$100B in NIH-fund­ed re­search played an im­por­tant role in all 210 new drugs ap­proved over 7 years — study

The next time some­one chal­lenges the im­por­tance of NIH-fund­ed re­search in drug de­vel­op­ment, you might want to point them to a new study that high­lights the foun­da­tion­al role the In­sti­tutes plays in bio­phar­ma re­search.

The study — pub­lished in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tion­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences — con­cludes that every one of the 210 new mol­e­c­u­lar en­ti­ties ap­proved by the FDA be­tween 2010 and 2016 can source re­search back to NIH-fund­ed work. That is es­pe­cial­ly im­por­tant in fig­ur­ing the pub­lic con­text of first-in-class work, where ba­sic re­search played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the sci­en­tif­ic un­der­stand­ing of the tar­gets in­volved.

From the study by a team of re­searchers at Bent­ley Uni­ver­si­ty:

These da­ta demon­strate that a siz­able pub­lic-sec­tor in­vest­ment oc­curs be­fore the ap­proval of first-in-class NMEs, par­tic­u­lar­ly those dis­cov­ered us­ing tar­get­ed dis­cov­ery meth­ods (in­clud­ing re­com­bi­nant bi­o­log­i­cals). The scale of this in­vest­ment can be es­ti­mat­ed from the costs as­so­ci­at­ed with first-in-class NMEs ap­proved in 2010–2016 and their mol­e­c­u­lar tar­gets. These da­ta sug­gest that the pub­lic-sec­tor in­vest­ment in re­search un­der­ly­ing each first-in-class drug is as high as $839 mil­lion, with 89% of this cost as­so­ci­at­ed with tar­get re­search and 11% of the cost as­so­ci­at­ed with the first-in-class com­pound or fol­low-on com­pounds ap­proved from 2010–2016….

Over­all, this analy­sis sug­gests that as much as 20% of the NIH bud­get al­lo­ca­tion from 2000–2016 (more than $100 bil­lion) was as­so­ci­at­ed with pub­lished re­search that di­rect­ly or in­di­rect­ly con­tributed to NMEs ap­proved from 2010–2016.

The au­thors in par­tic­u­lar want­ed to ex­pand the scope of their re­search to make sure they were ac­count­ing for NIH-fund­ed stud­ies that were es­sen­tial to a drug tar­get, which doesn’t al­ways fac­tor in­to the patents used to pro­tect the com­mer­cial val­ue of each drug — a stan­dard that had been used in ear­li­er at­tempts to high­light the role of the NIH in drug de­vel­op­ment.

No one at the NIH is like­ly to get any kick­back from bio­phar­ma on this score. NIH fund­ing has been un­der the gun un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who’s been ready to sac­ri­fice re­search spend­ing in fa­vor of oth­er pri­or­i­ties. But the NIH bud­get has been saved by a bi­par­ti­san pha­lanx of elect­ed of­fi­cials in Con­gress who have ral­lied against the cuts. They’ll be back on the front­line of this de­bate now that Trump has sub­mit­ted a new bud­get this week that calls on law­mak­ers to flat­line spend­ing at the In­sti­tutes.

Those de­fend­ers just got some fresh am­mu­ni­tion for the fights to come.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Cy­to­ki­net­ics’ ALS drug fails PhI­II, leav­ing the biotech with a sin­gle late-stage prospect

Cytokinetics’ candidate for the muscle disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, failed a Phase III trial, the Bay Area biotech announced Friday morning.

At a second interim analysis of the trial, an independent review committee recommended that Cytokinetics discontinue its COURAGE-ALS trial for reldesemtiv, as it “found no evidence of effect” compared to placebo on the primary or key secondary endpoints.

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CHMP gives thumbs-up for We­govy use in ado­les­cents, along with nine new drug rec­om­men­da­tions

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended nine drugs for approval this week while also giving thumbs up for six expanded indications, including Novo Nordisk’s approved obesity medication Wegovy for younger people. Wegovy is already approved as an obesity treatment in the EU for adults, and the new indication would allow prescriptions for adolescents aged 12 and older.

Austin biotech Mol­e­c­u­lar Tem­plates lays off more than 100 staffers as pipeline nar­rows

Molecular Templates is ridding itself of a Phase I HER2 asset and fine-tuning its pipeline to focus on three programs and a preclinical Bristol Myers Squibb collaboration. With the narrowed scope on its so-called engineered toxin bodies, the Austin, TX biotech is laying off about half of its staff.

That’s a little more than 100 employees, per an SEC filing. Molecular’s layoffs, approved by its board Wednesday, add to the dozens of pullbacks in the industry in the first three months of 2023.

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Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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Green­Light re­ceives buy­out of­fer; Apol­lomics com­pletes SPAC merg­er

RNA biotech GreenLight Biosciences has been handed an offer for potential acquisition.

GreenLight said in a release that it has received a non-binding “indication of interest” from Fall Line Endurance Fund to acquire GreenLight’s capital stock for $0.60 per share in cash. The release said any potential agreement between the two parties would depend on certain conditions.

Through a special committee, the biotech will evaluate the offer but added there’s no certainty a deal will go forward. GreenLight will also not make any more announcements until a deal comes through or “otherwise determines” a statement is necessary.

Aptinyx eval­u­ates fu­ture of the com­pa­ny fol­low­ing two failed tri­als, 60% lay­offs

This year has been tough for Aptinyx — two failed trials, a 60% cut in its workforce, and now the company has brought on a firm to help evaluate the future of the company.

The press release noted it’s working with the firm Ladenburg Thalmann as its financial advisor to assist in exploring and evaluating “strategic alternatives” — a process that a growing group of struggling biotechs has embarked on, sometimes ending in a merger, asset sale or wind-down.

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Sar­to­rius to ac­quire French man­u­fac­tur­er for $2.6B+ in cell and gene ther­a­py play

The German life science group Sartorius will be picking up French contract manufacturer Polyplus for the price of €2.4 billion, or $2.6 billion.

On Friday, Sartorius announced the acquisition through its French subgroup, Sartorius Stedim Biotech, which will be acquiring Polyplus from private investors ARCHIMED and WP GG Holdings IV. Polyplus has 270 employees and produces materials and components that go into making viral vectors that are used in cell and gene therapies. This includes DNA/RNA reagents as well as plasmid DNA. Polyplus has locations in France, Belgium, China and the US.

TScan Therapeutics' departing CEO David Southwell and CSO/COO Gavin MacBeath

TCR up­start an­nounces CEO ex­it, with CSO now act­ing re­place­ment

A public T cell biotech’s chief executive has decided to leave the company.

TScan Therapeutics said Friday morning that CEO David Southwell stepped down earlier this week, leaving both his chief executive and board member roles. Filling in is Gavin MacBeath, the company’s CSO and COO. He became the acting CEO on Tuesday, and will continue to remain CSO and COO, TScan’s announcement read.