Robert Bazemore (Epizyme)

UP­DAT­ED: Robert Baze­more inks one last deal for Epizyme — adding Chi­na to Tazverik's glob­al blue­print — be­fore head­ing out from CEO of­fice

Among the ear­ly pi­o­neers of Chi­na biotech, Hutchmed (then Chi-Med) stood out for a rea­son: It large­ly stayed out of in-li­cens­ing drugs from West­ern drug­mak­ers, choos­ing in­stead to hun­ker down on de­vel­op­ing its own com­pounds — notch­ing big part­ners in As­traZeneca and Eli Lil­ly for savoli­tinib and fruquin­tinib, both on the mar­ket now, along the way.

As its peers be­gin herald­ing in-house dis­cov­ery to com­ple­ment the ex­ter­nal­ly-sourced parts of the pipeline, though, Hutchmed is once again go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

Hutchmed is team­ing up with Epizyme — which will be un­der­go­ing some changes at the top — to de­vel­op Tazverik, the US biotech’s methyl­trans­ferase in­hibitor of EZH2, pay­ing $25 mil­lion up­front to take the lead for de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion in Chi­na.

Ap­proved in the US for cer­tain sub­types of ep­ithe­lioid sar­co­ma and fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma, Tazverik works through an epi­ge­net­ic mech­a­nism — con­trol­ling the ex­pres­sion of cer­tain genes — and was de­signed for niche, un­reached cor­ners of the vast can­cer space. Hutchmed and Epizyme are eye­ing as many as eight po­ten­tial in­di­ca­tions in Chi­na; if they all go well, de­vel­op­ment and reg­u­la­to­ry mile­stones will add up to $110 mil­lion.

An­oth­er $175 mil­lion is re­served for sales mile­stones.

Epizyme CEO Robert Baze­more called Hutchmed an “ide­al part­ner” to de­vise and ex­e­cute new clin­i­cal tri­als in Chi­na that will then feed in­to its big­ger plans.

“Through this col­lab­o­ra­tion we an­tic­i­pate Tazverik to be­come the first EZH2 in­hibitor brought to mar­ket in Greater Chi­na,” he said in a state­ment, “and we be­lieve the in­volve­ment of Hutchmed in the glob­al de­vel­op­ment of Tazverik can al­low for a more rapid, re­source-ef­fi­cient, and ge­o­graph­i­cal­ly in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment plan for the U.S. con­fir­ma­to­ry EZH-302 tri­al of Tazverik in sec­ond line fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma (2L FL) in com­bi­na­tion with Revlim­id plus rit­ux­imab (‘R²’).”

He won’t be the one over­see­ing that plan, though. Hours af­ter an­nounc­ing the deal, Epizyme re­vealed that Baze­more is step­ping down. Af­ter steer­ing Tazverik to two US ap­provals, com­plet­ing the next five-year growth strat­e­gy and now en­gi­neer­ing a ma­jor deal, he be­lieves it’s time for Grant Bogle, a board di­rec­tor and for­mer ex­ec of Tesaro, to take the lead at an in­creas­ing­ly com­mer­cial­ly ori­ent­ed com­pa­ny while Baze­more can “redi­rect his time and en­er­gy to­ward oth­er ar­eas of his life that have be­come a pri­or­i­ty for him, per­son­al­ly.”

Mean­while, Chris­t­ian Hogg, Hutchmed’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, point­ed to the po­ten­tial for com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py with the can­cer drugs in its port­fo­lio.

Hutchmed’s pric­ing strat­e­gy for Tazverik will al­so serve as an in­ter­est­ing in­di­ca­tor of Chi­na’s open­ness to ex­pen­sive rare dis­ease drugs — con­sid­er­ing its price tag of $186,000. Drug­mak­ers typ­i­cal­ly have to dis­count their way in­to the Na­tion­al Re­im­burse­ment Drug List, bet­ting that they could earn more by tap­ping a much larg­er vol­ume.

Ed­i­tor’s Note: This sto­ry has been up­dat­ed to re­flect Robert Baze­more’s up­com­ing de­par­ture.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.

Bob Duggan (Duggan Investments)

Biotech bil­lion­aire Bob Dug­gan flies the white flag as Sum­mit hunts a new own­er, or part­ner, for sole clin­i­cal-stage ef­fort

Bob Duggan’s Summit Therapeutics $SMMT is running out of moves for its sole clinical-stage candidate.

The biotech issued a terse statement in an SEC filing that it’s pulling the plug on the only active clinical trial for ridinilazole, which has been through a failed late-stage trial for C. difficile. A pediatric study is being curtailed as Summit says it decided a few days ago to either partner out the therapy or get a buyer — if they can find one.

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