Science2Startup 2023: Innovation And Entrepreneurship

Posted February 28th, 2023 in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Science2Startup (S2S) is back!  In April 2020, we were planning the 3rd annual S2S conference for university-focused biotech entrepreneurship – but it was unfortunately scuttled by COVID. A subsequent event in 2021 was also precluded by the pandemic.  But as we all regain some normalcy, so too with S2S.  We’re relaunching the event on May 3, 2023 at the Broad Institute.

This year’s conference once again aims to build connectivity across academic, tech transfer, and investor communities, while sharing perspectives on innovative therapeutics coming out of universities across the globe and how to translate those ideas into great companies.

S2S is unique in that it is put on by the biotech investment community. Though our investment strategies differ, we all share an interest in cultivating scientific innovation at academic institutions worldwide. The better we can connect great science with the investment community, the better chance we all have at eventually benefitting from the future impact of these innovations.

We invite a mix of biotech-focused venture investors, biotech entrepreneurs and operators, Pharma leaders in both R&D and business development, as well as individuals from across the academic innovation spectrum (think investigators, researchers, tech transfer professionals, etc). Since its founding, S2S has aspired to have a this “big tent” approach; this isn’t exclusive to one set of investors or institutions. In 2018 and 2019, we had more than 250 guests registered, split roughly equally across venture investors, academics/tech transfer colleagues, and corporate biopharma. We expect similar participation this year.

It’s important to highlight that although we’re hosting this at the Broad Institute, this isn’t a Boston-focused event. Although the Cambridge/Boston cluster is a rich and dynamic ecosystem for starting and scaling biotechs, this community is very much an “importer” of science from around the world.  This year’s ten S2S Finalists reflect this geographic diversity: picked from over 125 submissions from 61 institutions, across 8 countries, all the Finalists are from outside Boston/Cambridge, and the farthest hails from Australia!

S2S has grown over time, now hosted by 5 venture firms: Atlas, F-Prime, OUP, RA Capital, and newly 5AM this year. The Advisory Group represents some of the best from the investor community and as a group of 17 is equally comprised of men and women, including partners from additional firms like Avoro, Canaan, TPG, Vida, Sanofi, MGB, JJDC, Apollo Health, and Takeda, as well as S2S sponsors Evotec and Deloitte. These individuals will be mentoring the S2S Finalist presenters, along with mentors from the MassBio community. In addition to Deloitte and Evotec, S2S is also sponsored by Goodwin, JLL, USQ, and SVB, all of whom will be leading workshops to share their expertise with the presenters.

We are thrilled to have Sangeeta Bhatia, member of the National Academy of Sciences, join us for a keynote address; as a prolific scientist and entrepreneur, she’s been involved in the translation of innovative science into medicines, and serves on the Board of Vertex Pharmaceuticals as well as a number of startups.

This year’s ten Finalists include innovative technologies across a broad range of diseases and modalities: inhibitors of MYC, treatments for fibrosis, cell surface degraders, agents for ischemia-reperfusion injury, novel targets for both athero and neoplasms, approaches for opioid replacement, addressing heparin reversal, and treating lysosomal storage disease.

Worth noting that in the past this event has helped academic entrepreneurs raise capital.  Of the 23 prior S2S presenters in 2018 and 2019, at least 10 have gone on to raise capital from investors for their startup ideas.  Hopefully we’ll continue to see a high hit rate out of S2S 2023.

While registration for S2S is by invitation-only, if you’d like to be considered for attendance you can email


Takeda Acquires Nimbus’ Tyk2 Autoimmune Program

Posted December 13th, 2022 in Business Development, Exits IPOs M&As, Portfolio news | Leave a comment

Today we’re thrilled to announce the acquisition of Nimbus’ allosteric Tyk2 autoimmune program by Takeda for up to $6 billion in an upfront and future milestones.

As a potential best-in-class asset in the significant new therapeutic category of selective Tyk2 inhibition, our recent Phase 2b data set the stage for a broad Phase 3 campaign. Partnering with Takeda will accelerate this potential therapeutic reaching its full potential.

Kudos to CEO Jeb Keiper and the Nimbus team for continuing to innovate around new medicines, and for driving this partnership to closure. We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for our exceptional science-driven organization and culture at Nimbus.

Like all major programs, the history of our Tyk2 program highlights the long and non-linear enterprise of drug R&D: a decade-long overnight success.

Starting with some background, Nimbus isn’t a new startup – in fact, we just celebrated our 13th anniversary. During the spring of 2009, when the markets hit bottom, Schrödinger’s Ramy Farid and I co-founded the company, then called Project Troubled Water, and we incubated it in the Atlas offices. I was fortunate to be the acting CEO in the early years, and have served as Chairman since. In the spring of 2011, we came out of stealth with a blog “Discovering Nimbus”, which highlighted the three key elements of the “experiment”: a cutting edge in silico discovery engine, with a truly virtual and globally distributed operating model, and a unique asset-centric LLC-based corporate structure (also described here). Nimbus CEO Jeb Keiper revisited these founding corporate hypotheses in his 2019 post “A Decade of Discovery” as part of celebrating Nimbus’ first 10 years.

Like many startups, during the early years we spent countless cycles on the selection of targets to work on – probably the most important choice any platform company makes. We knew that if we chose the “wrong” projects, we weren’t likely to succeed. If the targets were too easy, anyone could do it… and if they were too hard, perhaps no one could. Both of these poles are common failure modes for new discovery companies.

Along with CSO Rosana Kapeller (now CEO of Rome) and CBO Jonathan Montagu (now CEO of HotSpot), among other key team members, we “scored” hundreds of possible targets on many of the typical attributes (biological validation, genetics, unmet need, clinical path, competition), but also and importantly where we felt our privileged access to cutting-edge computational insights would lead to a discovery advantage. The key was to identify what targets would best be cracked open by our approach. In hindsight, it’s clear we were fortunate to have chosen some great targets: two of the initial programs were IRAK4, which we partnered with Genentech in 2015), and acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), which we partnered with Gilead in NASH in 2016.

Our third program was Tyk2, and it’s a great case study on the patience and pivoting required across the long timeline of drug R&D – because our Tyk2 inhibitor program is just now finishing its 11th year.

In the fall of 2011, our “New Targets” team triaged Tyk2 and got excited at its prospects in both cancer and autoimmune applications, based on the emerging understanding of human genetics. We kicked off our first Virtual Screen with our partner Schrödinger in late 2011 and pushed a number of series into lead optimization over the next few years. All of these initial campaigns were focused on the ATP-competitive kinase catalytic site, where we were attempting to drive selectivity vs the other JAK family members given safety concerns associated with JAK1, -2, and -3. We leveraged a huge amount of processing power for free energy perturbation modeling (here). During these early days, increasingly compelling genetic data further strengthened the linkage of Tyk2 with autoimmune disease, increasing our enthusiasm for the target across a wide range of diseases.

Given the high similarity between JAK1/2/3 and Tyk2, only modest selectivity was achieved via the catalytic site; we weren’t convinced it was enough to be clinically profound. But as we understood the target more, as well as the protein’s structure-function relationship, the allosteric JH2/pseudokinase site caught our attention, as it possesses enough structural differences to drive real selectivity. After multiple years of working on the target, we chose to fully pivot our discovery campaign to drugging this site, and fully accelerated our efforts there. As this progressed in discovery, we also partnered with Celgene, which was subsequently acquired by BMS, as an example of our LLC deal-making model.

The team’s discovery efforts successfully culminated in NDI-034858, an exquisitely selective allosteric inhibitor of Tyk2. We filed our IND in November 2019, and had 28-day Phase 1b data in patients in our hands by spring 2021 (thanks to Covid delays). In August 2021, we launched our Phase 2b clinical trial and recently announced the top line data for ‘4858 from that trial in early November 2022.  It’s now poised, in Takeda’s capable hands, of starting Phase 3 studies in 2023.

As with all emerging new medicines with huge potential, there’s been a fantastic drug R&D team behind its success. Keiper, who has led the company as CEO since October 2018, deserves enormous credit for building the current team and advancing our strategic priorities.  At the risk of not mentioning many of the incredible contributors, I’ll call out both our CSO Peter Tummino and our Tyk2 clinical lead Bhaskar Srivastava. Peter and Bhaskar were and are a spectacular discovery-development pairing. And Abbas Kazimi was a fantastic CBO working with JPM on this Tyk2 deal process.  Many, many others at Nimbus have helped deliver us to this important milestone.

Golden Goose

Back in 2016, when Gilead acquired our ACC program for NASH by securing “Nimbus Apollo Inc”, we shared the view that our unique structure allowed Nimbus to be like the Golden Goose.  With the sale of our “Nimbus Lakshmi Inc” subsidiary, Nimbus has once again demonstrated it can lay golden eggs.

Nimbus 3.0 is already well underway: HPK1 is in the clinic for immuno-oncology, and it’s followed by a broad and rich discovery pipeline of WRN, CBL-b, CTPS1, and AMPK – and that’s just the publicly-disclosed set of programs. Importantly, we’ve continued to augment and refresh the talent pool at Nimbus as part of building towards Nimbus 3.0 – most recently, we added Nathalie Franchimont as CMO to the team. We’re also very proud of our Nimbus alumni: every great company creates a diaspora of veterans growing into different roles, and Nimbus is no different.

For Atlas, Nimbus is one of the most successful biotech investments we’ve ever made on a number of metrics – including the fact that we’ve invested across four different fund vintages (2009, 2015, 2018, 2021) with long-term conviction in the story.  And we have continued conviction going forward.

As we like to say at Atlas – “Onward and Upward” – congrats to the team and our new partners at Takeda on advancing ‘4858 as a potential best-in-class Tyk2 franchise. Looking forward to Nimbus 3.0!