BioN­Tech teams up with Fo­s­un Phar­ma to test Covid-19 mR­NA vac­cine in Chi­na — and scores $50M in­vest­ment

Hav­ing qui­et­ly launched its own mR­NA vac­cine ef­forts against the nov­el coro­n­avirus to match the high­er pro­file cam­paigns of Mod­er­na and Cure­Vac, Ger­many’s BioN­Tech has of­fered a glimpse on its progress as it un­veils an al­liance with a promi­nent Chi­nese play­er.

Ugur Sahin

Fo­s­un Phar­ma will team up with BioN­Tech to con­duct tri­als of its Covid-19 vac­cine, BNT162, in Chi­na. To get on board, Fo­s­un bought $50 mil­lion worth of BioN­Tech eq­ui­ty $BN­TX and promised up to $85 mil­lion more in pay­ments.

In a sep­a­rate state­ment, BioN­Tech said it plans to ini­ti­ate clin­i­cal test­ing in late April, rolling out a glob­al de­vel­op­ment pro­gram in Eu­rope (start­ing in Ger­many), the US and Chi­na.

Shares surged 39.02% to $43 in pre-mar­ket trad­ing, buck­ing the down­ward trend in a tur­bu­lent mar­ket (the Nas­daq Biotech In­dex is al­so trad­ing up).

While Fo­s­un has rights to com­mer­cial­ize the re­sult­ing vac­cine in Chi­na, BioN­Tech is still ex­plor­ing what to do in the rest of the world. It’s in “ad­vanced dis­cus­sions” with Pfiz­er around that — echo­ing com­ments made by its phar­ma part­ner ear­li­er this month.

The deal marks the first pub­lic an­nounce­ments BioN­Tech has made on Pro­ject Light­speed, its de­vel­op­ment pro­gram in re­sponse to the vi­ral in­fec­tion that’s fast en­gulf­ing the world, since qui­et­ly dis­clos­ing the project ini­ti­a­tion in a Feb­ru­ary SEC fil­ing. As of Mon­day morn­ing, world­wide cas­es are edg­ing to­ward 170,000, with mul­ti­ple Eu­ro­pean coun­tries and parts of the US now on lock­down.

Like fel­low Ger­man biotech Cure­Vac — whom the US gov­ern­ment has re­port­ed­ly tried to lure in­to mov­ing state­side — BioN­Tech’s vac­cine ap­proach in­volves us­ing mR­NA to trick the body in­to pro­duc­ing a ver­sion of the SARS-CoV-2, which would then in­cite an im­mune re­sponse. Its man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner Poly­mun will be in charge of pro­duc­ing a glob­al sup­ply out of fa­cil­i­ties in Eu­rope.

“In ad­di­tion, we are work­ing on a nov­el ther­a­peu­tics ap­proach for those pa­tients who have al­ready been in­fect­ed – we plan to dis­close more on that ef­fort in the com­ing weeks,” Ugur Sahin, founder and CEO, said in a state­ment.

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

Covid-19 roundup: Eu­rope pur­chas­es 80M dos­es of Mod­er­na's vac­cine; CO­V­AXX se­cures $2.8B in emerg­ing mar­ket pre-or­ders

With the announcement of its vaccine efficacy data last week, Moderna is starting to line up customers for its Covid-19 mRNA jabs.

The Massachusetts-based biotech announced Wednesday it has agreed to sell an initial round of 80 million doses to the European Commission, with the option to double the amount to 160 million. Once the member states rubber stamp the approval, the deal will be finalized.

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Pascal Soriot (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

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FDA hands Liq­uidia and Re­vance a CRL and de­fer­ral, re­spec­tive­ly, as Covid-19 cre­ates in­spec­tion chal­lenge

Two biotechs said they got turned away by the FDA on Wednesday, in part due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

North Carolina-based Liquidia Technologies was handed a CRL for its lead pulmonary arterial hypertension drug, citing the need for more CMC data and on-site pre-approval inspections, which the FDA hasn’t been able to conduct due to travel restrictions. The agency also deferred its decision on Revance Therapeutics’ BLA for its frown line treatment, because it needs to inspect the company’s northern California manufacturing facility. The action, Revance emphasized, was not a CRL.

Vivek Ramaswamy (Jeff Rumans/JPM 2020)

Urovan­t's lead drug dis­ap­points in mid-stage study as first big FDA de­ci­sion looms

Just as Urovant gets ready for its first big FDA decision on vibegron, the drug has flopped in what would’ve been a follow-on indication.

In a Phase IIa trial involving women with abdominal pain due to irritable bowel syndrome, vibegron failed to meet the bar on improving “average worst abdominal pain” over 12 weeks, compared to placebo, among IBS-D patients.

There were actually slightly more responders in the placebo group than in the drug arm, with only 40.9% of those randomized to vigebron achieving at least a 30% decrease in “worst abdominal pain” in the past 24 hours. The trial enrolled 222 women but only 189 completed the study.

In fi­nal days at Mer­ck, Roger Perl­mut­ter bets big on a lit­tle-known Covid-19 treat­ment

Roger Perlmutter is spending his last days at Merck, well, spending.

Two weeks after snapping up the antibody-drug conjugate biotech VelosBio for $2.75 billion, Merck announced today that it had purchased OncoImmune and its experimental Covid-19 drug for $425 million. The drug, known as CD24Fc, appeared to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death in severe Covid-19 patients by 50% in a 203-person Phase III trial, OncoImmune said in September.

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Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron CEO (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Trail­ing Eli Lil­ly by 12 days, Re­gen­eron gets the FDA OK for their Covid-19 an­ti­body cock­tail

A month and a half after becoming the experimental treatment of choice for a newly diagnosed president, Regeneron’s antibody cocktail has received emergency use authorization from the FDA. It will be used to treat non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients who are at high-risk of progressing.

Although the Rgeneron drug is not the first antibody treatment authorized by the FDA, the news comes as a significant milestone for a company and a treatment scientists have watched closely since the outbreak began.

Bahija Jallal (file photo)

TCR pi­o­neer Im­muno­core scores a first with a land­mark PhI­II snap­shot on over­all sur­vival for a rare melanoma

Bahija Jallal’s crew at TCR pioneer Immunocore says they have nailed down a promising set of pivotal data for their lead drug in a frontline setting for a solid tumor. And they are framing this early interim readout as the convincing snapshot they need to prove that their platform can deliver on a string of breakthrough therapies now in the clinic or planned for it.

In advance of the Monday announcement, Jallal and R&D chief David Berman took some time to walk me through the first round of Phase III data for their lead TCR designed to treat rare, frontline cases of metastatic uveal melanoma that come with a grim set of survival expectations.

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News brief­ing: FDA re­quests new tri­al for Reata's Friedre­ich's atax­ia pro­gram; J&J's Trem­fya picks up ex­pand­ed la­bel in Eu­rope

Three months after Reata Pharmaceuticals suggested its Friedreich’s ataxia program omaveloxolone could be delayed, the company revealed that is indeed going to be the case.

Reata $RETA shares took a nosedive Wednesday after the biotech revealed that the FDA said supplemental data for its pivotal trial did not strengthen the case for approval. As a result, the drug is likely to need another study before the FDA takes up the case.