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FierceBiotech Names 2014 Fierce 15

September 22, 2014
FierceBiotech released their much-anticipated 2014 Fierce 15 list today, their annual list of private biotech upstarts to watch. We’ll be hearing from three of them at next month’s BIO Investor Forum, October 7-8 in San Francisco: Adaptimmune and Sutro Biopharma will be making company presentations, and Editas Medicine CEO Katrine Bosley will participate as a panelist in one of our therapeutic workshops, Gene Therapy Ascending? Today’s Advancements Over Past Hurdles.

Here’s the scoop on each, from FierceBiotech (be sure to click on each name for their full write-up):

Adaptimmune
T cells are a great killing machine--except when it comes to cancer. They typically aren't engineered by nature to recognize cancer antigens, and when they do the antigens have a nasty habit of mutating to the point they can't connect any more. What Adaptimmune is doing is correcting the identification problem by taking patients' T cells and reengineering them with a gene encoding a new receptor that can do the job and complete the killing cycle. Closely related to CAR-T technology, advocates like Adaptimmune say that they should have more versatility with their technology, able to track down more types of cancer cells. And by swarming the system with targeted T cell attackers, the idea is to develop a highly specialized killer that leaves healthy cells alone.

Sutro Biopharma
Simply put, Sutro's team believes it has devised a much better way to build antibody-drug conjugates--those precise cancer cell-killing constructs made up of a targeting antibody, linker and payload--and bispecifics, teeing up potentially best-in-class products that promise to be more efficiently and consistently manufactured. Using biochemical synthesis, they've hatched a technology that can bypass the current approach to biologics by genetically engineering drugs that are much simpler to make, more akin to small molecules. Their technology, which can be deployed with multiple warheads, has attracted the likes of Celgene (a prolific partnering machine), J&J and Sanofi. Just days ago Merck KGaA signed on after impressing the Sutro team with its work on tumor biology.

Editas Medicine
Since the dawn of genomics, researchers have been inching toward the root of every disease, charting the roles of genes and their mutations in hopes of better treatments in the future. Incremental advances have led to lifesaving targeted therapies, exciting clinical contenders and early-stage candidates that hold great promise for sufferers of genetic diseases.

But what if, instead of treating symptoms and addressing surrogate endpoints, doctors could just go in and surgically repair misfiring genes? Thanks to some rapidly developing technology, therapeutic gene editing has gone from on-paper promise to near-clinical reality, and Editas Medicine, an early-stage startup, has united some of the field's pioneers to flesh out its potential.

Check out the full Fierce 15 list here.