Eric and Wendy Schmidt (Broad Institute via YouTube)

Broad In­sti­tute opens new $300M cen­ter to an­swer 1 ques­tion: What's pos­si­ble when you ap­ply ma­chine learn­ing to bi­ol­o­gy?

In the midst of what di­rec­tor Todd Gol­ub called two rev­o­lu­tions — one bi­o­log­i­cal one and one com­pu­ta­tion­al — the Broad In­sti­tute is launch­ing a new cen­ter fund­ed by a for­mer Google chief to ex­plore the in­ter­sec­tion of ma­chine learn­ing and biotech­nol­o­gy.

The Broad on Thurs­day un­veiled the Er­ic and Wendy Schmidt Cen­ter, com­plete with a $150 mil­lion en­dow­ment from the Schmidts and a few Big Phar­ma part­ners in the wings. In ad­di­tion to the Schmidts’ con­tri­bu­tion, the Broad Foun­da­tion is throw­ing in an­oth­er $150 mil­lion.

Todd Gol­ub

“Bi­ol­o­gy is now pro­duc­ing da­ta at pre­vi­ous­ly unimag­in­able scales — but our abil­i­ty to un­der­stand and in­ter­pret that da­ta hasn’t kept pace,” Gol­ub said in a state­ment. “Adapt­ing the meth­ods of ma­chine learn­ing for bi­ol­o­gy will give sci­en­tists the chance to un­der­stand the pro­grams of life, and the Er­ic and Wendy Schmidt Cen­ter will en­able new part­ner­ships be­tween acad­e­mia and in­dus­try that can great­ly ac­cel­er­ate our progress.”

The cen­ter will work close­ly with MIT, Har­vard and its af­fil­i­at­ed hos­pi­tals, and through the Broad’s ex­ist­ing part­ner­ships with Bay­er, IBM, In­tel and Ver­i­ly. And it’s al­ready at­tract­ed sev­er­al new part­ners, in­clud­ing Genen­tech, As­traZeneca and No­var­tis. Google Re­search, Mi­crosoft, Deep­Mind, Que­bec AI in­sti­tute Mi­la, the Eu­ro­pean Lab­o­ra­to­ry for Learn­ing and In­tel­li­gent Sys­tems, the Mayo Clin­ic, and the the Ox­ford Big Da­ta and Alan Tur­ing in­sti­tutes are al­so on board, ac­cord­ing to the Broad.

“The pan­dem­ic has shown us that pri­or­i­tiz­ing sci­ence, in­no­va­tion, and re­search is one of the great­est in­vest­ments we can make in our fu­ture,” Er­ic Schmidt said in a state­ment.

The bil­lion­aire is best known for his 10-year run as Google CEO, start­ing in 2001.

The Schmidt Cen­ter will be co-di­rect­ed by Car­o­line Uh­ler, an MIT as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing and com­put­er sci­ence, and An­tho­ny Philip­pakis, the Broad’s chief da­ta of­fi­cer.

The Broad was found­ed in 2003 by MIT, Har­vard and its hos­pi­tals, and Los An­ge­les phil­an­thropists Eli and Edythe Broad. Its col­lab­o­ra­tions now span more than 100 pri­vate and pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions in more than 40 coun­tries.

“Eli and Edye Broad made a big bet 15 years ago, join­ing with MIT and Har­vard to ad­vance the promise of ge­nom­ic med­i­cine,” said Gerun Ri­ley, pres­i­dent of The Broad Foun­da­tion and mem­ber of the Broad’s board. “We are thrilled to part­ner with the Schmidts to re­al­ize this ex­cit­ing evo­lu­tion of the Broad In­sti­tute by build­ing on its foun­da­tion­al ethos to cre­ate a new sci­en­tif­ic dis­ci­pline that will fur­ther pro­pel life-chang­ing re­search and dis­cov­ery.”

Spe­cial re­port: Meet 20 ex­tra­or­di­nary women who are su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D

Even though many biopharma leaders have come together in recent years to address its gender gap, the consensus is clear: We still have a long way to go.

Companies this year were 2.5 times more likely than last year to have a diversity and inclusion program in place, according to a recent BIO survey, but women are still largely absent from executive roles. Getting women to enter the industry isn’t the problem — studies show that they represent just under half of all biotech employees around the world. But climbing through the ranks can be challenging, as women still report facing stereotypes, and, unfortunately, harassment.

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Op­ti­miz­ing Oral Drug De­liv­ery us­ing Zy­dis® Oral­ly Dis­in­te­grat­ing Tablet Tech­nol­o­gy to Ad­dress Pa­tient Chal­lenges


Patients prefer oral dosing, but swallowing tablets can be a challenge for many patients.
The Zydis® orally disintegrating tablet (ODT) platform addresses challenges associated with oral dosing, expanding benefits for patients and options for healthcare providers.
A strong growth trajectory is expected for ODTs given therapeutic innovation and continued technology development.

Many patients prefer conventional tablets for the administration of medications, but some geriatric and pediatric patients and those with altered mental status and physical impairments find swallowing tablets to be difficult. Orally disintegrating tablets (ODTs), which dissolve completely without chewing or sucking, offer a patient-friendly dosage form for the administration of small-molecule drugs, peptides and proteins. With the potential for multiple sites of drug absorption, often faster onset action for the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), and potentially greater bioavailability, ODTs are an attractive option for drug developers considering first-to-market formulations or product line extensions of existing drugs with compatible API. In this report, we look at how innovation in the industry-leading Zydis ODT platform is expanding oral formulation options and bringing benefits to patients.

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Geoffrey Porges (SVB Leerink)

The 2022 wave com­ing? Top an­a­lyst says Big Phar­ma will have more than $1T avail­able to sat­is­fy its grow­ing ap­petite for biotech M&A

All through this year you could practically feel the frustration of the biotech investor class as M&A activity continued to drag behind expectations — or desires. Buyouts of public companies provide the essential juice for keeping stocks lively, and there’s been a notable lack of juice in 2021.

So is all that about to change, big time?

SVB Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges, a longtime student of biotech M&A, thinks so. In a lengthy analysis he put out last week, Porges totted up the cash flow of the major pharmas and determined that there was a good long list of industry buyers who would have around a half trillion dollars of cash to play with in 2022. Leverage that up with added debt and you could get that deal cache to $1.6 trillion.

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Mar­ket­ingRx Matchup: How Ab­b­Vie and Bio­haven ads rank in head-to-head mi­graine chal­lenge

Are you ready to rumble? DTC brands that is. MarketingRx is launching a new monthly feature today called MarketingRx Matchup. We’re pitting two pharma brands’ DTC advertising in the same therapeutic category against each other to find out what consumers and patients really think.

Market research company Leger is handling the polling and analysis each month, and I’ll be writing up the results — along with my own take — inside MRx on the first Tuesday of the month.

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Wendy Lund, Organon chief communications officer

Q&A: Organon chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer Wendy Lund talks about the Mer­ck spin­off, women’s health and why it mat­ters

One of Wendy Lund’s earliest jobs was head of marketing at Planned Parenthood. As the youngest person on its management team, she introduced them to emerging new technologies, and in return, she learned the importance of fighting for what you believe in.

Now as chief communications officer at Organon, the women’s health company recently spun off by Merck, Lund is keeping that point top of mind. That’s in part because women’s health hasn’t been a spotlight therapy area for Big Pharma in years. Several companies have spun off, sold or at least considered selling women’s health assets to focus on “core” products.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Pfiz­er re-ups pneu­mo­nia ads as Mer­ck threat looms; Re­al Chem­istry founder CEO Jim Weiss steps back

Every autumn, leaves fall from the trees and people start holiday shopping – and for the last few years Pfizer debuts a new “Know Pneumonia” awareness TV ad. This year the commercial, launched a week ago, features different people who talk about why they got vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia. Actors portray a young female firefighter with asthma, a mechanic with heart disease and an older woman with her grandchild. A Pfizer spokesperson declined comment on the latest iteration of the long-running campaign.

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Klick Health agency employees appear in its annual holiday greeting video with this year's theme to #SpreadJoy (via Klick Health)

Klick Health hands out $100 bills in an­nu­al hol­i­day greet­ing that’s turned in­to de­fault re­cruit­ing tool

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What would you do with $100 and the simple instruction to “spread joy?” That’s what pharma and healthcare agency Klick Health asked its employees as part of its annual holiday greeting for clients, friends and future recruits.

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Warren Huff, Reata CEO

FDA slams Reata's kid­ney drug as in­ef­fec­tive ahead of ad­comm meet­ing

The FDA on Monday offered an overwhelmingly negative opinion on Reata Pharmaceuticals’ potential drug to slow the loss of kidney function in those with the rare disease Alport syndrome, according to briefing documents released ahead of an advisory committee meeting Wednesday.

The agency’s review team said it “does not believe the submitted data demonstrate that bardoxolone is effective in slowing the loss of kidney function in patients with AS and reducing the risk of progression to kidney failure.” Originally developed as a cancer drug, bardoxolone was later scuttled by Reata almost a decade ago as a chronic kidney disease drug due to deaths in a Phase III trial.

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No­var­tis pe­ti­tions FDA to block 18 gener­ic com­peti­tors for its megablock­buster heart drug un­til 2024

Novartis is looking to milk one of its most prized possessions a little while longer without any generic competition, mostly because of a newly approved use that the Big Pharma won earlier this year for its megablockbuster heart drug Entresto.

In addition to battling (and winning) litigation last month to block a handful of Indian generics from entering the market early alongside Entresto, the company last week petitioned the FDA to try to stop a total of 18 Entresto generics from launching before 2024 at the earliest.