Ei­sai is build­ing a be­spoke Cam­bridge re­search cen­ter with a $100M-plus plan to find new ways to tack­le Alzheimer's

With a steady drum­beat of bad news set to the tem­po of doom and gloom in the Alzheimer’s/de­men­tia re­search world play­ing in the back­ground, Ei­sai is cre­at­ing its own $100 mil­lion-plus plan to start fresh and blaze some new re­search trails that go be­yond tau and amy­loid be­ta.

The Japan­ese com­pa­ny is build­ing a 50,000-square-foot re­search home at the Alewife Re­search Cen­ter close to the heart of the hum­ming Cam­bridge, MA biotech hub. Draw­ing on cur­rent staffers from their An­dover site — which is be­ing shut down — and adding some new skill sets, com­pa­ny ex­ecs plan to as­sem­ble a team of more than 80 sci­en­tists at the Ei­sai Cen­ter for Ge­net­ics Guid­ed De­men­tia Dis­cov­ery.

They’re com­mit­ting more than $100 mil­lion to fund op­er­a­tions for the first three years, says the cen­ter’s new pres­i­dent, Nadeem Sar­war. Break­through re­search in­to hu­man ge­net­ics will form a foun­da­tion for this de­men­tia group, he adds, but will go fur­ther in build­ing up ex­per­tise in da­ta sci­ences, im­mun­ode­men­tia, dis­cov­ery tech­nolo­gies and pre­ci­sion chem­istry.

And they’ll be work­ing shoul­der-to-shoul­der. The new cen­ter is be­ing built ac­cord­ing to the de­mands of the cur­rent style: Open. (Even though staffers may not al­ways care for it.)

“Open of­fices, open lab and open style,” is the way Sar­war, who’s join­ing the move­ment cel­e­brat­ing the end of re­search si­los, de­scribes it.

Sar­war says they’re join­ing the mi­gra­tion in­to Cam­bridge in or­der to gain clos­er con­tacts with the full range of aca­d­e­m­ic and in­dus­try re­search groups. He adds that Ei­sai plans to set up col­lab­o­ra­tive deals with a set of new part­ners, rang­ing from the star­tups and spin­outs jump­ing in­to the are­na as well as the more es­tab­lished com­pa­nies and promi­nent aca­d­e­m­ic teams in the hub.

The big idea here is that if you can start with a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the dis­ease, and the var­i­ous trig­gers that may be in­volved, you can do a much bet­ter job at de­feat­ing it.

Ei­sai has a con­sid­er­able amount of ex­pe­ri­ence in clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in this field. The com­pa­ny is al­lied on a BACE drug with Bio­gen, which has had mixed re­sults. They have al­so been watch­ing care­ful­ly as the two lead piv­otal pro­grams for BACE — at Mer­ck and more re­cent­ly at Eli Lil­ly and As­traZeneca — went down in flames.

Ul­ti­mate­ly, says Sar­war, it’s prob­a­ble that the field will go the way of on­col­o­gy, look­ing for more com­plex com­bi­na­tion ap­proach­es as it strikes the dis­ease at dif­fer­ent stages of de­vel­op­ment. And that won’t come eas­i­ly or quick­ly, which is why they’re com­mit­ting to a decade worth of work.

“We have to keep try­ing, for pa­tients and fam­i­lies,” says Sar­war. “It’s one of the most dev­as­tat­ing ill­ness­es there is.”

Sci­en­tists will be mov­ing in­to the new cen­ter as it is be­ing pre­pared for a grand open­ing next spring.

Im­age: Nadeem Sar­war and Ei­sai’s Cam­bridge site. EI­SAI

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Ken Frazier, AP Images

Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

With an FDA OK for the use of filgotinib in rheumatoid arthritis expected to drop any day now, Gilead has recruited a new leader from academia to lead its foray into inflammatory diseases.

Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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Bris­tol My­ers Squib­b's just-launched MS drug Zeposia makes the cut in key ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis tri­al

In March, Zeposia became the third oral S1P modulator to secure US approval for multiple sclerosis. Now, the drug has succeeded in a key ulcerative colitis study.

The immunomodulator, akin to others in its class, controls lymphocyte trafficking by limiting the white blood cells to the lymphatic system, in the lymph nodes, and thwarting their ability to jam up lymph nodes — precluding their ability to penetrate the bloodstream and the central nervous system.

Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Novus Ther­a­peu­tics plunges deep in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry af­ter failed ear tri­al

After a more than 15-year run, a California-based biotech is exploring options, including a sale, after its lead experimental therapy failed an exploratory mid-stage study in patients with middle ear infections characterized by a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

The company, initially called Tokai Pharmaceuticals but which subsequently changed its name to Novus Therapeutics in 2017, saw its shares more than halve on Monday after the drug — OP0201— did not pass muster as an adjunct therapy to oral antibiotics in infants and children aged 6 to 24 months with acute otitis media (OM).