Giovanni Caforio, Bristol Myers Squibb CEO (Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bris­tol My­ers meets some di­ver­si­ty goals ear­ly, while miss­ing oth­ers

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb has met some of its big health eq­ui­ty goals ear­ly, while miss­ing two in­ter­nal goals fo­cused on di­ver­si­fy­ing its work­force. Now, the com­pa­ny says it’s set­ting the bar a lit­tle high­er.

Bris­tol My­ers an­nounced on Wednes­day that rough­ly 58% of its clin­i­cal tri­al sites are now lo­cat­ed in eth­ni­cal­ly di­verse ar­eas, sur­pass­ing its ini­tial goal of 25%. The news comes as the pan­dem­ic casts a harsh spot­light on the lack of di­ver­si­ty in clin­i­cal tri­als. Of the 53 drugs ap­proved in 2020, Black pa­tients rep­re­sent­ed just about 8% of tri­al par­tic­i­pants that reg­u­la­tors based their de­ci­sions on, and His­pan­ic pa­tients rep­re­sent­ed just over 12.6%.

In De­cem­ber, the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­i­ty Of­fice re­leased a re­port that found cer­tain groups, in­clud­ing ado­les­cents, old­er adults, women, low-in­come in­di­vid­u­als and in­di­vid­u­als from rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, “re­main con­sis­tent­ly un­der­rep­re­sent­ed in can­cer clin­i­cal tri­als.”

BMS promised in 2020 to build clin­i­cal tri­al in­fra­struc­ture in di­verse com­mu­ni­ties, in ad­di­tion to sup­port­ing a fel­low­ship pro­gram aimed at in­creas­ing di­ver­si­ty among tri­al in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Along with the in­de­pen­dent Bris­tol My­ers Squibb Foun­da­tion, the com­pa­ny in­vest­ed $150 mil­lion to sup­port health eq­ui­ty and in­clu­sion, to­tal­ing $300 mil­lion.

Bris­tol My­ers has been work­ing with Gilead to “train, de­vel­op and men­tor” more than 580 di­verse clin­i­cal tri­al­ists and med­ical stu­dents by 2027. The two have com­mit­ted $114 mil­lion to run a five-year pro­gram, and this past No­vem­ber an­nounced its lat­est awardees.

As of Wednes­day, the com­pa­ny says it’s al­so spent $1 bil­lion with di­verse-owned busi­ness­es, a goal that was ini­tial­ly set for 2025 which ex­ecs say will re­main a pri­or­i­ty. This year it will an­nounce an­oth­er $10 mil­lion in grants to 17 or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing to in­crease ac­cess to health­care across car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, hema­tol­ogy, on­col­o­gy and im­munol­o­gy.

“In­clu­sion, di­ver­si­ty and health eq­ui­ty are not just our val­ues; they are a crit­i­cal dri­ver of busi­ness per­for­mance with ac­count­abil­i­ty owned by every­one,” CEO Gio­van­ni Caforio said in a news re­lease.

How­ev­er, the chief ex­ec­u­tive al­so an­nounced that BMS fell short of its goals to achieve 50% rep­re­sen­ta­tion for fe­male ex­ec­u­tives and 7.4% rep­re­sen­ta­tion for His­pan­ic/Lati­no ex­ec­u­tives in the US by 2022. Cur­rent fig­ures are 48.7% and 6.1%, re­spec­tive­ly. The com­pa­ny did, how­ev­er, achieve its goal of rough­ly 6% rep­re­sen­ta­tion for Black/African Amer­i­can ex­ec­u­tives, ac­cord­ing to the an­nounce­ment.

“BMS achieved gen­der par­i­ty in the over­all work­force pop­u­la­tion in 2015 and is close to achiev­ing gen­der par­i­ty at the ex­ec­u­tive lev­els,” the com­pa­ny said.

By 2025, BMS now hopes to achieve at least 10% rep­re­sen­ta­tion for Black/African Amer­i­can lead­ers at or above the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor lev­el, and 11% rep­re­sen­ta­tion for His­pan­ic/Lati­no lead­ers at or above the same lev­el.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Lu­pus drug de­vel­op­ment mar­ket heat­ing up, while FDA links with ad­vo­ca­cy group to fur­ther ac­cel­er­ate re­search

The long-underserved systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) market is suddenly buzzing with treatment possibilities. Less than two years after AstraZeneca’s approval for Saphnelo — the first new SLE drug in a decade and joining just one other approved in GSK’s Benlysta – the pipeline of potential drugs numbers in the dozens.

Although most are very early stage — Spherix Global Insights estimates five in Phase II/III — the pharma R&D enthusiasm is catching on among doctors, patients and advocacy groups. On Wednesday, the Lupus Research Alliance and the FDA formed a novel private-public partnership called Lupus Accelerating Breakthroughs Consortium (Lupus ABC) to help advance lupus clinical trial success.

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Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Mod­er­na so­lid­i­fies deal with Kenya to build mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

The mRNA player Moderna is further cementing its presence on the African continent.

Moderna announced on Thursday that it has finalized an agreement with Kenya’s government to partner up and bring an mRNA manufacturing facility to the east African nation. The new facility aims to manufacture up to 500 million doses of vaccines annually. Moderna also said the new facility will have the ability to spike its production capabilities to respond to public health emergencies on the continent or globally.

Mass­a­chu­setts judge dis­miss­es law­suit against Bio­gen over failed launch of Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm

A Massachusetts federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a class action lawsuit filed by investors against Biogen and several of its current and former executives over the company’s failed Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm (aducanumab).

The investors argued that Biogen’s contact with the FDA was unlawful and that the company made 25 false and misleading statements, including statements about the rollout and price of the drug.

Af­ter safe­ty re­view, EMA mir­rors FDA with up­dat­ed rec­om­men­da­tions for JAK in­hibitors

The EMA released updated recommendations today for the use of JAK inhibitors (JAKi) after reviewing data from several clinical trials that showed increased incidents of issues in certain patients who have rheumatoid arthritis and other risk factors.

The EMA noted malignancy, major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE), serious infections, venous thromboembolism (VTE) and mortality in some patients.

Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

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Ribbon cutting ceremony for Thermo Fisher's new cell therapy manufacturing site in San Francisco

Ther­mo Fish­er moves on cam­pus with new cell man­u­fac­tur­ing site in San Fran­cis­co

Thermo Fisher Scientific is putting down more roots in the Bay Area.

The manufacturer opened the doors to a new cell therapy manufacturing facility next to the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center’s Mission Bay campus and on the university’s campus.

UCSF and Thermo Fisher have had a partnership since 2021, with the new site focusing on manufacturing cell therapeutics for certain cancers, including glioblastoma and multiple myeloma. The new site plans to use Thermo Fisher’s expertise in manufacturing services to help UCSF accelerate the development of cell therapies and eventually get them into the clinic, said Dan Herring, the general manager of cell therapy services at Thermo Fisher, in an interview with Endpoints News.

Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bacteria are ruthless.

Some soil bacteria have evolved tiny, but deadly injection systems that attach to insect cells, perforate them and release toxins inside — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Scientists, on the other hand, want to leverage that system to deliver medicines.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, MIT CRISPR researcher Feng Zhang and his lab describe how they engineered these syringes made by bacteria to deliver potential therapies like toxins that kill cancer cells and gene editors. With the help of an AI program, they developed syringes that can load proteins of their choice and selectively target human cells.

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CSL CEO Paul McKenzie (L) and CMO Bill Mezzanotte

Q&A: New­ly-mint­ed CSL chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul McKen­zie and chief med­ical of­fi­cer Bill Mez­zan­otte

Paul McKenzie took over as CEO of Australian pharma giant CSL this month, following in the footsteps of long-time CSL vet Paul Perreault.

With an eye on mRNA, and quickly commercializing its new, $3.5 million-per-shot gene therapy for hemophilia B, McKenzie and chief medical officer Bill Mezzanotte answered some questions from Endpoints News this afternoon about where McKenzie is going to take the company and what advances may be coming to market from CSL’s pipeline. Below is a lightly edited transcript.