As­traZeneca inks a car­dio drug de­vel­op­ment pact with mR­NA spe­cial­ist Mod­er­na

As­traZeneca has come back to the ta­ble to ink a new col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with the mes­sen­ger RNA biotech Mod­er­na.

Al­ready a sig­nif­i­cant part­ner and in­vestor in the uni­corn biotech, As­traZeneca struck a deal to set up a pro­gram with Mod­er­na on re­lax­in, look­ing to coax cells in­to pro­duc­ing a pro­tein that could have a ton­ic ef­fect on heart dis­ease.

That’s a tall or­der, as car­dio re­mains one of the tough­est and most de­mand­ing fields in bio­phar­ma. Back in March No­var­tis was forced to con­cede that its big Phase III for sere­lax­in —  a re­com­bi­nant form of the re­lax­in-2 hor­mone — failed a big Phase III.

Stéphane Ban­cel

Mod­er­na CEO Stéphane Ban­cel, though, says he was pumped by the sere­lax­in study.

“We got very ex­cit­ed,” he tells me. It was clear from the study that re­searchers tracked a quick re­sponse to the drug, but it was giv­en as a one-time in­fu­sion, and the team on this new pro­gram plans to de­vel­op a drug that will be giv­en as a once month­ly in­jec­tion at home. That re­peat dos­ing can keep up ef­fi­ca­cy.

A hit in a glob­al mar­ket of this size, it’s worth not­ing, would be worth block­buster re­turns.

Un­der the terms of the deal, Mod­er­na will han­dle the pre­clin­i­cal work de­vis­ing a ther­a­py dubbed AZD7970. Then the phar­ma gi­ant will han­dle the ear­ly clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, fol­lowed by a split on the cost of late-stage de­vel­op­ment, which will nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be big and ex­pen­sive.

Ban­cel says that he ex­pects to wrap the pre­clin­i­cal tox work in 2018, get in­to the clin­ic in 2019 in healthy vol­un­teers and look for the end of Phase II meet­ing around 2020 or 2021.

Both com­pa­nies plan to co-com­mer­cial­ize in the US, with a 50/50 split — pro­vid­ed every­thing comes in as planned.

The two col­lab­o­ra­tors are al­ready at work on AZD8601, which en­codes for VEGF-A, with a Phase II study com­plet­ed. As­traZeneca has sub­mit­ted a CTA in Eu­rope to ini­ti­ate a Phase IIa study of AZD8601 in heart fail­ure pa­tients un­der­go­ing CABG surgery.

Mene Pan­ga­los

This lat­est deal fits in Mod­er­na’s strat­e­gy of build­ing out a full pipeline long be­fore reach­ing late-stage de­vel­op­ment. The com­pa­ny has raised close to $2 bil­lion over the past 7 years, with some mar­quee in­vestors in the mix.

As­traZeneca’s Mene Pan­ga­los, an ear­ly de­vel­op­ment spe­cial­ist at As­traZeneca, gave it a thumbs up: “mR­NA ther­a­peu­tics have the po­ten­tial to help ad­dress the un­met need and poor out­comes as­so­ci­at­ed with heart fail­ure and, ul­ti­mate­ly, to be­come a trans­for­ma­tion­al treat­ment for pa­tients.”

UP­DAT­ED: Roche bags 'break­through' an­ti-fi­bro­sis drug in $1.4B biotech buy­out deal

Roche is snapping up a “breakthrough” anti-fibrotic drug in a $1.4 billion buyout.

The pharma giant announced Friday that it is acquiring Promedior, primarily to get its hands on PRM-151, a recombinant form of human pentraxin-2 (PTX-2) protein that has nailed down mid-stage clinical data on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and demonstrating its potential for a range of fibrotic conditions.

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Amarin emerges from an ex­pert pan­el re­view with a clear en­dorse­ment for Vas­cepa and high odds of suc­cess when the FDA weighs in for­mal­ly

Several FDA experts who gathered Thursday to consider the landmark approval of Vascepa to reduce cardio events in an at-risk population voiced their unease about various aspects of the efficacy and safety data, or ultimately the population it should be used to treat. But the overwhelming belief that the data pointed to the drug’s benefit and clearly outweighed risks carried the day for Amarin.

The panel voted unanimously (16 to 0) to support the company’s positive data presentation — backing an OK for expanding the label to include reducing cardio risk. The vote points Amarin $AMRN down a short path to a formal decision by the FDA, with the odds heavily in its favor. Chances are the rest of the questions about the future of this drug will be hashed out in the label’s small print.

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Federal Trade Commission commissioner Rohit Chopra testifies on Capitol Hill (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

FTC clears Bris­tol-My­ers’ $74B deal to buy Cel­gene — but Dems sig­nal a po­ten­tial hard shift against Big Phar­ma M&A

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s record $74 billion takeover of Celgene is a done deal. And it will all be over — except for the lingering complaints from die-hard Celgene investors — on Wednesday.

Like much else that’s going on in Washington these days, the vote among the 5 FTC commissioners split along party lines, with the 3 Republicans voting to clear the way and the 2 Democrats steamed over what they see as a major M&A move that will lessen competition and innovation. And that split has big implications for the M&A side of the business if the Dems take the White House in 2020.

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No­var­tis spin­out’s first an­ti-ag­ing PhI­II is a flop, so now they’ll turn to Parkin­son’s chal­lenge as shares wilt

Novartis spinout resTORbio is grappling with the collapse of its lead clinical program this morning — an anti-aging R&D failure that will badly damage their rep in the field.

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BeiGene CEO John Oyler at an Endpoints event in Shanghai, October 2018 (Credit: Endpoints News/PharmCube)

UP­DAT­ED: In a first, FDA green-lights use of a Chi­nese built can­cer ther­a­py — and more are com­ing

Weeks after Amgen took a $2.7 billion stake in BeiGene, the Beijing-based biotech has secured its first-ever FDA approval for zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor, months ahead of schedule.

BeiGene’s drug, branded as Brukinsa, has secured accelerated approval for adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) — a typically aggressive, rare, form of blood cancer — who have received at least one prior therapy.

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What does $62B buy you these days? A lot, says Take­da ex­ecs as the phar­ma play­er promis­es a block­buster R&D fu­ture

First comes the $62 billion buyout. Then comes the asset auction and reorganization to pay down debt. Now comes the detailed pledge of a bigger, brighter future in drug development.

That’s where Takeda finds itself on R&D day today, about 11 months after closing on their Shire acquisition. R&D chief Andy Plump is joining CEO Christophe Weber and other top members of the team to outline a new set of priorities in the greatly expanded pipeline at Takeda, which has jumped into the top ranks of the world’s pharma giants in the wake of the Shire deal.

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GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala scores in rare blood dis­or­der study

GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Nucala, which received a resounding FDA rejection for use in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) last year, has shown promise in a rare blood disorder.

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Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

Avalon Ventures chief Jay Lichter has a well-known yen for drug development programs picked up in academia. And what he found in Haoxing Xu’s lab at the University of Michigan pricked his interest enough to launch one of his umbrella biotechs in San Diego.

Xu’s work laid the foundation for Avalon to launch Calporta, which has been working on finding small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for lysosomal storage disorders. And that pathway, they believe, points to new approaches on major market neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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No­var­tis scores its lat­est FDA OK — this time for a new sick­le cell dis­ease drug picked up in a $665M deal

Novartis’ decision to buy Oklahoma-based biotech Selexys 3 years ago for up to $665 million has paid off with an FDA approval today.

Blessed with the FDA’s breakthrough drug designation for a speedy review, the pharma giant has pinned down an approval for crizanlizumab, a new therapy designed to reduce the frequency of painful incidents of vaso-occlusive crises among sickle cell disease patients 16 or older.

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