Cheers! End­points News turns 1 to­day — and we're un­wrap­ping in­fo on a new sub­scrip­tion plan

To­day, End­points News is one year old. Like any thriv­ing in­fant, we’ve been grow­ing at a fast pace, out­grow­ing a hasti­ly craft­ed chris­ten­ing gar­ment.

Start­ing from scratch, with just so­cial me­dia and a lot of word of mouth to re­ly on, web traf­fic to End­points was less than 14,000 vis­its per week. To­day we notch 14,000 per day, with a to­tal of 139,000 unique read­ers com­ing to the web­site in May.

Email sub­scrip­tions — the most im­por­tant met­ric we track — grew from zilch to 16,000 dai­ly bio­phar­ma sub­scribers drawn to our in­de­pen­dent style of jour­nal­ism. This was a re­sult of or­gan­ic, word-of-mouth ad­vo­ca­cy from our biggest fans. End­points’ “open rate”, the per­cent­age of read­ers who ac­tu­al­ly open and read the email re­ports, has nev­er fall­en be­low 40% — far above in­dus­try av­er­ages and more than dou­ble the rate you see at sim­i­lar pub­li­ca­tions.

I’ve writ­ten — this is a rough ball­park fig­ure — more than 650,000 words on R&D over the past 12 months. And we con­tin­ue to grow our traf­fic month­ly at a dou­ble-dig­it rate.

I am es­sen­tial­ly at about 60% of the read­er­ship I had be­fore I de­cid­ed to do a boot­strap start­up pub­li­ca­tion for bio­phar­ma R&D. And be­lieve me, it’s the best 60%, as I’ve found dur­ing events we’ve host­ed along the way of our maid­en voy­age in San Fran­cis­co and Boston and Eu­rope. The rest will come along, and we’ll be ready to shoot past old mark­ers and fo­cus on achiev­ing big­ger goals in the year ahead.

So where do we go from here?

Com­mit­ment to open-ac­cess and high ex­pec­ta­tions for free con­tent

My part­ner, Ar­salan Arif, and I grew up in this on­line busi­ness me­dia world. We be­lieve that to get a big au­di­ence you need to con­cen­trate on an open-ac­cess mod­el.

In plain Eng­lish, the news must re­main free.

That hasn’t changed and it’s not go­ing to. But we are look­ing to grow the team here at End­points, adding con­tent as we ex­pand read­er­ship fur­ther. And that’s go­ing to take new rev­enue, on top of the ad­ver­tis­ing we’ve built up and con­tin­ue to grow.

A few weeks ago, we ran a read­er sur­vey ask­ing you whether you would con­sid­er pay­ing $200 a year for a sub­scrip­tion. Most said there wasn’t a chance. You have high ex­pec­ta­tions for free con­tent and you weren’t about to change. Some said they’d pay, but the fig­ure sound­ed high. And you were fine with the email blasts from ad­ver­tis­ers.

To all of you, we say thank you for spend­ing part of your work day with us. We’ll work for you every day of the week.

But about 20% of you felt that you would glad­ly pay that, ei­ther to sup­port the work we’re do­ing here or to pay for di­rect ac­cess to the re­port with­out any email blasts from ad­ver­tis­ers.

It was, in fact, about 50/50 on that score.

An­nounc­ing End­points In­sid­er

On Ju­ly 10, we’ll roll out End­points In­sid­er, our paid sub­scrip­tion mod­el. If you’d like to sup­port our work here — or sim­ply want all the con­tent with­out the ad­ver­tis­ing — please sign up here. The cost is $200/year (no pay­ment de­tails re­quired to­day).

End­points In­sid­er pre-reg­is­tra­tion
No pay­ment de­tails re­quired to­day

In ad­di­tion to sup­port­ing us and en­joy­ing an ad-free ex­pe­ri­ence, I’ll be mov­ing my opin­ion pieces be­hind the pay­wall, of­fer­ing eas­i­er ac­cess to the ed­i­to­r­i­al team for any queries you may have, and In­sid­ers can in­stant­ly down­load print-ready PDF ver­sions of all ar­ti­cles so you can print or share in­ter­nal­ly on your terms. Lat­er we’ll add a few oth­er sub­scriber-on­ly pieces, but all of the dai­ly bio­phar­ma news we pub­lish will re­main free and eas­i­ly ac­cessed to those of you who like things as they are. That is not go­ing to change and you don’t have to do any­thing to keep re­ceiv­ing End­points News and mes­sages from our ad­ver­tis­ers.

I’d like to thank you all for the lit­er­al­ly thou­sands of mes­sages of sup­port we’ve re­ceived along the way. When you start up your own in­de­pen­dent busi­ness in an in­dus­try like this, you find lots of sup­port for the en­tre­pre­neur­ial at­ti­tude we’ve adopt­ed. And if you would like to add your sub­scrip­tion to help sup­port that, we’d ap­pre­ci­ate that as well.

One way or the oth­er, we’ll keep work­ing 24/7 on your be­half. It’s been quite a ride, and we’re just get­ting start­ed putting can­dles on that cake. But with­out you, this all means noth­ing. — John Car­roll

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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Look­ing for 'ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion,' Boehringer In­gel­heim re­serves $500M+ for new Shang­hai hub

Now that Boehringer Ingelheim’s bet on contract manufacturing in China has paid off, the German drugmaker is anteing up more to get into the research game.

Boehringer has set aside $507.9 million (€451 million) for a new External Innovation Hub to be built in Shanghai over five years. The site will become one of its “strategic pillars” as the team strives to get 71 approvals — either for new products or indications — by 2030, said Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim China.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Patrick Straub/​EPA-EFE/​Shutterstock)

No­var­tis pays $678M for kick­back scheme as Vas Narasimhan tries to dis­tance phar­ma gi­ant from shady be­hav­ior

Novartis has reached another large settlement to resolve misconduct allegations, agreeing to pay more than $678 million to settle claims that it had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lavish dinners, so-called speaking fees and expensive alcohol “that were nothing more than bribes” to get doctors to prescribe Novartis medications.

The top-shelf alcohol and lavish meals included a $3,250 per person night at Nobu in Dallas, a $672-per person dinner at Washington DC’s Smith & Wollensky and a $314 per person meal at Sushi Roku in Pasadena, according to the Justice Department complaint. There were at least 7 trips to Hooters and fishing trips in Alaska and off the Florida coast. Each of these events were supposed to be “speaker programs” where doctors educated other doctors on a drug, but the DOJ alleged many were “bogus” wine-and-dine events where the drug was barely mentioned, if at all.  (“Nobody presented slides on the fishing trips,” the complaint says.)

No­vavax snags Ben Machielse for CMC and pro­motes a trio of staffers; Mar­ty Du­vall lands an­oth­er CEO post at On­copep­tides

Novavax has been making waves recently by securing a $384 million commitment from CEPI to cover R&D and manufacturing for its Covid-19 vaccine while also spending $167 million on a 150,000 square-foot facility. The Maryland biotech continues to shore up its leadership team as well, bringing in Ben Machielse as their EVP of CMC just a couple weeks after nabbing AstraZeneca vet Filip Dubrovsky as their new CMO. Machielse was president and CEO of Vtesse from 2014-17, and before that, he also spent more than 11 years at MedImmune and was EVP of operations for the back half of his tenure.

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Dan Gold, MEI Pharma CEO

De­vel­op­ment part­ners at MEI, Helsinn dump a high-risk PhI­II AML study af­ter con­clud­ing it would fail sur­vival goal

Four years after Switzerland’s Helsinn put $25 million of cash on the table for an upfront and near-term milestone to take MEI Pharma’s drug pracinostat into a long-running Phase III trial for acute myeloid leukemia, the partners are walking away from a clinical pileup.

The drug — an HDAC inhibitor — failed to pass muster during a futility analysis, as researchers concluded that pracinostat combined with azacitidine wasn’t going to outperform the control group in the pivotal.

No­var­tis los­es biosim­i­lar ap­peal as court up­holds a 31-year mo­nop­oly by Am­gen's En­brel

A new court ruling has strengthened Amgen’s grip on the IP estate around Enbrel, keeping biosimilars of the autoimmune and inflammatory drug at bay until 2029.

Novartis, the patent challenger, isn’t throwing in the towel yet. In a statement noting the failed appeal, its generics division Sandoz noted its reviewing options, “including potential appeal to US Supreme Court.”

It’s been almost four years since the FDA approved Erelzi, Sandoz’s copycat version of Enbrel. While sales of the Pfizer-partnered drug in the US — the market Amgen is in charge of — have dipped slightly during that time, it remains a solid megablockbuster with 2019 revenue slightly above $5 billion.