From right: Mireli Fino walks Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Gov. Ned Lamont through Sanofi’s Connecticut vaccine lab with Clem Lewin. (Jason Mast for Endpoints News)

‘It’s like the tor­toise and the hare’: A pan­dem­ic puts Sanofi’s $600M bet to the test

MERIDEN, CT — In a warehouse-turned-lab off Interstate 91 here, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and his team peer through plastic goggles at a screen showing row after row of luminous white orbs. The orbs sit against a fluorescent purple background, some puffing ghostly, chemical contrails. For now, they test the potency of a Sanofi flu vaccine: the wider the orb, the more powerful the prophylactic.

Soon, though, new vials will arrive from across the street carrying a new candidate: Sanofi’s attempt at a coronavirus vaccine. After tests here, it will go to New York for large-scale production and then —  well, we’ll get to that. But now, on Thursday, the governor’s team has packed into a normally quiet lab, where site head Mireli Fino is explaining their Covid-19 response to an intrigued but questioning audience.

“We were able to really go fast,” she says.

Indresh Srivastava

“So someone told me that there was a company that already has a vaccine they’re testing,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz says, clutching the governor’s speech close to her paper lab coat. “It’s something N-I-O –”

“ — it’s Moderna,” offers Indresh Srivastava, director of the flu program here. “There’s two companies. Moderna, which uses mRNA technology, and Inovio, which uses DNA technology.“

Now Lamont leans in, apparently weighing the news that Moderna already has a clinical vaccine against the timeline Sanofi first gave: “Do they have a 6-month head start on you?” he asks. “Or is everybody … ?”

“Well the way I would put it is like the tortoise and the hare,” Clem Lewin, the AVP of R&D strategy and the most senior Sanofi employee on the floor. “We believe we’re a little slower at the start but we feel we’ll catch up.”

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Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Capitol Hill, Feb. 8, 2023 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

FDA com­mis­sion­er floats ideas on how to bet­ter han­dle the pan­dem­ic

FDA Commissioner Rob Califf joined the heads of the CDC and NIH in the hot seat today before a key House subcommittee, explaining that there needs to be a much faster, more coordinated way to oversee vaccine safety, and that foreign biopharma inspections, halted for years due to the pandemic, are slowly ramping up again.

Califf, who stressed to the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health that the CDC also needs better data, made clear that the FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of vaccines “would also benefit greatly by a coordinated federal public health data reporting authority.”

Sanofi is renewing its #VaccinesForDreams campaign with more stories, such as Juan's in Argentina (Sanofi)

Sanofi re­news so­cial cam­paign to re­mind that vac­cines let peo­ple ‘Dream Big’

Sanofi is highlighting people’s dreams — both big and small — to make the point that vaccines make them possible.

The renewed “Dream Big” global social media campaign’s newest dreamer is Juan, a teacher in the Misiones rainforest in Argentina whose story is told through videos on Instagram and Sanofi’s website with the hashtag #VaccinesForDreams.

The campaign ties to Sanofi’s broader umbrella initiative “Vaccine Stories” to promote the value of vaccines and drive awareness of the need for improved vaccination coverage.

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Dai­ichi Sankyo to build Japan's first mR­NA vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty — re­port

Daiichi Sankyo is looking to build a new manufacturing site close to home to begin producing the first made-in-Japan mRNA Covid vaccines.

According to a report from Nikkei Asia, Daiichi Sankyo is constructing a site with a capacity of 20 million doses a year by the fiscal year 2024. The report says that equipment has been installed at a location in the city of Kitamoto, Japan, northeast of Tokyo, and is operated by the subsidiary Daiichi Sankyo Biotech.