A slim­mer FDA: White House pro­pos­es 30% cut to head­count un­der re­or­ga­ni­za­tion

Un­der a sweep­ing new plan to re­or­ga­nize gov­ern­ment agen­cies it deems in­ef­fi­cient, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said Thurs­day it wants to re­move food safe­ty from the FDA’s purview — along with $1.3 bil­lion in re­sources and 5,000 of the agency’s staff.

The pro­pos­al would slim down the FDA’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to on­ly in­clude drugs, de­vices, bi­o­log­ics, to­bac­co, di­etary sup­ple­ments, and cos­met­ics. And the agency over­haul would come with a new moniker: the Fed­er­al Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The pro­pos­al is part of a broad­er plan la­belled “De­liv­er­ing Gov­ern­ment So­lu­tions in the 21st Cen­tu­ry,” a 132-page mar­ket­ing doc­u­ment that de­tails a wish-list of re­forms at the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices.  The re­port is meant to tack­le is­sues Pres­i­dent Trump out­lined in a 2017 ex­ec­u­tive or­der, which fo­cused on re­duc­ing “du­pli­ca­tion and re­dun­dan­cy” and im­prov­ing “ef­fi­cien­cy, ef­fec­tive­ness, and ac­count­abil­i­ty of the ex­ec­u­tive branch.”

The re­or­ga­ni­za­tion would shift rough­ly 5,000 FDA em­ploy­ees out of the agency to join about 9,200 US­DA staffers. The new group would be called the “Fed­er­al Food Safe­ty Agency,” and it would fall un­der the US­DA’s man­date, not the FDAs. That would take a sig­nif­i­cant slice out FDA’s to­tal em­ploy­ee count, which cur­rent­ly stands at 17,468 peo­ple.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, the pro­pos­al al­so sug­gests the FDA would be con­tribut­ing $1.3 bil­lion in bud­get dol­lars, while the US­DA would on­ly toss in $1 bil­lion.

The FDA along with US­DA’s Food Safe­ty and In­spec­tion Ser­vice (FSIS) are the two main fed­er­al food safe­ty agen­cies now. The White House re­port de­scribes their arrange­ment as “il­log­i­cal, frag­ment­ed, and du­plica­tive”. From the re­port:

For ex­am­ple: while FSIS has reg­u­la­to­ry re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for the safe­ty of liq­uid eggs, FDA has reg­u­la­to­ry re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for the safe­ty of eggs while they are in­side their shells; FDA reg­u­lates cheese piz­za; but if there is pep­per­oni on top, it falls un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of FSIS; FDA reg­u­lates closed-faced meat sand­wich­es, while FSIS reg­u­lates open-faced meat sand­wich­es.

No big re-org will hap­pen with­out Con­gress hav­ing its say, of course — a fact the White House takes note of. “Ful­ly in­te­grat­ing FSIS and the food safe­ty func­tions of FDA would ul­ti­mate­ly re­quire a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of un­der­ly­ing leg­isla­tive au­thor­i­ties and reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proach­es,” the re­port states.

Mar­garet We­ichert, the deputy di­rec­tor for man­age­ment at the White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get, ac­knowl­edged in a call with re­porters that the changes “will not hap­pen overnight,” but hopes some of the lan­guage can serve as the “be­gin­ning of a na­tion­al di­a­logue on gov­ern­ment re­form.”

What’s cer­tain is that Scott Got­tlieb, the na­tion’s 23rd Com­mis­sion­er of Food and Drugs, has tak­en an es­pe­cial­ly per­son­al in­ter­est in his role as guardian of the food sup­ply with reg­u­lar tweets and com­mu­niques to the pub­lic on mat­ters from prop­er cook­ing tech­niques and re­call no­tices, and he isn’t like­ly to give up that re­spon­si­bil­i­ty so fast.


Im­age: The White House Shut­ter­stock

The biggest ques­tions fac­ing gene ther­a­py, the XLMTM com­mu­ni­ty, and Astel­las af­ter fourth pa­tient death

After three patients died last year in an Astellas gene therapy trial, the company halted the study and began figuring out how to safely get the program back on track. They would, executives eventually explained, cut the dose by more than half and institute a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Then tragically, Astellas announced this week that the first patient to receive the new regimen had died, just weeks after administration.

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What Will it Take to Re­al­ize the Promise and Po­ten­tial of Im­mune Cell Ther­a­pies?

What does it take to get to the finish line with a new cancer therapy – fast? With approvals in place and hundreds of immune cell therapy candidates in the pipeline, the global industry is poised to create a fundamental shift in cancer treatments towards precision medicine. At the same time, unique challenges associated with cell and process complexity present manufacturing bottlenecks that delay speed to market and heighten cost of goods sold (COGS) — these hurdles must be overcome to make precision treatments an option for every cancer patient. This series of articles highlights some of the key manufacturing challenges associated with the production of cell-based cancer therapies as well as the solutions needed to transcend them. Automation, process knowledge, scalability, and assured supply of high-quality starting material and reagents are all critical to realizing the full potential of CAR-based therapies and sustaining the momentum achieved in recent years. The articles will highlight leading-edge technologies that incorporate these features to integrate across workflows, accelerate timelines and reduce COGS – along with how these approaches are enabling the biopharmaceutical industry to cross the finish line faster with new treatment options for patients in need.

Eu­ro­pean study finds that Gilead­'s Covid-19 an­tivi­ral remde­sivir shows no clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Gilead’s remdesivir — or Veklury, as it’s marketed in the US — raked in around $2.8 billion last year as the only FDA-approved antiviral to treat Covid-19. But new data from a European study suggest the drug, which has been given to about half of hospitalized Covid patients in the country, has no actual benefit.

The open-label DisCoVeRy trial enrolled Covid-19 patients across 48 sites in Europe to test a handful of treatments, including remdesivir, lopinavir–ritonavir, lopinavir–ritonavir and interferon beta-1a, and hydroxychloroquine. To participate, patients had to show symptoms for seven days and require oxygen support. A total of 429 patients were randomized to receive remdesivir plus standard of care, while 428 were assigned to standard of care alone.

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Gri­fols drops $1B on Ger­man hold­ing com­pa­ny in con­tin­ued plas­ma push

One Spanish biotech is beefing up its plasma therapy operations, and on Friday, it announced that it’s doing so in a billion-dollar deal.

Grifols is now the largest shareholder of Biotest, a company valued at more than $1.8 billion. By teaming up, the two will try to increase the number of plasma therapies available and increase patient access around the world, Grifols said in a press release.

The company did so by acquiring holding company Tiancheng Pharmaceutical, the Germany-based owner of nearly 90% of Biotest shares, for nearly $1.27 billion. Grifols now owns nearly 90% of Biotest voting rights and almost 45% of the total share capital of Biotest.

Amgen VP of R&D David Reese

Am­gen rolls out da­ta for KRAS in­hibitor com­bo study in col­orec­tal can­cer, hop­ing to move on from ug­ly ear­ly re­sults

With the first win for its KRAS inhibitor sotorasib in hand, Amgen is pushing ahead with an aggressive clinical plan to capitalize on its first-to-market standing. The drugmaker thinks combinations — in-house or otherwise — could offer a path forward, and one early readout from that strategy is bearing fruit.

A combination of Amgen’s sotorasib and its EGFR inhibitor Vectibix posted an overall response rate of 27% in 26 patients with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) with the KRAS-G12C mutation, according to data from the larger Phase Ib/II CODEBREAK 101 study set to present at this weekend’s virtual ESMO Congress.

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Covid-19 roundup: FDA re­veals boost­er ad­comm ques­tion; Eli Lil­ly's an­ti­body cock­tail cleared for pre­ven­tion

The FDA released briefing documents this week from the agency and Pfizer each outlining their arguments for today’s Covid-19 booster shot adcomm, but one thing conspicuously missing was the question on which panel members would be voting. But late Thursday night, regulators published that question.

Adcomm members will be asked whether or not the safety and efficacy data from Pfizer/BioNTech’s original Phase III study “support approval” of a booster shot at least six months after the second dose in individuals older than 16. The question notably excludes the real-world data from Israel and other analyses that Pfizer and the Biden administration had said would be a centerpiece of their arguments for boosters.

A Pfiz­er part­ner wel­comes ex-ADC Ther­a­peu­tics CMO Jay Fein­gold to the team; Amid tough sled­ding, Im­muno­vant choos­es Eli Lil­ly alum as CFO

→ Last week we told you about the CMO revolving door at ADC Therapeutics, as Joseph Camardo replaced the departing Jay Feingold. The next opportunity for Feingold in the CMO slot has opened up at antibody-drug conjugate and mAb developer Pyxis Oncology, which has added several new execs and scientific advisory board members in recent months, including ex-Immunovant CFO Pamela Yanchik Connealy. Before his tenure at ADC, Feingold was Daiichi Sankyo’s VP of US medical affairs and chairman of the Global Medical Affairs Oversight Committee. Within weeks in March, Pyxis struck a licensing deal with Pfizer for two of its ADCs and raked in $152 million from a Series B round.

Multiple antibiotic resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium

A new way to in­fil­trate (and de­stroy) some of the dead­liest drug-re­sis­tant bugs

About four years ago, Ruben Tommasi, the gregarious scientific chief of antibiotics startup Entasis, walked into a meeting with his top chemist and top biologist to chew over another batch of unchanging results.

“It felt like we were running the same experiment over and over,” Tommasi told Endpoints News. “We had all sort of come to that point in time where we felt like we were banging our heads against the wall.”

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Take­da scores a win for a rare type of lung can­cer, gear­ing up for a show­down with J&J

Four months after J&J’s infused drug Rybrevant scored the industry’s first win in a rare type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), Takeda is following up with an oral option for the small but desperate patient population.

The FDA granted an accelerated approval to Takeda’s oral TKI inhibitor Exkivity (mobocertinib) in metastatic NSCLC patients with EGFR exon 20 gene mutations who had previously undergone platinum-based chemotherapy, the company announced on Wednesday.

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