Atara en­lists Juno co-founder Michel Sade­lain in CAR-T ef­fort; Valeant no more, Bausch is the new mar­quee name

Michel Sade­lain

→ The day af­ter Atara an­nounced that it is bring­ing Genen­tech vet Di­et­mar Berg­er on board as R&D chief, the biotech is back with a signed deal aimed at ex­pand­ing its work with Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing on off-the-shelf CAR-Ts. As part of that arrange­ment, Atara is get­ting an ex­clu­sive re­la­tion­ship with Michel Sade­lain, the top CAR-T in­ves­ti­ga­tor who helped cre­ate the sci­en­tif­ic foun­da­tion for Juno. Said Sade­lain: “We are ea­ger to work with Atara to con­tin­ue ad­vanc­ing promis­ing al­lo­gene­ic T-cell im­munother­a­py tech­nolo­gies that orig­i­nat­ed at MSK. The new CAR T tech­nolo­gies seek to over­come per­sis­tent ther­a­peu­tic chal­lenges, such as safe­ty and tol­er­a­bil­i­ty, dura­bil­i­ty of treat­ment re­sponse, and ac­tiv­i­ty in ar­eas of sig­nif­i­cant un­met med­ical need that are un­der­served by the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of CAR T im­munother­a­pies.”

→ Af­ter be­ing pum­meled with bad pub­lic­i­ty for its dis­as­trous cor­po­rate strate­gies, Valeant is throw­ing out its old name in fa­vor of some­thing with con­sid­er­ably less bag­gage. You can now call the com­pa­ny Bausch Health Com­pa­nies, says CEO Joe Pa­pa. Adds Pa­pa: “We be­lieve Bausch Health Com­pa­nies more ac­cu­rate­ly rep­re­sents the full scope of the Com­pa­ny to­day – a leader in the de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­ture of a wide range of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, med­ical de­vice and over-the-counter prod­ucts, pri­mar­i­ly in the ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas of eye health, gas­troen­terol­o­gy and der­ma­tol­ogy.” The re­brand­ed com­pa­ny will trade un­der the stock tick­er $BHC in­stead of $VRX.

As­traZeneca is sell­ing off more drug rights for some quick cash. In this in­stance, the phar­ma gi­ant is sell­ing rights to Sero­quel in a num­ber of mar­ket, in­clud­ing the UK and Chi­na. And it’s get­ting $260 mil­lion now from Luye Phar­ma as part of a $538 mil­lion deal.

Spark Ther­a­peu­tics’ Q1 re­port in­clud­ed news that its pi­o­neer­ing gene ther­a­py Lux­tur­na has been used on three pa­tients in the roll­out. CEO Jef­frey Mar­raz­zo $ONCE says he is en­cour­aged by the ini­tial de­mand.

→ The mR­NA biotech Cure­Vac is see­ing a change­up at the top. CEO In­g­mar Ho­err plans to tran­si­tion up to the chair­man’s job while Daniel Menichel­la moves in­to the CEO suite.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Mesoblast gets a $110M life­line from Surg­Cen­ter De­vel­op­ment; uniQure still un­sure if gene ther­a­py spurred can­cer event

Mesoblast faced rough waters in 2020, but on Monday were thrown a financial lifeline.

The Australian stem cell therapy player has raised $110 million in a private placement, the company announced, offering 60 million shares to the US investor group SurgCenter Development. SurgCenter received the shares at a 6.5% discount from Mesoblast’s closing price on Feb. 25.

Mesoblast plans to use the funds to boost supply of its lead candidate remestemcel-L ahead of what they hope is a potential approval in pediatric GvHD when they return to the FDA, as well as advancing manufacturing and development of their rexlemestrocel-L platform for chronic heart failure and chronic low back pain.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.