Hop­ing to brake a slow crash, Aduro's Stephen Isaacs hits the re­set but­ton, ax­ing staff in re­or­ga­ni­za­tion

With in­vestor con­fi­dence steadi­ly bleed­ing out over the last year, Aduro $ADRO CEO Stephen Isaacs has hit the re­set but­ton in an at­tempt to get back on track. 

The biotech said this morn­ing that it is whack­ing 37% of the staff and cir­cling its wag­ons around lead pro­grams part­nered with 2 promi­nent big phar­mas — No­var­tis and Eli Lil­ly — fo­cused on STING. The biotech is al­so pur­su­ing an in-house an­ti-APRIL an­ti­body, in de­vel­op­ment in on­col­o­gy and IgA nephropa­thy.

How many staffers is that? We don’t know ex­act­ly, but when Aduro filed its 10-K for 2017 it had 162 full-time em­ploy­ees.

In­ter­est­ed in pick­ing up some shelved as­sets cheap? You should call Isaacs, who had this to say about the pro­grams be­ing pushed aside in the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion:

The strate­gic re­set will al­so al­low us to ex­plore new part­ner­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties for our de­pri­or­i­tized pro­grams, in­clud­ing pLADD, ADU-1604 (an­ti-CT­LA-4) and ADU-1805 (an­ti-SIR­Pα). While this was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, I want to thank the em­ploy­ees who are leav­ing for their con­tri­bu­tions to Aduro.

Aduro biotech has seen its mar­ket cap shrink to less than its cash re­serves on a drum­beat of set­backs. 

The end­ed 2018 with $278 mil­lion in re­serves, then added a $12 mil­lion up­front in Jan­u­ary from Eli Lil­ly for their deal. The mar­ket cap, mean­while, was un­der $200 mil­lion be­fore the mar­ket open.

Aduro went pub­lic close to 4 years ago at $17 a share, tout­ing a pair of can­cer vac­cines and an on­col­o­gy pipeline, then saw the stock price to $40 soon af­ter. Af­ter that, things got rough — but very slow­ly.

A warmed up can­cer vac­cine — GVAX, one of the ini­tial wave — was a bust. Late in 2017 their oth­er can­cer vac­cine CRS-207, reengi­neered Lis­te­ria mono­cy­to­genes, hit the wall af­ter a long and trou­bled de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, forc­ing Isaacs to wash his hands of the ef­fort. 

Then J&J backed out of a promi­nent al­liance last fall. And Mer­ck didn’t make any­thing bet­ter when it ac­knowl­edged at ES­MO that its own STING ther­a­py didn’t ac­tu­al­ly work on its own.

Yes­ter­day Aduro’s stock closed at $2.47.


Im­age: Stephen Isaacs. BERKE­LEY via YOUTUBE

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Susan Galbraith speaking at Endpoints News' virtual EUBIO21 summit

Imfinzi/treme­li­mum­ab com­bo scores As­traZeneca an­oth­er OS win — this time in liv­er can­cer

Is the tide turning on AstraZeneca’s battered PD-L1/CTLA4 combo?

A single priming dose of the experimental tremelimumab, followed by Imfinzi every four weeks, beat Nexavar (sorafenib) in helping a group of liver cancer patients live longer in a Phase III study, the company reported, meeting the primary endpoint.

Specifically, the two drugs extended overall survival for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma who had not received prior systemic therapy and were not eligible for localized treatment.

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Rob Califf (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Biden like­ly to nom­i­nate Ver­i­ly's Rob Califf to lead the FDA again

Capping a controversially long period for the FDA to go without a permanent leader, President Joe Biden is likely to select Verily’s Rob Califf, a former FDA commissioner under President Obama, as the next FDA commissioner nominee.

A former Duke cardiologist and member of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine, Califf will be a welcome face for an agency grappling with high-profile retirements in CBER and CDER. He’ll also return to a role that he was comfortable in for a short stint at the end of Obama’s presidency. The Washington Post first reported the news.

FDA+ roundup: Marks on Wood­cock­'s tenure as act­ing com­mis­sion­er; FDA lead­ers of­fer per­spec­tive on bar­ri­ers to di­ver­si­ty in re­search

CBER director Peter Marks praised Janet Woodcock’s work as acting FDA commissioner, and while noting that Biden needs to nominate someone to fill the role permanently by Nov. 16, he said he has “no idea” when that actually might occur.

“Dr. Woodcock has been at the agency for over three decades and she, during that time, has proven herself to be a remarkably capable manager,” Marks said at the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine’s meeting Tuesday. “And she’s been managing as if she’s commissioner, unlike some previous acting [commissioners] who are afraid to actually do things. She doesn’t appear to be afraid to do things. I have not felt any different now from when we had a commissioner in place,” he added.

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