Hot on the heels of a clin­i­cal hold, Ar­row­head torch­es its clin­i­cal pipeline, slash­es staff

Just three weeks af­ter Ar­row­head Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $AR­WR was forced to put its lead pro­gram on clin­i­cal hold, the biotech is torch­ing every­thing re­lat­ed to its EX1 de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle, wip­ing out three RNAi treat­ments — all of its clin­i­cal-stage work — and elim­i­nat­ing close to a third of its staff in a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The un­ex­pect­ed news, which stunned a few an­a­lysts on Tues­day evening, elim­i­nates its ARC-520, ARC-521 and ARC-AAT ef­forts. Its stock was evis­cer­at­ed, los­ing 60% of its val­ue on the news.

The biotech says it had lit­tle choice in the mat­ter. Reg­u­la­tors forced the hold due to non-hu­man pri­mate deaths in a tox study. And they’ve been mak­ing it clear that all the work re­lat­ed to EX1 would be put in lim­bo while they sort­ed out the cause. Still, it’s ex­tra­or­di­nar­i­ly rare for a com­pa­ny to aban­don tri­als this quick­ly as in­ves­ti­ga­tors try to nail down the cause for con­cern.

The com­pa­ny al­so tried to give it a pos­i­tive spin, say­ing that they’ve learned a con­sid­er­able amount about their drug tech­nol­o­gy which should give them an edge on the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion prod­ucts. But that’s like­ly to be cold com­fort for any­one fol­low­ing the set­back to­day.

The RNAi field has gone through some ex­treme highs and lows over the years. While work on a num­ber of pro­grams has fi­nal­ly reached late-stage stud­ies, even some of the most promis­ing treat­ments have been plagued by safe­ty fears, as Al­ny­lam $AL­NY re­dis­cov­ered for it­self re­cent­ly when it deep-sixed one of its top late-stage pro­grams — re­vusir­an — af­ter track­ing a high­er death rate in the drug arm. And Ar­row­head it­self grabbed No­var­tis’ RNAi port­fo­lio last year af­ter the phar­ma gi­ant de­cid­ed to aban­don its work in the field.

Pasade­na, CA-based Ar­row­head had this to say in a state­ment on Tues­day:

The com­pa­ny be­lieves it is pru­dent to fo­cus its de­vel­op­ment re­sources en­tire­ly on its subQ and ex­tra-he­pat­ic pipeline, which in­cludes pro­grams in HBV, AAT, Fac­tor 12, HIF-2al­pha, and oth­er unan­nounced pro­grams. In ad­di­tion to its own pipeline, Ar­row­head is al­so fo­cused on pro­vid­ing full re­sources to sup­port its part­ner­ship with Am­gen and po­ten­tial fu­ture part­ner­ships for its subQ and ex­tra-he­pat­ic de­liv­ery sys­tems.

Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a plan to near­ly dou­ble its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.