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Bay­er’s $240M up­front for Blue­Rock ac­qui­si­tion puts them in the high rollers club for pre­clin­i­cal biotech buy­outs

Bayer’s deal today marks a major, top-10 acquisition for a preclinical biotech, but it’s also significantly different than the average big-buck pacts in the field, which typically revolve around a single drug or target. Bayer wants to build a whole new pipeline covering a variety of disease fields.

The pharma giant’s $600 million gamble — $240 million in cash upfront with $360 million for development goals — ranks as the 6th largest money-down deal on the top 20 list of preclinical M&A deals, as gathered by DealForma’s Chris Dokomajilar.

The list is topped by Bristol-Myers Squibb’s misguided $800 million upfront for Flexus’ IDO program — later scrapped. Tekmira — now Arbutus — followed with a motherlode of dollars for OnCore’s hep B effort. That stands out as an unusual play for a biotech. The top 15 players dominate the preclinical M&A game when it comes to large upfronts.

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Adrian Hayday. Crick

Adri­an Hay­day re­futes chal­lenge on in­flu­en­tial au­toan­ti­body pa­per by Karolin­s­ka sci­en­tists

Back in 2016, Adrian Hayday and his colleagues at King’s College London — together with some collaborators in Germany and Estonia — made a splash in the immunology world with a paper, published in Cell, suggesting that patients with a particular genetic defect produce more autoantibodies than previously known. These self-generated antibodies, they proposed, offered therapeutic potential for autoimmune diseases, most prominently Type 1 diabetes.

Irv Weissman, Stanford

PD-L1, CD47 and now CD24? Star Stan­ford I/O sci­en­tist Irv Weiss­man points to a ‘ma­jor’ new can­cer tar­get

Famed Stanford drug researcher Irv Weissman, who helped set off a scramble to develop new drugs that can silence the “don’t eat me” signal sent by CD47, says he and a team of investigators in his lab have found a complementary target on the menu that promises to work where the pioneering drugs fall far short of the mark.

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Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller. Imperial College London

Well­come Trust joins warn­ing for no-deal Brex­it, calls on Boris John­son to cast R&D vi­sion

Boris Johnson may have pledged to continue building on Britain’s “enormous strengths” in life science as he blazes a path toward Brexit, but one of the country’s top funders of biomedical research is demanding more.

In a letter to the UK’s new Prime Minister, Wellcome Trust warned that “the final months of 2019 could be a tipping point for UK science” and leaving the EU without a deal is a threat to the thriving sector. Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, who chairs the charity, urged Johnson to make a significant statement on science to lay out his vision in the face of global health emergencies and the looming loss of access to collaboration with European peers.

PACT Phar­ma says it's per­fect­ed the tech to se­lect neoanti­gens for per­son­al­ized ther­a­py — now on­to the clin­ic

At PACT Pharma, the lofty goal to unleash a “tsunami” of T cells personalized for each patient has hinged on the ability to correctly identify the neoantigens that form something of a fingerprint for each tumor, and extract the small group of T cells primed to attack the cancer. It still has a long way to go testing a treatment in humans, but the biotech says it has nailed that highly technical piece of the process.

Bill Haney, Skyhawk

Genen­tech inks its lat­est dis­cov­ery deal — this time turn­ing to RNA up­start Sky­hawk

Roche’s Genentech has just completed the latest in a string of discovery deals with a lineup of much, much smaller companies looking to do new things in drug development.

Right on the heels of the news of Sosei’s coup bringing Genentech on board as a partner for its GPCR platform, the prolific dealmakers at Skyhawk — run by Bill Haney — have just added the storied biotech subsidiary as its latest partner in the world of drugging RNA.

Darrell Irvine. MIT

Su­per­charg­ing CAR-T with can­cer vac­cine, MIT team spot­lights some new tech un­der­pin­ning Dar­rell Irvine's start­up

Many of the efforts to improve on the first generation of CAR-T therapies such that they can reach solid tumors had focused on tweaks inherent to the cancer-killing agent — specifically, utilizing more potent T cells as their base, from stem memory T cells to virally associated T cells to marrow infiltrating lymphocytes. But what if just amplifying CAR-T cells can do the job? Darrell Irvine and his team at MIT have some intriguing mouse data for one such tech.

Just how much would no-deal Brex­it harm bio­med­ical sci­ence? Re­searchers speak out

As Conservative Party leaders face off in a bid to become the UK’s next Prime Minister, scientists from a range of specialties — from cancer to climate — are sounding louder alarms about the threats of a looming no-deal Brexit for their research work.

Citing an analysis by the University College London of the latest EU research funding data, the Guardian reported that UCL and eight other Russell Group universities ran only 20 big European research collaborations in 2018, a steep drop from around 50 in 2016. And individual researchers are feeling the cloud of uncertainty snuffing out prospects.

Jennifer Doudna and Jonathan Weissman. BARBARA RIES for UCSF

GSK's Bar­ron joins hands with Doud­na, Weiss­man to de­ploy CRISPR tech in drug dis­cov­ery

When Hal Barron unveiled his grand plan to turn GlaxoSmithKline’s R&D group around, he championed genetics as one of two key focuses for the UK pharma giant, announcing a discovery deal with 23andme and pledging to focus more on CRISPR tech as well as machine learning. A year later, the R&D chief is building on that promise as he seals a new pact with two prominent CRISPR researchers in his neighborhood in San Francisco.

Russ­ian sci­en­tist plans to one-up Jiankui He in cre­at­ing his own CRISPR ba­bies — Na­ture

If Denis Rebrikov has his way, the world could be expecting more CRISPR babies soon.

The Russian scientist has told Nature he is considering following Jiankui He’s example in knocking out the CCR5 gene in embryos and implanting them into women — except doing it in a better way. It marks the first declaration of interest in continuing the work when researchers around the world are calling for suspension of human germline editing and stricter standards, following a global backlash against He’s claims that he facilitated the birth of twin girls who had been CRISPR-ed as embryos.