China to cut cancer drug prices; Nimbus nabs Gilead’s Adrian Ray to serve as SVP of discovery biology

→ China’s medical insurance authorities are pledging to slash cancer drug prices, according to a weekend report from the Communist party-run People’s Daily. Drugs already covered by state insurance could have their prices cut by 10%, with possible reductions of up to 50% for other medications as a condition of being added to the state insurance scheme, according to a Financial Times report. Quoting unnamed sources “familiar with the matter,” the FT said several multinational pharma companies have been invited to talks with government officials over prices this week. Cancer drug price cuts could affect the revenues for companies like Eli Lilly, Roche, and Novartis, which all launched oncology products in the region.

→ The plant-derived biologics experts at Beijing’s CC-Pharming and New York’s iBio $IBIO are bringing their platforms together in a joint development agreement that will, among other things, produce a “bio-better” of rituximab — a plant-made antibody they claim will be superior in performance and more affordable in price. “Our first product selection is very important but is only the beginning of what I believe CC-Pharming and iBio can do together with our combined scientific approach to the business of biopharmaceuticals,” said CC-Pharming founder and CSO Kevin Wang, referring to new products that might be added to the venture in the future. The Chinese upstart is paying iBio $4.7 million for access to the process development and manufacturing services at its Texas facility. In return, CC-Pharming will manage operations in China, where, with the help of iBio, it plans to eventually build up manufacturing capability. Ownership of the Chinese business is split between the two companies. “China’s biologics development and manufacturing infrastructure is grossly inadequate for the massive population it must serve,” said Robert Kay, iBio’s chairman and CEO.

→ Nimbus, a small startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has recruited Gilead’s senior director of clinical research — Adrian Ray — to serve as the company’s senior vice president of discovery biology. You might remember Nimbus for the massive NASH deal it inked with Gilead a couple years back — earning a remarkable $400 million upfront. Now, it’s snagging Ray, who’s worked at Gilead for the past 15 years, to help lead its own R&D. “Adrian is an outstanding addition to our already world-class team, who will strengthen our capabilities in discovery science rooted in cutting-edge biology and human genetics,” said Don Nicholson, CEO at Nimbus, in a statement. “Adrian is a capable leader in target discovery throughout the metabolic-oncology-immunology target space, and in the translation of these discoveries into effective clinical development strategies. We’re thrilled to have him.”

→ San Diego’s MabVax $MBVX has inked a deal with Boehringer Ingelheim, selling one of its preclinical-stage cancer drug programs for an upfront payment of $11 million plus downstream milestone payments. The program targets a glycan commonly overexpressed on multiple solid tumor cancers. MabVax says it discovered the antibody series from biological samples from patients vaccinated against their solid tumors with a glycan antigen-containing vaccine. “The discovery of fully human antibodies directly from vaccinated cancer patients has potential advantages which include greater specificity and reduced toxicities,” MabVax stated. Boehringer Ingelheim has acquired all rights in and to the program. MabVax’s stock, which had fallen into the penny territory, spiked 234% on the news. That brings the company’s share price to $1.92.

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