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

Af­ter a posse of Wall Street an­a­lysts pre­dict a like­ly new win for Sarep­ta, we're down to the wire on a crit­i­cal FDA de­ci­sion

As Bloomberg notes, most of the Wall Street analysts that cover Sarepta $SRPT are an upbeat bunch, ready to cheer on the team when it comes to their Duchenne MD drugs, or offer explanations when an odd setback occurs — as happened recently with a safety signal that was ‘erroneously’ reported last week.

Ritu Baral Cowen
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Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan [via Bloomberg/Getty]

I’m not per­fect: No­var­tis chief Vas Narasimhan al­most apol­o­gizes in the wake of a new cri­sis

Vas Narasimhan has warily stepped up with what might pass as something close to a borderline apology for the latest scandal to engulf Novartis.

But he couldn’t quite get there.

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Saqib Islam. CheckRare via YouTube

Spring­Works seeks $115M to push Pfiz­er drugs across fin­ish line while Sat­suma sells mi­graine play in $86M IPO

SpringWorks and Satsuma — both biotech spinouts that have closed B rounds in April — are loading up with IPO cash to boost their respective late-stage plans.

Bain-backed SpringWorks is the better-known company of the two, and it’s gunning for a larger windfall of $115 million to add to $228 million from previous financings. In the process, the Stamford, CT-based team is also drawing the curtains on the partnerships it has in mind for the pair of assets it had initially licensed from Pfizer.

Mi­nor­i­ty racial groups con­tin­ue to be dis­mal­ly rep­re­sent­ed in can­cer tri­als — study

Data reveal that different racial and ethnic groups — by nature and/or nurture — can respond differently in terms of pharmacokinetics, efficacy, or safety to therapeutics, but this disparity is not necessarily accounted for in clinical trials. A fresh analysis of the last decade of US cancer drug approvals suggests the trend continues, cementing previous research that suggests oncology trials are woefully under-representative of the racial makeup of the real world.

Van­da shares slide af­ter FDA spurns their big end­point and re­jects a pitch on jet lag re­lief

Back in the spring of last year, Vanda Pharmaceuticals $VNDA served up a hot stew of mixed data for a slate of endpoints related to what they called clear evidence that their melatonin sleep drug Hetlioz (tasimelteon) could help millions of travelers suffering from jet lag.

Never mind that they couldn’t get a planned 90 people in the study, settling for 25 instead; Vanda CEO Mihael H. Polymeropoulos said they were building on a body of data to prove it would help jet-lagged patients looking for added sleep benefits. And that, they added, would be worth a major upgrade from the agency as they sought to tackle a big market.

Jim Mellon [via YouTube]

Health­i­er, longer lifes­pans will be a re­al­i­ty soon­er than you think, Ju­ve­nes­cence promis­es as it clos­es $100M round

Earlier this year, an executive from Juvenescence-backed AgeX predicted the field of longevity will eventually “dwarf the dotcom boom.” Greg Bailey, the UK-based anti-aging biotech’s CEO, certainly hopes so.

On Monday, Juvenescence completed its $100 million Series B round of financing. The company is backed by British billionaire Jim Mellon — who wrote his 400-page guide to investing in the field of longevity shortly after launching the company in 2017. Bailey, who served as a board director for seven years at Medivation before Pfizer swallowed the biotech for $14 billion, is joined by Declan Doogan, an industry veteran with stints at Pfizer $PFE and Amarin $AMRN.

UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DAT­ED: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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