Des­per­ate­ly seek­ing a turn­around, be­lea­guered vet­er­an fund man­ag­er Wood­ford hits out at crit­ics, fake news

Em­bat­tled UK fund man­ag­er Neil Wood­ford has chid­ed his crit­ics for steer­ing in­vestors away and sul­ly­ing his rep­u­ta­tion, as the vet­er­an works on sti­fling the blood­let­ting in his flag­ship fund.

In an in­ter­view with the Fi­nan­cial Times on Fri­day, the vet­er­an head of Wood­ford In­vest­ment Man­age­ment said the the rate of with­drawals from the fund put him at risk of be­ing “out of busi­ness in about two-and-a-half years”.

Af­ter 26 years at In­vesco, Wood­ford launched his cor­ner­stone eq­ui­ty in­come fund in 2014, rais­ing bil­lions to in­vest in the life sci­ences. But some of his bets — such as Prothena, Cir­cas­sia and North­west Bio, turned sour, and those wrin­kles have cul­mi­nat­ed in the longest pe­ri­od of weak re­turns. Wood­ford orig­i­nal­ly an­chored his rep­u­ta­tion as a blue chip in­vestor in com­pa­nies like GSK, but rat­tled by Gilead’s HIV prowess, he elect­ed to part ways with the British drug­mak­er in 2017 in a lengthy blog post en­ti­tled “Glax­it“.

In the FT in­ter­view, he ar­gued large-cap stocks were best left un­touched, al­though it is very dif­fi­cult to make that as­ser­tion in pub­lic.  “You are pret­ty much a lone voice, and peo­ple write all sorts of stuff about you that tell you that you’ve lost the plot, you’re a lu­natic, you’re ar­ro­gant. You’re a dis­as­trous fund man­ag­er. You’ve had loads of blow-ups, blah, blah, blah. It’s very dif­fi­cult.”

Once con­sid­ered the UK’s most promi­nent stock pick­er, Wood­ford is now spec­u­lat­ing about his come­back in­to the big leagues in the next two years, by pre­serv­ing his “val­u­a­tion-fo­cused” ap­proach to stock se­lec­tion that has served as his ar­mor through pre­vi­ous pe­ri­ods of un­der­per­for­mance.

“To do any­thing dif­fer­ent from what we do now would be a fun­da­men­tal be­tray­al, would be, frankly, a lie and we would not de­serve to be in busi­ness if we did such a thing,” he told the FT.

Ex­press­ing his frus­tra­tion in the FT in­ter­view, Wood­ford said in­vestors were be­ing en­ticed by mis­in­for­ma­tion in­to mak­ing bad de­ci­sions. ““There is a moun­tain of fake in­for­ma­tion and fake analy­sis out in the mar­ket­place which, in the end, does im­pact in­vestors’ de­ci­sions detri­men­tal­ly. So, that’s what piss­es me off.”

Im­age: Neil Wood­ford, Wood­ford Funds

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Luciana Borio (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Bob Nelsen's ARCH adds FDA, biode­fense ex­per­tise with ap­point­ment of Lu­ciana Bo­rio

Once vetted by the Biden team to lead the FDA as commissioner, Luciana Borio is now compiling quite the résumé.

Borio has now been named a venture partner at Bob Nelsen’s ARCH Venture Partners, and Nelsen told Endpoints News, “She will be involved in projects across the portfolio, including ongoing projects in manufacturing, clinical trials, gene therapy and gene editing, cell therapy, and delivery. We are exploring multiple projects in infectious disease, and next generation manufacturing.”

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; 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.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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Frank Pallone (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP Images)

House com­mit­tee seeks more from FDA on in­spec­tion back­log, when to restart work on for­eign sites

House Energy & Commerce committee leaders are raising fresh questions about the FDA’s ability to conduct foreign manufacturing site inspections and bring down its growing backlog.

“While we understand that the emergence of COVID-19 required the agency to suspend in-person inspection activities temporarily, we remain concerned that more than one year into the pandemic, the strategy for resuming all inspections and addressing the backlog of delayed inspections remains unclear,” E&C chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and a group of five other bipartisan leaders of the committee wrote to FDA acting commissioner Janet Woodcock.