Hal Barron, GSK R&D chief

Build­ing up its AI op­er­a­tions, GSK opens a $13M Lon­don hub with plans to woo tal­ent now trekking to Sil­i­con Val­ley

Con­tin­u­ing its ef­forts to ramp up glob­al AI op­er­a­tions, Glax­o­SmithK­line has opened a £10 mil­lion ($13 mil­lion-plus) re­search base in Kings Cross, Lon­don.

The AI hotspot is al­ready home to Google’s Deep­Mind, and the Fran­cis Crick and Alan Tur­ing re­search in­sti­tutes. GSK said it hopes to “tap in­to the huge Lon­don tech tal­ent pool” and at­tract can­di­dates who might oth­er­wise head to Sil­i­con Val­ley.

“It’s a vi­brant ecosys­tem that has every­thing from out­stand­ing med­i­cine as well as al­so be­ing a big tech cor­ri­dor. Deep­Mind is there. Google is there. It’s near the Crick In­sti­tute, and of course mod­ern com­put­ing was born, ba­si­cal­ly, with Alan Tur­ing and the Tur­ing In­sti­tute,” GSK R&D pres­i­dent Hal Bar­ron said at a Lon­don Tech Week fire­side chat. “So we are quite con­vinced that both the tal­ent and the ecosys­tem will en­able us to build a very vi­brant hub in Lon­don, get­ting the top tal­ent, the best thinkers and peo­ple to be able to in­ter­act with us in GSK to take tech­nol­o­gy and help us turn it in­to med­i­cines.”

The com­pa­ny be­lieves AI has the pow­er to vast­ly im­prove its drug dis­cov­ery process. It claims that ge­net­i­cal­ly val­i­dat­ed drugs are twice as like­ly to be suc­cess­ful. And GSK has lots of ge­net­ic da­ta to work with. The new work­space, lo­cat­ed in the Stan­ley Build­ing, has al­ready lured in 30 sci­en­tists, 10 of whom are in the com­pa­ny’s AI fel­low pro­gram.

In fact, many biotechs are now turn­ing to AI, which they be­lieve can speed up suc­cess­ful de­vel­op­ment by an­a­lyz­ing hun­dreds of genes at once or rapid­ly screen­ing bil­lions of mol­e­cules.

“GSK is fo­cused on find­ing bet­ter med­i­cines and vac­cines — not just bet­ter prod­ucts, but find­ing them in bet­ter ways, so we are us­ing func­tion­al ge­nomics, hu­man ge­net­ics and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ma­chine learn­ing,” the com­pa­ny said in a state­ment.

Tony Wood

It al­so has AI re­searchers based in San Fran­cis­co and Boston, and aims to reach 100 AI-fo­cused em­ploy­ees by mid-2021. “Our goal is to have the best and bright­est peo­ple in the world to join us,” Bar­ron said.

“In AI, we are scour­ing the plan­et for the best peo­ple. These folks are very rare to find. Com­pe­ti­tion is high and there aren’t a large num­ber of them,” Tony Wood, GSK’s SVP of med­i­c­i­nal sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy, told The Guardian in De­cem­ber.

The new Lon­don hub has the ca­pac­i­ty for 60 to 80 staff mem­bers. Now all that’s left to do is fill it.

Pfiz­er lays off em­ploy­ees at Cal­i­for­nia and Con­necti­cut sites

Pfizer has laid off employees at its La Jolla, CA, and Groton, CT sites, according to multiple LinkedIn posts from former employees.

The Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News it has let go of some employees, but a spokesperson declined to specify how many workers were impacted and the exact locations affected. Earlier this month, the drug developer had confirmed to Endpoints it was sharpening its focus and doing away with some early research on areas such as rare disease, oncology and gene therapies.

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Jake Van Naarden, Loxo@Lilly CEO

Lil­ly en­ters ripe BTK field with quick FDA nod in man­tle cell lym­phoma

Eli Lilly has succeeded in its attempt to get the first non-covalent version of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, or BTK, inhibitors to market, pushing it past rival Merck.

The FDA gave an accelerated nod to Lilly’s daily oral med, to be sold as Jaypirca, for patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.

The agency’s green light, disclosed by the Indianapolis Big Pharma on Friday afternoon, catapults Lilly into a field dominated by covalent BTK inhibitors, which includes AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica, AstraZeneca’s Calquence and BeiGene’s Brukinsa.

Filip Dubovsky, Novavax CMO

No­vavax gets ready to take an­oth­er shot at Covid vac­cine mar­ket with next sea­son plans

While mRNA took center stage at yesterday’s FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting, Novavax announced its plans to deliver an updated protein-based vaccine based on new guidance.

Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) members voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all future vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

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Eliot Forster, F-star CEO (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

F-star gets down to the wire with $161M sale to Chi­nese buy­er as na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty con­cerns linger

With the clock ticking on F-star Therapeutics’ takeover by a Chinese buyer, the companies are still scrambling to remove a hold on the deal from the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

F-star and invoX Pharma said they are “actively negotiating” with CFIUS “about the terms of a mitigation agreement to address CFIUS’s concerns regarding potential national security risks posed by the transaction.”

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CBER Director Peter Marks (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

FDA ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee votes unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of bi­va­lent Covid shots re­plac­ing pri­ma­ry se­ries

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all current vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

The vote marks an effort to clear up confusion around varying formulations and dosing schedules for current primary series and booster vaccines, as well as “get closer to the strains that are circulating,” according to committee member Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Rodney Rietze, iVexSol CEO

Bris­tol My­ers, Charles Riv­er join Se­ries A fund­ing for iVex­Sol

Massachusetts-based iVexSol has secured funding to the tune of $23.8 million in its latest Series A round. The new investors include Bristol Myers Squibb, manufacturer Charles River Laboratories and Asahi Kasei Medical.

iVexSol is a manufacturer of lentiviral vectors (LVV), used in making gene therapies, and this latest round of fundraising brings its total Series A total over $39 million, which will be used to recruit more employees and bolster its technology.

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John Rim, Samsung Biologics CEO (Samsung/PR Newswire)

Sam­sung Bi­o­log­ics spells out ex­pan­sion plans in South Ko­rea and US

The CDMO arm of one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates has posted its year-end results and plans for 2023, which include new construction.

Samsung Biologics netted north of KRW 3 trillion ($2.4 billion) in 2022 revenue and an operating profit of KRW 983.6 billion ($799 million), which the company touted on Friday as “record-high earnings.” The revenue boost was 55% compared to 2021.

FDA re­ports ini­tial 'no sig­nal' for stroke risk with Pfiz­er boost­ers, launch­es con­comi­tant flu shot study

The FDA hasn’t detected any potential safety signals, including for stroke, in people aged 65 years and older who have received Pfizer’s bivalent Covid booster, one senior official told members of the agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Thursday.

The update comes as the FDA and CDC investigate a “preliminary signal” that may indicate an increased risk of ischemic stroke in older Americans who received Pfizer’s updated shot.

FDA cuts off use for As­traZeneca’s Covid-19 ther­a­py Evusheld

The FDA has stopped use of another drug as a result of the new coronavirus variants. On Thursday, the agency announced that AstraZeneca’s antibody combo Evusheld, which was an important prevention option for many immunocompromised people and others, is no longer authorized.

The FDA said it made its decision based on the fact that Evusheld works on fewer than 10% of circulating variants.

Evusheld was initially given emergency authorization at the end of 2021. However, as Omicron emerged, so did studies that showed Evusheld might not work against the dominant Omicron strain. In October, the FDA warned healthcare providers that Evusheld was useless against the Omicron subvariant BA.4.6. It followed that up with another announcement earlier this month that it did not think Evusheld would work against the latest Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.