” said Thomas Schinecker, CEO of Roche Diagnostics. “We believe blood-based multimodal screening and data-driven medical insights will help deliver personalized healthcare. This investment will be an important step to advance early cancer screening, and we look forward to joining Freenome in this journey.”

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