Frédéric Desdouits, TreeFrog Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: French biotech rais­es $75M for new cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing tech, Parkin­son's treat­ment

A French cell ther­a­py start­up is get­ting two new of­fices in op­po­site parts of the world, and a new CEO to boot as it an­nounces a new round of fund­ing Mon­day.

Biotech TreeFrog Ther­a­peu­tics, which is fo­cused on stem cell ther­a­py, closed a $75 mil­lion Se­ries B, the com­pa­ny an­nounced. The round brings the com­pa­ny’s to­tal fund­ing to $83 mil­lion, and al­lows them to open up of­fices in Boston and Kobe, Japan, as it ad­vances its bio­mimet­ic C-Stem tech­nol­o­gy for clin­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing. The US of­fice will start with a staff of around 10 to 15 peo­ple, but if all goes well, that will change quick­ly.

Kévin Alessan­dri

As a part of the ex­pan­sion, board mem­ber Frédéric Des­douits has been hired as the com­pa­ny’s CEO, and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Kévin Alessan­dri will move to Boston to over­see the new of­fice. As far as the new of­fices are con­cerned, the move to Boston was at least par­tial­ly in­spired by the in­vest­ment from Bris­tol My­ers Squibb. As the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the tech­nol­o­gy are dis­cov­ered, the team wants to be close to its part­ners, as it col­lab­o­rates with oth­er play­ers.

“They came in be­cause we are a very young com­pa­ny…and we are learn­ing about the po­ten­tial of the tech­nol­o­gy al­most every month,” Des­douits said in a phone call with End­points News Mon­day. “We know we have a dis­rup­tive tech­nol­o­gy…we know we bring some­thing new, and we know it’s go­ing to take time.”

Des­douits has been with Tree Frog as a part-time ad­vi­sor for near­ly two years. He’s served as a di­rec­tor for Gen­fit, a French ther­a­peu­tics com­pa­ny fo­cused on liv­er dis­ease, for more than 7 years be­fore that, and was the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of French CD­MO Se­qens un­til Ju­ly 2020.

“In just two years and, with on­ly $7M in Se­ries A fund­ing, the TreeFrog Ther­a­peu­tics team tran­si­tioned C-StemTM from the bench to an in­dus­tri­al tech­nol­o­gy ap­plic­a­ble to any cell ther­a­py. We demon­strat­ed that C-StemTM out­per­forms all ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies for pluripo­tent stem cell ex­pan­sion in terms of scale and qual­i­ty,” he said in a state­ment. “We al­so con­firmed best-in-class pre­clin­i­cal da­ta for our cell ther­a­py pro­gram for Parkin­son’s dis­ease.”

The com­pa­ny was found­ed in 2018 in Bor­deaux, France. Its fi­nanc­ing was led by Bpifrance Large Ven­ture, a func­tion of the French Pub­lic In­vest­ment Bank that in­vests in life sci­ences and green tech­nol­o­gy, and Leonard Green & Part­ners, a Los An­ge­les-based pri­vate eq­ui­ty firm fo­cused on health­care. Eu­ro­pean ven­ture cap­i­tal group XAnge al­so led the round.

C-Stem al­lows for the mass pro­duc­tion of stem cells in in­dus­tri­al biore­ac­tors, which TreeFrog says can im­prove the qual­i­ty of cells and re­duce the cost over ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies. In June 2020, the team’s 50 em­ploy­ees moved in­to a 13,000 square-foot man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in France. This April, it pro­duced its first batch of stem cells in a 10-liter biore­ac­tor.

“In short, fund­ing, man­age­ment and gov­er­nance are now se­cured, as we em­bark on a very ex­cit­ing jour­ney, with the de­ploy­ment of tech­no­log­i­cal hubs in Kobe, Japan, and Boston, MA, and the prospect of treat­ing our first pa­tients in 2024,” Alessan­dri said in a press re­lease.

As a part of the fi­nanc­ing round, Lau­rent Higueret of Bpifrance Large Ven­ture and Pe­ter Zip­pelius of Leonard Green & Part­ners will join the board of di­rec­tors. Girish Pendse of Bris­tol My­ers Squibb will join as an ob­serv­er.

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis de­tails plans to axe 8,000 staffers as Narasimhan be­gins sec­ond phase of a glob­al re­org

We now know the number of jobs coming under the axe at Novartis, and it isn’t small.

The pharma giant is confirming a report from Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that it is chopping 8,000 jobs out of its 108,000 global staffers. A large segment will hit right at company headquarters in Basel, as CEO Vas Narasimhan axes some 1,400 of a little more than 11,000  jobs in Switzerland.

The first phase of the work is almost done, the company says in a statement to Endpoints News. Now it’s on to phase two. In the statement, Novartis says:

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Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Some phar­ma com­pa­nies promise to cov­er abor­tion-re­lat­ed trav­el costs — while oth­ers won't go that far yet

As the US Department of Health and Human Services promises to support the millions of women who would now need to cross state lines to receive a legal abortion, a handful of pharma companies have said they will pick up employees’ travel expenses.

GSK, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, BeiGene, Alnylam and Gilead have all committed to covering abortion-related travel expenses just four days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked women’s constitutional right to an abortion.

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Aurobindo Pharma co-founders P. V. Ram Prasad Reddy (L) and K. Nityananda Reddy

Au­robindo Phar­ma re­ceives warn­ing let­ter from In­di­a's SEC fol­low­ing more FDA ques­tion marks

Indian-based generics manufacturer Aurobindo Pharma has been in the crosshairs of the FDA for several years now, but the company is also attracting attention from regulators within the subcontinent.

According to the Indian business news site Business Standard, a warning letter was sent to the company from the Securities Exchange Board of India, or SEBI.

The letter is related to disclosures made by the company on an ongoing FDA audit of the company’s Unit-1 API facility in Hyderabad, India as well as observations made by the US regulator between 2019 and 2022.

New Charles River Laboratories High Quality (HQ) Plasmid DNA Centre of Excellence at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. (Charles River)

Charles Riv­er Lab­o­ra­to­ries to start cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing at UK site in Sep­tem­ber

While Massachusetts-based Charles River Laboratories has been on an acquisition spree, they are not against planting their flag. The latest move by the company sees them crossing the pond to establish a manufacturing site in the UK.

The company on Tuesday opened its cell and gene therapy manufacturing center at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. The expansion follows Charles River’s acquisition of Cognate BioServices and Cobra Biologics in 2021 for $875 million. Cognate is a plasmid DNA, viral vector and cell therapy CDMO.

Bristol Myers Squibb (Alamy)

CVS re­sumes cov­er­age of block­buster blood thin­ner af­ter price drop fol­lows Jan­u­ary ex­clu­sion

Following some backlash from the American College of Cardiology and patients, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer lowered the price of their blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis, thus ensuring that CVS Caremark would cover the drug after 6 months of it being off the major PBM’s formulary.

“Because we secured lower net costs for patients from negotiations with the drug manufacturer, Eliquis will be added back to our template formularies for the commercial segment effective July 1, 2022, and patient choices will be expanded,” CVS Health said in an emailed statement. “Anti-coagulant therapies are among the non-specialty products where we are seeing the fastest cost increases from drug manufacturers and we will continue to push back on unwarranted price increases.”

#Can­nes­Lions2022: Con­sumer health ex­ecs call on agen­cies to in­volve pa­tients in cre­ative process

CANNES — When Tamara Rogers joined GSK back in 2018, “science was king and R&D were the gods.” Now the global chief marketing officer of consumer healthcare wants to make room for another supreme being: the consumer.

As health and wellness becomes more relevant to consumers amid the pandemic, four health-focused executives called on marketers to involve patients in their creative process in a panel discussion at the Cannes Lions advertising creativity festival.

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