In sal­vage ef­fort, Sel­l­as cher­ry picks some pos­i­tive mid-stage can­cer vac­cine da­ta

Eight months af­ter Sel­l­as $SLS re­verse merged its way on­to Nas­daq through what was left of Gale­na fol­low­ing the piv­otal im­plo­sion of Neu­Vax, the mi­cro­cap biotech has cher­ry picked its way through some Phase IIb da­ta to high­light ev­i­dence of the can­cer vac­cine’s pos­si­ble po­ten­tial.

An­ge­los Ster­giou

Through a spokesper­son, Sel­l­as’ CEO An­ge­los Ster­giou re­fused to tell me what the p val­ue of the pri­ma­ry end­point in its study was, pre­fer­ring to high­light a clin­i­cal ben­e­fit for Neu­Vax in pro­long­ing dis­ease-free sur­vival when com­bined with Her­ceptin in treat­ing a group of breast can­cer pa­tients with triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cer. 

The biotech’s bad­ly bat­tered stock bounced 160% high­er on their re­lease.

Sel­l­as grabbed Gale­na af­ter the biotech’s shares were evis­cer­at­ed in June, 2016, drop­ping 78% af­ter the com­pa­ny an­nounced that it had stopped a Phase III study of its lead can­cer vac­cine af­ter the mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee flagged it for fail­ing to help breast can­cer vic­tims. Neu­Vax is part of a wave of can­cer vac­cines that flopped bad­ly in key stud­ies.

Ster­giou said in a state­ment that the biotech planned to ad­vance the can­cer vac­cine through a “part­ner­ship or oth­er strate­gic col­lab­o­ra­tion,” and he of­fered this quote about the re­sults via email:

It’s im­por­tant to keep in mind that this is an ex­plorato­ry tri­al in­tend­ed to find the right pop­u­la­tion to pur­sue in a de­fin­i­tive tri­al.  As such, we aren’t as sen­si­tive to al­pha spend which could cur­tail a de­fin­i­tive tri­al.  We do be­lieve that the curves will con­tin­ue to sep­a­rate as we be­lieve that the boost­er-main­tained im­muno­log­ic mem­o­ry helps pro­tect these pa­tients from late re­cur­rences. What is im­por­tant to note, and al­so stat­ed by the Da­ta Safe­ty Mon­i­tor­ing Board, is that we iden­ti­fied the TNBC pop­u­la­tion and, as per DSMB, it is not nec­es­sary to con­tin­ue the study due to the TNBC da­ta and to con­tin­ue fol­low­ing pa­tients for safe­ty but al­low­ing pa­tients to con­tin­ue their treat­ment.

The old Gale­na had been in and out of trou­ble ahead of the Sel­l­as takeover. Aside from the Neu­Vax set­back in 2016, the DoJ al­so stepped in to in­ves­ti­gate its pro­mo­tion­al prac­tices for the opi­oid Ab­stral. Back in 2011 the com­pa­ny changed its name from RXi to Gale­na, split­ting op­er­a­tions.

As for Sel­l­as, it once struck a high-pro­file li­cens­ing deal with Fo­s­un in 2013, but the deal col­lapsed with both sides ac­cus­ing the oth­er of fail­ing to make good. Fo­s­un said Sel­l­as nev­er de­liv­ered the cash it promised. Lat­er Sel­l­as moved from Zurich to New York to get in­to can­cer drug de­vel­op­ment.

Sel­l­as has a mar­ket cap of about $20 mil­lion. Its shares have steadi­ly lost val­ue over the years, at one point re­quir­ing a 1 for 20 re­verse split to get out of pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

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Just a day after reports emerged that Janet Woodcock will serve as interim chief of the FDA, word has gotten out that she is also in the running for the permanent job.

The decision, as the initial wave of reactions suggest, could have dramatic implications for where the agency is headed in the next four years — if not beyond.

Woodcock, the longtime CDER director, is being vetted alongside former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Bloomberg reported. Already tapped as acting head of the agency, she’s set to take over from Stephen Hahn right after Biden’s inauguration next week.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock to be act­ing FDA com­mis­sion­er while Biden team fi­nal­izes nom­i­nee — re­ports

Janet Woodcock is set to be the most powerful person at the FDA in less than a week.

The veteran regulator and longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has been tapped as acting commissioner of the FDA, according to reports by BioCentury’s Steve Usdin and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

The appointment was requested by the incoming Biden team, Karlin-Smith added, as they sort out the nomination of a permanent successor to Stephen Hahn — whose one-year tenure has been defined by Covid-19.

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CEO Brett Monia (Ionis)

Can Brett Mo­nia push Io­n­is be­yond Spin­raza?

For 30 years, Brett Monia struggled as one of Ionis’ top scientists to get their antisense technology to work. Now, as CEO, he’s trying to use it to turn Ionis into one of the industry’s biggest biotechs.

Monia, one of the handful of young scientists who in 1989 followed Stanley Crooke across the country from SmithKline (now GSK) in Philadelphia to found Ionis in Northern California, replaced Crooke as CEO last January. By then, they had proven antisense, an RNA-based method for manipulating gene expression, could work dramatically well in at least some instances, transforming spinal muscular atrophy with the Biogen-partnered blockbuster Spinraza.

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Terry Rosen, Arcus CEO

Gilead part­ner Ar­cus earns an­a­lyst­s' plau­dits for ear­ly pan­cre­at­ic can­cer da­ta that 'ex­ceed­ed ex­pec­ta­tion­s'

Arcus’ small molecule CD73 inhibitor for pancreatic cancer got a standing ovation from analysts who said preliminary data “exceeded expectations”— making waves in a field that’s seen little progress in several years and proving the candidate could be worth the hundreds of millions Gilead provided upfront in a deal that included more than a billion dollars for opt-in rights and milestones.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

Paint­ing by the num­bers, Sana founders carve up a gi­ant uni­corn-sized IPO — for a biotech that has­n't quite made it to the clin­ic

Sana Biotechnology is one of those startups that was sketched in on the chalkboard day one in the shape of a unicorn.

A giant unicorn.

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The raise they penciled in — $150 million — isn’t likely what they actually have in mind, and it doesn’t do justice to the size of their ambitions.

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David Kessler in April 2009 (Eric Risberg/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Hack­ers start re­leas­ing 'ma­nip­u­lat­ed' Covid-19 vac­cine docs; Ex-FDA com­mish David Kessler to re­place Mon­cef Slaoui as Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief — re­port

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Friday the European agency put out the 5th in a series of statements about the hackers who broke into their system, noting that some of the information on vaccines that was gleaned in the attack is showing up online — altered to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaccines now in use.

This included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines. Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.

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Nadim Ahmed (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Bris­tol My­er­s' top hema­tol­ogy ex­ec is on his way out — right on the heels of a $6B CVR im­plo­sion

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Mizuho analyst Salim Syed, who’s been following every twist and turn in the CVR saga, told investors on Thursday morning that Nadim Ahmed is on his way out. Syed’s note:

Recall, Ahmed is EVP and President of Hematology at BMY (i.e. JCAR017 and bb2121 are both hematological drugs). He’s still listed on the BMY management page. This is true — he’s still technically there. However, I have confirmed w/ BMY that his last day is tomorrow, Friday 1/15. To my best knowledge, Ahmed does not have another job lined up post his departure tomorrow.

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UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen tops cost watch­dog's price gougers list based on 'un­sup­port­ed' in­creas­es for En­brel with­out mean­ing­ful da­ta

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R&D ex­ec faces up to 10 years in prison on charges he stole “thou­sands” of top se­cret re­search doc­u­ments from Mer­ck

Back in the fall of 2019, Merck’s security team was scrambling to review the work records of one of their recently departed research execs.

According to a lightly redacted review of the FBI investigation displayed by the Justice department, Shafat Quadri, an immuno-oncology specialist, had transferred thousands of internal research documents by way of email and thumb drives just before leaving his job to take a job with a rival pharma company.

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