Q&A with Amy Barzdukas, Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Poly

MEDIA 7 | November 21, 2019

Amy Barzdukas, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at Poly is a marketing and communications leader with extensive experience in setting strategy, shifting perceptions, advising customers, digital marketing, revenue marketing, integrated marketing communications, and public relations in highly competitive product arenas.

Amy is known for her ability to create and execute winning turnarounds on a global scale.

MEDIA 7: What inspired you to get into marketing?
AMY BARZDUKAS:
I was always destined for marketing, even if I didn’t know it. As a child, I collected promotional brochures. I was fascinated by how the words and pictures were used to drive action. My first job was as an advertising copywriter, and I’ve never looked back.

M7: How is Poly redefining the video conferencing experience for modern businesses?
AB:
 We’re in an unprecedented time of change in our industry. Voice and video services are moving to the cloud, and companies are changing how they approach their communications needs. Poly is the largest provider of the devices – video conferencing, audio conferencing, headphones and desk phones – you use to connect to these services so you can collaborate with your colleagues. That uniquely positions us to shape the video conferencing experience, and we’re doing so in four ways.

First, Poly has made both the Zoom Rooms and the Microsoft Teams video conferencing experience better than ever with our radically simple Poly Studio X video bars that deliver these experiences with no PC or Mac required. We’ve got decades of experience in understanding what makes meetings more human – for everyone in the room and those dialing in from other locations – and we’ve packed all of that into easy-to-install, easy-to-manage, and easy-to-use all-in-one powerhouses.

Second, we are bringing the world of AV and video conferencing into the modern app economy. Our Studio X series and Poly G7500 video conferencing devices run a common platform that can be updated and enhanced through a series of regular software updates. This Poly platform, built on Android, can run applications like a smartphone does today.

Third, Poly has introduced innovation that makes any video conference better. Our new Poly MeetingAI features use AI and machine learning to address the distractions that hit your senses in a meeting. We make it easier to hear what’s being said by blocking out the annoying noises that people make while talking, and we make it easier to see what’s going on in the room with the most advanced speaker tracking and framing, and our built-in production rules.

Finally, we are pricing our solutions in a way that completely resets the calculations on what it costs to outfit a room. The Studio X30, for huddle room and smaller spaces, costs just about $2,100, including the Poly TC8 touch controller. All you add is the cloud service and a monitor, and you have a room up and running for under $2,500. That’s easily under the cost of other solutions and with better audio and video quality.


"Baby Boomers and more than half of Gen Z say they are most productive when they were working around noise."

M7: As the CMO of Poly, what were the major challenges in rebranding and transforming two separate organizations (Plantronics and Polycom) under a single brand Poly?
AB:
One of the greatest challenges of bringing together Plantronics and Polycom was doing so in a way that honored their brand equity, history, and positive associations while establishing a new story for the new company. Plantronics was already an audio pioneer– the first headset that transmitted Neil Armstrong’s famous words during the first moon landing. Polycom was the leader in audio and video conferencing – the conference phone used by business leaders and industry captains.
We had to figure out how to build a stand-out narrative in a crowded space for the general market. For customers and partners, we found a way to carry through the legacies and histories of both companies into the new brand. And for our employees, we had to inspire them to believe in the new brand and the new combined mission. These different challenges with different stakeholders took different approaches to confront, but in the end, we brought everyone to the same conclusion that Poly was moving forward, unified and stronger.

And like any acquisition, integration takes time. We’re proud of our accomplishments since rebranding to Poly in March 2019. Since then, we’ve refreshed our video conferencing line of products, broken new ground with a mobile phone station called Elara 60 Series and showcased our continued commitment to expanding the ecosystem with partners such as Zoom, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and more. As Poly, we bring a new level of quality, simplicity, and flexibility so that every communication can easily become a place for collaboration and innovation for the enterprise.


"Gen Z and Millennials came up in an era of digitization, so they are more accustomed to the tools and technology to deal with distractions in the workplace."

M7: A recent study by Poly reveals that employees prefer noisier open offices to closed, quiet spaces. What do you think is responsible for driving these unique demands in the workplace today?
AB:
Our research shows that Gen Z and Millennials tend to prefer open offices compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers and that more than half of Gen Z say they are most productive when they were working around noise. What we’re seeing is that Gen Z and Millennials came up in an era of digitization, so they are more accustomed to the tools and technology to deal with distractions in the workplace. For example, they’re used to wearing noise-canceling headphones to block out the background noise, and similarly at home with video. They’ve been doing it all their lives!

Now that we can work from anywhere – coffee shops, airports, waiting rooms – we are more accustomed to dealing with distractions and working through them. We take that mindset into the office along with the tools we may use to address distraction, from a pair of comfortable headphones with ANC to deciding to do different types of work in different settings.

M7: What features have made Poly Studio win the 'Best of Enterprise Connect' award in the '2019 Communication/Collaboration Device'?
AB: 
Poly Studio is our answer to the need for easy-to-use video conferencing devices for smaller spaces called huddle rooms. Poly Studio is a video USB bar with premium audio and video capabilities. Its standout features include NoiseBlock, which mutes distracting background noises, Automatic Group Framing and Speaker Tracking, which zooms in to focus on the speaking participant. This board-room like audio and video transforms small meeting rooms into a center for collaboration. We’re also pleased that it was recently certified for Zoom Rooms and Microsoft Teams. The device also works with Skype for Business, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx and Amazon Chime, and virtually any cloud-based video collaboration service.


"Poly combines legendary audio expertise with powerful video and conferencing capabilities to help our users overcome the distractions, complexity, and distance, making communication in and out of the workplace challenging."

M7: What traits make Poly a global leader in communications and a leading choice for every kind of workspace?
AB:
Our in-depth expertise, tireless innovation, and emphasis on partnership make Poly a global leader in communications and a leading choice for every kind of workspace.

Poly combines legendary audio expertise with powerful video and conferencing capabilities to help our users overcome the distractions, complexity, and distance, making communication in and out of the workplace challenging. When the world was on a race to space in the ’60s, NASA approached us—Plantronics back then—with a seemingly impossible task: create a headset that would equip astronauts to communicate with Mission Control from the earth to the moon, and back again.

Fifty years later, we share the same mission today: to create powerful connections that unify people the world over. We’re designing technology for the different ways people work – open offices, remote locations, mobile-first workers. We are the largest provider of headsets, video and audio-conferencing devices that you use to communicate and collaborate for your work, whatever that may be. And we continue to innovate with products like Poly Studio X that change how people collaborate.
Through partnerships with industry leaders like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Zoom, Poly takes an open-architecture approach that allows users to seamlessly connect across all the best technologies. Whenever and wherever people connect with these services, we will be there to provide the best-in-class audio, video and voice technology to make the experience that much better.

M7: What’s your superpower or spirit animal?
AB: 
My superpower is the ability to read amazingly quickly, thanks to the experimental elementary school I attended. I don’t know how anyone gets through their workload without it, honestly. My spirit animal? I told my husband the other day that I think it is Tom Petty. I’m a huge fan. If you have a problem, there is a Tom Petty song that can solve it, or at least make it more fun.

ABOUT POLY

Plantronics, Inc. (“Poly” – formerly Plantronics and Polycom) (NYSE: PLT) is a global communications company that powers meaningful human connection and collaboration. Poly combines legendary audio expertise and powerful video and conferencing capabilities to overcome the distractions, complexity, and distance that make communication in and out of the workplace challenging. Poly believes in solutions that make life easier when they work together and with our partner’s services. Our headsets, software, desk phones, audio and video conferencing, analytics and services are used worldwide and are a leading choice for every kind of workspace.

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Q&A with Sangram Vajre, Co-founder & Chief Evangelist at Terminus

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MEDIA 7 | December 5, 2019

Andrea Lechner-Becker, Chief Marketing Officer at LeadMD is an experienced Marketing and Sales Executive with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Skilled in Business Process, Marketo, Sales, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and IT Service Management, Andrea is also a strong business development professional and a storyteller. MEDIA 7: What inspired you to get into marketing? ANDREA LECHNER: Frankly, not having better options. I originally attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse thinking I’d major in Archaeology. I wanted to be Indiana Jones! But, after visiting the archaeology building – i.e. the cold, dark basement of the science building – where a girl sat to piece together pieces of an old Native American vase, I knew archaeology was not going to be the right path for me. And so, without being good at science and a major in art or art history was unlikely to pay my bills, I decided to go into “business”. I originally registered as a management major, but took my first marketing class and thought it was more interesting and switched my sophomore year. That was pretty much it. I’d never been involved in business classes or DECA in high school – I didn’t really know what to do or what jobs in marketing were even possible. I dumb lucked myself into it really. M7: As a storyteller, do you relate the brand to a story or story to the brand? AL: Both? Neither? I think there are stories in every brand, because there are people working on the brand and people engaging with the brand and people using what the brand creates. People, most often a single person, are at the heart of great stories. You can start with the “point” of the story you’re trying to tell. Say you have a software that help accountants better create reports for board meetings. It’s likely you’ll want to tell a success story about an accountant getting promoted to CFO in part because your software helped better communicate their work product to the board. You could have the idea for that and go looking for that story in your customers. OR, you could hear that story, and say, “That’s amazing!” and share it with customers, partners and internal people. Stories are all around us – the most important thing is to keep your ears and eyes open for finding them.

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Q&A with Ed Breault, Chief Marketing Officer at Aprimo

MEDIA 7 | November 28, 2019

Ed Breault, Chief Marketing Officer at Aprimo is a marketer with over 18 years of industry experience. At Aprimo, Ed is responsible for the global brand and growth which includes all Paid/Owned/Earned media, Brand Experience, Product Marketing, Industry Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Strategic Communications, Content Marketing, Analyst Relations, Alliance Marketing, Public Relations, Events, Demand Generation and Account-Based Marketing. MEDIA 7: What’s your superpower? ED BREAULT: I would say it’s applying the full spectrum of art and science that is required in marketing today. Not just left or right brained, but whole-brained strategy. Being human yet data-driven and really understanding numbers and (the right) metrics to make connections to business drivers. Add storytelling to that, so I can effectively communicate to my team, the CEO and CFO as well as my Board of Directors on those metrics, and connecting all that we are doing in marketing to the mission of the business. Then quickly shifting gears to the art and creative aspects of marketing that are required to engage an audience and tell great commercial stories that take complex concepts and craft them in a way that is interesting for people to pay attention to. I have to be the ultimate point of truth for the brand. M7: At Aprimo, how have marketing leadership roles and responsibilities evolved over the past few years? EB: There are so many dimensions needed by marketing leaders today. There are several elements driving this evolution, it’s the new experience battlefront that is emerging and also marketers themselves driving changes. From a market perspective, there is a clear appetite for disruption and consumers are wanting more experiential elements to their buying experience and interactions with brands. Take a few direct to consumer disruptions like trialing products in-home, purchasing directly from a brand or even wanting to ensure that the producer’s trade practices are in line with the buyer’s or even a regulator’s for that matter. Then we want to try before we buy, and we emotionally care about the supply chain of products. Do we TRUST this brand to do business with them? Behind all of this is a story that needs to be told, and it is those marketers who know their audience well and make connections that will win the commercial game. Back to the marketer, there are so many diverse backgrounds that marketers bring now and I’m really intrigued by those who have unconventional backgrounds because they contribute something uniquely new to the field. I love hearing about the marketer’s journey.

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Q&A with Sangram Vajre, Co-founder & Chief Evangelist at Terminus

MEDIA 7 | January 9, 2020

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Q&A with Andrea Lechner-Becker, Chief Marketing Officer at LeadMD

MEDIA 7 | December 5, 2019

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Read More

Q&A with Ed Breault, Chief Marketing Officer at Aprimo

MEDIA 7 | November 28, 2019

Ed Breault, Chief Marketing Officer at Aprimo is a marketer with over 18 years of industry experience. At Aprimo, Ed is responsible for the global brand and growth which includes all Paid/Owned/Earned media, Brand Experience, Product Marketing, Industry Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Strategic Communications, Content Marketing, Analyst Relations, Alliance Marketing, Public Relations, Events, Demand Generation and Account-Based Marketing. MEDIA 7: What’s your superpower? ED BREAULT: I would say it’s applying the full spectrum of art and science that is required in marketing today. Not just left or right brained, but whole-brained strategy. Being human yet data-driven and really understanding numbers and (the right) metrics to make connections to business drivers. Add storytelling to that, so I can effectively communicate to my team, the CEO and CFO as well as my Board of Directors on those metrics, and connecting all that we are doing in marketing to the mission of the business. Then quickly shifting gears to the art and creative aspects of marketing that are required to engage an audience and tell great commercial stories that take complex concepts and craft them in a way that is interesting for people to pay attention to. I have to be the ultimate point of truth for the brand. M7: At Aprimo, how have marketing leadership roles and responsibilities evolved over the past few years? EB: There are so many dimensions needed by marketing leaders today. There are several elements driving this evolution, it’s the new experience battlefront that is emerging and also marketers themselves driving changes. From a market perspective, there is a clear appetite for disruption and consumers are wanting more experiential elements to their buying experience and interactions with brands. Take a few direct to consumer disruptions like trialing products in-home, purchasing directly from a brand or even wanting to ensure that the producer’s trade practices are in line with the buyer’s or even a regulator’s for that matter. Then we want to try before we buy, and we emotionally care about the supply chain of products. Do we TRUST this brand to do business with them? Behind all of this is a story that needs to be told, and it is those marketers who know their audience well and make connections that will win the commercial game. Back to the marketer, there are so many diverse backgrounds that marketers bring now and I’m really intrigued by those who have unconventional backgrounds because they contribute something uniquely new to the field. I love hearing about the marketer’s journey.

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Xilio Therapeutics to Host Live Virtual Program Spotlighting XTX301, a Tumor-Activated IL-12

Xilio Therapeutics, Inc. | November 28, 2022

Xilio Therapeutics, Inc. a biotechnology company developing tumor-activated immuno-oncology therapies for people living with cancer, announced that the company will host a live virtual program on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at 12:30 p.m. ET spotlighting Xilio’s clinical-stage molecule XTX301, a tumor-activated, engineered IL-12. The event will feature Diwakar Davar, MBBS, M.Sc., a key opinion leader and assistant professor of medicine and a medical oncologist/hematologist from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Dr. Davar will discuss the unmet medical need in treating patients with immunologically “cold” advanced solid tumors and the differences between “cold” and “hot” tumors in the tumor microenvironment as well as the potential for IL-12 as a compelling immunotherapy target across tumor types due to its ability to activate both the innate and adaptive immune system. Xilio executives René Russo, Pharm.D., chief executive officer, Marty Huber, M.D., president and head of R&D, and Uli Bialucha, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, will discuss the company’s clinical-stage molecule, XTX301, a unique tumor-activated, engineered IL-12 designed to potently stimulate anti-tumor immunity and reprogram the TME of poorly immunogenic “cold” tumors towards an inflamed state, while limiting systemic toxicity. The Xilio team will also cover the adaptive design for the planned Phase 1 trial for XTX301 and anticipated clinical development timeline. Webcast Information To register in advance for the webcast, please click here. A live webcast of the event will also be available under “Events and Presentations” in the Investors & Media section of Xilio’s. Diwakar Davar, MBBS, M.Sc. Dr. Davar is an assistant professor of medicine and a medical oncologist/hematologist at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. He specializes in the management of advanced melanoma and the development of early phase studies to test novel immunotherapeutic approaches to treat advanced cancers. Dr. Davar is board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology. He received his medical degree from National University of Singapore, and he completed both his residency and fellowship at UPMC. Dr. Davar is a member of many professional organizations, including the American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Allegheny County Medical Society, American College of Physicians, and Singapore Medical Association. About XTX301, a Tumor-Activated, Engineered IL-12 XTX301 is an investigational tumor-activated, engineered IL-12 molecule designed to potently stimulate anti-tumor immunity and reprogram the TME of poorly immunogenic “cold” tumors towards an inflamed state. IL-12 plays a key role in bridging innate and adaptive cellular immunity, making it a compelling target for immunotherapy. However, life-threatening toxicity observed with systemically active IL-12, including severe liver toxicity, have limited the therapeutic potential of IL-12 agents. In November 2022, Xilio announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the company’s investigational new drug application for the evaluation of XTX301 as a potential treatment for patients with advanced solid tumors. About the Planned Phase 1 Clinical Trial for XTX301 The planned Phase 1 clinical trial for XTX301 is a first-in-human, multi-center, open-label trial designed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of XTX301 as a monotherapy in patients with advanced solid tumors. About Xilio Therapeutics Xilio Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biotechnology company discovering and developing tumor-activated immuno-oncology therapies with the goal of significantly improving outcomes for people living with cancer without the systemic side effects of current I-O treatments. The company is using its proprietary platform to build a pipeline of novel, tumor-activated molecules, including cytokines and other biologics, which are designed to optimize their therapeutic index and localize anti-tumor activity within the tumor microenvironment. Xilio is currently advancing multiple programs for tumor-activated I-O treatments in clinical development, as well as programs in preclinical development.

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RESEARCH, INDUSTRY OUTLOOK

BigHat Biosciences Announces Research Collaboration with Merck

BigHat Biosciences, Inc. | November 30, 2022

BigHat Biosciences, Inc., a biotechnology company with a machine learning-guided antibody discovery and development platform, announced a collaboration with Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, to apply the company’s technology to design candidates for up to three drug discovery programs. BigHat’s design platform, Milliner, integrates a high-speed characterization with ML technologies to engineer antibodies with more complex functions and better biophysical properties. This approach could help reduce the difficulty of optimizing antibodies and other therapeutic proteins. Under the collaboration, BigHat and Merck will collaborate to optimize up to three proteins by leveraging BigHat’s platform to synthesize, express, purify, and characterize molecules. Mark DePristo, co-founder and CEO of BigHat, continued, "We are thrilled to be collaborating with Merck's world-class drug development teams to design safer, more effective antibodies for these important therapeutic programs.” The teams have initiated work on the first program and are looking forward to using the power of the complementary skills sets within each research team to generate high-quality lead antibodies. “We are excited to begin this collaboration to advance next-generation antibody therapeutics to patients,” said Elizabeth Schwarzbach, BigHat’s Chief Business Officer. "This agreement with Merck brings us a major step closer to our goal of 3-5 deep collaborations with leading biopharmas to complement our internal therapeutic pipeline." “This agreement with BigHat expands Merck’s strategy of applying AI/ML across our drug discovery capabilities. We look forward to working with the team to leverage BigHat’s technology and expertise in enabling molecular design of novel biologic candidates.” Juan Alvarez, vice president of Biologics Discovery, Merck Research Laboratories About BigHat Biosciences, Inc. BigHat Biosciences is designing safer, more effective antibody therapies for patients using machine learning and synthetic biology. BigHat integrates a wet lab for high-speed characterization with machine learning technologies to guide the search for better antibodies. They apply these design capabilities to develop new generations of safer and more effective treatments for patients suffering from today’s most challenging diseases. BigHat is a Series B biotech outside San Francisco with a team-oriented, inclusive, and family-friendly culture. BigHat’s broad pipeline of wholly-owned and partnered therapeutic programs span many disparate indications with high unmet need, such as cancer, inflammation, and infectious disease. BigHat has raised over $100M from top investors, including Section 32, a16z, and 8VC.

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MEDICAL

Cajal Neuroscience Launches with $96 Million to Transform Target and Drug Discovery in Neurodegeneration

Cajal Neuroscience | November 30, 2022

Cajal Neuroscience, a biotechnology company integrating human genetics, functional genomics and advanced microscopy to discover novel targets and therapeutics for neurodegeneration, launched today with the completion of a $96 million Series A financing. Cajal is uniquely focused on the mechanistic, spatial and temporal complexity of neurodegeneration, integrating deep expertise in neuroscience, neuroanatomy and computational biology with state-of-the-art technologies for high-throughput functional validation. The financing was led by The Column Group and Lux Capital, with additional participation from Two Sigma Ventures, Bristol Myers Squibb, Evotec, Alexandria Venture Investments, Dolby Family Ventures and other investors. “We’ve all seen the challenges that face drug discovery in neurodegeneration. Cajal was founded to meet those challenges head-on by convening some of the best minds in the field and integrating a suite of cutting-edge technologies to identify and advance therapies for neurodegeneration in a completely new way. I truly believe our approach can revolutionize neurodegeneration drug discovery by understanding disease mechanisms with spatial and temporal resolution at unprecedented scale,” Ignacio Muñoz-Sanjuán, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer at Cajal “We want to get to the ground truth of neurodegenerative diseases. Cajal was started from grassroots, bringing together an incredible team of scientists, advisors and investors who share the long-term vision of building foundational systems to explore new pathways and targets and making a difference for patients suffering from neurodegeneration,” said Rob Hershberg, M.D., Ph.D., Co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Board at Cajal. Inspired by the pioneering work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, whose discoveries on the structural and functional organization of the brain became the foundation of modern neuroscience, Cajal seeks to transform the field of neurodegeneration by revealing the complex and dynamic mechanisms driving disease. Cajal’s platform combines state-of-the-art approaches and technologies, including integrative human genetics and multi-omics, highly multiplexed functional genomics and industrialized whole brain imaging. Through this approach, Cajal is systematically validating the thousands of targets implicated in diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and creating a comprehensive understanding of neurodegeneration that reveals how, where and when different mechanisms contribute to disease. “The legendary neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal said that all outstanding work, in art as well as science, results from immense zeal applied to a great idea. That’s precisely why we raced to fund this team,” said Josh Wolfe, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Lux Capital. “When you get the rare combination of the leading scientific minds in neuroscience teaming up to work with cutting-edge visualization, sequencing and computational techniques, and to apply a never-before taken approach to discovering targets and drugs for neurodegenerative disease, you don’t walk slowly toward it -- you sprint for your life.” Cajal’s leadership team includes world-class scientists and experienced biotechnology entrepreneurs who bring scientific rigor, drug development expertise and commitment to advancing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. About Cajal Neuroscience Cajal Neuroscience is a biotechnology company committed to discovering novel therapeutics for neurodegeneration by leveraging a powerful platform designed to reveal the mechanistic, spatial and temporal complexity of disease at unprecedented scale. Cajal combines a suite of state-of-the-art approaches and technologies, including integrative human genetics and multi-omics, high-throughput functional genomics and advanced microscopy, to accelerate neurodegeneration target and drug discovery. Cajal is headquartered in Seattle, WA.

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INDUSTRIAL IMPACT

Xilio Therapeutics to Host Live Virtual Program Spotlighting XTX301, a Tumor-Activated IL-12

Xilio Therapeutics, Inc. | November 28, 2022

Xilio Therapeutics, Inc. a biotechnology company developing tumor-activated immuno-oncology therapies for people living with cancer, announced that the company will host a live virtual program on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at 12:30 p.m. ET spotlighting Xilio’s clinical-stage molecule XTX301, a tumor-activated, engineered IL-12. The event will feature Diwakar Davar, MBBS, M.Sc., a key opinion leader and assistant professor of medicine and a medical oncologist/hematologist from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Dr. Davar will discuss the unmet medical need in treating patients with immunologically “cold” advanced solid tumors and the differences between “cold” and “hot” tumors in the tumor microenvironment as well as the potential for IL-12 as a compelling immunotherapy target across tumor types due to its ability to activate both the innate and adaptive immune system. Xilio executives René Russo, Pharm.D., chief executive officer, Marty Huber, M.D., president and head of R&D, and Uli Bialucha, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, will discuss the company’s clinical-stage molecule, XTX301, a unique tumor-activated, engineered IL-12 designed to potently stimulate anti-tumor immunity and reprogram the TME of poorly immunogenic “cold” tumors towards an inflamed state, while limiting systemic toxicity. The Xilio team will also cover the adaptive design for the planned Phase 1 trial for XTX301 and anticipated clinical development timeline. Webcast Information To register in advance for the webcast, please click here. A live webcast of the event will also be available under “Events and Presentations” in the Investors & Media section of Xilio’s. Diwakar Davar, MBBS, M.Sc. Dr. Davar is an assistant professor of medicine and a medical oncologist/hematologist at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. He specializes in the management of advanced melanoma and the development of early phase studies to test novel immunotherapeutic approaches to treat advanced cancers. Dr. Davar is board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology. He received his medical degree from National University of Singapore, and he completed both his residency and fellowship at UPMC. Dr. Davar is a member of many professional organizations, including the American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Allegheny County Medical Society, American College of Physicians, and Singapore Medical Association. About XTX301, a Tumor-Activated, Engineered IL-12 XTX301 is an investigational tumor-activated, engineered IL-12 molecule designed to potently stimulate anti-tumor immunity and reprogram the TME of poorly immunogenic “cold” tumors towards an inflamed state. IL-12 plays a key role in bridging innate and adaptive cellular immunity, making it a compelling target for immunotherapy. However, life-threatening toxicity observed with systemically active IL-12, including severe liver toxicity, have limited the therapeutic potential of IL-12 agents. In November 2022, Xilio announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the company’s investigational new drug application for the evaluation of XTX301 as a potential treatment for patients with advanced solid tumors. About the Planned Phase 1 Clinical Trial for XTX301 The planned Phase 1 clinical trial for XTX301 is a first-in-human, multi-center, open-label trial designed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of XTX301 as a monotherapy in patients with advanced solid tumors. About Xilio Therapeutics Xilio Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biotechnology company discovering and developing tumor-activated immuno-oncology therapies with the goal of significantly improving outcomes for people living with cancer without the systemic side effects of current I-O treatments. The company is using its proprietary platform to build a pipeline of novel, tumor-activated molecules, including cytokines and other biologics, which are designed to optimize their therapeutic index and localize anti-tumor activity within the tumor microenvironment. Xilio is currently advancing multiple programs for tumor-activated I-O treatments in clinical development, as well as programs in preclinical development.

Read More

RESEARCH, INDUSTRY OUTLOOK

BigHat Biosciences Announces Research Collaboration with Merck

BigHat Biosciences, Inc. | November 30, 2022

BigHat Biosciences, Inc., a biotechnology company with a machine learning-guided antibody discovery and development platform, announced a collaboration with Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, to apply the company’s technology to design candidates for up to three drug discovery programs. BigHat’s design platform, Milliner, integrates a high-speed characterization with ML technologies to engineer antibodies with more complex functions and better biophysical properties. This approach could help reduce the difficulty of optimizing antibodies and other therapeutic proteins. Under the collaboration, BigHat and Merck will collaborate to optimize up to three proteins by leveraging BigHat’s platform to synthesize, express, purify, and characterize molecules. Mark DePristo, co-founder and CEO of BigHat, continued, "We are thrilled to be collaborating with Merck's world-class drug development teams to design safer, more effective antibodies for these important therapeutic programs.” The teams have initiated work on the first program and are looking forward to using the power of the complementary skills sets within each research team to generate high-quality lead antibodies. “We are excited to begin this collaboration to advance next-generation antibody therapeutics to patients,” said Elizabeth Schwarzbach, BigHat’s Chief Business Officer. "This agreement with Merck brings us a major step closer to our goal of 3-5 deep collaborations with leading biopharmas to complement our internal therapeutic pipeline." “This agreement with BigHat expands Merck’s strategy of applying AI/ML across our drug discovery capabilities. We look forward to working with the team to leverage BigHat’s technology and expertise in enabling molecular design of novel biologic candidates.” Juan Alvarez, vice president of Biologics Discovery, Merck Research Laboratories About BigHat Biosciences, Inc. BigHat Biosciences is designing safer, more effective antibody therapies for patients using machine learning and synthetic biology. BigHat integrates a wet lab for high-speed characterization with machine learning technologies to guide the search for better antibodies. They apply these design capabilities to develop new generations of safer and more effective treatments for patients suffering from today’s most challenging diseases. BigHat is a Series B biotech outside San Francisco with a team-oriented, inclusive, and family-friendly culture. BigHat’s broad pipeline of wholly-owned and partnered therapeutic programs span many disparate indications with high unmet need, such as cancer, inflammation, and infectious disease. BigHat has raised over $100M from top investors, including Section 32, a16z, and 8VC.

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Cajal Neuroscience Launches with $96 Million to Transform Target and Drug Discovery in Neurodegeneration

Cajal Neuroscience | November 30, 2022

Cajal Neuroscience, a biotechnology company integrating human genetics, functional genomics and advanced microscopy to discover novel targets and therapeutics for neurodegeneration, launched today with the completion of a $96 million Series A financing. Cajal is uniquely focused on the mechanistic, spatial and temporal complexity of neurodegeneration, integrating deep expertise in neuroscience, neuroanatomy and computational biology with state-of-the-art technologies for high-throughput functional validation. The financing was led by The Column Group and Lux Capital, with additional participation from Two Sigma Ventures, Bristol Myers Squibb, Evotec, Alexandria Venture Investments, Dolby Family Ventures and other investors. “We’ve all seen the challenges that face drug discovery in neurodegeneration. Cajal was founded to meet those challenges head-on by convening some of the best minds in the field and integrating a suite of cutting-edge technologies to identify and advance therapies for neurodegeneration in a completely new way. I truly believe our approach can revolutionize neurodegeneration drug discovery by understanding disease mechanisms with spatial and temporal resolution at unprecedented scale,” Ignacio Muñoz-Sanjuán, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer at Cajal “We want to get to the ground truth of neurodegenerative diseases. Cajal was started from grassroots, bringing together an incredible team of scientists, advisors and investors who share the long-term vision of building foundational systems to explore new pathways and targets and making a difference for patients suffering from neurodegeneration,” said Rob Hershberg, M.D., Ph.D., Co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Board at Cajal. Inspired by the pioneering work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, whose discoveries on the structural and functional organization of the brain became the foundation of modern neuroscience, Cajal seeks to transform the field of neurodegeneration by revealing the complex and dynamic mechanisms driving disease. Cajal’s platform combines state-of-the-art approaches and technologies, including integrative human genetics and multi-omics, highly multiplexed functional genomics and industrialized whole brain imaging. Through this approach, Cajal is systematically validating the thousands of targets implicated in diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and creating a comprehensive understanding of neurodegeneration that reveals how, where and when different mechanisms contribute to disease. “The legendary neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal said that all outstanding work, in art as well as science, results from immense zeal applied to a great idea. That’s precisely why we raced to fund this team,” said Josh Wolfe, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Lux Capital. “When you get the rare combination of the leading scientific minds in neuroscience teaming up to work with cutting-edge visualization, sequencing and computational techniques, and to apply a never-before taken approach to discovering targets and drugs for neurodegenerative disease, you don’t walk slowly toward it -- you sprint for your life.” Cajal’s leadership team includes world-class scientists and experienced biotechnology entrepreneurs who bring scientific rigor, drug development expertise and commitment to advancing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. About Cajal Neuroscience Cajal Neuroscience is a biotechnology company committed to discovering novel therapeutics for neurodegeneration by leveraging a powerful platform designed to reveal the mechanistic, spatial and temporal complexity of disease at unprecedented scale. Cajal combines a suite of state-of-the-art approaches and technologies, including integrative human genetics and multi-omics, high-throughput functional genomics and advanced microscopy, to accelerate neurodegeneration target and drug discovery. Cajal is headquartered in Seattle, WA.

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Plantronics, Inc. (“Poly” – formerly Plantronics and Polycom) (NYSE: PLT) is a global communications company that powers meaningful human connection and collaboration. Poly combines legendary audio expertise and powerful video and conferencing capabilities to overcome the distractions, complexity, a...

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