Af­ter snatch­ing up Shire's can­cer unit, French phar­ma gi­ant Servi­er to ex­pand US pres­ence with Kendall Square in­no­va­tion of­fice

Servi­er, the French phar­ma gi­ant that just ac­quired Shire’s on­col­o­gy unit for $2.4 bil­lion, is putting a US in­no­va­tion out­post in Kendall Square. The new unit will be called Servi­er BioIn­no­va­tion, and it’s just re­cruit­ed two ex­ec­u­tives to head it up — like­ly hunters for part­ner­ships and tech that will ad­vance Servi­er’s pipeline.

Chris­t­ian Schu­bert

This marks the sec­ond French phar­ma gi­ant to an­nounce a Kendall Square out­post in the past 24 hours. Just yes­ter­day, Ipsen an­nounced it was mov­ing its US head­quar­ters from New Jer­sey to Boston.

The two di­rec­tors of Servi­er BioIn­no­va­tion are ex-Bio­gen ex­ec Chris­t­ian Schu­bert and Uni­ver­si­ty of Mass­a­chu­setts’ di­rec­tor of tech com­mer­cial­iza­tion Rekha Pa­leyan­da. They’ll be in charge of head­ing up Servi­er’s US R&D and ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion, and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and li­cens­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Rekha Pa­leyan­da

To­day, Servi­er al­ready has a bit of a US pres­ence with some aca­d­e­m­ic col­lab­o­ra­tions with Har­vard and MIT in Boston. It’s al­so part­nered with biotechs and phar­ma through­out the US, and sup­ports the Lab­Cen­tral in­cu­ba­tor. And af­ter the April news that Servi­er was buy­ing up Shire’s on­col­o­gy unit, the French com­pa­ny will have a much big­ger foot­print on this side of the At­lantic. In a state­ment, Servi­er said the ac­qui­si­tion al­lows Servi­er to es­tab­lish an “im­me­di­ate and di­rect com­mer­cial pres­ence in the US.”

Christophe Thurieau

“Servi­er BioIn­no­va­tion rep­re­sents Servi­er’s com­mit­ment to ex­pand­ing its grow­ing pres­ence in the U.S. for the long-term through R&D and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and li­cens­ing ac­tiv­i­ties,” said Christophe Thurieau, di­rec­tor of re­search cen­ters and the Servi­er In­ter­na­tion­al Re­search Net­work (SIRN) at Servi­er’s R&D head­quar­ters. “Chris­t­ian Schu­bert and Rekha Pa­leyan­da are es­tab­lished lead­ers in ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and li­cens­ing in the biotech­nol­o­gy sec­tor with deep ex­pe­ri­ence in both aca­d­e­m­ic re­search and com­mer­cial busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. The Boston area pro­vides an amaz­ing con­cen­tra­tion of in­no­va­tion, es­pe­cial­ly in the field of on­col­o­gy, for part­ner­ships that will ad­vance sci­ence and build on Servi­er’s his­to­ry as a lead­ing glob­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­no­va­tor.”

The US out­post is just the start, Servi­er said. It has plans to broad­en the SIRN pres­ence world­wide, open­ing up of­fices in Bei­jing, Chi­na next.

Im­age: The Longfel­low Bridge con­nect­ing Bea­con Hill, Boston to Kendall Square, Cam­bridge.SHUT­TER­STOCK

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.

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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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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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.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

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

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

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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

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Ali Tehrani, Zymeworks CEO

Zymeworks squares up with Her­ceptin af­ter HER2 bis­pe­cif­ic aces mid-stage test in esophageal can­cer

Roche’s Herceptin has long stood as standard of care across multiple advanced cancers, but a suite of next-gen players are looking to beat the aging giant at its own game. In HER2-expressing esophageal cancer, BeiGene partner Zymeworks thinks its bispecific antibody could have the juice to get it done.

Zymeworks’ bispecific antibody zanidatamab, combined with one of two chemotherapy regimens, posted an overall response rate of 75% in patients with advanced gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma (GEA) who had not previously received a HER2-targeted cancer therapy, the Vancouver-based biotech said Thursday.

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead keeps push­ing trove of Trodelvy da­ta as it seeks to be­come new stan­dard of care in TNBC

Gilead is continuing to churn out results for its newly approved drug Trodelvy, and #ESMO21 is the latest stop on the data train.

The biopharma put out new quality of life data in second-line patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, saying that a sub-analysis from their Phase III study showed significant and clinically meaningful improvements in health-related quality of life over standard of care.