'Deeply com­mit­ted' Jim Wil­son pours more of his life's work in­to Pas­sage Bio — lock­ing in more gene ther­a­py pro­grams, new tech

From Pas­sage Bio’s in­cep­tion last Feb­ru­ary to its IPO fil­ing a year lat­er, its close re­la­tion­ship with co-founder Jim Wil­son’s Gene Ther­a­py Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia has al­ways been tout­ed as a ma­jor strength. Now the biotech is ty­ing an even tighter knot with its aca­d­e­m­ic part­ner.

James Wil­son

In a deal ex­pan­sion, Pas­sage nabbed the op­tion to li­cense five more pro­grams com­ing out of Wil­son’s lab and ex­tend­ed the ex­er­cise pe­ri­od by three years to 2025. If all the can­di­dates end up mak­ing the cut, they will feed 17 new treat­ments for rare mono­genic dis­eases all the way through clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

While the fi­nan­cial de­tails were not dis­closed, the com­pa­ny has pre­vi­ous­ly not­ed that it promised around $1 mil­lion for each of the 12 pro­grams in­volved in the ini­tial deal.

That’s not all. Pas­sage al­so wants ex­clu­sive rights to the tech­nolo­gies emerg­ing out of the drug dis­cov­ery process — every­thing from nov­el cap­sids and tox­i­c­i­ty re­duc­tion meth­ods to de­liv­ery and for­mu­la­tion im­prove­ments.

In ex­change, it’s com­mit­ted to fund­ing all rel­e­vant re­search at the GTP to the tune of $5 mil­lion a year.

Bruce Gold­smith

“Ex­pand­ing this col­lab­o­ra­tion pro­vides us with the op­por­tu­ni­ty to not on­ly deep­en our pipeline but al­so strength­en our own ex­per­tise and ca­pa­bil­i­ties as we strive to de­vel­op trans­for­ma­tive gene ther­a­pies for pa­tients,” Bruce Gold­smith, who re­placed Stephen Squin­to as CEO just ahead of the IPO $PASG, said in a state­ment.

Wil­son — who worked close­ly with his long­time men­tor, Fra­zier part­ner Tachi Ya­ma­da, to make this his lega­cy com­pa­ny — re­it­er­at­ed that he’s “deeply com­mit­ted to the growth and suc­cess of Pas­sage.”

The com­ing year is shap­ing up to be a crit­i­cal one for Pas­sage, with an­tic­i­pa­tion for mul­ti­ple tri­al launch­es and some ear­ly da­ta.

UP­DAT­ED #ES­MO20: Trodelvy da­ta show that Gilead­'s $21B buy­out may have been worth the big pre­mi­um

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has been on a shopping spree. And while some analysts gawked at the biotech’s recent $21 billion Immunomedics buyout, new data released at virtual ESMO 2020 suggest the acquisition may have been worth the hefty price.

The deal, announced last weekend, will give California-based Gilead $GILD Trodelvy, which was recently approved for metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (mTNBC).

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Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly CSO

UP­DAT­ED: An­a­lysts are quick to pan Eli Lil­ly's puz­zling first cut of pos­i­tive clin­i­cal da­ta for its Covid-19 an­ti­body

Eli Lilly spotlighted a success for one of 3 doses of their closely-watched Covid-19 antibody drug Wednesday morning. But analysts quickly highlighted some obvious anomalies that could come back to haunt the pharma giant as it looks for an emergency use authorization to launch marketing efforts.

The pharma giant reported that LY-CoV555, developed in collaboration with AbCellera, significantly reduced the rate of hospitalization among patients who were treated with the antibody. The drug arm of the study had a 1.7% hospitalization rate, compared to 6% in the control group, marking a 72% drop in risk.

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#ES­MO20: As­traZeneca bur­nish­es Tagris­so's ad­ju­vant NSCLC pro­file with 'un­prece­dent­ed' re­duc­tion in brain mets. Can they win over skep­tics?

When AstraZeneca trumpeted “momentous” and “transformative” results for Tagrisso earlier this year at ASCO, some practitioners threw cold water on the ADAURA fervor. Sure, the disease-free survival data look good, but overall survival is the endpoint that matters when it comes to choosing adjuvant therapy for non-small cell lung cancer patients, the experts said.

The OS data still aren’t here, but AstraZeneca is back at ESMO to bolster their case with a look at brain metastasis data.

Exelixis CEO Michael Morrissey (file photo)

#ES­MO20: Look out Mer­ck. Bris­tol My­ers and Ex­elix­is stake out their com­bo’s claim to best-in-class sta­tus for front­line kid­ney can­cer

Now that the PD-(L)1 checkpoints are deeply entrenched in the oncology market, it’s time to welcome a wave of combination therapies — beyond chemo — looking to extend their benefit to larger numbers of patients. Bristol Myers Squibb ($BMY} and Exelixis {EXEL} are close to the front of that line.

Today at ESMO the collaborators pulled the curtain back on some stellar data for their combination of Opdivo (the PD-1) and Cabometyx (the TKI), marking a significant advance for the blockbuster Bristol Myers franchise while offering a big leg up for the team at Exelixis.

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Donald Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, before boarding Marine One (Getty Images)

Pric­ing deal col­laps­es over Big Phar­ma's re­fusal to is­sue $100 'cash card­s' be­fore the elec­tion — re­port

Late in August, as negotiations on a pricing deal with President Trump reached a boiling point, PhRMA president Stephen Ubl sent an email update to the 34 biopharma chiefs that sit on his board. He wrote that if the industry did not agree to pay for a $100 “cash card” sent to seniors before November, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was going to tell the news media Big Pharma was refusing to “share the savings” with the elderly — and that all of the blame for failed drug pricing negotiations would lie squarely on the industry.

Stronger to­geth­er? Boehringer and Mi­rati team to put first KRAS-KRAS com­bo in the clin­ic

Researchers are still waiting to see how much any of the vaunted KRAS drugs now in the clinic can, after decades of preclinical research and some early human studies, help patients. But while they do, two of the leading developers will look to see whether a KRAS-KRAS combo might pose a better shot than any KRAS alone.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Mirati have signed a collaboration to combine Mirati’s closely-watched lead KRAS inhibitor, MRTX849, in a clinical trial with the pan-KRAS blocker that Boehringer has quietly developed with high expectations behind their flashier contenders.

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Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (Autolus)

#ES­MO20: Au­to­lus pro­vides glimpse of next-gen­er­a­tion CAR-T pro­gram, show­ing ear­ly pos­i­tive safe­ty da­ta

CAR-T therapies were hailed as a breakthrough when Novartis received the first FDA approval for Kymriah back in 2017. Though highly effective at treating certain types of blood cancers, CAR-Ts are also associated with severe and potentially deadly side effects, including lethal instances of cytokine release syndrome.

With this in mind, Autolus Therapeutics is looking to take a crack at a safer CAR-T and presented Phase II cohort data for its AUTO3 program at virtual ESMO 2020. The data showed that, among the 35 patients in the cohort being treated for r/r diffuse large B cell lymphoma, there were no instances of Grade 3 or higher CRS. Eight individuals saw Grade 1 inflammation while another four patients reached Grade 2.

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#ES­MO20: Alk­er­mes of­fers their first snap­shot of a ben­e­fit for their next-gen IL-2 drug. But why did 1 pa­tient starve to death?

Everyone in the cancer R&D arena is looking to build new franchises around better drugs and combos. And one busy pocket of that space is centered entirely on creating an IL-2 drug that can be as effective as the original without the toxicity that damned it to the sidelines.

Alkermes $ALKS formally tossed its hat into the ring of contenders at virtual ESMO today, highlighting the first glimpse of efficacy for their candidate, ALKS 4230, as both a monotherapy as well as in combination with Merck’s Keytruda.

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Albert Bourla (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er match­es Mod­er­na with their full Covid-19 tri­al blue­print — As­traZeneca says it will un­veil its pro­to­col 'short­ly'

Yesterday, after sustained public pressure as Moderna released its Phase III Covid-19 trial blueprint, Pfizer released its own full trial design for their vaccine trials. The move was designed to boost transparency and shore up public trust in the vaccines, but it also revealed differences in how the two companies are approaching the much-watched studies while failing to satisfy the demands of the fiercest advocates for transparency.

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