Am­gen sharp­ens fo­cus on ge­net­ic se­quenc­ing with $66M in­vest­ment

Re­in­forc­ing its abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy and val­i­date dis­ease tar­gets, Am­gen $AMGN on Thurs­day said it would fork out £50 mil­lion ($66 mil­lion) to buy shares in pri­vate­ly-held Ox­ford Nanopore Tech­nolo­gies, which has de­vel­oped the first portable DNA/RNA se­quencer and has so far raised near­ly half a bil­lion pounds in fund­ing.

The new in­vest­ment builds on Am­gen’s ac­qui­si­tion of de­CODE Ge­net­ics back in 2012 for $415 mil­lion.

Kári Ste­fáns­son

The Ox­ford, UK-based com­pa­ny, found­ed in 2005, aims to en­able the “ge­net­ic analy­sis of any liv­ing thing, by any per­son, in any en­vi­ron­ment” and is cur­rent­ly val­ued at £1.5 bil­lion. Ox­ford Nanopore’s tech­nol­o­gy uti­lizes nanopores — nano-scale holes made by pro­teins con­tained with­in a syn­thet­ic mem­brane — in com­bi­na­tion with elec­tron­ics to per­form re­al-time DNA and RNA se­quenc­ing for a range of bi­o­log­i­cal re­search ap­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing large scale hu­man ge­nomics, can­cer and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­search.

It took over a decade and near­ly $3 bil­lion for sci­en­tists to se­quence the first hu­man genome back in 2003.

De­spite ad­vances in gene-se­quenc­ing plat­forms, in­clud­ing prod­ucts of­fered by Il­lu­mi­na $ILMN, most tech­nolo­gies typ­i­cal­ly de­liv­er a bo­lus of da­ta at the end of a fixed “run” that may be hours or days long. Ox­ford Nanopore’s se­quencers, how­ev­er, pro­vide in­for­ma­tion in re­al time, which could be cru­cial in the field of di­ag­nos­tics, for ex­am­ple. The com­pa­ny’s tech­nol­o­gy is al­so scal­able, un­like many of the bulky de­vices sold by Il­lu­mi­na and Pa­cif­ic Bio­sciences $PACB, rang­ing from pock­et sized to bench-top de­vices. In ad­di­tion, the com­pa­ny’s tech­nol­o­gy se­quences what­ev­er length frag­ment you give it, un­like tra­di­tion­al short read tech­nolo­gies that are pow­ered to se­quence small frag­ments of DNA, typ­i­cal­ly 150-300 bases.

In fact, Il­lu­mi­na it­self is an in­vestor and part­ner of Ox­ford Nanopore, hav­ing joined a cou­ple of fund­ing rounds and inked a mar­ket­ing deal be­tween 2009 and 2010.

“Ox­ford Nanopore’s long-read se­quenc­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ty cre­ates a win­dow in­to parts of the genome that have been out of reach, as well as giv­ing us a much bet­ter han­dle on struc­tur­al vari­ants that con­fer risk of a wide va­ri­ety of dis­eases,” said Kári Ste­fáns­son, founder of Am­gen sub­sidiary de­CODE Ge­net­ics, which has been us­ing Ox­ford Nanopore’s tech­nol­o­gy.

The com­pa­ny, whose prod­ucts are in use in over 80 coun­tries, has raised £451 mil­lion in fund­ing thus far.

How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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Scoop: Roche scraps one of two schiz­o­phre­nia PhII tri­als due to missed pri­ma­ry end­point

Roche has terminated one of two Phase II trials testing its drug ralmitaront in patients with schizophrenia, the Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News.

The study was terminated last month, according to a June 22 update to the registry on Begun in September 2020, the trial was looking at ralmitaront in patients with acute schizophrenia. The trial enrolled 286 patients out of an originally planned 308.

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Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Pearl Huang, Dunad Therapeutics CEO (Ken Richardson, PR Newswire)

Long­time biotech leader Pearl Huang takes the reins as CEO of No­var­tis-backed up­start

It has only been a few months since Pearl Huang exited the top seat at Cygnal Therapeutics, but now she’s back at the helm of another biotech.

After taking a few months off — passing an exam in that time to get her captain’s license from the US Coast Guard — she’s been named CEO of Dunad Therapeutics, a biotech focused on developing a small molecule covalent therapies that was founded in 2020. Huang told Endpoints News that two factors attracted her to going back to the c-suite: the company’s technology and its co-founders.

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Years af­ter link­ing arms with Bris­tol My­ers and both Mer­cks, Sutro finds its lat­est part­ner in Tokyo

Astellas and Sutro Biopharma are linking arms on a new field of antibody-drug conjugates that they hope will improve upon existing cancer immunotherapies.

The Tokyo pharma will dole out $90 million in cash for the collaboration, the companies said Monday afternoon. That upfront payment will extend the South San Francisco biotech’s runway from late 2023 into the first half of 2024, Cowen analysts noted.

Alex­ion puts €65M for­ward to strength­en its po­si­tion on the Emer­ald Isle

Ireland has been on a roll in 2022, with several large pharma companies announcing multimillion-euro projects. Now AstraZeneca’s rare disease outfit Alexion is looking to get in on the action.

Alexion on Friday announced a €65 million ($68.8 million) investment in new and enhanced capabilities across two sites in the country, including at College Park in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown and the Monksland Industrial Park in the central Irish town of Athlone, according to the Industrial Development Agency of Ireland.

Fed­er­al judge de­nies Bris­tol My­er­s' at­tempt to avoid Cel­gene share­hold­er law­suit

Some Celgene shareholders aren’t happy with how Bristol Myers Squibb’s takeover went down.

On Friday, a New York federal judge ruled that they have a case against the pharma giant, denying a request to dismiss allegations that it purposely slow-rolled Breyanzi’s approval to avoid paying out $6.4 billion in contingent value rights (CVR).

When Bristol Myers put down $74 billion to scoop up Celgene back in 2019, liso-cel — the CAR-T lymphoma treatment now marketed as Breyanzi — was supposedly one of the centerpieces of the deal. After going back and forth on negotiations for about six months, BMS put $6.4 billion into a CVR agreement that required an FDA approval for Zeposia, Breyanzi and Abecma, each by an established date.

Matt Gline, Roivant CEO (John Sciulli/Getty Images for GLG)

Roivant chops sick­le cell gene ther­a­py, der­ma­tol­ogy drugs to fo­cus on 'high­er val­ue pro­ject­s'

Roivant is sweeping a suite of drugs, including a gene therapy for sickle cell disease already in the clinic, out of its pipeline.

Six programs from four of its “vants” are being wound down as part of “a company-wide cost optimization and pipeline reprioritization initiative to reduce our expected operating expenses and prioritize our capital resources.”

When reached by Endpoints News, a spokesperson said, “We don’t anticipate a material reduction in headcount but we will likely reassign some folks to higher value projects as part of winding down specific programs.”

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