In search of biotech hub glo­ry, the Big Ap­ple lures lo­cal star­tups with lab space

The city that nev­er sleeps is itch­ing to be­come the city that could cure in­som­nia. With Boston and San Fran­cis­co main­tain­ing their dom­i­nance as the pre­mier hubs for de­vel­op­ing drugs, New York City has or­ches­trat­ed a scheme to en­tice biotech — iden­ti­fy­ing the lack of space in these de­sired clus­ters as a key im­ped­i­ment to grow­ing star­tups.

Back in 2016, NYC may­or Bill de Bla­sio made a $500 mil­lion com­mit­ment to the sec­tor over 10 years as part of his broad­er plan to boost job cre­ation. As part of this ini­tia­tive, called LifeSci NYC, $10 mil­lion has been set aside to sup­port nascent biotechs by al­lo­cat­ing them lab space.

“One of the ma­jor is­sues the city has faced with life sci­ences has been find­ing space,” a spokesman for New York City Eco­nom­ic De­vel­op­ment Corp (NYCEDC) told End­points News. “There has been sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tions to in­cu­ba­tion space with Bi­o­Labs@NYU­Lan­gone, JLabs, and Launch Labs, but we’re now fac­ing what hap­pens to those com­pa­nies once they’ve suc­cess­ful grad­u­at­ed from these spaces. The Ex­pan­sion Space Funds was one of the so­lu­tions – we want­ed to help them by di­rect­ly in­vest­ing in­to the com­pa­nies who are tak­ing on the ad­di­tion­al cost to cre­ate new space in the City to grow.”

De­spite high rents and low avail­abil­i­ty, the life sci­ence ecosys­tems in Boston and San Fran­cis­co con­tin­ue to thrive, while the Den­ver metro area has seen life sci­ences em­ploy­ment dou­ble in the last decade thanks to a bur­geon­ing start­up com­mu­ni­ty. Seat­tle, mean­while, has prof­it­ed from a flur­ry of M&A ac­tiv­i­ty and now com­mands some of the high­est rents out­side of San Fran­cis­co and Boston, ac­cord­ing to a re­search re­port by Jones Lang LaSalle de­tail­ing the life sci­ences land­scape in 2018.

Star­tups are al­so con­stant­ly vy­ing for top bio­phar­ma tal­ent, which has had a rip­ple ef­fect on re­al es­tate de­ci­sions. Da­ta from JLL show the high­est num­ber of life sci­ences PhDs each year grad­u­ate from — you guessed it — Boston and San Fran­cis­co with 1317 and 1065, re­spec­tive­ly. New York, mean­while, gen­er­ates some 591 such grad­u­ates an­nu­al­ly, while claim­ing to be the world’s largest con­cen­tra­tion of aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions. Af­ter tal­ent, space is an­oth­er im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for biotech star­tups. Ac­cord­ing to JLL, eight of the top 10 US clus­ters cur­rent­ly have sin­gle-dig­it di­rect va­can­cy rates.

NYCEDC launched the ex­pan­sion fund ear­li­er this month by al­lo­cat­ing $1 mil­lion to Ver­sant Ven­tures-backed im­muno-on­col­o­gy start­up Quen­tis Ther­a­peu­tics. They de­buted with a $48 mil­lion A round in 2016, used to ex­pand its head­quar­ters with 10,000 square feet of ded­i­cat­ed wet-lab and of­fice space in West Harlem.

Michael Aber­man

The com­pa­ny, run by for­mer Re­gen­eron ex­ec Michael Aber­man, cur­rent­ly has 16 em­ploy­ees, and hopes to em­ploy a to­tal of 50 over the course of five years. Quen­tis’ new HQ will form part of West Harlem’s biotech clus­ter, which in­cludes CUNY’s Ad­vanced Sci­ence Re­search Cen­ter, City Col­lege’s Cen­ter for Dis­cov­ery and In­no­va­tion, Harlem Bio­space, New York Struc­tur­al Bi­ol­o­gy Cen­ter and the Zuck­er­man Mind & Brain In­sti­tute.

“In­vest­ments in NYC by Alexan­dria Re­al­ty ini­tial­ly, and JLABS, and Bi­o­labs NY more re­cent­ly, have re­al­ly moved the nee­dle for the NYC biotech en­vi­ron­ment as start-up space/in­cu­ba­tor space had been one of the miss­ing in­gre­di­ents, now that we have achieved a crit­i­cal mass of young com­pa­nies in start­up,” Aber­man told End­points News.

“I have lived in NY for my en­tire ca­reer, my fam­i­ly is here, I am a Yan­kee, Jets, Knicks fan, and be­lieve there are many tal­ent­ed bio­phar­ma ex­ec­u­tives that would love to stay in (or re­turn to) NY rather than move to Boston or San Fran­cis­co.”

Im­age: NYC Shut­ter­stock

BREAK­ING: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

AbbVie $ABBV has agreed to pay $188.24 a share — cash and stock — for the troubled Allergan, reflecting a 45% premium as investors bid up shares in anticipation of a much buzzed about company split. That price — with each share of Allergan worth 0.8660 AbbVie shares and $120.30 in cash — reflects a sharp fall from the $330 peak for Allergan and Saunders 4 years ago — but much better than anything shareholders had in mind for the near future.

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UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Eye­ing a $500M peak sales pot, Almi­rall dou­bles down on le­brik­izum­ab as Der­mi­ra lines up PhI­II

With eyes on what it be­lieves is a $500 mil­lion peak rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ty in Eu­rope, Barcelona-based Almi­rall has stepped up with $50 mil­lion in cash to take up the op­tion on Der­mi­ra’s IL-13 an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry drug le­brik­izum­ab just ahead of the start of Phase III. And there’s an­oth­er $30 mil­lion due as the late-stage pro­gram gets geared up.

That shouldn’t be long from now, as Der­mi­ra ex­pects to be­gin the late-stage tri­al work for atopic der­mati­tis be­fore the end of this year as it fol­lows a trail that ex­ecs in­sist leads to block­buster re­turns. Along the way, they’ll need to take on the 600-pound go­ril­la in atopic der­mati­tis: the IL-13/IL-4 drug Dupix­ent, from Re­gen­eron and Sanofi. Ri­vals al­so in­clude Leo Phar­ma, in its piv­otal with tralok­izum­ab, and Anap­tys­Bio in the hunt with a mid-stage pro­gram for etokimab, pre­vi­ous­ly re­ferred to as ANB020.

Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Bris­tol-My­ers star Op­di­vo fails sur­vival test in a matchup with Nex­avar aimed at shak­ing up the big HCC mar­ket

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb has suf­fered an­oth­er painful set­back in its years-long quest to ex­pand the reach of Op­di­vo. The phar­ma gi­ant this morn­ing not­ed that their Check­mate-459 study com­par­ing Op­di­vo with Bay­er’s Nex­avar in front­line cas­es of he­pa­to­cel­lu­lar car­ci­no­ma — the most com­mon form of liv­er can­cer — failed to hit the pri­ma­ry end­point on over­all sur­vival.

This was a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in Bris­tol-My­ers’ tal­ly of PD-1 cat­a­lysts this year. Nex­avar (so­rafenib) has been the stan­dard of care in front­line HCC for the past decade, though Op­di­vo has been mak­ing head­way in sec­ond-line HCC cas­es, where it’s go­ing toe-to-toe with Bay­er’s Sti­var­ga (re­go­rafenib) af­ter re­cent ap­provals shook up the mar­ket.

Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus is pack­ing it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate tri­al events

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.

Dean Hum. Nasdaq via YouTube

Gen­fit goes to Chi­na with a deal worth up to $228M for NASH drug

Fresh off the high of its Nas­daq IPO de­but, and the low of com­par­isons to Cymabay — whose NASH drug re­cent­ly stum­bled — Gen­fit on Mon­day un­veiled an up to $228 mil­lion deal with transpa­cif­ic biotech Terns Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to de­vel­op its flag­ship ex­per­i­men­tal liv­er drug — elafi­bra­nor — in Greater Chi­na.

The deal comes weeks af­ter Gen­fit $GN­FT is­sued a fiery de­fense of its dual PPAR ag­o­nist elafi­bra­nor, when com­peti­tor Cymabay’s PPARδ ag­o­nist, se­ladel­par, fiz­zled in a snap­shot of da­ta from an on­go­ing mid-stage tri­al. The main goal at the end of 12 weeks was for se­ladel­par to in­duce a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in liv­er fat con­tent, but da­ta showed that pa­tients on the place­bo ac­tu­al­ly per­formed bet­ter.

Alex­ion wins pri­or­i­ty re­view for Ul­tomiris' aHUS in­di­ca­tion; FDA ex­pands ap­proval of Ver­tex's Symdeko

→ Alex­ion $ALXN has scored a speedy re­view for Ul­tomiris for pa­tients with atyp­i­cal he­molyt­ic ure­mic syn­drome (aHUS) af­ter post­ing pos­i­tive da­ta from a piv­otal study in Jan­u­ary. The drug is the rare dis­ease com­pa­ny’s shot at pro­tect­ing its block­buster blood dis­or­der fran­chise that is cur­rent­ly cen­tered around its flag­ship drug, Soliris, which is a com­ple­ment in­hibitor typ­i­cal­ly ad­min­is­tered every two weeks. Ul­tomiris has a sim­i­lar mech­a­nism of ac­tion but re­quires less-fre­quent dos­ing — every eight weeks. The de­ci­sion date has been set to Oc­to­ber 19. Late last year, Ul­tomiris se­cured ap­proval for noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria (PNH) pa­tients.

Bet­ter than Am­bi­en? Min­er­va soars on PhI­Ib up­date on sel­torex­ant for in­som­nia

A month af­ter roil­ing in­vestors with what skep­tics dis­missed as cher­ry pick­ing of its de­pres­sion da­ta, Min­er­va is back with a clean slate of da­ta from its Phase IIb in­som­nia tri­al.

In a de­tailed up­date, the Waltham, MA-based biotech said sel­torex­ant (MIN-202) hit both the pri­ma­ry and sev­er­al sec­ondary end­points, ef­fec­tive­ly im­prov­ing sleep in­duc­tion and pro­long­ing sleep du­ra­tion. In­ves­ti­ga­tors made a point to note that the ef­fects were con­sis­tent across the adult and el­der­ly pop­u­la­tions, with the lat­ter more prone to the sleep dis­or­der.