Bio­gen shrugs off $1B-plus gene ther­a­py pact af­ter PhI/II im­plo­sion — AGTC shares crater

More than 3 years af­ter Bio­gen $BI­IB front­ed their $1 bil­lion-plus pact with Flori­da-based biotech AGTC with $124 mil­lion in cash to build their new gene ther­a­py unit, the Boston-based biotech is bail­ing on the pact in­volv­ing rare eye dis­eases.

Sue Wash­er

Ap­plied Ge­net­ic Tech­nolo­gies Cor­po­ra­tion says their Phase I/II tri­al for rAAV2tYF-CB-hRS1, de­signed to cure X-linked retinoschi­sis due to mu­ta­tions in the RS1 gene, was a flop. There were no signs of clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty at 6 months.

Once Bio­gen wraps up a few oblig­a­tions by March 8, the ex­ecs will wipe their hands clean of the al­liance and AGTC is drop­ping the pro­gram in the wake of the im­plo­sion.

Shares of the small­er com­pa­ny $AGTC plunged 44% Thurs­day morn­ing.

The fo­cus at AGTC will now shift to on­go­ing Phase I/II tri­als in achro­matop­sia and X-linked re­tini­tis pig­men­tosa.

CEO Sue Wash­er had this to say about the deal ter­mi­na­tion:

AGTC will re­gain full rights to the XL­RP Phase 1/2 clin­i­cal pro­gram, which has com­plet­ed its dose es­ca­la­tion phase ahead of our pre­vi­ous guid­ance and is mov­ing di­rect­ly to an ex­pan­sion phase in 2019. AGTC’s two on­go­ing clin­i­cal pro­grams in ACHM are pro­ceed­ing as pre­vi­ous­ly dis­closed and the com­pa­ny is ex­pect­ing da­ta read­outs from all three tri­als in 2019. We will al­so re­gain con­trol of the pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams in adrenoleukody­s­tro­phy (ALD) and two oph­thalmic pro­grams.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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J&J ad­comm live blog: J&J is al­so test­ing a two-dose vac­cine. What hap­pens if it's more ef­fec­tive?

J&J has spent the day touting the data behind their Covid-19 vaccine, but one advisor pointed that, in a few months, another batch of data could force them into a curious dilemma.

J&J was the only major vaccine developer to attempt to produce a single-dose vaccine, a huge asset when trying to rapidly inoculate the world against an ongoing public health threat, but they hedged their bets. Alongside their main Phase III trial, they also launched another that would test two doses, each spaced two months apart.

Genen­tech plots $53M dis­cov­ery quest aimed at spark­ing a 'Holy moly' piv­ot in neu­ro R&D

Genentech has committed $53 million to back a 10-year quest aimed at going back to the drawing board to use new technology and fresh scientific insights to generate a pipeline of drugs for neurological diseases.

Roche’s big South San Francisco hub will mix it up with the scientists drawn together for the Weill Neurohub — formed in 2019 as a joint research partnership involving UCSF, Berkeley and the University of Washington — in an exploration of the field to develop new therapies for some of the toughest diseases in drug R&D: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS and autism.

Am­gen, As­traZeneca speed to­ward fil­ing next-gen an­ti­body for asth­ma af­ter un­cork­ing full late-stage da­ta

On the hunt for a novel competitor to Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent in severe asthma, Amgen and AstraZeneca posted “exciting” results from their next-gen antibody late last year. Now, the partners are showing their hands, and the results look good enough for approval.

Amgen and AstraZeneca’s tezepelumab plus standard of care cut the rate of severe asthma attacks by 56% at the one-year mark compared with SOC alone, according to full data from the Phase III NAVIGATOR study presented Friday at the virtual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting. And those significant results were consistent regardless of patients’ baseline eosinophil counts.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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