CureVac founder back at the helm; Merck extends immunomodulatory drug discovery program with Sutro
→ Daniel Menichella, the CEO of CureVac and the face of its recent endeavors to develop an mRNA vaccine against Covid-19, is stepping down. Founder Ingmar Hoerr is back in charge; the transition happens just days after Menichella attended the high-profile White House coronavirus R&D meeting alongside other biopharma execs. While Hoerr thanked Menichella for “his leadership having built a terrific global team” and extolled the pipeline that he left behind, no reason was given for the sudden departure.
→ Almost two years after Merck first handed Sutro $60 million to start on immunomodulatory drug discovery, the partners are extending the research term by one year to seek more cytokine derivative programs. One candidate generated on the platform is moving toward IND-enabling studies, CEO Bill Newell said.
→ Summit, NJ-based Engage Therapeutics said its drug-device combo hit the primary endpoint on halting seizures within two minutes in a Phase IIb study. In the trial, patients inhale alprazolam (aka Xanax) through the Staccato device, which comprises a heating substrate, a thin film of the drug and an airway. Study investigator Jacqueline French of NYU Langone Health’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center calls it an EpiPen-like rescue treatment and plans to initiate a Phase III later this year.