Hack­ers steal Pfiz­er, BioN­Tech da­ta in EMA breach as cy­ber­se­cu­ri­ty at­tacks heat up

It’s been a good week for Covid-19 vac­cines, and per­haps an even bet­ter one for the hack­ers try­ing to steal Covid-19 vac­cine da­ta.

In a brief note Wednes­day, the Eu­ro­pean Med­i­cines Agency an­nounced that it had been “the sub­ject of a cy­ber-at­tack.” Pfiz­er and their Ger­man biotech part­ner BioN­Tech con­firmed their da­ta had been “un­law­ful­ly ac­cessed’ as part of the breach, al­though they cau­tioned to Reuters that they did not be­lieve par­tic­i­pants’ per­son­al in­for­ma­tion had been changed and that the EMA had as­sured them the hack would not in­ter­fere with the time­line for ap­proval.

Stolen doc­u­ments could po­ten­tial­ly give use­ful in­for­ma­tion to oth­er coun­tries de­vel­op­ing a vac­cine, as well as in­for­ma­tion on oth­er com­pa­nies and sys­tems in­volved in de­vel­op­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing it.

The lat­est in­ci­dent adds to a string of vac­cine-di­rect­ed cy­ber­se­cu­ri­ty at­tacks that have re­port­ed­ly struck through­out the pan­dem­ic. News re­ports of such ef­forts have picked up in re­cent weeks.

In May, as vac­cine ef­forts were ac­cel­er­at­ing, US of­fi­cials warned Chi­nese hack­ers were tar­get­ing vac­cine re­search, prompt­ing a swift de­nial from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

In Ju­ly, though, Britain’s Na­tion­al Cy­ber Se­cu­ri­ty Cen­tre re­leased a re­port ac­cus­ing Russ­ian-backed groups, in­clud­ing one known as “Cozy Bear,” of tar­get­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies work­ing on vac­cines. The Cen­tre said that US and Cana­di­an of­fi­cials shared their as­sess­ment, and The Tele­graph re­port­ed that the As­traZeneca-Ox­ford ef­fort had been at­tacked. Rus­sia de­nied in­volve­ment.

Then last month, Mi­crosoft said that a Russ­ian group named “Fan­cy Bear” and two North Ko­re­an groups named “Zinc” and “Ceri­um” at­tempt­ed to break in­to sys­tems at 7 phar­mas and re­searchers in 5 coun­tries. That in­clud­ed brute force ef­forts to at­tempt mil­lions of po­ten­tial pass­words and phish­ing schemes where hack­ers would pose as World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fi­cials and so­lic­it peo­ple’s pass­words.

Last week, IBM said that hack­ers backed by for­eign gov­ern­ments had turned their at­ten­tion to the com­pa­nies that main­tain the cold chain nec­es­sary to ship and store mR­NA vac­cines. Among oth­er ef­forts, ad­ver­saries posed as an ex­ec­u­tive from the ma­jor cold chain com­pa­ny Haier Med­ical and so­licit­ed user­names and pass­words. The at­tacks were glob­al, IBM said.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Capitol Hill, Feb. 8, 2023 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

FDA com­mis­sion­er floats ideas on how to bet­ter han­dle the pan­dem­ic

FDA Commissioner Rob Califf joined the heads of the CDC and NIH in the hot seat today before a key House subcommittee, explaining that there needs to be a much faster, more coordinated way to oversee vaccine safety, and that foreign biopharma inspections, halted for years due to the pandemic, are slowly ramping up again.

Califf, who stressed to the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health that the CDC also needs better data, made clear that the FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of vaccines “would also benefit greatly by a coordinated federal public health data reporting authority.”

Sanofi is renewing its #VaccinesForDreams campaign with more stories, such as Juan's in Argentina (Sanofi)

Sanofi re­news so­cial cam­paign to re­mind that vac­cines let peo­ple ‘Dream Big’

Sanofi is highlighting people’s dreams — both big and small — to make the point that vaccines make them possible.

The renewed “Dream Big” global social media campaign’s newest dreamer is Juan, a teacher in the Misiones rainforest in Argentina whose story is told through videos on Instagram and Sanofi’s website with the hashtag #VaccinesForDreams.

The campaign ties to Sanofi’s broader umbrella initiative “Vaccine Stories” to promote the value of vaccines and drive awareness of the need for improved vaccination coverage.

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