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Say good­bye to Toca­gen, strug­gling brain can­cer biotech to re­verse merge with Forte Bio­sciences

Five months after a huge Phase III failure triggered mass layoffs at the company, Tocagen will sign itself out of existence.

The biotech, once focused on brain cancer, announced it has signed a reverse merger agreement with Forte Biosciences, a biotech tackling atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin diseases. Tocagen’s stock shot up 85% on the news, although that only translated to a 41-cent bump for a company that saw the last of its value go poof in September. The new company will trade under the ticker $FBRX.

Don't let Ab­b­Vie fool FTC with an easy di­vesti­ture, plead crit­ics in lat­est at­tack on $63B Al­ler­gan buy­out

If the FTC must let AbbVie and Allergan go ahead with their merger, at least make them divest their latest blockbuster on the market, a chorus of unions, consumer groups and public interest organizations plead in a new attempt to rein in the megamerger.

There’s a second part to their argument: If the antitrust watchdog does greenlight the divestiture AbbVie wants, then at least ensure the pharma giant cannot corner its future rivals with its exclusionary tactics.

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Harpreet Singh (file photo)

TCR-fo­cused Im­mat­ics adds an­oth­er mar­quee name to its list of part­ners: GSK

Immatics, in its fecund deal spree, has lured GSK, as the British drugmaker refocuses its attention to the lucrative field of oncology.

On Thursday, the privately-held immuno-oncology company secured $50 million upfront in a collaboration with GSK on two T cell receptor (TCR) therapeutics focused on solid tumors. If all goes well, Immatics stands to earn more than $550 million in milestone payments, in addition to tiered royalties for each product.

DuPont makes an­oth­er for­ay in­to drug R&D, throw­ing its name in­to the mi­cro­bio­me hat

Having spent the past three years getting up to speed with all the innovations around the human microbiome, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences — the food, health and pharma focused unit of the slimmed-down conglomerate — is diving into the therapeutic space.

The Copenhagen-based operation — whose corporate slogan is “the miracles of science” — said it’s teaming up with MRM Health, a Belgian upstart microbiome specialty player spun out of Ghent University spinoff ProDigest, to advance new treatments for metabolic diseases. It’s also investing in MRM’s €14m round, which is designed to fund clinical studies of a lead program in inflammatory bowel diseases.

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Lig­and buys its way in­to part­ner­ship with Roche, CF Foun­da­tion — plus some ion chan­nel tech once owned by Pfiz­er

Ligand Pharma is once again buying its way into collaborations with some high-profile partners, feeding eight more drug discovery programs into its pipeline at a bargain price.

Its latest acquisition target is the core assets of Icagen, a neuroscience and rare disease-focused player headquartered in Durham, North Carolina. For $15 million upfront, Ligand is bagging one neurological program partnered with Roche, a cystic fibrosis project backed by the CF Foundation, as well as six wholly-owned assets.

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Bay­er hands over a big drug R&D op­er­a­tion to CRO amid an on­go­ing re­struc­tur­ing ef­fort

Bayer’s 400-strong small molecule R&D team is being carved out and handed to a CRO, where they’ll continue to work for Bayer.

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Pfiz­er un­cou­ples from Gly­coMimet­ics and its failed sick­le cell dis­ease drug

Once largely overlooked, sickle cell disease (SCD) has recently seen a flurry of approvals. For Pfizer — an SCD drug that has faltered in the pivotal stage of development — certainly doesn’t pass muster, not in this market. On Monday, the 170-year-old company severed ties with Maryland-based GlycoMimetics, walking away from the alliance the two entered into nearly a decade ago.

Pfizer tied up with the Rockville biotech to work on an experimental drug — rivipansel — for vaso-occlusive crises that occur as a result of SCD in a deal worth up to $340 million ($22.5 million upfront, with $115 million — which was later adjusted to $80 million — in development milestones) in 2011. At the time, the therapy had been granted orphan drug and fast track status and was in a Phase II trial.

Stéphane Bancel, Endpoints JPM 2020 (Jeff Rumans)

Mod­er­na eyes $500M sec­ondary of­fer­ing on up­beat coro­n­avirus vac­cine up­date — al­most ready for the clin­ic

Among the army of biotechs that threw themselves into the gold rush for 2019-nCoV vaccines or therapies, Moderna emerged as one of the most legitimate contenders: The NIH had signed it on as a partner, demonstrating confidence in its messenger RNA platform to produce a vaccine rapidly.

That has given the Cambridge, MA-based biotech a nice bump on its unicorn valuation. And CEO Stéphane Bancel is seizing it.

Mer­ck walks away from KalVista, who turns their sights on HAE

Two months after KalVista announced its diabetic macular edema drug failed a Phase II trial, its big-name partner, Merck, has ended their up-to-$760 million deal.

Signed in 2017, that deal didn’t make KalVista – they had already landed $33 million from marquee venture firms, including Novo A/S and SV Life Sciences – but it turned the biotech from a microcap that had reverse-merged its way onto public markets into a name investors knew. Lead drug KVD001 was about to go into Phase II. Merck paid $37 million upfront, more than KalVista’s valuation at the time, to back the drug’s development and for the option to pick up or walk away from it once Phase II data was in.

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It's not just about Keytru­da, Mer­ck in­sists, as it carves out as­sets worth $6.5B in­to new com­pa­ny

As sales of Merck’s flagship therapy Keytruda grow from strength to strength — the New Jersey drugmaker is spinning off its women’s health, legacy brands, and biosimilar drugs into a new company.

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