Af­ter in­sid­er trad­ing scan­dal, US con­gress­man drops cam­paign — but stays on the bal­lot; Jun­shi Bio­sciences ap­plies for Hong Kong IPO

→ The US con­gress­man who was charged with in­sid­er trad­ing on a biotech stock last week has sus­pend­ed his cam­paign for re-elec­tion. New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins, the first mem­ber of Con­gress to en­dorse Trump for pres­i­dent in 2016, said in a state­ment that quit­ting the cam­paign would best serve his cir­cle.

“Af­ter ex­ten­sive dis­cus­sions with my fam­i­ly and friends over the last few days, I have de­cid­ed that it is in the best in­ter­ests of the con­stituents of NY-27, the Re­pub­li­can Par­ty and Pres­i­dent Trump’s agen­da for me to sus­pend my cam­paign for re-elec­tion to Con­gress,” he said.

That state­ment comes just days af­ter Collins in­sist­ed he would re­main on the bal­lot run­ning for re-elec­tion this No­vem­ber, de­spite the charges. And that ac­tu­al­ly might be true. Al­though he’s sus­pend­ing his cam­paign, it turns out with­draw­ing from the bal­lot is a lengthy and com­pli­cat­ed process.

In case you missed it, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors charged Collins, his son, and an­oth­er man with 13 counts of se­cu­ri­ties fraud, wire fraud, and false state­ments stem­ming from an al­leged in­sid­er trad­ing scheme in­volv­ing an Aus­tralian biotech com­pa­ny called In­nate Im­munother­a­peu­tics. Ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment, Collins tipped off his son and oth­ers that In­nate had flopped a clin­i­cal tri­al be­fore the in­fo was made pub­lic. His son and oth­ers al­leged­ly sold shares im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter, sav­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in loss­es.

Shang­hai Jun­shi Bio­sciences has ap­plied for an IPO in Hong Kong — the ninth since the city opened up late April to pre-rev­enue biotechs — in the same week as BeiGene ex­pe­ri­enced a shaky de­but fol­low­ing a his­toric $903 mil­lion raise. Jun­shi is one of the lead­ers in a grow­ing crowd of Chi­nese drug­mak­ers swamp­ing the coun­try with home-grown PD-1/L1 check­point in­hibitors, with an NDA pend­ing at Chi­na’s drug ad­min­is­tra­tion. Some of the pro­ceeds, though, will al­so go to­ward the PC­SK9 drug and Hu­mi­ra biosim­i­lar that it’s de­vel­op­ing, ac­cord­ing to its fil­ing.

→ Cum­ber­land Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, a Nashville, TN-based spe­cial­ty phar­ma, has re­cruit­ed for­mer Am­gen $AMGN staffer Adam Hae­ber­le to serve as the com­pa­ny’s new se­nior di­rec­tor of clin­i­cal and reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs. In the role, Hae­ber­le will over­see Cum­ber­land’s prod­uct de­vel­op­ment team de­sign­ing and im­ple­ment­ing clin­i­cal tri­als. He joins Cum­ber­land from Am­gen, where he most re­cent­ly worked as di­rec­tor of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Charles Baum, Mirati CEO

Mi­rati plots a march to the FDA for its KRAS G12C drug, breath­ing down Am­gen’s neck with bet­ter da­ta

Mirati Therapeutics $MRTX took another closely-watched step toward a now clearly defined goal to file for an approval for its KRAS G12C cancer drug adagrasib (MRTX849), scoring a higher response rate than the last readout from the class-leading rival at Amgen but still leaving open a raft of important questions about its future.

Following a snapshot of the first handful of responses, where the drug scored a tumor response in 3 of 5 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the response rate has now slid to 45% among a pooled group of 51 early-stage and Phase II patients, 43% — 6 of 14 — when looking solely at the Phase I/Ib. Those 14 patients had a median treatment duration of 8.2 months, with half still on therapy and 5 of 6 responders still in response.

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In his­toric Covid-19 ad­comm, vac­cine ex­perts de­bate a sea of ques­tions — but of­fer no clear an­swers

The most widely anticipated and perhaps most widely watched meeting in the FDA’s 113-year history ended late Thursday night with a score of questions and very few answers.

For nearly 9 hours, 18 different outside experts listened to public health agencies and foundations present how the United States’ Covid-19 vaccine program developed through October, and they debated where it should go from there: Were companies testing the right metrics in their massive trials? How long should they track patients before declaring a vaccine safe or effective? Should a vaccine, once authorized, be given to the volunteers in the placebo arm of a trial?

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

As FDA sets the stage for the first Covid-19 vac­cine EUAs, some big play­ers are ask­ing for a tweak of the guide­lines

Setting the stage for an extraordinary one-day meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee this Thursday, the FDA has cleared 2 experts of financial conflicts to help beef up the committee. And regulators went on to specify the safety, efficacy and CMC input they’re looking for on EUAs, before they move on to the full BLA approval process.

All of this has already been spelled out to the developers. But the devil is in the details, and it’s clear from the first round of posted responses that some of the top players — including J&J and Pfizer — would like some adjustments and added feedback. And on Thursday, the experts can offer their own thoughts on shaping the first OKs.

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Biond­Vax stock im­plodes af­ter a big PhI­II gam­ble for its uni­ver­sal flu vac­cine fails

After flying high on Wall Street for the last few months of a pandemic, BiondVax’s stock and dreams of getting approval for its universal flu vaccine hit the windshield.

The Jerusalem-based biotech announced on Friday that its only clinical candidate, M-001, failed both primary and secondary endpoints in a Phase III study. There was no statistically significant difference in reduction of flu illness and severity between the vaccine and placebo groups, according to the company. The vaccine did prove safe, if ineffective, BiondVax said.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: FDA gives As­traZeneca the thumbs-up to restart PhI­II Covid-19 vac­cine tri­als, and J&J is prepar­ing to re­sume its study

Several countries had restarted their portions of AstraZeneca’s global Phase III Covid-19 vaccine trial after the study was paused worldwide in early September, but the US notably stayed on the sidelines — until now. Friday afternoon the pharma giant announced the all clear from US regulators. And on top of that, J&J announced Friday evening that it’s preparing to resume its own Phase III vaccine trial.

Ul­tragenyx in­jects $40M to grab Solid's mi­crody­s­trophin trans­gene — while side­step­ping the AAV9 vec­tor that stirred up safe­ty fears

Since before Ilan Ganot started Solid Bio to develop a gene therapy for kids like his son, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Ultragenyx CEO Emil Kakkis has been watching and advising the former investment banker as he navigated the deep waters of drug development.

Just as Solid is getting back up on its feet after a yearlong clinical hold, Kakkis has decided to jump in for a formal alliance.

With a $40 million upfront, Ultragenyx is grabbing 14.45% of Solid’s shares $SLDB and the rights to its microdystrophin construct for use in combination with AAV8 vectors. Solid’s lead program, which utilizes AAV9, remains unaffected. The company also retains rights to other applications of its transgene.

News brief­ing: Gilead com­pletes $21B buy­out of Im­munomedics; In­nate re­ceives $50M mile­stone pay­ment from As­traZeneca

Gilead’s $21 billion mega-acquisition of Immunomedics is now officially complete, the companies announced Friday morning.

The full merger process took a little over a month, with Gilead and Immunomedics signing an agreement on Sept. 13. Gilead acquired all outstanding stock of Immunomedics for $88 per share, a 108% premium on the previous day’s closing price.

Gilead’s big prize was Trodelvy, approved in July for the treatment of metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. The drug also impressed at last month’s ESMO conference, reducing the risk of death by 52% in a Phase III study.

A top drug pro­gram at Bay­er clears a high bar for CKD — open­ing the door to an FDA pitch

Over the past 4 years, Bayer has been steering a major trial through a pivotal program to see if their drug finerenone could slow down the pace of chronic kidney disease in patients suffering from both CKD as well as Type 2 diabetes.

Today, their team jumped on a virtual meeting hosted by the American Society of Nephrology to offer a solid set of pivotal data to demonstrate that the drug can delay dialysis or a kidney replacement as well as cardio disease, while also adding some worrying signs of hyperkalemia among the patients taking the drug. And they’re hustling it straight to regulators in search of an approval for kidney disease and cardio patients — one of the toughest challenges in the book, as demonstrated by repeated past failures.

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