Moncef Slaoui (Alex Brandon/AP Images)

For­mer Warp Speed chief agrees to pay GSK back $3.9M fol­low­ing sex­u­al ha­rass­ment

Glax­o­SmithK­line’s long­time R&D chief Mon­cef Slaoui agreed to pay $3.86 mil­lion to his for­mer com­pa­ny as part of claw­back pro­vi­sions the com­pa­ny un­der­took to re­coup past stock in­cen­tives af­ter the dis­graced for­mer Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed leader apol­o­gized for the dis­tress he caused fol­low­ing sex­u­al ha­rass­ment charges.

“Fur­ther to the al­le­ga­tions no­ti­fied to the Group in Feb­ru­ary 2021 in re­spect of Dr Mon­cef Slaoui, a for­mer Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the com­pa­ny, the Com­mit­tee ex­er­cised its dis­cre­tion and ap­plied the claw­back pro­vi­sions un­der the Re­coup­ment Pol­i­cy in re­spect of past stock in­cen­tives re­ceived by Dr Slaoui,” GSK said in its an­nu­al re­port on Fri­day. “In De­cem­ber 2021, Dr Slaoui agreed to re­turn to the Group $3,860,090 in the form of cash un­der the Re­coup­ment Pol­i­cy.”

The an­nounce­ment of the pay­ment fol­lows a pub­lic apol­o­gy from Slaoui last March af­ter he con­firmed the al­le­ga­tions. GSK al­so stripped Slaoui’s name from a re­search fa­cil­i­ty sign in Rockville, MD.

“I have the ut­most re­spect for my col­leagues and feel ter­ri­ble that my ac­tions have put a for­mer col­league in an un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion,” he wrote at the time of the al­le­ga­tions, while al­so apol­o­giz­ing to his fam­i­ly.

Soon af­ter, GSK, where he spent more than three decades, boot­ed him from his board chair­man’s role at Gal­vani, and he was swift­ly fired from the chair­man’s role he held at Vax­cyte. He al­so lost his role as CSO/ad­vi­sor of Centes­sa, a big new start­up out of Medicxi.

At the time of the al­le­ga­tions, Slaoui had al­ready moved on from his work on Warp Speed, where he helped to ac­cel­er­ate the de­vel­op­ment of Covid-19 vac­cines. In his up­com­ing book on Warp Speed, for­mer HHS deputy for pol­i­cy Paul Man­go ex­plains how Slaoui, dubbed “the vac­cine wiz­ard,” was in­stru­men­tal to the pro­gram’s suc­cess.

“He un­der­stood more than any­one on earth both the bi­o­log­i­cal un­cer­tain­ties as­so­ci­at­ed with vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing, and the keys to ush­er­ing a safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cine through the rig­or­ous clin­i­cal tri­al and reg­u­la­to­ry process­es,” Man­go wrote.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, oncology R&D, at EUBIO22 (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca jumps deep­er in­to cell ther­a­py 2.0 space with $320M biotech M&A

Right from the start, the execs at Neogene had some lofty goals in mind when they decided to try their hand at a cell therapy that could tackle solid tumors.

Its founders have helped hone a new approach that would pack in multiple neoantigen targets to create a personalized TCR treatment that would not just make the leap from blood to solid tumors, but do it with durability. And they managed to make their way rapidly to the clinic, unveiling their first Phase I program for advanced tumors just last May.

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Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (ddp images/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech bets on dif­fi­cult STING field via small mol­e­cule pact with a Pol­ish biotech

BioNTech is beefing up its relatively thin small molecule pipeline by adding weight to a clinically difficult corner of oncology R&D: STING agonists. To do so, BioNTech is teaming up with a 15-year-old Polish biotech and doling out €40 million, about $41.5 million, to start.

The deal is broken into two parts: First, BioNTech obtains an exclusive global license to develop and market Ryvu Therapeutics’ STING agonist portfolio as small molecules, whether alone or in combination with other agents.

Ei­sai’s ex­pand­ed Alzheimer’s da­ta leave open ques­tions about safe­ty and clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Researchers still have key questions about Eisai’s investigational Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab following the publication of more Phase III data in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday night.

In the paper, which was released in conjunction with presentations at an Alzheimer’s conference, trial investigators write that a definition of clinical meaningfulness “has not been established.” And the relative lack of new information, following topline data unveiled in September, left experts asking for more — setting up a potential showdown to precisely define how big a difference the drug makes in patients’ lives.

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Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

Twit­ter dis­ar­ray con­tin­ues as phar­ma ad­ver­tis­ers ex­tend paus­es and look around for op­tions, but keep tweet­ing

Pharma advertisers on Twitter are done — at least for now. Ad spending among the previous top spenders flattened even further last week, according to the latest data from ad tracker Pathmatics, amid ongoing turmoil after billionaire boss Elon Musk’s takeover now one month ago.

Among 18 top advertisers tracked for Endpoints News, only two are spending: GSK and Bayer. GSK spending for the full week through Sunday was minimal at just under $1,900. Meanwhile, German drugmaker Bayer remains the industry outlier upping its spending to $499,000 last week from $480,000 the previous week. Bayer’s spending also marks a big increase from a month ago and before the Musk takeover, when it spent $16,000 per week.

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Vi­a­tris with­draws ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for top­i­cal an­timi­cro­bial 24 years lat­er

After 24 years without confirming clinical benefit, the FDA announced Tuesday morning that Viatris (formed via Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn) has decided to withdraw a topical antimicrobial agent, Sulfamylon (mafenide acetate), after the company said conducting a confirmatory study was not feasible.

Sulfamylon first won FDA’s accelerated nod in 1998 as a topical burn treatment, with the FDA noting that last December, Mylan told the agency that it wasn’t running the trial.

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Catal­ent to cut about 200 jobs in Mary­land and Texas

Contract manufacturing company Catalent is cutting about 200 jobs in Maryland and Texas, according to WARN notices, trimming back some of its pandemic-era expansion.

The company will cut 77 jobs by Jan. 15 of next year at a cell therapy facility in Webster, TX, just outside of Houston. In Maryland, the company is reducing staff at two locations, with 82 jobs being eliminated at Catalent’s facility in Gaithersburg, and 53 in Rockville. The layoffs go into effect at those locations on Jan. 14.

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Sana, Codex­is lay off staff, reshuf­fle pipeline in bid to fo­cus cell ther­a­py, en­zyme en­gi­neer­ing work

As its market cap shrinks to a fraction of its heyday, flashy cell therapy startup Sana Biotechnology is laying off 15% of its staffers in a move to rejig the pipeline and restructure the company.

Sana is among a growing group of biotechs that, feeling the weight of a broader market downturn and seeing their shares tumble steadily, are tightening the purse strings and adjusting their focus. Also on Tuesday, Codexis, an enzyme engineering company based in California and now helmed by former Sierra Oncology CEO Stephen Dilly, announced it will reduce the workforce by 18%.

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iECURE CEO Joe Truitt and founder Jim Wilson

Jim Wil­son biotech iECURE gets fresh $65M to push pe­di­atric liv­er dis­ease gene ther­a­py in­to the clin­ic

Jim Wilson-founded biotech iECURE has wrapped a $65M Series A extension round to get its lead candidate — a gene replacement therapy for a rare inherited liver disease known as ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, or OTC — into the clinic.

This round was co-led by Novo Holdings and LYFE Capital, followed by initial investors Versant and OrbiMed as well. In September 2021, iECURE raised a $50 million Series A led by the latter two. The new cash infusion will get iECURE through an initial in-human trial, which CEO Joe Truitt told Endpoints News iECURE hopes to read out in 2024.

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Tim Walbert, Horizon Therapeutics CEO (via YouTube)

Hori­zon Ther­a­peu­tics in takeover talks with Am­gen, J&J, Sanofi as po­ten­tial buy­ers

Amgen, J&J’s Janssen and Sanofi are all in talks to acquire Horizon Therapeutics, the rare disease biotech disclosed late Tuesday.

Horizon confirmed “highly preliminary discussions” with those companies regarding a potential buyout offer after the Wall Street Journal reported takeover interest.

Although the company — which commands a market cap of close to $18 billion — emphasized that “there can be no certainty that any offer will be made for the Company,” shares $HZNP still surged 31% in after-hours trading to near $103, bringing it to the point where it started the year.

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