Zachary Zimmerman, Forge Therapeutics CEO

Forge spin­off Black­smith Med­i­cines merges back in­to com­pa­ny two years af­ter launch, but de­tails are slim

Black­smith Med­i­cines and Forge Ther­a­peu­tics an­nounced Mon­day that the com­pa­nies are merg­ing on­ly a year af­ter Black­smith launched as a spin­out of Forge, but there is lit­tle in­for­ma­tion pro­vid­ed on the uni­fi­ca­tion.

The fo­cus will be on in­fec­tion and on­col­o­gy re­search to de­vel­op drugs to tar­get met­al­loen­zymes, or en­zyme pro­teins that con­tain a met­al ion like mag­ne­sium, zinc, iron, man­ganese, cal­ci­um, cobalt or cop­per and per­form a wide range of func­tions in the body from mi­to­chon­dr­i­al func­tion to ni­tric ox­ide pro­duc­tion. Met­al­loen­zymes ac­count for over 30% of all known en­zymes across all species.

“Our tar­get strat­e­gy is to fo­cus on met­al­loen­zymes of sig­nif­i­cant un­met need and high phar­ma in­ter­est, tar­gets with val­i­dat­ed bi­ol­o­gy that have been chal­leng­ing to drug due to chem­istry lim­i­ta­tions that we can solve with our plat­form,” Black­smith co-founder and CEO Zachary Zim­mer­man said in a state­ment.

Black­smith launched in Jan­u­ary 2021 with a po­ten­tial $300 mil­lion col­lab­o­ra­tion agree­ment with Eli Lil­ly to de­vel­op small mol­e­cule in­hibitors for met­al­loen­zymes, as well as a goal to ex­pand the reach of Forge’s tech plat­form in­to ar­eas out­side of an­ti-in­fec­tives. In­vestors in­clud­ed Evotec, Mag­naSci Ven­tures, MP Health­care Part­ners and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments.

What does Black­smith bring back to Forge’s ta­ble? Col­lab­o­ra­tions that could po­ten­tial­ly earn more than $800 mil­lion in mile­stone pay­ments and roy­al­ties and fed­er­al awards of up to $25.3 mil­lion for its in­fec­tious dis­ease pro­grams, as well as ex­ten­sive li­braries of met­al-bind­ing phar­ma­cophores and a com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of the met­al­loen­zyme genome, ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny.

Forge first an­nounced the BLACK­SMITH plat­form in 2017, with an ini­tial fo­cus on in­fec­tious dis­eases and met­al­loen­zymes.

The par­ent com­pa­ny has had its own suc­cess­es in the past few years. In 2019, Forge part­nered up with Basilea to dis­cov­er, de­vel­op, and com­mer­cial­ize an­tibi­otics as part of its fo­cus on drug re­sis­tance. Forge scored a $190.5 mil­lion re­search deal with Roche in 2020 that gave the Swiss drug­mak­er the op­tion to li­cense an ex­per­i­men­tal an­tibi­ot­ic be­ing de­vel­oped for use in se­ri­ous lung in­fec­tions.

Jim Momtazee, Patient Square Capital managing partner

KKR health­care vet Jim Mom­tazee’s in­vest­ment firm clos­es $3.9B in­au­gur­al fund

Patient Square Capital, launched in 2020 by Jim Momtazee, has closed its first fund at $3.9 billion, it announced Wednesday morning.

According to Patient Square, it is the largest fund closed by a healthcare-focused firm. Momtazee, who founded and led the healthcare group for private equity giant KKR, left in 2019 to start Patient Square as a healthcare-specific firm, investing in biopharma, devices and diagnostics, providers, and tech services.

#JPM23: Is 2023 go­ing to be a bet­ter year for biotech deal­mak­ing?

Last year offered a disappointing stretch for biotech, with fewer deals than expected and lots more headwinds. Endpoints News Editor-in-Chief John Carroll sat down with some of the industry’s top dealmakers to explore what happened, and what’s ahead in 2023. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

John Carroll:

I’d say this is one of the most important conversations that’s going on right now. Particularly, of course, at JP Morgan, because so many people have come here, specifically to get involved in a deal, to see what they can do about a deal, to see what the deal potential is, where things are headed, what the trends are. Everything that we’re going to be covering here in the next hour.

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Roche's headquarters in Basel, Switzerland (Kyle LaHucik for Endpoints News)

Roche ditch­es fi­nal PhI­II for can­cer hope­ful, re­ports set­back for key drug in $1.4B buy­out

Over the past few years, Roche has released news about its AKT inhibitor ipatasertib in drips — most of them negative. The drug yielded mixed data in a key prostate cancer trial, Phase III flops in triple-negative breast cancer forced the pharma giant to pull the plug there, and in mid-2022 Roche trimmed two more early-stage indications in prostate cancer after completing the trials.

Now, the last piece of the program is gone.

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FDA ap­proves GSK's ane­mia drug with safe­ty warn­ing — af­ter bat­ting back sim­i­lar drugs

GSK has secured the first of four US approvals it’s hoping for this year, as the FDA greenlit daprodustat as a treatment for anemia due to chronic kidney disease.

But the FDA limited the use of the drug, to be marketed as Jesduvroq, to patients who have been receiving dialysis for at least four months and stopped short of approving it for patients not dependent on dialysis — in line with the recommendations of the advisory committee it consulted.

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Teresa Graham, incoming Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO

In­com­ing Roche CEO builds out his top team, tap­ping Genen­tech vet to lead phar­ma di­vi­sion

Roche announced another leadership shuffle Thursday morning – the head of global product strategy, Teresa Graham, will take over as CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals in March while the company’s corporate executive committee will make a spot for Levi Garraway, CMO and executive VP of global product development.

Thomas Schinecker will take over the top spot as Roche group CEO in March, leaving his spot as head of diagnostics.

Photo: Julia Weeks/AP Images

FDA ax­es re­quire­ment for pos­i­tive Covid test be­fore Paxlovid use

FDA announced today that doctors and pharmacists can now prescribe Paxlovid to patients without a positive test for Covid-19.

CDER Director Patrizia Cavazzoni reissued Paxlovid’s authorization letter Wednesday, saying it has revised the authorization to “no longer require positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing.” The EUA now requires instead that adults and kids 12 years of age and older have a “current diagnosis of mild-to-moderate COVID-19.”

Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, Novo Nordisk CEO (Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­vo Nordisk notch­es big GLP-1 sales amid re­bound­ing sup­plies, but cau­tions on fu­ture 'pe­ri­od­ic con­straints'

With Novo Nordisk’s obesity treatment Wegovy fully back in stock in December, sales are beginning to soar, the Danish pharma reported during its annual earnings call on Wednesday. Total scripts of the glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) Wegovy topped 37,000 weekly in mid-January, a hockey stick uptick from end-of-year levels below 15,000 per week.

The new prescriptions come on top of the overall momentum of Novo obesity drug sales in 2022, although the then supply-constrained Wegovy was only part of that. Sibling obesity med Saxenda accounted for DKK 10.7 billion ($1.58 billion) of the total DKK 16.9 billion ($2.49 billion), or about 63%, in Novo Nordisk’s reported obesity segment sales.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

Go­ing block­buster hunt­ing, Vas Narasimhan out­lines vi­sion for ‘pure-play’ No­var­tis

By the time 2023 is over, Novartis expects to be moving much lighter: It will have spun out its generics subsidiary Sandoz, completed layoffs of thousands of staffers worldwide and put in new internal structures for running the company.

And it will be ready to hunt for blockbusters.

CEO Vas Narasimhan underscored Novartis’ upcoming transformation into a “pure-play” company, reiterating across a series of calls — one with reporters, two with investors and analysts — that the new structure would boost its R&D productivity and sharpen its focus on big, new medicines.

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Simba Gill, Evelo Biosciences CEO

Sim­ba Gill stay­ing on at Evelo to weath­er lay­offs and a PhII fail

Simba Gill will be staying put as CEO of Evelo Biosciences for now.

Gill announced last year that he would be leaving the head position at Evelo to take on the role of executive partner at Flagship Pioneering. He was aiming to stay on until a successor was selected, but there’s a new course of action in the wake of a Phase II miss and a reduced headcount.

“I want to emphasize that I remain personally committed to Evelo and staying on to lead the organization. I continue to believe that Evelo is a remarkable opportunity in terms of the science, the platform, the type of products that we’re able to produce, and most importantly, the potential of millions of patients suffering from all stages of inflammatory disease,” Gill said on a conference call.

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