Patrick Soon-Shiong (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

A long Covid col­lab­o­ra­tive kicks off with $15M to study caus­es of lin­ger­ing dis­ease, con­duct clin­i­cal tri­als

The Covid-19 pan­dem­ic has left mil­lions of peo­ple with lin­ger­ing symp­toms months af­ter ini­tial di­ag­no­sis, and none of the hand­ful of bio­phar­mas that have at­tempt­ed to treat the so-called long Covid have suc­ceed­ed yet.

A new col­lab­o­ra­tion — bring­ing to­geth­er re­searchers from lead­ing in­sti­tutes in acad­e­mia — will hone in on what the virus does to “dri­ve chron­ic dis­ease,” re­search how SARS-CoV-2 af­fects the im­mune sys­tem and what ef­fects it could have on cog­ni­tive func­tion, nerve sig­nal­ing and oth­er process­es. The group al­so wants to dig in­to the root cause of the dis­ease.

Un­der the um­brel­la of the Long Covid Re­search Ini­tia­tive, the re­searchers will con­duct stud­ies of tis­sue biop­sies, au­top­sies and imag­ing, blood-based bio­mark­ers, as well as look at the virus’ down­stream im­pacts on neu­roin­flam­ma­tion and how the virus af­fects the mi­cro­bio­me and oth­er pathogens.

Sci­en­tists and clin­i­cians tak­ing part in the pro­gram in­clude a who’s who of in­fec­tious dis­ease ex­perts from Har­vard, Stan­ford, UCSF, the J. Craig Ven­ter In­sti­tute, Johns Hop­kins, Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, Mount Sinai, Cardiff and Yale. Lead­ing the sci­en­tif­ic ap­pa­ra­tus will be Amy Proal, a mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist with re­search fo­cused on in­fec­tion-as­so­ci­at­ed chron­ic fa­tigue syn­drome, the group said Thurs­day.

Back­ing the ini­tia­tive — which is part of the non­prof­it Poly­Bio Re­search Foun­da­tion — is a pair of bil­lion­aires: Ethereum co-founder Vi­ta­lik Bu­terin’s Balvi and re­peat biotech en­tre­pre­neur and Los An­ge­les Times own­er Patrick Soon-Sh­iong, through his Chan Soon-Sh­iong Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion. To kick things off, the col­lab­o­ra­tion has se­cured $15 mil­lion.

Vi­ta­lik Bu­terin (Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Im­ages)

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

The mon­ey will go to­ward re­search and even­tu­al­ly clin­i­cal tri­als of “an­tivi­rals, im­munomod­u­la­tors, tar­get­ed an­ti­co­ag­u­lants, and mi­cro­bio­me-based ther­a­peu­tics,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion said in a state­ment. They are seek­ing more fi­nan­cial back­ing from ad­di­tion­al phil­an­thropists, the group said.

Down the road, the group’s “big pic­ture,” as de­scribed in the launch an­nounce­ment, is look­ing at how virus­es im­pact chron­ic con­di­tions, “po­si­tion­ing this work at the cen­ter of longevi­ty re­search.”

One of the ex­ist­ing back­ers, Soon-Sh­iong, is al­ready look­ing at long Covid.

Through his com­pa­ny Im­mu­ni­ty­Bio, the can­cer and in­fec­tious dis­ease biotech own­er is at­tempt­ing to cre­ate vac­cines for the pan­dem­ic virus, af­ter re­peat­ed­ly get­ting in the ears of then-Pres­i­dent Trump and his ad­vi­sors in the ear­ly days of the pan­dem­ic, try­ing to shut­tle a vac­cine in­to clin­i­cal tri­als.

“I’m hope­ful that our sec­ond gen­er­a­tion vac­cine not on­ly cov­ers pre­ven­tion of in­fec­tion, pre­ven­tion of trans­mis­sion but some form of ad­dress­ing long Covid,” Soon-Sh­iong told End­points News in late May.

While a hand­ful of Covid-19 vac­cines, an­tivi­rals and mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies have made it to mar­ket, no ther­a­pies have been cleared for treat­ing the virus’ long-term ef­fects. PureTech and Ax­cel­la have both flunked mid-stage tests, but the lat­ter still thinks it can get in­to late-stage test­ing. Oth­er biotechs are al­so look­ing to get in­to the field, in­clud­ing Tonix Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 150,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 150,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Take­da to pull key hy­poparathy­roidism drug from the mar­ket en­tire­ly by end of 2024 af­ter years of man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

Takeda on Tuesday morning made an announcement that almost 3,000 people with the rare disease known as hypoparathyroidism were fearing.

Due to unresolved supply issues and manufacturing woes, Takeda said it will cut its losses and discontinue its hypoparathyroidism drug, known as Natpara (parathyroid hormone), halting all manufacturing of the drug by the end of 2024.

The decision to not re-commercialize Natpara will be a blow to not only the 2,400 people who were awaiting supplies of their reliable injection since 2019, but also the additional nearly 400 people who were accessing the drugs via the company’s Special Use Program as Takeda sought to resolve these manufacturing issues over the past five years.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 150,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 150,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Astel­las, Pan­th­er­na add or­gan to mR­NA tie-up; Rock­et launch­es sale of six fig­ures worth of stock

Astellas and Pantherna have expanded their November 2021 pact surrounding the latter’s mRNA platform to include a new target organ, the duo announced Tuesday morning, though they did not specify what that target is.

German biotech Pantherna is home to two platform technologies — one that designs mRNAs for non-vaccine therapies and another that designs LNPs. Astellas and Pantherna’s deal appears to mainly revolve around the first platform, which Astellas said it is using to research direct reprogramming, or turning cells from one kind into another without an intermediate stem cell phase.

Andrew Crockett, KalVista CEO

KalVista ends a PhII study ear­ly af­ter pa­tients suf­fer se­vere and life-threat­en­ing side ef­fects

KalVista took a beating Tuesday after announcing it would scrap a Phase II trial for one of its experimental drugs.

The biotech said in an early morning press release that it is terminating the study for KVD824 after multiple patients in every treatment group saw unsafe, elevated levels of certain liver enzymes. By ending the trial now, KalVista hopes to save some money and funnel it toward another study for its lead program, CEO Andrew Crockett said in a statement.

Pen­ny stock play­er to re­view all op­tions to try stay­ing afloat af­ter clin­i­cal tri­al fail

Adamis Pharmaceuticals is slowly tumbling down, and the biotech is looking at all its options.

After a Phase II/III trial failure last month that sent the penny stock player down an additional 50% to just 15 cents a share, the company said Monday that it is examining options to get the best value for its investors. A statement from Adamis indicates that alternatives include anything from a partnership to a sale of Adamis’ two commercial products, Zimhi and Symjepi.