Bruised by a pun­ish­ing Op­di­vo fail­ure, Bris­tol-My­ers looks to shake up the busi­ness, ac­cel­er­ate R&D

Gio­van­ni Caforio, Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb CEO

Fresh off one of the biggest clin­i­cal tri­al set­backs of the year, Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb $BMY is plan­ning to re­group and ac­cel­er­ate on the R&D side as part of a broad re­or­ga­ni­za­tion, shift­ing more mon­ey in­to re­search af­ter hunt­ing out sav­ings in the rest of the busi­ness.

The de­tails are sparse, but the com­pa­ny says in its new­ly re­leased Q3 up­date that it plans to cre­ate a “com­pet­i­tive and more ag­ile R&D or­ga­ni­za­tion that can ac­cel­er­ate the pipeline, stream­lined op­er­a­tions and re­aligned man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties that broad­en bi­o­log­ics ca­pa­bil­i­ties to re­flect cur­rent and fu­ture port­fo­lio. The new op­er­at­ing mod­el will en­able the com­pa­ny to de­liv­er the strate­gic, fi­nan­cial and op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­i­ty nec­es­sary to in­vest in the high­est pri­or­i­ties across the com­pa­ny.”

The ex­ec­u­tive crew stayed fo­cused on broad gen­er­al­i­ties in the call with an­a­lysts Thurs­day morn­ing. CEO Gio­van­ni Caforio em­pha­sized that the com­pa­ny will “con­tin­u­ing to al­lo­cate re­sources dri­ven by op­por­tu­ni­ties we see in the port­fo­lio.” Over the next three to five years, he ex­pects that the op­por­tu­ni­ties for rev­enue growth with stay fo­cused pri­mar­i­ly on Op­di­vo, Yer­voy and Eliquis.

“At same time,” he adds, “we’re ad­vanc­ing the ear­ly pipeline,” ready to back pro­grams that emerge as high po­ten­tial per­form­ers. Bris­tol plans to in­crease R&D spend­ing next year, fo­cus­ing even more on its core ar­eas, while squeez­ing op­er­at­ing ex­pens­es, in­fra­struc­ture and man­u­fac­tur­ing costs wher­ev­er pos­si­ble.

The R&D spot­light now shifts to Check­mate-227, test­ing a com­bi­na­tion of Op­di­vo and Yer­voy. Im­muno-on­col­o­gy chief Fouad Namouni says that the com­pa­ny has learned from the Check­mate-026 set­back, dou­bling the num­ber of pa­tients it’s re­cruit­ing for ‘227 in or­der to avoid a re­peat of what Bris­tol views was a poor se­lec­tion of pa­tients test­ed in ‘026.

Bris­tol-My­ers suf­fered a damn­ing Phase III fail­ure with their flag­ship drug, the check­point in­hibitor Op­di­vo. Eas­i­ly the dom­i­nant check­point on the mar­ket, Op­di­vo flunked a late-stage tri­al that tried and failed to demon­strate an ad­van­tage for a broad pop­u­la­tion of non-small cell lung can­cer pa­tients as a front­line ther­a­py. Even more damn­ing, the sub­pop­u­la­tion break­down in the study — re­viewed at ES­MO — looked bad for Op­di­vo.

Mer­ck, which had had to ac­cept a run­ner-up po­si­tion in the mar­ket, was able to quick­ly leapfrog Bris­tol-My­ers by demon­strat­ing Keytru­da was ef­fec­tive among high PD-L1 ex­pressers, and the FDA swift­ly fol­lowed up with a pi­o­neer­ing front­line ap­proval in that key group.

What re­mains to be seen is how Bris­tol-My­ers plans to make its R&D group “more ag­ile.” The com­pa­ny has been pour­ing mon­ey in­to its im­muno-on­col­o­gy work, hir­ing new staffers and adding a cam­pus in Cal­i­for­nia.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

Zachary Hornby. Boundless

'A fourth rev­o­lu­tion in can­cer ther­a­pies': ARCH-backed Bound­less Bio flash­es big check, makes big­ger promis­es in de­but

It was the cellular equivalent of opening your car door and finding an active, roaring engine in the driver seat.

Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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