As doubts con­tin­ue to fes­ter, In­ovio gets an­oth­er shove as Roche ex­its col­lab­o­ra­tion

Three years af­ter Roche signed up for a $422 mil­lion col­lab­o­ra­tion pact with In­ovio $INO on a pair of its ear­ly-stage de­vel­op­ment pro­grams, the phar­ma gi­ant is bow­ing out of the last re­main­ing ef­fort in the part­ner­ship. In­ovio says that it will take over the Phase I study for the he­pati­tis B vac­cine INO-1800, which is now fi­nal­ly en­rolling pa­tients.

Roche took con­sid­er­ably less time on INO-5150, its can­cer vac­cine. The com­pa­ny bowed out of that pro­gram in 2014. At the time, In­ovio had said it was start­ing a Phase I on 5150 in 2015. But ac­cord­ing to its pipeline chart, that’s where it still sits to­day.

Roche had kicked off the pre­clin­i­cal deal with a mod­est $10 mil­lion up­front.

CN­BC’s Melis­sa Lee and Meg Tir­rell with In­ovio CEO Joseph Kim.

In­ovio had pur­sued a fa­vorite PR ploy on both drugs, spot­light­ing what it claimed were re­mark­able an­i­mal da­ta that bode well for the hu­man tri­als to come. But over three years, there’s ev­i­dent­ly been lit­tle progress as the com­pa­ny con­tin­ues to ramp up new ef­forts for vac­cines against Ebo­la, Zi­ka and more.

In­ovio CEO Joseph Kim has come un­der fire for his fre­quent state­ments hyp­ing the com­pa­ny’s pro­grams and po­ten­tial. In a blunt show­down with CN­BC a lit­tle more than a month ago, two re­porters tried to get to the root of the trou­ble. But as I not­ed then, the ques­tions may have been tough, but the an­swers were all soft and fuzzy.

Spread too thin?

Kim: I think our pipeline is very full and very pro­duc­tive.

That yet-to-be-start­ed Phase III piv­otal study for cer­vi­cal dys­pla­sia. The Phase II was wrapped two years ago. Why the de­lay?

Kim: The FDA meet­ing was just a cou­ple of months ago, and be­sides, “it takes a long time to take new, dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies for these im­por­tant dis­eases for­ward.”

Our CN­BC Ebo­la in­ter­view oc­curred in No­vem­ber, 2014. Do you have the fund­ing and fo­cus nec­es­sary to com­plete the work?

Kim: There are 200 ded­i­cat­ed sci­en­tists and vac­cine de­vel­op­ers.

And lest any­one for­get: “The med­ical prod­uct de­vel­op­ment is a long and ar­du­ous road.”

The ever con­fi­dent Kim had this to say in a state­ment about 1800:

While we ac­knowl­edge Roche’s strate­gic de­ci­sion in the area of he­pati­tis B, we are op­ti­mistic that our po­tent im­munother­a­py plat­form will make a dif­fer­ence in this glob­al­ly im­por­tant chron­ic vi­ral in­fec­tion, sim­i­lar to what we have demon­strat­ed in HPV-re­lat­ed dis­ease. In­ovio was al­ready man­ag­ing the phase 1 clin­i­cal tri­al so the study will con­tin­ue on track with­out dis­rup­tion.

Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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[via AP Images]

Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a plan to near­ly dou­ble its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.