Gi­ant Roche wades in­to the pre­clin­i­cal NL­RP3 pool, bag­ging Je­cure for their an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry team at Genen­tech

You can now count the bio­phar­ma gi­ant Roche among the grow­ing num­ber of play­ers fas­ci­nat­ed by the po­ten­tial of NL­RP3 in­hi­bi­tion.

James Sabry, Genen­tech

Their big Cal­i­for­nia sub­sidiary Genen­tech has snapped up a lit­tle San Diego-based biotech called Je­cure Ther­a­peu­tics, which came out of qui­et time with a $20 mil­lion launch round from Ver­sant and a big ap­petite for NASH re­search. The ven­ture group had been drawn in by an ex­pe­ri­enced biotech team that had built and sold Quan­ti­cel to Cel­gene for close to $485 mil­lion.

They’ve been key­ing off the lab work of sci­en­tif­ic founder Ariel Feld­stein, the di­vi­sion chief of gas­troen­terol­o­gy at the UCSD School of Med­i­cine and a top in­ves­ti­ga­tor in he­pa­tol­ogy.

This time around, we don’t know what the pri­vate out­fit went for. But with on­ly a small amount bet so far by a sin­gle in­vestor, even a big mul­ti­ple for the in­vestors could on­ly amount to a bite-sized pre­clin­i­cal snack for the likes of Roche.

James Sabry, who’s now run­ning the whole BD show at Roche/Genen­tech, says the ac­qui­si­tion builds on their “ex­per­tise in NL­RP3 bi­ol­o­gy,” which has been put in­to the spot­light by a batch of up­starts look­ing to make a name for them­selves.

Just a few days ago I cov­ered the $46 mil­lion raise for In­fla­zome, a UK-based out­fit that was look­ing to go up­stream of the en­tire IL-1 be­ta path­way and hit the NL­RP3 tar­get in fight­ing in­flam­ma­tion. No­var­tis has scored some pos­i­tive late-stage da­ta on IL-1 for gout and car­dio, help­ing to val­i­date the path­way for the star­tups com­ing in from be­hind.

NodThera and IFM have al­so been mak­ing progress in this field, while there’s some pre­clin­i­cal in­fo to sug­gest that an ul­tra-low carb ke­to­genic di­et can al­so specif­i­cal­ly hit NL­RP3 for an an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry re­sponse — a fol­lowup to the decades of re­search work that’s backed ke­to for pe­di­atric epilep­sy.

Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

As FDA sets the stage for the first Covid-19 vac­cine EUAs, some big play­ers are ask­ing for a tweak of the guide­lines

Setting the stage for an extraordinary one-day meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee this Thursday, the FDA has cleared 2 experts of financial conflicts to help beef up the committee. And regulators went on to specify the safety, efficacy and CMC input they’re looking for on EUAs, before they move on to the full BLA approval process.

All of this has already been spelled out to the developers. But the devil is in the details, and it’s clear from the first round of posted responses that some of the top players — including J&J and Pfizer — would like some adjustments and added feedback. And on Thursday, the experts can offer their own thoughts on shaping the first OKs.

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A new chap­ter in the de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal tri­al ap­proach

Despite the promised decentralized trial revolution, we haven’t yet moved the needle in a significant way, although we are seeing far bolder commitments to this as we continue to experience the pandemic restrictions for some time to come. The vision of grandeur is one thing, but operationalizing and execution are another and recognising that change, particularly mid-flight on studies, is worthy of thorough evaluation and consideration in order to achieve success. Here we will discuss one of the critical building blocks of a Decentralized and Remote Trial strategy: TeleConsent; more than paper under glass, it is a paradigm change and key digital enabler.

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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Years af­ter a ma­jor tri­al set­back, No­var­tis switch­es gears with SMA drug. This time they're try­ing it for Hunt­ing­ton's

Four years after a Phase I/II setback in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Novartis is hoping its drug branaplam will find more success in a new neurological indication: Huntington’s disease.

The decision was announced a year after the head of research, Jay Bradner, said he did not see a “big opportunity” in SMA, according to Reuters. Novartis says it has preclinical data showing that branaplam reduces levels of mutant huntingtin protein, and SMA data showing patients on the drug had reductions in huntingtin mRNA. The FDA gave branaplam their orphan drug designation, and Novartis plans to move forth with a Phase IIb trial next year.

Lit­tle Zosano takes an­oth­er beat­ing as the FDA slaps down their ap­pli­ca­tion for a mi­graine patch

Zosano $ZSAN has officially come up short in its bid to develop a migraine patch.

The FDA rejected the company’s application to repurpose the triptan zolmitriptan in a new delivery system as Qtrypta, Zosano said Wednesday morning, issuing a CRL for the microneedle patch. Regulators cited inconsistent exposure levels across multiple clinical trials as the main reason for the thumbs down.

Investors did not take too kindly to the news, with Zosano shares plunking down around 25%. The company is requesting a Type A meeting to “provide clarity on the next steps for the program,” CEO Steven Lo said in a statement.

Glax­o­SmithK­line's vac­cines group aims for a first as it kicks off PhI­II RSV stud­ies

One of GlaxoSmithKline’s big projects at its global vaccine R&D center in Rockville, MD is set to enter Phase III after passing early-stage tests with flying colors.

Eyeing the wide-open respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) space, GSK is pushing two different vaccine candidates: GSK3888550A is designed to confer protection to infants via maternal immunization, while GSK3844766A is meant for the elderly.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er is on the verge of claim­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar first-mover ad­van­tage with their Covid-19 vac­cine — an­a­lyst

From the beginning, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla eschewed government funding for his Covid-19 vaccine work with BioNTech, willing to take all the $2 billion-plus risk of a lightning-fast development campaign in exchange for all the rewards that could fall its way with success. And now that the pharma giant has seized a solid lead in the race to the market, those rewards loom large.

SVB Leerink’s Geoff Porges has been running the numbers on Pfizer’s vaccine, the mRNA BNT162b2 program that the German biotech partnered on. And he sees a $3.5 billion peak in windfall revenue next year alone. Even after the pandemic is brought to heel, though, Porges sees a continuing blockbuster role for this vaccine as people around the world look to guard against a new, thoroughly endemic virus that will pose a permanent threat.

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Giovanni Caforio, Bristol Myers Squibb CEO (Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Here's how Bris­tol My­er­s' CEO Gio­van­ni Caforio com­plet­ed a $13B buy­out: He moved fast, upped the bid quick­ly and de­mand­ed every­one to keep up

Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio does not waste time. He also likes everyone around him to keep up.

Anyone reading over the insider account filed with the SEC of the back-and-forth over his $13 billion buyout of MyoKardia $MYOK could reach only one conclusion: The CEO who had willingly crafted a $74 billion Celgene acquisition had found something else he liked — and he was willing to pay a nice premium to get it.

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Pur­due Phar­ma signs guilty plea, preps $8B+ set­tle­ment on Oxy con­tro­ver­sy — re­port; Flag­ship brings in a comms chief

Purdue Pharma may soon be signing off on a guilty plea and an $8 million-plus settlement to wrap up its controversial role distributing OxyContin.

The AP has the breaking story this morning.

Purdue filed for bankruptcy last year, along with Insys and followed by Mallinckrodt, as it navigated its way through a blizzard of litigation surrounding Oxy, which triggered an epidemic of abuse around the country.