In a ma­jor blow to vac­cine ef­forts, se­nior FDA lead­ers step­ping down

Mar­i­on Gru­ber

Two of the FDA’s most se­nior vac­cine lead­ers are ex­it­ing from their po­si­tions, rais­ing fresh ques­tions about the Biden ad­min­is­tra­tion and the way that it’s side­lined the FDA.

Mar­i­on Gru­ber, di­rec­tor of the FDA’s Of­fice of Vac­cines Re­search & Re­view and 32-year vet­er­an of the agency, will leave at the end of Oc­to­ber, and OVRR deputy di­rec­tor Phil Krause, who’s been at FDA for more than a decade, will leave in No­vem­ber. The news, first re­port­ed by Bio­Cen­tu­ry, is a mas­sive blow to con­fi­dence in the agency’s abil­i­ty to reg­u­late vac­cines.

The bomb­shell an­nounce­ment comes at a par­tic­u­lar­ly cru­cial mo­ment, as boost­ers and chil­dren’s shots are be­ing weighed by the reg­u­la­tor. The de­par­tures al­so come as the ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­cent­ly jumped ahead of the FDA’s re­views of boost­er shots, an­nounc­ing that they might be avail­able by the week of Sept. 20.

A for­mer se­nior FDA leader told End­points that they’re de­part­ing be­cause they’re frus­trat­ed that CDC and their ACIP com­mit­tee are in­volved in de­ci­sions that they think should be up to the FDA. The for­mer FDAer al­so said he’s heard they’re up­set with CBER di­rec­tor Pe­ter Marks for not in­sist­ing that those de­ci­sions should be kept in­side FDA. What fi­nal­ly did it for them was the White House get­ting ahead of FDA on boost­er shots.

FDA’s for­mer act­ing chief sci­en­tist Lu­ciana Bo­rio added on Twit­ter, “FDA is los­ing two gi­ants who helped bring us many safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cines over decades of pub­lic ser­vice.”

“These two are the lead­ers for Bi­o­log­ic (vac­cine) re­view in the US. They have a great team, but these two are the true lead­ers of CBER. A huge glob­al loss if they both leave,” For­mer BAR­DA di­rec­tor Rick Bright wrote, weigh­ing in on the news. “Dr. Gru­ber is much more than the Di­rec­tor. She is a glob­al leader. Vi­sion­ary mas­ter­mind be­hind glob­al clin­i­cal reg­u­la­to­ry sci­ence for flu, Ebo­la, Mers, Zi­ka, Sars-cov-2, many oth­ers.”

Phil Krause

In a let­ter from Marks to staff, he ex­plained:

Janet Wood­cock told End­points that she wish­es Gru­ber and Krause well and thanks them for their sig­nif­i­cant ser­vice.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for 'New Bio­haven' with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the “New Biohaven” post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Robert Califf, FDA commissioner (via AP Images)

User fees in ac­tion: FDA un­veils new short­ened sup­ple­ment re­view, rare dis­ease pi­lots

Thanks to PDUFA VII, signed into law last Friday by President Joe Biden, the FDA this week unveiled two new industry-friendly pilot programs to advance new rare disease endpoints via additional meetings, and to shorten FDA review times for supplemental apps aimed at unmet medical needs.

The agency this week released eagerly-awaited details behind the shortened pilot, known as the Split Real Time Application Review or STAR pilot program, which will speed up certain FDA reviews of efficacy supplements across all therapeutic areas (thanks to earlier submissions of data), but only for those that propose addressing an unmet medical need.

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Ying Huang, Legend CEO

Lentivi­ral vec­tor ramp-up: J&J and Leg­end to in­vest $500M in New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing to sup­port Carvyk­ti

In response to a question on manufacturing scale at Legend Biotech’s R&D day yesterday, the company’s top exec said its partnership with Johnson & Johnson will be doubling its investment in its New Jersey manufacturing center and will be investing a total of $500 million.

With an eye on their BCMA-directed CAR-T therapy Carvykti (cilta-cel), approved in February as a fifth-line treatment for multiple myeloma, Legend CEO Ying Huang said that the ramp-up in production and the decision to manufacture its own lentiviral vectors — currently in shortage worldwide — means they won’t have to deal with that shortage.

Kite Phar­ma gets FDA to sign off on new Cal­i­for­nia-based vec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

Kite Pharma just got FDA approval to kick off operations at a new manufacturing campus.

The cancer-focused, CAR-T cell therapy player made the announcement Monday, saying that the federal regulatory agency gave the green light to Kite’s 100,000 square-foot, retroviral vector manufacturing facility in Oceanside, CA.

Kite’s global head of technical operations Chris McDonald tells Endpoints News that the facility has been in the works for about four years, after Kite teamed up with its parent company Gilead. Gilead acquired Kite Pharma for just shy of $12 billion in 2017.

New Chroma Medicine board member Jeff Marrazzo

Jeff Mar­raz­zo has found a buzzy new biotech cause to cham­pi­on. And once again, he's all in

Jeff Marrazzo is one of those biotech execs who has always been focused on the next big goal. He has a track record for meeting objectives, relentlessly staying on message, and breaking new ground.

The fact that he stayed around for a couple of years after Roche’s $4.3 billion Spark buyout, making sure the organization he founded weathered Covid-19, is one example. And that came after he carefully guided the company to the first-ever US approval of a gene therapy — no easy task.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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