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Atyr Pharma, a tiny San Diego biotech, has snapped up a pretty broad swath of patents that “cover an entirely new area of biology,” as CEO John Mendlein puts it.

Atyr’s immune-modulating drug candidates are based on cell-signaling molecules that the company has dubbed “physiocrines,” which are thought to have evolved over billions of years to help with an organism’s homeostasis, or state of equilibrium.

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