Blame the ozan­i­mod fi­as­co on the Re­cep­tos team? Just wait a sec, says ex-CEO, who sold the com­pa­ny to Cel­gene for $7.2B

Ear­li­er to­day we picked up some crit­i­cal re­marks that a se­nior Cel­gene ex­ec had to say about the team at Re­cep­tos, the sub­sidiary or­ga­ni­za­tion which hand­ed in an ap­pli­ca­tion for the would-be block­buster ozan­i­mod on­ly to have FDA reg­u­la­tors kick it right back with an em­bar­rass­ing refuse-to-file no­tice. And it didn’t play well with the CEO who sold the com­pa­ny to Cel­gene for $7.2 bil­lion.

Fa­heem Has­nain

“I think that 99% of folk at Cel­gene wouldn’t have sub­mit­ted, but we had Re­cep­tos out on the West Coast and, for what­ev­er rea­son, the de­ci­sion was made to sub­mit,” Cel­gene’s head of hema­tol­ogy and on­col­o­gy Nadim Ahmed told David Crow at the Fi­nan­cial Times. “We learned a les­son of hu­mil­i­ty and that when you do an ac­qui­si­tion it’s bet­ter to be more in­te­grat­ed rather than be com­plete­ly away from the moth­er ship.”

Now, wait a sec, says ex-Re­cep­tos CEO Fa­heem Has­nain. There’s more to the sto­ry than that. And the moth­er ship was in di­rect com­mand of the sit­u­a­tion in San Diego, in­clud­ing the crit­i­cal con­tacts with the FDA reg­u­la­tors who wound up rolling their eyes at the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“It’s im­por­tant to know that Cel­gene had on-site con­trol and over­sight for two-and-a-half years be­fore this fil­ing took place,” Has­nain tells me in a fol­low-up. And just maybe it was the Cel­gene crew that left out a few crit­i­cal de­tails in the run-up to the fil­ing.

“Reg­u­lar en­gage­ment and com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the FDA is crit­i­cal to fil­ing,” Has­nain adds. “A refuse-to-file is a dif­fi­cult thing to achieve, and it ap­pears there was some en­gage­ment (with the FDA) that ap­pears to be miss­ing.”

At the time of the buy-out, he adds, the biotech had mapped out the rest of the de­vel­op­ment and reg­u­la­to­ry plans, with the rest of the phar­ma­col­o­gy stud­ies that need­ed to be done in a time­ly fash­ion. 

“We’re kind of dis­ap­point­ed with some of the com­ments that have been made,” says Has­nain. “It’s un­for­tu­nate that this kind of fin­ger point­ing is go­ing on.”

Cel­gene’s top ex­ecs have every rea­son to be red-faced over the in­ci­dent. The refuse-to-file came on top of a ma­jor late-stage im­plo­sion at the big biotech, and the fi­as­co over the ap­pli­ca­tion made the top ex­ecs look vir­tu­al­ly dys­func­tion­al. That hap­less rep lies in stark con­trast to the can-do ef­fi­cien­cy and clean ex­e­cu­tion that marked the Bob Hug­in era.

I asked Cel­gene if they want­ed to re­spond to Has­nain’s re­marks, but no one re­spond­ed.

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.

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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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.

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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S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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J&J ad­comm live blog: Com­mit­tee votes 22-0 to rec­om­mend an FDA OK for the J&J vac­cine, set­ting up 3rd US Covid-19 jab

The US could have a third authorized Covid-19 vaccine within hours.

The FDA’s advisory committee voted unanimously — 22-0 — to recommend the agency issue an emergency use authorization for J&J’s vaccine. If they follow the precedent of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine,  the FDA will likely authorize the vaccine by Saturday, immediately adding a few million doses to the US supply and adding a 100 million by June. An authorization would give the world its first single-dose vaccine, a major weapon in the effort to vaccinate the world and bring the virus to heel, particularly in rural and developing areas.