Ab­b­Vie hatch­es plans for a ma­jor new R&D hub close to its part­ners in Bay Area's buzzy Oys­ter Point

Ab­b­Vie has signed on to be the first ten­ant of a mas­sive new re­search cen­ter in Oys­ter Point, join­ing a flock of bio­phar­ma peers that’s set up shop in the in­creas­ing­ly pop­u­lar South San Fran­cis­co neigh­bor­hood.

The North Chica­go, IL-based drug­mak­er — whose Stem­cen­tryx sub­sidiary has an op­er­a­tion in the area — is leas­ing al­most 480,000 square feet in the Gate­way of Pa­cif­ic, a 1.4 mil­lion square foot cam­pus un­der con­struc­tion by Bio­Med Re­al­ty. Ink­ing a deal for 10 years, Ab­b­Vie will oc­cu­py a 12-sto­ry tow­er in a space that could even­tu­al­ly hold 1,500 work­ers, the San Fran­cis­co Busi­ness Times re­port­ed.

The new fa­cil­i­ty will “rep­re­sent a Bay Area hub for Ab­b­Vie’s on­col­o­gy busi­ness,” which is cur­rent­ly spread be­tween three dis­tinct lo­ca­tions in the re­gion, Ab­b­Vie spokesper­son Ilke Limon­cu tells End­points News.

“This fu­ture fa­cil­i­ty will al­so fur­ther strength­en our pres­ence in the Bay Area and bring to­geth­er our cur­rent three sites to im­prove col­lab­o­ra­tion and help us grow Ab­b­Vie’s on­col­o­gy sci­ence, re­search, in­no­va­tion and pa­tient care am­bi­tions,” he writes in an email.

The new lo­ca­tion would make Ab­b­Vie a neigh­bor of Genen­tech’s Gate­way cam­pus, while plac­ing it just 10 min­utes away from mul­ti­ple part­ners at Cal­i­co, Cy­tomX and Alec­tor.

When Ab­b­Vie and Cal­i­co re­newed their mon­ster dis­cov­ery deal in June, each com­mit­ting $500 mil­lion more to their al­liance, the Google-backed an­ti-ag­ing biotech made the un­usu­al move to an­nounce that it’s built a team of 150-plus around an HQ base in South San Fran­cis­co, with plans to add more.

Big names and fledg­ling biotechs alike have tak­en a lik­ing to the R&D hub in San Fran­cis­co, with Oys­ter Point in par­tic­u­lar buzzing with new oc­cu­pants. Sang­amo un­veiled plans to build a new HQ right on a ma­ri­na late last year, while As­traZeneca is bring­ing staffers from var­i­ous biotechs it ac­quired to­geth­er at its Cove at Oys­ter Point site.

“The core of Ab­b­Vie’s ini­tia­tive is fo­cused on the tal­ent, in­no­va­tion and cul­ture in the Bay Area,” Di­no Per­az­zo, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Ab­b­vie from re­al es­tate bro­ker­age CBRE’s life sci­ence prac­tice, told the San Fran­cis­co Busi­ness Times. “Theirs is the first of what will like­ly be many phar­ma ini­tia­tives com­ing to the Bay Area in the near fu­ture.”

While the the first phase of Gate­way of Pa­cif­ic is ex­pect­ed to com­plete in 2019 — with 431,000 square feet in phase II space to come lat­er — Ab­b­Vie won’t be­gin to move in un­til 2021, when its cur­rent Cal­i­for­nia leas­es ex­pire, Limon­cu con­firms.


Im­age: GATE­WAY OF PA­CIF­IC

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Patrick Straub/​EPA-EFE/​Shutterstock)

No­var­tis pays $678M for kick­back scheme as Vas Narasimhan tries to dis­tance phar­ma gi­ant from shady be­hav­ior

Novartis has reached another large settlement to resolve misconduct allegations, agreeing to pay more than $678 million to settle claims that it had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lavish dinners, so-called speaking fees and expensive alcohol “that were nothing more than bribes” to get doctors to prescribe Novartis medications.

The top-shelf alcohol and lavish meals included a $3,250 per person night at Nobu in Dallas, a $672-per person dinner at Washington DC’s Smith & Wollensky and a $314 per person meal at Sushi Roku in Pasadena, according to the Justice Department complaint. There were at least 7 trips to Hooters and fishing trips in Alaska and off the Florida coast. Each of these events were supposed to be “speaker programs” where doctors educated other doctors on a drug, but the DOJ alleged many were “bogus” wine-and-dine events where the drug was barely mentioned, if at all.  (“Nobody presented slides on the fishing trips,” the complaint says.)

Dan Gold, MEI Pharma CEO

De­vel­op­ment part­ners at MEI, Helsinn dump a high-risk PhI­II AML study af­ter con­clud­ing it would fail sur­vival goal

Four years after Switzerland’s Helsinn put $25 million of cash on the table for an upfront and near-term milestone to take MEI Pharma’s drug pracinostat into a long-running Phase III trial for acute myeloid leukemia, the partners are walking away from a clinical pileup.

The drug — an HDAC inhibitor — failed to pass muster during a futility analysis, as researchers concluded that pracinostat combined with azacitidine wasn’t going to outperform the control group in the pivotal.

No­var­tis los­es biosim­i­lar ap­peal as court up­holds a 31-year mo­nop­oly by Am­gen's En­brel

A new court ruling has strengthened Amgen’s grip on the IP estate around Enbrel, keeping biosimilars of the autoimmune and inflammatory drug at bay until 2029.

Novartis, the patent challenger, isn’t throwing in the towel yet. In a statement noting the failed appeal, its generics division Sandoz noted its reviewing options, “including potential appeal to US Supreme Court.”

It’s been almost four years since the FDA approved Erelzi, Sandoz’s copycat version of Enbrel. While sales of the Pfizer-partnered drug in the US — the market Amgen is in charge of — have dipped slightly during that time, it remains a solid megablockbuster with 2019 revenue slightly above $5 billion.

Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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