Cel­gene/Ac­celeron win speedy FDA re­view for lus­pa­ter­cept in be­ta tha­lassemia; Ko­re­an in­vestor out to shake up Au­rini­a's board

Robert Fos­ter Con­traVir

→ As hoped, Cel­gene $CELG and its part­ners at Ac­celeron $XL­RN have se­cured pri­or­i­ty re­view for their red blood cell boost­ing drug, lus­pa­ter­cept, which has been pegged to even­tu­al­ly gen­er­ate peak sales of $2 bil­lion. The bi­o­log­ic has been de­vel­oped to man­age ane­mia re­sult­ing from myelodys­plas­tic syn­drome (MDS) as well as be­ta tha­lassemia. The FDA ex­pects to make its de­ci­sion on the be­ta-tha­lassemia in­di­ca­tion by De­cem­ber 4, while the MDS in­di­ca­tion will be dealt with by April 4, 2020. The Eu­ro­pean re­view of the drug is al­so un­der­way, the com­pa­nies said on Tues­day.

Au­rinia’s $AUPH largest share­hold­er is skep­ti­cal that the com­pa­ny’s lead­er­ship team is up to task com­mer­cial­iz­ing its lead drug, vo­closporin, as the Cana­di­an biotech revs up late-stage stud­ies in lu­pus and dry eye dis­ease. Ko­rea-based Iljin has nom­i­nat­ed three in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tors to the eight-mem­ber board in an at­tempt to rein in in­sid­ers who they say have been plac­ing self-in­ter­ests above those of in­vestors. Chief among the three nom­i­nees is Robert Fos­ter, the ex-CEO of Isotech­ni­ka whom Iljin cred­its for the dis­cov­ery of vo­closporin. The oth­er two, Soon-Yub (Samuel) Kwon and Myeong-Hee Yu, bring reg­u­la­to­ry and sci­en­tif­ic ex­per­tise, re­spec­tive­ly. CEO Pe­ter Green­leaf — re­cent­ly ap­point­ed af­ter stints at Cere­cor, Su­cam­po and Med­Im­mune — and chair­man George Milne have pre­vi­ous­ly urged in­vestors to re­ject Iljin’s nom­i­na­tions.

Robert Ian­none Linkedin

→ In April, the chief med­ical of­fi­cer of the em­bat­tled biotech Im­munomedics $IM­MU Robert Ian­none said he was leav­ing the com­pa­ny to work in Penn­syl­va­nia to be “close to his fam­i­ly.” On Mon­day, it was re­vealed that the for­mer As­traZeneca $AZN ex­ec­u­tive is head­ed to Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $JAZZ, where he will lead glob­al R&D.

→ Peanut al­ler­gy drug mak­er Aim­mune $AIMT pre­sent­ed da­ta from a rollover 28-week study on Tues­day that fol­lowed its land­mark piv­otal study. The re­sults sug­gest­ed that its treat­ment, AR101, can help pa­tients tol­er­ate high­er dos­es of peanut pro­tein, thus re­in­forc­ing the ra­tio­nale for con­tin­ued dai­ly dos­ing of AR101 be­yond one year, as test­ed in the late-stage PAL­ISADE tri­al. An FDA ap­proval de­ci­sion for AR101 is ex­pect­ed in Jan­u­ary 2020.

John Oyler BeiGene

→ In a sign of Chi­na’s grow­ing in­flu­ence on glob­al biotech, BeiGene chief John Oyler has been elect­ed to BIO’s board of di­rec­tors as well as the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s health sec­tion gov­ern­ing board.

→ Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based Strand Ther­a­peu­tics — which is fo­cused on gene ther­a­pies — has se­cured a $6 mil­lion seed round led by Play­ground Glob­al with par­tic­i­pa­tion from Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, AN­RI, and a group of pri­vate in­vestors. “This cap­i­tal will be in­stru­men­tal to build­ing out and scal­ing Strand’s mR­NA pro­gram­ming tech­nol­o­gy,” said Ja­cob Be­craft, the com­pa­ny’s co-founder and CEO, in a state­ment.

Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Scoop: Roche scraps one of two schiz­o­phre­nia PhII tri­als af­ter fail­ing the pri­ma­ry end­point

Roche has terminated one of two Phase II trials testing its drug ralmitaront in patients with schizophrenia, the Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News.

The study was terminated last month, according to a June 22 update to the registry on clinicaltrials.gov. Begun in September 2020, the trial was looking at ralmitaront in patients with acute schizophrenia. The trial enrolled 286 patients out of an originally planned 308.

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Merdad Parsey, Gilead CMO

Four months af­ter CRL due to con­t­a­m­i­nant wor­ries, Gilead re­turns to FDA for next-gen HIV drug

Just shy of four months ago, Gilead’s next-gen HIV drug candidate lenacapavir got hit with a CRL over CMC issues involving the type of vials planned for use. Now, the pharma is headed back to the FDA for round two.

Gilead announced Monday afternoon that it had refiled its NDA submission filled with new CMC data after the FDA essentially balked at borosilicate glass vials, originally used for the non-oral form of lenacapavir. The drug candidate, which recently won a positive opinion from Europe’s CHMP, is being developed for HIV-1 infection “in heavily treatment-experienced (HTE) people with multi-drug resistant (MDR) HIV-1 infection.”

Years af­ter link­ing arms with Bris­tol My­ers and both Mer­cks, Sutro finds its lat­est part­ner in Tokyo

Astellas and Sutro Biopharma are linking arms on a new field of antibody-drug conjugates that they hope will improve upon existing cancer immunotherapies.

The Tokyo pharma will dole out $90 million in cash for the collaboration, the companies said Monday afternoon. That upfront payment will extend the South San Francisco biotech’s runway from late 2023 into the first half of 2024, Cowen analysts noted.

Pearl Huang, Dunad Therapeutics CEO (Ken Richardson, PR Newswire)

Long­time biotech leader Pearl Huang takes the reins as CEO of No­var­tis-backed up­start

It has only been a few months since Pearl Huang exited the top seat at Cygnal Therapeutics, but now she’s back at the helm of another biotech.

After taking a few months off — passing an exam in that time to get her captain’s license from the US Coast Guard — she’s been named CEO of Dunad Therapeutics, a biotech focused on developing a small molecule covalent therapies that was founded in 2020. Huang told Endpoints News that two factors attracted her to going back to the c-suite: the company’s technology and its co-founders.

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Matt Gline, Roivant CEO (John Sciulli/Getty Images for GLG)

Roivant chops sick­le cell gene ther­a­py, der­ma­tol­ogy drugs to fo­cus on 'high­er val­ue pro­ject­s'

Roivant is sweeping a suite of drugs, including a gene therapy for sickle cell disease already in the clinic, out of its pipeline.

Six programs from four of its “vants” are being wound down as part of “a company-wide cost optimization and pipeline reprioritization initiative to reduce our expected operating expenses and prioritize our capital resources.”

When reached by Endpoints News, a spokesperson said, “We don’t anticipate a material reduction in headcount but we will likely reassign some folks to higher value projects as part of winding down specific programs.”

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Laurence Reid, Decibel CEO

Still in pre­clin­i­cal test­ing for ear gene ther­a­pies, Deci­bel touts small snap­shot of chemo-in­duced hear­ing loss drug

Though Decibel Therapeutics has largely pivoted toward gene therapies for the inner ear, its lead clinical candidate simply aims to protect cancer patients from chemotherapy-induced hearing loss. On Tuesday, the biotech presented its first efficacy data for the program, and execs like what they see.

Decibel reported interim results from a Phase Ib study showing the experimental drug, dubbed DB-020, largely protected a small group of patients from losing their hearing. Researchers used a particularly unique study design, administering the compound in one of each patients’ ears before they received cisplatin chemotherapy and placebo in the other.