CD47 play­er Tril­li­um chops dis­cov­ery ef­forts and 40% of staff; Brii Bio inks deal to bring an­tibi­otics to Chi­na

→ One month in­to his tenure at Cana­di­an mi­cro­cap biotech Tril­li­um, Jan Skvar­ka is bring­ing out the ax as he sorts out the de­vel­op­ment plans for its CD47 drugs. The re­struc­tur­ing will see the dis­cov­ery re­search unit nixed and the head­count will be re­duced by 40% (from 43 to 26), re­duc­ing the burn rate from CDN$10 mil­lion to CDN$4-7 mil­lion per quar­ter. Mean­while, the com­pa­ny will seek to part­ner out its pre­clin­i­cal STING ag­o­nist pro­gram, which it like­ly doesn’t have enough re­sources to tend to.

Fol­low­ing a meet­ing with the FDA, Tril­li­um is al­so clos­ing a Phase Ib tri­al in which its drug is ad­min­is­tered in­tra­tu­moral­ly. The dose-es­ca­la­tion study for in­tra­venous­ly ad­min­is­tered TTI-621 will now be­come the sole pri­or­i­ty.

→ The in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ists at Brii Bio have found its next part­ner in Qpex, which is hand­ing over Chi­na de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights to a port­fo­lio of an­tibi­otics. The deal cov­ers three prod­ucts tack­ling mul­ti-drug re­sis­tant gram-neg­a­tive in­fec­tions: an IV be­ta-lac­ta­mase in­hibitor-based drug, an oral BLI com­bo, and a next-gen polymyx­in.

No­vo Nordisk $NVO, the world’s largest in­sulin mak­er, on Tues­day said the FDA has ex­pand­ed the la­bel on its fast-act­ing meal­time in­sulin Fi­asp to al­low adult di­a­bet­ic pa­tients to use Fi­asp in their pumps. The prod­uct was orig­i­nal­ly ap­proved in 2017 for use by in­tra­venous in­fu­sion un­der su­per­vi­sion by a health­care pro­fes­sion­al or by mul­ti­ple dai­ly sub­cu­ta­neous in­jec­tions.

En­ter­prise Ther­a­peu­tics’ ion chan­nel R&D work in res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­eases just got a boost from the Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis Foun­da­tion, which is award­ing up to $7 mil­lion for the pre­clin­i­cal and ini­tial clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of ETC002. The biotech, backed by Ver­sant and No­var­tis, is work­ing on a way to hy­drate the mu­cus that builds up in pa­tients’ lungs so that it can be eas­i­er to clear — an ap­proach that should work re­gard­less of ge­net­ic mu­ta­tions.

Sang­amo has notched an or­phan drug des­ig­na­tion for its gene ther­a­py for Fab­ry dis­ease af­ter start­ing a clin­i­cal pro­gram ear­li­er this year.

UP­DAT­ED: Roche bags 'break­through' an­ti-fi­bro­sis drug in $1.4B biotech buy­out deal

Roche is snapping up a “breakthrough” anti-fibrotic drug in a $1.4 billion buyout.

The pharma giant announced Friday that it is acquiring Promedior, primarily to get its hands on PRM-151, a recombinant form of human pentraxin-2 (PTX-2) protein that has nailed down mid-stage clinical data on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and demonstrating its potential for a range of fibrotic conditions.

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Amarin emerges from an ex­pert pan­el re­view with a clear en­dorse­ment for Vas­cepa and high odds of suc­cess when the FDA weighs in for­mal­ly

Several FDA experts who gathered Thursday to consider the landmark approval of Vascepa to reduce cardio events in an at-risk population voiced their unease about various aspects of the efficacy and safety data, or ultimately the population it should be used to treat. But the overwhelming belief that the data pointed to the drug’s benefit and clearly outweighed risks carried the day for Amarin.

The panel voted unanimously (16 to 0) to support the company’s positive data presentation — backing an OK for expanding the label to include reducing cardio risk. The vote points Amarin $AMRN down a short path to a formal decision by the FDA, with the odds heavily in its favor. Chances are the rest of the questions about the future of this drug will be hashed out in the label’s small print.

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No­var­tis spin­out’s first an­ti-ag­ing PhI­II is a flop, so now they’ll turn to Parkin­son’s chal­lenge as shares wilt

Novartis spinout resTORbio is grappling with the collapse of its lead clinical program this morning — an anti-aging R&D failure that will badly damage their rep in the field.

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No­var­tis scores its lat­est FDA OK — this time for a new sick­le cell dis­ease drug picked up in a $665M deal

Novartis’ decision to buy Oklahoma-based biotech Selexys 3 years ago for up to $665 million has paid off with an FDA approval today.

Blessed with the FDA’s breakthrough drug designation for a speedy review, the pharma giant has pinned down an approval for crizanlizumab, a new therapy designed to reduce the frequency of painful incidents of vaso-occlusive crises among sickle cell disease patients 16 or older.

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As­traZeneca gains EU nod for di­a­betes triple; Am­gen and Duke launch re­al-world PC­SK9 ob­ser­va­tion­al study

→ Weeks after winning EU approval to start marketing dapagliflozin as Forxiga, AstraZeneca has racked up another OK for a triplet combo involving the SGLT2 diabetes drug. Named Qtrilmet, the pill combines Forxiga with the DPP-4 inhibitor Onglyza (saxagliptin) and the bedrock drug metformin in a modified-release format. That 3-in-1 approach proved superior in reducing average blood glucose levels to a number of other dual combinations across 5 Phase III trials, including Forxiga plus metformin, Onglyza with metformin, or glimepiride with metformin.

Five drugs, in­clud­ing two No­var­tis ther­a­pies, win EMA en­dorse­ment

As is custom, an EMA panel on Friday issued its weekly recommendations on marketing applications submitted by drug developers. This week, the agency backed the use of five new therapies — including two Novartis drugs — but issued no negative reviews.

Novartis’ S1P drug for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) drug, Mayzent (known chemically as siponimod), which was approved by the FDA in March — has been given the nod by the EMA. The Swiss drugmaker already sells its other MS drug, Gilenya, in both regions.

Atom­wise's X-37 spin­out gets $14.5 mil­lion to launch AI dis­cov­ery ef­forts

The folks behind Atomwise’s spinout X-37 like to think in cosmological metaphors, and you can think of their AI drug development model as probes sent into space from a central station. That station just got $14.5 million in Series A funding from DCVC Bio, Alpha Intelligence Capital and Hemi Ventures to back those missions.

X-37 uses Atomwise’s AI platform to identify drug targets and – unlike the parent company, which largely sticks to computers  – bring those into a wet lab and preclinical testing.  In addition to AI professionals, it’s led in by part by drug developers from Velocity Pharmaceutical Development.

Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries CEO Miles White pass­es ba­ton down to suc­ces­sor; Lon­za CEO Marc Funk hits the ex­it

→ Abbott Laboratories has named a successor to CEO Miles White after he announced that he was stepping down in March after 21 years of service. Robert Ford, the company’s COO and president, will take the helm. Ford is known for his work in the $25 billion merger between St. Jude Medical into Abbott in January 2017. White will remain with the company as executive chairman of the board. 

→ After snapping up Novartis’ Swiss facility, Novartis Center of Excellence, in July, Lonza has announced that their CEO, Marc Funk, is hitting the exit for “personal reasons.” Funk has been the CEO of the company for less than a year — brought onto the company back in March. In the meantime, chairman Albert Baehny will serve as interim CEO. 

BeiGene CEO John Oyler at an Endpoints event in Shanghai, October 2018 (Credit: Endpoints News/PharmCube)

UP­DAT­ED: In a first, FDA green-lights use of a Chi­nese built can­cer ther­a­py — and more are com­ing

Weeks after Amgen took a $2.7 billion stake in BeiGene, the Beijing-based biotech has secured its first-ever FDA approval for zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor, months ahead of schedule.

BeiGene’s drug, branded as Brukinsa, has secured accelerated approval for adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) — a typically aggressive, rare, form of blood cancer — who have received at least one prior therapy.

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