Cel­gene goes all-out on neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion and Alzheimer’s, trig­ger­ing block­buster deal with $150M in cash for Prothena

Af­ter qui­et­ly build­ing up an ex­pe­ri­enced team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors to tack­le neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, Cel­gene has be­gun to ag­gres­sive­ly in-li­cense new drugs that can go af­ter Alzheimer’s and oth­er key dis­eases in the field.

Just days af­ter Cel­gene front­ed $50 mil­lion for a dis­cov­ery deal with Vi­vid­ion Ther­a­peu­tics that in­cludes neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, the big biotech has now lined up op­tions on three pre­clin­i­cal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion drug projects part­nered with Prothena. At the head of the list is a tau pro­gram, one of the key cul­prits that sci­en­tists be­lieve is close­ly linked with the de­vel­op­ment of Alzheimer’s.

Gene Kin­ney

Get­ting its busi­ness de­vel­op­ment team fo­cused on neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, Cel­gene is pay­ing Prothena $100 mil­lion in cash plus an­oth­er $50 mil­lion for stock $PR­TA, with a pre­mi­um price of $42.57 baked in. In ad­di­tion, Prothena CEO Gene Kin­ney tells me that there’s a bit more than $2 bil­lion in mile­stones on the ta­ble. And $405 mil­lion of that is tied to op­tions on their drugs, when Cel­gene de­cides whether it will take over at the end of Phase I.

The deal terms were spelled out in an 8-K.

In­vestors wel­comed the news, dri­ving up Prothena’s shares by about 20%. The biotech’s shares have been lan­guish­ing in the wake of a short at­tack by Ker­ris­dale Cap­i­tal on their lead drug, with the dam­age ex­tend­ing to Neil Wood­ford’s in­vest­ment fund.

Prothena will now be re­spon­si­ble for ad­vanc­ing new ther­a­pies for tau in Alzheimer’s, ALS and one oth­er dis­ease they’re not dis­clos­ing for now in­to the clin­ic.

Richard Har­g­reaves

Bio­gen vet­er­an Richard Har­g­reaves jumped to Cel­gene to lead the neu­ro­sciences team. In a state­ment, he not­ed how Cel­gene is build­ing on its con­sid­er­able ex­per­tise in pro­tein re­search.

Our col­lab­o­ra­tion lever­ages each com­pa­ny’s core ex­per­tise in pro­tein home­osta­sis and pro­tein clear­ance to tar­get pro­teins that are the un­der­ly­ing cause of many neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive and or­phan dis­eases. The pro­grams we have cho­sen to col­lab­o­rate on have the po­ten­tial to pro­vide foun­da­tion­al as­sets from which we can build new ther­a­peu­tic ap­proach­es to these cur­rent­ly un­treat­able neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders.

“The team he’s build­ing brings a lot of val­ue to us,” says Kin­ney. So does their mon­ey.

Kin­ney adds: “This is the right way to start in­vest­ing in the fu­ture of the com­pa­ny.”

Mer­ck’s re­cent de­ci­sive fail­ure for a BACE ap­proach to clear­ing amy­loid be­ta has been shift­ing con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion in the field to tau, the oth­er tox­ic pro­tein at play. And there’s a grow­ing be­lief that it will take a com­bi­na­tion ap­proach to de­feat the dis­ease, which has de­fied every piv­otal try in more than a decade.

“We be­lieve tau and amy­loid be­ta are im­pli­cat­ed in Alzheimer’s dis­ease,” says Prothena CSO Wag­n­er Za­go. And Prothena be­lieves it has some in­sights on tau that could help Cel­gene lay the foun­da­tion for a suc­cess­ful pro­gram, among all the tau strate­gies out there now.

“We found some hot spots in the pro­tein which, tar­get­ed prop­er­ly, could af­fect cell to cell trans­mis­sion,” Za­go not­ed in an in­ter­view.

The oth­er known tar­get is the TDP-43 pro­tein. Prothena has been pick­ing out its top can­di­dates for in­hibit­ing tox­i­c­i­ty and cell-to-cell trans­mis­sion of mis­fold­ed TDP-43 species, which could play a key role in amytroph­ic lat­er­al scle­ro­sis.

A lit­tle more than two years ago, then Cel­gene CEO Bob Hug­in sig­naled his in­ter­est in the field. At a meet­ing with a group of re­porters at JP­Mor­gan, which in­clud­ed me, he said that any com­pa­ny that ex­pects to have a ma­jor po­si­tion in the in­dus­try a decade lat­er will al­most have to play a big role in de­vel­op­ing ther­a­pies for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion.

Cel­gene, un­der Hug­in’s suc­ces­sor Mark Alles, is work­ing to make that hap­pen. And the time­line is get­ting short­er.

Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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The Advance Clinical leadership team: CEO Yvonne Lungershausen, Sandrien Louwaars - Director Business Development Operations, Gabriel Kremmidiotis - Chief Scientific Officer, Ben Edwards - Chief Strategy Officer

How Aus­tralia De­liv­ers Rapid Start-up and 43.5% Re­bate for Ear­ly Phase On­col­o­gy Tri­als

About Avance Clinical

Avance Clinical is an Australian owned Contract Research Organisation that has been providing high-quality clinical research services to the local and international drug development industry for 20 years. They specialise in working with biotech companies to execute Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials to deliver high-quality outcomes fit for global regulatory standards.

As oncology sponsors look internationally to speed-up trials after unprecedented COVID-19 suspensions and delays, Australia, which has led the world in minimizing the pandemic’s impact, stands out as an attractive destination for early phase trials. This in combination with the streamlined regulatory system and the financial benefits including a very favourable exchange rate and the R & D cash rebate makes Australia the perfect location for accelerating biotech clinical programs.

No­var­tis jumps in­to Covid-19 vac­cine hunt, as Big Phar­ma and big biotech com­mit to bil­lions of dos­es

After spending most of the pandemic on the sidelines, Novartis is offering its aid in the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

AveXis, the Swiss pharma’s gene therapy subsidiary, has agreed to manufacture the vaccine being developed by Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. The biotech will begin manufacturing this month, while the vaccine undergoes further preclinical testing. They’ve agreed to provide the vaccine for free for clinical trials beginning in the second half of 2020, but have not disclosed financials for after.

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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David Hoey (Vaxxas)

In for the long vac­cine game, Mer­ck buys in­to patch de­liv­ery tech with pan­dem­ic po­ten­tial

When Merck dived into the R&D fray for a Covid-19 vaccine earlier this week, execs made it clear that they’re not necessarily looking to be first — with CEO Ken Frazier throwing cold water on the hotly-discussed 12- to 18-month timelines. But when it does emerge from behind, the pharma giant clearly expects to play a significant part.

Part of that will depend on next-generation delivery technology that reshapes the world’s imagination of a vaccine.

Bryan Roberts, Venrock

Ven­rock sur­vey shows grow­ing recog­ni­tion of coro­n­avirus toll, wan­ing con­fi­dence in ar­rival of vac­cines and treat­ments

When Venrock partner Bryan Roberts went to check the results from their annual survey of healthcare leaders, what he found was an imprint of the pandemic’s slow arrival in America.

The venture firm had sent their form out to hundreds of insurance and health tech executives, investors, officials and academics on February 24 and gave them two weeks to fill it out. No Americans had died at that point but the coronavirus had become enough of a global crisis that they included two questions about the virus, including “Total U.S. deaths in 2020 from the novel coronavirus will be:”.

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb fi­nal­ly gets in the front­line NSCLC game dom­i­nat­ed by Mer­ck, adding a sec­ond Op­di­vo/Yer­voy-based op­tion

Bristol Myers Squibb may be trailing Merck and Roche in the checkpoint race to treat frontline cases of non-small cell lung cancer, but as it does, it makes sure to bring its best feet forward.

Just days after scoring a landmark NSCLC approval for Opdivo and Yervoy alone for PD-L1 positive patients, the company said the FDA has also OK’d using the two agents with a limited course of chemo regardless of the biomarker status.

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Stymied by the pan­dem­ic, Im­munomedic­s' new CEO bows out, tak­ing a mil­lion bucks plus perks as he heads out the vir­tu­al ex­it

Just a little more than a month since taking over as the latest CEO to helm Immunomedics, $IMMU Harout Semerjian is exiting the company after being confronted by “logistical” obstacles thrown up by the pandemic that made it impossible for him to move from London to carry out the job. And he’s getting a little over a million dollars in cash plus perks to grease the skids on the way out.

Word of the changeup arrived right after the market closed Wednesday.

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