Peter Highnam, DARPA via YouTube

DARPA deputy re­turns home to the UK to lead a new $1B gov­ern­ment re­search agency

Build­ing off the suc­cess of the De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Pro­jects Agency across the pond, the UK on Tues­day ap­point­ed DARPA deputy Pe­ter High­nam as chief ex­ec­u­tive of the UK’s new Ad­vanced Re­search and In­ven­tion Agency.

With £800 mil­lion ($1 bil­lion) in fund­ing, ARIA and High­nam will fo­cus ex­clu­sive­ly on re­search projects with far-reach­ing goals, with the “po­ten­tial to pro­duce trans­for­ma­tive tech­no­log­i­cal change, or a par­a­digm-shift in an area of sci­ence,” the UK gov­ern­ment ex­plained, not­ing that most pro­grams may fail.

UK-born and ed­u­cat­ed High­nam, who lists “R&D that makes a dif­fer­ence” in his about sec­tion on LinkedIn, has spent more than a decade work­ing for the US gov­ern­ment, with stints at BAR­DA, NIH, as well as di­rec­tor of the In­tel­li­gence Ad­vanced Re­search Pro­jects Ac­tiv­i­ty and di­rec­tor of re­search at Na­tion­al Geospa­tial-In­tel­li­gence Agency.

Kwasi Kwarteng

“Pe­ter High­nam’s ap­point­ment is a ma­jor tri­umph for the UK. His ex­pert di­rec­tion will lead the agency’s for­ma­tion, en­sur­ing the fund­ing of high-risk pro­grammes that will con­tin­ue to push the bound­aries of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy,” UK busi­ness sec­re­tary Kwasi Kwarteng said in a state­ment.

But his new role will be dif­fer­ent from his work at BAR­DA.

While Amer­i­ca’s DARPA, which High­nam spent his last four years at, pur­sues a range of tech ad­vances tied to De­part­ment of De­fense ob­jec­tives, “ARIA will de­part from the DARPA mod­el, but align with oth­er ARPA-in­spired bod­ies around the world such as Ger­many’s SPRIN-D and Japan’s Moon­shot R&D. We want to leave the door open to ARIA to forge links with mul­ti­ple gov­ern­ment de­part­ment cus­tomers, un­lock­ing new ways to tack­le a range of so­ci­etal prob­lems, and boost­ing UK in­dus­try in a range of sec­tors,” the UK gov­ern­ment said.

The gov­ern­ment al­so said it has com­mit­ted to in­creas­ing pub­lic in­vest­ment in R&D to £20 bil­lion ($27 bil­lion) in 2024-2025, and ARIA “will be an in­te­gral and in­valu­able part” of this ecosys­tem, the gov­ern­ment said.

The UK is still search­ing for ARIA’s first chair, as well, who will sup­port High­nam to de­sign and build ARIA from the ground up.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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David Loew (Ipsen)

Ipsen snags an ap­proved can­cer drug in $247M M&A deal as an­oth­er bat­tered biotech sells cheap

You can add Paris-based Ipsen to the list of discount buyers patrolling the penny stock pack for a cheap M&A deal.

The French biotech, which has had plenty of its own problems to grapple with, has swooped in to buy Epizyme $EPZM for $247 million in cash and a CVR with milestones attached to it. Epizyme shareholders, who had to suffer through a painfully soft launch of their EZH2a inhibitor cancer drug Tazverik, will get $1.45 per share along with a $1 CVR tied to achieving $250 million in sales from the drug over four consecutive quarters as well as an OK for second-line follicular lymphoma by 1 Jan. 2028.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Joe Papa (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Joe Pa­pa re­signs as chair of Bausch Health as bil­lion­aire John Paul­son takes over

Joe Papa, chair of Bausch Health, officially resigned on Thursday and the board appointed billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson as the new chair, effective immediately.

The specialty pharma company sought to make clear that Papa’s abrupt departure “was not due to any dispute or disagreement with the Company, its management or the Board on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.”

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.