Capsida Has a New Facility To Manufacture Treatments for ALS and Friedreich’s Ataxia

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

Capsida Biotherapeutics
Photo by Keerthi Vedantam

It may just be symbolic, but the two-year-old gene therapy Capsida Biotherapeutics built its manufacturing site in the shadow of pharma giant Amgen's headquarters, a wink to its greater ambitions.

Capsida's new 15,000-square-foot manufacturing site in Thousand Oaks will be used to engineer small viral particles to treat rare diseases like ALS and Friedreich's Ataxia, both of which severely impact mobility.

It's a rare move for a company that young; most startups developing therapeutics often partner with a contract manufacturing facility that makes drugs for multiple companies. But Capsida, already a fully-integrated company that works on research and development and preclinical studies, will be able to create therapeutics at a higher rate than if they were to contract.

"We've decided that, given our platform and what we feel like we can do with capsid engineering, the speed to market and the ability to get to clinic is such that if we have our own internal capabilities, we can move faster. We can be more agile," Capsida Chief Manufacturing Officer Rayne Waller said.

Photo by Keerthi Vedantam

Capsida's facility comes with two production suites where equipment can move flexibly (which will be useful as the company scales up, scales out or pivots), a sterile fill room to package drugs, and a large storage facility to preserve drugs in freezers. The facility will employ 40 to 50 people. Capsida is still building out a research space that will be anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 square feet that will look into different use cases for capsid engineering — and the facility can support three to four clinical programs a year, allowing Capsida to test for a variety of use cases.

Capsida's facility is yet more proof of the impact local funding can have on keeping companies in L.A. The company announced in April it raised $140 million from Westlake Village BioPartners, a two-year-old venture capital firm founded by Amgen executives that raised one of the biggest funding rounds of 2020 in L.A and invested in several life science companies in Southern California. The firm recently built out an incubator space and office spaces for companies like Capsida to move into.

Venture capital firms like Westlake Village BioPartners are key to establishing biotech companies in L.A., according to Stephanie Hsieh, head of the Los Angeles' office for Biocom. In order to successfully pull off drug development, she said startups need need "the right investors with the sophistication and the knowledge of what it takes to really invest in biotech."

"It's super long lead times. It's a really complex product when you're talking about drugs and all that goes into it," Hsieh said.

The facility is another win for Thousand Oaks, which changed its zoning laws two years ago in a bid to accommodate more biotech companies. Capsida's facility is surrounded by medical technology facilities, including manufacturer ECA Medical Instruments, immunotherapy company Atara Biotherapeutics and pharma giant Amgen.

"We realized early on how important it is to make way for growth in the sector and to attract some of the best research companies in the world," said Thousand Oaks Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.