Paul Hastings, Nkarta CEO and BIO chair

'Front and cen­ter': In­dus­try lead­ers call for re­sponse to Supreme Court abor­tion case draft

Biotech in­dus­try lead­ers want the drug de­vel­op­ment world to stand up and en­sure em­ploy­ees have ac­cess to abor­tions af­ter a draft rul­ing last week re­vealed the na­tion’s high­est court might over­turn a near­ly five-decade-old rul­ing, known by two names: Roe v. Wade.

“We have to make noise, for one thing, which is ef­fec­tive, but al­so en­cour­age peo­ple to take some sort of ac­tion,” Paul Hast­ings told End­points News. Last week, the Nkar­ta CEO and BIO chair called on his fel­low biotech com­pa­nies to help pay for trav­el ex­pens­es for em­ploy­ees in states hin­der­ing ac­cess to re­pro­duc­tive health.

Ama­zon, Levi Strauss, Uber, Lyft, Yelp and oth­er com­pa­nies have al­ready done so.

“We’re in the busi­ness of pro­vid­ing health­care for peo­ple, and so we want to be in the busi­ness of ad­vo­cat­ing for peo­ple so that they have rights to health­care. This is not an is­sue that is not a biotech is­sue. It’s front and cen­ter,” Hast­ings said. “We spend our lives com­ing up with ther­a­pies for peo­ple. Re­pro­duc­tive rights may not be a fan­cy biotech drug, but it’s cer­tain­ly a health­care ser­vice that is ab­solute­ly de­pen­dent up­on by half of our pop­u­la­tion, and we need to fight for that. And that is our busi­ness. That’s my opin­ion.”

Oth­er in­dus­try lead­ers have echoed Hast­ing’s call, in­clud­ing Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine VP Michaela Levin and RA Cap­i­tal man­ag­ing part­ner Pe­ter Kolchin­sky.

Pe­ter Kolchin­sky

“The least com­pa­nies can do is fol­low Ama­zon’s and Nkar­ta’s ex­am­ple. Pulling to­geth­er let­ters like what we did for Ukraine takes some time so it made sense for Paul to con­vey a shared sen­ti­ment more quick­ly un­der his own name, but were it a let­ter, it would no doubt have had many sign­ers,” Kolchin­sky told End­points in an email.

Asked if the in­dus­try would look to com­pile a co­or­di­nat­ed let­ter like it did in re­sponse to the war in Ukraine, Hast­ings said “a lot of peo­ple” would like­ly sign it but with abor­tion be­ing a “hot-but­ton item,” 1,000 dif­fer­ent re­cip­i­ents means 1,000 ed­its “be­cause every­body has a dif­fer­ent take on this.”

Hast­ings, whose start­up is lo­cat­ed in Cal­i­for­nia, said he doesn’t have to wor­ry about his em­ploy­ees’ ac­cess to re­pro­duc­tive rights be­cause of where Nkar­ta is perched. But he wor­ries about oth­er states.

“We need to re­mem­ber that the pow­er that we have in num­bers is as­tro­nom­i­cal, even in Texas, even in Flori­da,” Hast­ings said.

Biotechs should be cog­nizant of where they set up shop.

Kolchin­sky said, “It’s pru­dent for com­pa­nies to take a state’s po­si­tion on women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights in­to ac­count when de­cid­ing where to ex­pand in­to. As a board mem­ber and in­vestor, I would ex­pect them to.”

Hast­ings, who has been an ad­vo­cate for gay rights as one of the most vis­i­ble LGBTQ+ ex­ec­u­tives through his post as BIO chair, said he wor­ries about the po­ten­tial im­pli­ca­tions if the Supreme Court sticks to its draft rul­ing. This in­cludes abor­tion, con­tra­cep­tion, gay mar­riage, vot­ing rights and more, he said.

From his of­fice at Nkar­ta — in the mid­dle of the biotech’s lab — Hast­ings has talked about the Supreme Court news with his col­leagues, some of whom have been “dev­as­tat­ed” and have said they’re dis­cussing the is­sue with their fam­i­lies around the din­ner ta­ble.

“There’s so much noise out there right now with all these dif­fer­ent things with Ukraine and with this, what’s go­ing on in Flori­da and Texas, that peo­ple af­ter a while they get burnt out from all the noise, but we can’t; we’ve got to stay in front of this stuff.”

Ahead of the San Fran­cis­co launch event for LGBTQ-fo­cused in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tion OUT­bio last Thurs­day, Hast­ings said he ex­pect­ed the Supreme Court draft to be a “con­ver­sa­tion in the room.”

“That’s one place to get this con­ver­sa­tion start­ed,” he said.

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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Bob Nelsen (Lyell)

As bear mar­ket con­tin­ues to beat down biotech, ARCH clos­es a $3B ear­ly-stage fund

One of the biggest names in biotech investing has a whole lot of new money to spend.

ARCH Venture Partners closed its 12th venture fund early Wednesday morning, the firm said, bringing in almost $3 billion to invest in early-stage biotechs. The move comes about a year and a half after ARCH announced its previous fund, for almost $2 billion back in January 2021.

In a statement, ARCH managing director and co-founder Bob Nelsen appeared to brush off concerns about the broader market troubles, alluding to the downturn that’s seen several biotechs downsize and the XBI fall back to almost pre-pandemic levels.

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Peter Marks (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP Images)

FDA's VRB­PAC votes in fa­vor of adapt­ing the Covid-19 vac­cine to the lat­est Omi­cron vari­ant

The FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on Tuesday gave the thumbs up — by a vote of 19-2 — that the FDA should require an Omicron-related component in this next season’s booster dose for Covid-19, which both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are hard at work on.

And while neither booster will likely be ready to go with adequate supplies for all American adults by the beginning of the next school year, the situation is still complex and fluid, with CBER Director Peter Marks telling the committee that it’ll take companies at least three months to ready their supplies for this expected next wave.

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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Sanofi to cut in­sulin prices for unin­sured from $99 to $35, match­ing the in­sulin cap com­ing through Con­gress

As the House-passed bill to cap the monthly price of insulin at $35 nationwide makes its way for a Senate vote soon, Sanofi announced Wednesday morning that beginning next month it will cut the monthly price of its insulins for uninsured Americans to $35, down from $99 previously.

The announcement from Sanofi, which allows the uninsured to buy one or multiple Sanofi insulins (Lantus, Insulin Glargine U-100, Toujeo, Admelog, and Apidra) at $35 for a 30-day supply effective July 1, follows House passage (232-193) of the monthly cap in March, with just 12 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

Hank Safferstein, Generian CEO

Astel­las sub­sidiary to part­ner with Pitts­burgh up­start in search for 'un­drug­gable' pro­teins

As Astellas continues its drive to build out its gene therapy portfolio and capabilities, a subsidiary of the Japanese pharma company has entered into a collaboration with a little-known Pittsburgh biotech.

Astellas-owned Mitobridge and Generian Pharmaceuticals announced on Wednesday that they will work together in a new deal for “undruggable” protein targets. Generian will net an undisclosed upfront payment and could get up to $180 million in milestones, should anything from its platform prove successful, as well as single-digit royalties on global net sales.

Adam Simpson, Icosavax CEO

Reel­ing from Covid flop, Icosavax says its RSV can­di­date passed ear­ly test. But in­vestors need some more con­vinc­ing

Three months separated from a disappointing readout of its Covid-19 vaccine, Icosavax is back with what it calls positive topline data for a different VLP vaccine candidate — although investors aren’t impressed.

IVX-121, a vaccine candidate for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), appeared to generate “robust” immune responses among both young and older adults, as measured by neutralizing antibodies, and appeared generally well-tolerated, Icosavax reported.

Pearl Huang, Dunad Therapeutics CEO (Ken Richardson, PR Newswire)

Long­time biotech leader Pearl Huang takes the reins as CEO of No­var­tis-backed up­start

It has only been a few months since Pearl Huang exited the top seat at Cygnal Therapeutics, but now she’s back at the helm of another biotech.

After taking a few months off — passing an exam in that time to get her captain’s license from the US Coast Guard — she’s been named CEO of Dunad Therapeutics, a biotech focused on developing a small molecule covalent therapies that was founded in 2020. Huang told Endpoints News that two factors attracted her to going back to the c-suite: the company’s technology and its co-founders.

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