Af­ter build­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, the UK’s life sci­ences plan falls short of the hype

Mer­ck’s re­cent an­nounce­ment of a new re­search cen­ter in Lon­don like­ly whet­ted the UK life sci­ences sec­tor’s ap­petite for even big­ger news from the gov­ern­ment’s new in­dus­try plan, out to­day. But de­spite a con­sid­er­able amount of loy­al cheer­ing about post-Brex­it prepa­ra­tions, it doesn’t amount to near­ly enough to tip the eco­nom­ic scales in bio­phar­ma’s fa­vor.

And to be fair, what kind of of­fi­cial eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment plan, salt­ed with cor­po­rate projects, can do that, any­way?

Af­ter hear­ing some heat­ed ru­mors of a ma­jor fund com­ing in on a bil­lion-dol­lar biotech start­up plan, the gov­ern­ment’s out­line in­cludes a com­mit­ment from Ap­ple Tree Part­ners to launch a new com­pa­ny. Good news from an ac­tive firm with $1.6 bil­lion un­der man­age­ment, but not earth shak­ing. There is a round of com­mit­ments from the big lo­cal play­ers — GSK and As­traZeneca — to back the lo­cal play­ers. GSK has al­so come up with a £40 mil­lion com­mit­ment to ex­pand se­quenc­ing plans at the UK Biobank from the 50,000 an­nounced ear­li­er in the year to 500,000.

That won’t hurt.

Pas­cal So­ri­ot

As­traZeneca is al­ready do­ing its bit with a ma­jor in­vest­ment in a new re­search cen­ter and head­quar­ters in Cam­bridge, an­nounced soon af­ter Pas­cal So­ri­ot took the helm. And the UK gov­ern­ment hap­pi­ly threw that in­to the pot, with­out men­tion­ing how far be­hind sched­ule it is, along with every oth­er up­beat an­nounce­ment made in the field in the last few years.

J&J and Ox­ford will col­lab­o­rate on new clin­i­cal tri­al plat­form mod­els, look­ing to si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly study var­i­ous neu­ro­science drugs. That’s in­trigu­ing, pos­si­bly point­ing to de­vel­op­ment mod­els that may well at­tract var­i­ous bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies look­ing for a more ef­fi­cient way to study high-risk pro­grams. I’ll be cu­ri­ous to see how that may in­flu­ence sim­i­lar ef­forts around the world.

But the gov­ern­ment plan — which in­cludes added fi­nan­cial sup­port from tax­pay­ers — falls short of the high ex­pec­ta­tions cre­at­ed in re­cent weeks. State, fed­er­al and lo­cal plans in the US of­ten start with the same hoopla, and al­so pre­fer to claim every shred of pos­i­tive news as ev­i­dence of its cer­tain suc­cess while leav­ing out any hard re­al­i­ties.

It’s tax poli­cies and reg­u­la­to­ry re­spon­sive­ness, though, that lay the ground­work for life sci­ences growth — the rest is up to the com­pa­nies and the en­tre­pre­neurs.

The UK has a lot go­ing for it, with two ma­jor phar­ma com­pa­nies, a world-class sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty based in stel­lar in­sti­tu­tions and a small but en­thu­si­as­tic biotech group still in need of more fi­nan­cial sup­port from pri­vate in­vestors skilled at com­pa­ny cre­ation and tal­ent build­ing.

They’ll all be get­ting some ad­di­tion­al help, but all the hard work re­mains. So ac­tu­al­ly not much has changed.

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

The slate of products we’re offering here at Endpoints is continuing to grow, and it’s not just limited to editorial. If you haven’t, do visit your reader profile to see if there are any other weekly newsletters you’re interested in — as each comes with its own exclusive content. And don’t miss the publisher’s note from Arsalan Arif on Endpoints Studio, our latest avenue for advertising on Endpoints.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Re­searchers move clos­er to de­ci­pher­ing blood clots from As­traZeneca, J&J's Covid-19 vac­cines

Researchers may be nearing an answer for the mysterious and life-threatening blood clots that appeared on very rare occasions in people who received the J&J or AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The new work builds on an early hypothesis researchers in Norway put forward last spring, when the cases first cropped up. They proposed the events were similar to blood clots that can occur in a small subset of patients who receive heparin, one of the most commonly used blood thinners.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock plots her fu­ture at FDA, with se­nior ad­vi­sor role to fall back on if Califf wins con­fir­ma­tion

Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock has been the face of just about every drug approval decision at the agency since the turn of the century. Since the pandemic began, she’s moved between the top of the drugs center to the head of therapeutics at Operation Warp Speed, leading the drive for work on Covid-targeted mAbs and antivirals.

Looking forward — and pending a quick Senate confirmation to cement Rob Califf’s return to the top of FDA early next year — Woodcock’s role at the agency will again be in flux.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.