Care about R&D strate­gies? Have we got a sum­mit for you

If there’s one un­der­ly­ing les­son I’ve learned watch­ing bio­phar­ma in ac­tion over the past 20 years or so, it’s that no R&D or­ga­ni­za­tion can rest on its lau­rels. Es­pe­cial­ly the larg­er ones. You’ve had a big suc­cess? Great. Now how do you plan to fol­low up on that? And how soon? Hit by fail­ure? What’s Plan B, C, D and E?

Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen

And that’s the cen­tral mes­sage of my up­com­ing Eu­ro­pean Bio­phar­ma Sum­mit com­ing up next week. I’ll be talk­ing to 5 top bio­phar­ma ex­ec­u­tives about their next-gen game plans.

— No­vo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen and I have had a lot to talk about. Semaglu­tide has been the kind of suc­cess sto­ry any com­pa­ny likes to tell, es­pe­cial­ly now that it looks to make block­buster re­turns in fight­ing obe­si­ty — one of the tough­est nuts to crack in drug R&D his­to­ry. But we know that al­ready. What hap­pens now in R&D? The com­pa­ny has some am­bi­tious plans for build­ing the pipeline, and a clear strat­e­gy for where it wants to head. And there are even more plans for semaglu­tide in R&D.

Su­san Gal­braith

Su­san Gal­braith had a big role to fill when she took José Basel­ga’s job at As­traZeneca, fol­low­ing the top sci­en­tist’s trag­ic death. But com­ing from the trans­la­tion­al side of can­cer drug re­search, she’s top­ping a lengthy ca­reer in Big Phar­ma by fol­low­ing in­sights in­to the 2.0 gen­er­a­tion of can­cer drugs and com­bos. She has a lot to say, and I’m pay­ing close at­ten­tion. You should too.

John Tsai

— One of the key is­sues in any big de­vel­op­ment group is defin­ing risk. How do you em­brace the idea of a high-risk, high-re­ward pro­gram? For No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai, that in­volves a “wild card” strat­e­gy we’ll be dis­cussing, where the phar­ma picks up a tough chal­lenge and goes in­to the clin­ic — know­ing that a win could de­liv­er a com­pa­ny-build­ing drug, but that suc­cess is far from se­cure. That’s one of sev­er­al things we’ll be talk­ing about No­var­tis’ de­vel­op­ment strat­e­gy.

Jean-François Tou­s­saint

— Then there’s mR­NA. You don’t even need to ex­plain it any­more. What start­ed out with a hand­ful of star­tups a decade ago has be­come the New, New Thing in bio­phar­ma now that the tech has de­liv­ered the top 2 vac­cines be­ing used to fight a pan­dem­ic. Of course, there’s a lot — and I mean a lot — that still has to be done to prove the full po­ten­tial. And there are def­i­nite­ly no guar­an­tees. I’ll be talk­ing with Jean-François Tou­s­saint, the head of glob­al R&D at Sanofi Pas­teur, which is in­vest­ing heav­i­ly in the field, and Sean Marett, a top ex­ec at BioN­Tech.

Sean Marett

One of the most in­ter­est­ing star­tups in the in­dus­try has been Centes­sa, as­sem­bled by the start­up crew at Medicxi. David Grainger played a big role in that com­pa­ny, and now he’s tak­en on the task of chief deal­mak­er as they con­tin­ue to build up the pipeline. Grainger and End­points News pub­lish­er Ar­salan Arif will be ex­plor­ing that in a one-on-one ses­sion.

David Grainger

And fi­nal­ly, my co-host for this year’s event, Sil­i­con Val­ley Bank’s Nooman Haque, will be wrap­ping up with an­oth­er look at the Eu­ro­pean biotech fi­nance land­scape with 3 top play­ers: Alex Pas­teur at F-Prime, Juli­ette Au­det from For­bion and Thomas Burt at Sofinno­va. These have been boom times in the glob­al biotech busi­ness — how is that play­ing out in Eu­rope?

It’s a packed pro­gram. If you’re in­to R&D strat­e­gy, or you’re grow­ing your own com­pa­ny, I hope you’ll join us on Oct. 12. You can look over the sched­ule and sign up here — at no cost — by hit­ting the link.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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Work taking place in the clean rooms at Vor (Credit: Vor)

Vor Bio opts to keep man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in-house for de­vel­op­ing stem cell, CAR-T ther­a­pies

While it is not uncommon for a biotech to go down the route of having the product manufactured by a contract organization, one small biotech is looking to keep its card close to its chest.

Vor Biopharma has started manufacturing operations at an in-house facility at its HQ in Cambridge, MA after beginning construction last summer.

According to the biotech, the facility aims to develop Vor’s hematopoietic stem cells (eHSCs) and CAR-T therapies for patients with blood cancers. The site will initially manufacture a clinical supply of its candidate VCAR33allo to support its IND, which is slated to be submitted in the first half of next year. It also plans to transfer the production of VOR33 to the facility. Vor is getting to work quickly as engineering runs for VCAR33allo has started this week.

Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Marcelo Bigal, Ventus Therapeutics CEO

No­vo Nordisk joins No­var­tis, Roche in NL­RP3 are­na, bet­ting $70M cash on NASH, car­diometa­bol­ic us­es

As a drug target, the NLRP3 inflammasome has drawn serious interest from Big Pharma, inspiring a series of M&A deals from Novartis and Roche on top of venture investments by others. Now Novo Nordisk is jumping on the bandwagon — and the Danish pharma giant is taking the target where it knows best.

Novo Nordisk is getting its NLRP3 inhibitors from Ventus Therapeutics, a Versant-backed startup that set out to make some of the best NLRP3 drugs out there by incorporating new insights into the structure of the target complex.

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Aim­ing for fourth nod, Sarep­ta files an­oth­er DMD gene ther­a­py to FDA; Ax­some head­ed to­ward mi­graine re­sub­mis­sion

Sarepta Therapeutics has filed the data needed for an FDA accelerated approval, which would be the biotech’s fourth if granted by the agency.

The biotech has yet to complete confirmatory trials for those first three conditional nods. The filing for its fourth Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment, disclosed Thursday, is not a surprise. Sarepta said in late-July it would do so after releasing positive results for the Roche-partnered gene therapy.