Am­gen goes back to Rhode Is­land to build its first next-gen man­u­fac­tur­ing site in the US

In a bid to lead the way in de­vel­op­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of more ef­fi­cient bi­o­log­ics man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties, Am­gen $AMGN is in­vest­ing $160 mil­lion in a new plant to be con­struct­ed on its Rhode Is­land base.

The phar­ma gi­ant $AMGN — head­quar­tered in Thou­sand Oaks, CA — has had a long his­to­ry with the 75-acre cam­pus in West Green­wich, RI, since in­her­it­ing it in the Im­munex ac­qui­si­tion in 2001. With the new op­er­a­tion, it plans to add around 150 man­u­fac­tur­ing po­si­tions to the 625-strong team. The state gov­ern­ment was hap­py to hear about that job cre­ation, in ad­di­tion to 200 tem­po­rary con­struc­tion and val­i­da­tion jobs, and has promised $9.5 mil­lion in tax cred­its to move things along.

Bob Brad­way

Flex­i­bil­i­ty is a hall­mark of this new de­sign, Am­gen says, which would al­low the com­pa­ny to re­spond to new de­mands more quick­ly and at low­er cost. The mod­u­lar de­sign means the equip­ment in­side the fa­cil­i­ty would be portable and dis­pos­able. One such plant has al­ready been up and run­ning in Sin­ga­pore since 2014.

Af­ter eval­u­at­ing glob­al lo­ca­tions for the project, Am­gen — led by CEO Bob Brad­way — fi­nal­ly de­cid­ed to dou­ble down on the re­sources it’s al­ready poured in­to the Rhode Is­land site, cit­ing the work­force, the qual­i­ty of liv­ing and the po­ten­tial to grow. While cost was not men­tioned, the cur­rent num­bers — both in cap­i­tal and hir­ing — is al­most half of what the com­pa­ny out­lined in Feb­ru­ary, when it an­nounced it would spend up to $300 mil­lion and hire up to 300 em­ploy­ees for a new fa­cil­i­ty.

Es­te­ban San­tos

“Am­gen has three decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in bi­o­log­ics man­u­fac­tur­ing, and we are proud of our track record of pro­vid­ing a re­li­able sup­ply of high-qual­i­ty med­i­cines for pa­tients around the world,” said Es­te­ban San­tos, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions.

The com­pa­ny al­so at­trib­uted the de­ci­sion to build the new plant on US soil to the fed­er­al tax re­form that, ac­cord­ing to an ear­li­er End­points analy­sis, re­duced its tax rate by 20-plus per­cent.

It is yet un­clear when the plant, which Am­gen says would take half the con­struc­tion time to build com­pared to a tra­di­tion­al one, will open. Mean­while, Am­gen is tout­ing its low op­er­at­ing cost and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing re­duced wa­ter and en­er­gy con­sump­tions.

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck pulls Keytru­da in SCLC af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed nod. Is the FDA get­ting tough on drug­mak­ers that don't hit their marks?

In what could be an early shot in the battle against drugmakers that whiff on confirmatory studies to support accelerated approvals, the FDA ordered Bristol Myers Squibb late last year to give up Opdivo’s approval in SCLC. Now, Merck is next on the firing line — are we seeing the FDA buckling down on post-marketing offenders?

Merck has withdrawn its marketing approval for PD-(L)1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of what it describes as an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based, the company said Monday.

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Michael Shpigelmacher

Khosla joins bet on un­con­ven­tion­al start­up look­ing to send drug de­liv­er­ing ro­bots in­to the brain

When Michael Shpigelmacher started the project, he knew he’d have to fund it himself. Every other effort of its kind was academic, rejected as too risky by investors.

Shpigelmacher, a robotics geek and entrepeneur who had drifted into consulting for pharma, wanted to build the real-life equivalent of technology from the 1960s film Fantastic Voyage, the one where a submarine crew is shrunk to “about the size of a microbe” and sent on a mission to repair a scientist’s brain. He scanned the literature, found the lab that was working on the most advanced project — at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, it turned out — and started funding them with money from his own account, along with some seed cash from friends and family.

Bob Nelsen (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

With stars aligned and cash in re­serve, Bob Nelsen's Re­silience plans a makeover at 2 new fa­cil­i­ty ad­di­tions to its drug man­u­fac­tur­ing up­start

Bob Nelsen’s new, state-of-the-art drug manufacturing initiative is taking shape.

Just 3 months after gathering $800 million of launch money, a dream team board and a plan to shake up a field where he found too many bottlenecks and inefficiencies for the era of Covid-19, Resilience has snapped up a pair of facilities now in line for a retooling.

The company has acquired a 310,000-square-foot plant in Boston from Sanofi along with a 136,000-square-foot plant in Ontario to add to a network which CEO Rahul Singhvi says is just getting started on building his company’s operations up. The Sanofi deal comes with a contract to continue manufacturing one of its drugs.

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Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (AP Images)

Pas­cal So­ri­ot cash­es in As­traZeneca’s chips on Mod­er­na for $1.2B cash in­jec­tion

While still working to prove its own Covid-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca has reportedly capitalized on the success of another.

The company has sold off its 7.7% stake in Moderna and turned it into $1.2 billion in cash, according to the Times, beefing up the reserves just as Pascal Soriot is wrapping up his $39 billion acquisition of Alexion and its rare disease pipeline.

AstraZeneca’s stock sale follows a similar move by Merck in December. But like its pharma brethren, the British giant is keeping its R&D collaborations with Moderna.

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Af­ter bail­ing on Covid-19 vac­cines, Mer­ck will team up with J&J to pro­duce its shot as part of un­usu­al Big Phar­ma pact

Merck took a big gamble when it opted to jump into the Covid-19 vaccine race late, and made an equally momentous decision to back out in late January. Now, looking to chip in on the effort, Merck reportedly agreed to team up with one of the companies that has already crossed the finish line.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to announce a partnership between drugmakers Merck and Johnson & Johnson to jointly produce J&J’s recombinant protein Covid-19 vaccine that received the FDA’s emergency use authorization Saturday, the Washington Post reported.

Ab­b­Vie tees up a biotech buy­out af­ter siz­ing up their Parkin­son's drug spun out of Ke­van Shokat's lab

AbbVie has teed up a small but intriguing biotech buyout after looking over the preclinical work it’s been doing in Parkinson’s disease.

The company is called Mitokinin, a Bay Area biotech spun out of the lab of UCSF’s Kevan Shokat, whose scientific explorations have formed the academic basis of a slew of startups in the biotech hub. One of Shokat’s PhD students in the lab, Nicholas Hertz, co-founded Mitokinin using their lab work on PINK1 suggesting that amping up its activity could play an important role in regulating the mitochondrial dysfunction contributing to Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis and progression.

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Paul Sekhri

The next big biotech su­per­star? Paul Sekhri has some thoughts on that

It occasionally occurs to Paul Sekhri that if they pull this off, his company will be on the front page of the New York Times and a lead story in just about every major news outlet on the planet. He tries not to dwell on it, though.

“I just want to be laser-focused on getting to that point,” Sekhri says, before acknowledging, “Yes, it absolutely crossed my mind.”

Sekhri, a longtime biopharma executive with tenures at Sanofi and Novartis, is now entering year three as CEO of eGenesis, the biotech that George Church protégé Luhan Yang founded to genetically alter pigs so that they can be used for organ transplants. He led them through one megaround and has just closed another, raising $125 million from 17 different investors to push the first-ever (humanized) pig to human transplants into the clinic.

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Fi­bro­Gen shares skid low­er as a sur­prise ad­comm rais­es risks on roxa OK

FibroGen will likely have to delay its US rollout for roxadustat once again.

In an unexpected move, the FDA is convening its Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee to review the NDA in an advisory committee meeting. The date is yet to be confirmed.

Just a few weeks ago, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges predicted that the roxa approval could come ahead of the PDUFA date on March 20 — effusive despite already being let down once by the FDA’s extension of its review back in December. AstraZeneca, which is partnered with FibroGen on the chronic kidney disease-related anemia drug, disclosed regulators had requested further clarifying analyses of clinical data.

In­tro­duc­ing End­pointsF­DA+, our new pre­mi­um week­ly reg­u­la­to­ry news re­port led by Zachary Bren­nan

CRLs. 483s. CBER, CDER and RWE. For biopharma professionals, these acronyms command attention because of the fundamental role FDA plays in drug development. Now Endpoints is doubling down on regulatory coverage, and launching a weekly report focusing on developments out of White Oak, with analysis and insight into what it all means.

Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan. He joins Endpoints from POLITICO, where he covered pharma. Prior to that he was the managing editor for Regulatory Focus, a news publication from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.