#ES­MO21 is loom­ing, and we have a great group of ex­perts lined up to help make sense of the news

The one in­ter­na­tion­al sci­ence con­fer­ence I al­ways en­joyed at­tend­ing most has been ES­MO. You mix some high-oc­tane can­cer R&D news with one of the best col­lec­tion of glob­al ex­perts in the field. It was ed­u­ca­tion, break­ing news and a great Eu­ro­pean lo­ca­tion all built in­to one packed week­end.

Bioreg­num Opin­ion Col­umn by John Car­roll

AS­CO is great — but the ES­MO pack­age has been phe­nom­e­nal.

We’ve lost the lo­ca­tion, for now, but every­thing else is still in place for a big week­end. Man­ag­ing ed­i­tor Kyle Blanken­ship is lead­ing the cov­er­age on the news front, with the rest of the team pitch­ing in to help. And we’ll have the full line­up of sto­ries from the con­fer­ence in a spe­cial re­port on Mon­day, Sept. 20. Be sure to check it out. And fol­low us on Twit­ter through the week­end for break­ing news.

Af­ter that, Kyle and I will be do­ing back-to-back events. Kyle has a great pan­el lined up to dis­cuss the week­end news and trends that should not be missed: Har­vard’s Cigall Kadoch, Su­san Gal­braith, the new head of can­cer R&D at As­traZeneca, Roy Baynes at Mer­ck, and James Chris­tensen at Mi­rati.

Just be­fore that pan­el, I’ll be spend­ing 30 min­utes with Jake Van Naar­den, the CEO of Lil­ly On­col­o­gy, cov­er­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing the on­col­o­gy pipeline at Eli Lil­ly af­ter mak­ing the leap from Loxo. Jake has a rep for straight talk that I en­joy, and I’m sure he has plen­ty of in­ter­est­ing in­sights on their de­vel­op­ment and BD strat­e­gy. Look­ing for­ward to that.

You can sign up for the event, which runs from noon ET to 1:30 pm ET, by fol­low­ing this link.

And don’t for­get, in the mid­dle of next week I’ll be host­ing a spe­cial on­line pre­sen­ta­tion of this year’s End­points 11, fea­tur­ing our lat­est class of up-and-com­ing pri­vate biotechs that bear close watch­ing. Writ­ing the End­points 11 is al­ways the most fun I have all year. And this year’s group of CEOs have some things to say that should not be missed.

I hope you’ll join us. Here’s the link for the End­points 11.

Why it Works: Man­u­fac­tur­ing a Vac­cine in a Mul­ti-Prod­uct Fa­cil­i­ty.

COVID-19 launched the pharmaceutical industry to the frontline in the battle against the fast-spreading global pandemic. The goal: distribute a safe, effective vaccine as quickly as possible. Major players in the vaccine market needed to partner with contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to achieve the goal of mass vaccine quantities under expedited timelines. With CDMOs stepping up to play a critical role in the vaccine manufacturing process, multi-product CDMO facilities took the spotlight. Partnerships quickly formed as the race to save lives and fight a pandemic was on.

Habib Dable, Acceleron CEO

Days of heat­ed ru­mors cul­mi­nate in a re­port that Ac­celeron is in ad­vanced buy­out talks

Days of frothy rumors about possible M&A discussions at Acceleron were capped late Friday with a Bloomberg report asserting that the biotech company is in advanced talks for an $11 billion buyout deal.

Bloomberg was unable to identify any bidders in the deal, but speculation has been running rampant that the surging value of Acceleron stock had to be the result of leaks around the auction of the company. As of early Monday morning, we’re still awaiting the final word.

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Safe­ty fears force Pfiz­er to change piv­otal DMD gene ther­a­py tri­al pro­to­col

As one of the biggest players in an increasingly packed gene therapy space, Pfizer has taken an early lead over specialists like Sarepta in taking a Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) candidate into late-stage testing. But new safety fears have led Pfizer to scale back that trial, cutting out patients with certain genetic mutations.

Pfizer has amended its enrollment protocol for a Phase III test for gene therapy fordadistrogene movaparvovec in DMD after investigators flagged severe side effects tied to specific mutations, according to a letter the drugmaker sent to Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a patient advocacy group.

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Merck CEO Rob Davis

Mer­ck emerges as lead bid­der in po­ten­tial Ac­celeron buy­out with deal pos­si­ble this week — re­port

With rumors swirling about a potential buyout of biotech Acceleron and its lead PAH drug sotatercept, market watchers have been keeping close tabs on industry movers and shakers due up for an expensive bolt-on. According to a new report, it appears Merck may be the one.

Merck is in “advanced talks” on a deal to acquire Cambridge, MA-based Acceleron in what previous reports pegged as a potential $11 billion buyout, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. A deal could come as early as this week, according to the Journal.

Alexander Lefterov/Endpoints News

The coro­n­avirus vac­cine that the world for­got could still help save it

Back at the beginning of the pandemic — back when we still called the virus “novel” and a single case in Washington state could make headlines — there emerged the story of the coronavirus vaccine that the world forgot.

It was an allegory for our pandemic ill-preparedness. At a time when the world had been caught so flat-footed, there were a pair of scientists who had seen the crisis coming, lab-coated Cassandras with an antidote if only the world had listened sooner.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sanofi calls it quits on mR­NA Covid-19 shots, scrap­ping vac­cine from $3.2B Trans­late Bio buy­out

Sanofi is throwing in the towel on mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines.

The French drugmaker will halt development on its unmodified mRNA Covid-19 shot despite what it said were positive Phase I/II results, a spokesperson told Endpoints News on Tuesday morning. Sanofi said the reason it’s stopping the Covid-19 mRNA program, developed in partnership with its new $3.2 billion acquisition Translate Bio, is because the market is too crowded.

Brian Hubbard, Anji Pharmacetuticals CEO

Look­ing to rewrite the rules of drug li­cens­ing, start­up An­ji is on the hunt for 'dy­nam­ic eq­ui­ty' joint ven­tures

Licensing is one of the most common ways big drugmakers leverage biotech innovation to drive gains across their pipelines — and the structure of those deals is pretty well established. But one biotech with home bases in China and the US thinks it may have a better way.

On Tuesday, Cambridge-based biotech Anji Pharma closed a $70 million Series B with two late-stage molecules in the fold and a mission to rewrite the rules of drug licensing through what it calls “dynamic equity” deals and a joint venture-heavy game plan. The round was funded in whole by Chinese hedge fund CR Capital.

Con­tract re­search is hav­ing a mo­ment right now. Will M&A splash­es dri­ve the in­dus­try to even greater heights?

Contract research organizations are a fairly mysterious bunch. They’re typically considered the skilled laborers behind big drug development — the stage crews who run the trials behind some of the most (and least) successful data reveals in biopharma history.

But all that is changing.

This year, a couple of huge, out-of-the-blue M&A deals sounded the alarm on just how much money is flying around in this corner of the industry.

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Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric

Bio­haven turns out a dud in fa­tal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease, cast­ing doubt on drug's chances in ALS

With one migraine drug on the market, Biohaven has gone big with its next phase of growth, targeting major neurodegenerative diseases in Alzheimer’s and ALS. The former effort has already gone up in smoke, and a new failure elsewhere in the pipeline could now bode poorly for the latter.

Biohaven’s verdiperstat failed to outperform placebo in reducing the symptoms of patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA), a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disorder, according to a “focused analysis” of the drug’s Phase III trial in that disease toplined Monday.

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