Check­mate Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals brings two new ex­ecs on board; Take­da sheds 30 drugs, gains $200M in Aci­no deal

→ Amid a $22 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing round led by Decheng Cap­i­tal last year, Check­mate Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals CEO Art Krieg an­nounced that he was turn­ing in his tile to Bar­ry Labinger and, in­stead, mov­ing to a CSO role with­in the com­pa­ny. Now, the Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny wel­comes two new ex­ecs to the team: James Wooldridge as CMO and Steven Ham­burg­er as vice pres­i­dent of reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs.

“In the past year, we have made tremen­dous progress in ad­vanc­ing the de­vel­op­ment of our lead com­pound, CMP-001, that is cur­rent­ly in clin­i­cal tri­als in com­bi­na­tion with an­ti-PD-1/L1 an­ti­bod­ies for mul­ti­ple sol­id tu­mor types,” said Labinger.

Wooldridge jumps over af­ter a stint as the CMO of Ae­glea Bio­Ther­a­peu­tics. His pre­vi­ous roles in­clude serv­ing at Eli Lil­ly, where he served as CSO for im­muno-on­col­o­gy clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, and con­duct­ing re­search as a fac­ul­ty mem­ber at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri in Co­lum­bia and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa. Ham­burg­er hops aboard af­ter a stint as vice pres­i­dent of reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs & qual­i­ty as­sur­ance at Tarve­da Ther­a­peu­tics. His pre­vi­ous stints in­clude roles at Cas­tle Creek Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, Im­munomedics, John­son & John­son, Mil­len­ni­um/Take­da and Eli Lil­ly.

→ Ea­ger to of­fload some non-core as­sets in pur­suit of a stream­lined struc­ture in­te­grat­ed with Shire, Take­da has found a buy­er for 30 prod­ucts in its pri­ma­ry care port­fo­lio — both pre­scrip­tion and OTC — in parts of the Mid­dle East and Africa plus Ukraine. Swiss phar­ma Aci­no is pay­ing $200 mil­lion for rights to “se­lect­ed pain man­age­ment, gas­troen­terol­o­gy, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and res­pi­ra­to­ry prod­ucts. Take­da will con­tin­ue to man­u­fac­ture the meds, but the sales and mar­ket­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties will shift to Aci­no and some staff will move over as part of the deal.

Rel­ma­da Ther­a­peu­tics — fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing treat­ments of cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem (CNS) dis­eases — has pre­sent­ed da­ta from its Phase II clin­i­cal tri­al of REL-1017 as an ad­junc­tive treat­ment in pa­tients with treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion. The study eval­u­at­ed the safe­ty, tol­er­a­bil­i­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy of two dos­es of REL-1017 (dex­tromethadone), 25 mg once a day and 50 mg once a day. Find­ings show that both pa­tients dosed with the 25 mg and 50 mg of REL-1017 ex­pe­ri­ence sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment of their de­pres­sion com­pared to sub­jects in the place­bo group on all ef­fi­ca­cy mea­sures.

→ Med­ical der­ma­tol­ogy com­pa­ny Az­i­tra has closed a $14 mil­lion Se­ries A fi­nanc­ing round — bring­ing their to­tal fi­nanc­ing to date to $17 mil­lion. KdT Ven­tures led the fi­nanc­ing with ex­ist­ing in­vestor Bios Part­ners, along with Con­necti­cut In­no­va­tions and God­frey Cap­i­tal. The com­pa­ny says that the round will be used to ex­pand the man­age­ment team and to ad­vance Az­i­tra’s med­ical der­ma­tol­ogy prod­ucts in the clin­ic.

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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