Gilead ups its bet on HIV, hep B, ink­ing $400M part­ner­ship with im­munother­a­py com­pa­ny Hookipa

In search of new as­sets to bol­ster its lead­ing HIV fran­chise, Gilead is en­list­ing the help of im­munother­a­py spe­cial­ists at Hookipa Biotech to bring in some fresh R&D.

Topped with $10 mil­lion up­front and worth up to $400 mil­lion, the deal gives Gilead ex­clu­sive ac­cess to Hookipa’s are­navirus vec­tor-based im­mu­niza­tion tech­nolo­gies, Vaxwave and Ther­aT. As well as HIV, the Fos­ter City, CA-based big biotech will al­so take a crack at he­pati­tis B us­ing these vi­ral plat­forms.

Jo­ern Aldag

Vi­en­na-based Hookipa is not known for their HBV and HIV ef­forts, hav­ing cho­sen to fo­cus on cy­tomegalovirus in­fec­tion for their sole clin­i­cal pro­gram and tout the po­ten­tial of its Ther­aT plat­form to elic­it T cells re­sponse in can­cer. Back in De­cem­ber, it raised $60 mil­lion in Se­ries C cap­i­tal to push the CMV drug can­di­date in­to Phase II. Gilead was a strate­gic in­vestor in that fi­nanc­ing.

“This part­ner­ship is strong recog­ni­tion of our unique im­mu­niza­tion tech­nol­o­gy, and helps us con­cen­trate our own en­er­gy and re­sources on im­muno-on­col­o­gy,” said Hookipa CEO Jo­ern Aldag in a state­ment. “The col­lab­o­ra­tive HIV and HBV pro­grams nice­ly com­ple­ment our sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts in the in­fec­tious dis­ease area with an ex­cit­ing pro­pri­etary pro­phy­lac­tic CMV vac­cine.”

Bill Lee

A look at its pipeline sug­gests that Hookipa’s at dis­cov­ery stage with both the HIV and HBV as­sets. Gilead is pick­ing up the tab for all re­search and de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, which it says will be a joint en­deav­or be­tween the part­ners. Hookipa is in charge of man­u­fac­tur­ing the vi­ral vec­tors used in clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

The ear­ly-stage col­lab­o­ra­tion builds on a long his­to­ry of HIV — and vi­ral he­pati­tis — drug de­vel­op­ment at Gilead, whose triplet oral ther­a­py Bik­tarvy just got ap­proved a few months ago with a $6 bil­lion peak sales es­ti­mate.

“We are con­vinced that Hookipa’s unique ther­a­peu­tic vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy, which has demon­strat­ed ex­cel­lent safe­ty and im­muno­genic­i­ty in Phase I clin­i­cal stud­ies, has strong po­ten­tial to have syn­er­gis­tic ef­fect with oth­er Gilead cure ef­forts in both of these dis­eases ar­eas,” said Bill Lee, Gilead’s EVP of re­search.

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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San Diego cou­ple charged with steal­ing trade se­crets, open­ing Chi­nese biotech as DOJ crack­down con­tin­ues

A San Diego couple has been charged with stealing trade secrets from a US hospital and opening a business based off those secrets in China as the controversial industry-wide crackdown on alleged corporate espionage continues. On the same day, the Department of Justice announced they had arrested Beijing representative Zhongsan Liu for allegedly trying to obtain research visas for government recruiters.

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Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

UP­DAT­ED: Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time Monday morning the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation of a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month. In a followup call, Dunsire also noted that the company will likely need 200 to 250 reps for this marketing task on both sides of the Atlantic. And analysts were quick to note that the dealmaking at Lundbeck isn’t done, with another $2 billion to $3 billion available for more deals to beef up the pipeline.

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Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen pulls the plug on prized IPF drug from $562M+ Stromedix buy­out

One of Biogen’s attempts to branch out has flopped as the biotech scraps a mid-stage program for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

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Warts for the win: Aclar­is' lead drug clears piv­otal study

Aclaris Therapeutics has found a way to get rid of the warts and all.

The company — which earlier this month decided to focus on its arsenal of kinase inhibitors — on Monday unveiled positive data from a pivotal study testing its lead experimental drug for use in common warts.

The drug, A-101, was tested in a 502-patient study called THWART-2 — patients enrolled had one to six warts before qualifying for the trial. Patients either self-administered A-101 topical solution or a vehicle twice a week over a two-month period. A higher proportion of patients on the drug (a potent hydrogen peroxide topical solution) saw their warts disappear at day 60, versus the vehicle (p<0.0001) — meeting the main goal of the study.  Each secondary endpoint also emerged in favor of A-101, the company said.

Charles Nichols, LSU School of Medicine

Could psy­che­delics tack­le the obe­si­ty cri­sis? A long­time re­searcher in the field says his lat­est mouse study sug­gests po­ten­tial

Psychedelics have experienced a renaissance in recent years amid a torrent of preclinical and clinical research suggesting it might provide a path to treat mood disorders conventional remedies have only scraped at. Now a preclinical trial from a young biotech suggests at least one psychedelic compound has effects beyond the mind, and — if you believe the still very, very early hype — could provide the first single remedy for some of the main complications of obesity.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Ac­celeron drops a de­vel­op­ment pro­gram as #2 drug fails to spark func­tion­al ben­e­fits in pa­tients with a rare neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ail­ment

Acceleron is scrapping a muscular dystrophy development program underway for its number 2 drug in the pipeline after pouring over some failed mid-stage secondary data.

Gone is the ACE-083 project in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Their drug hit the primary endpoint on building muscle but flopped on key secondaries for functional improvements in patients, which execs felt was vital to the drug’s success.