Ronald Martell, Jasper Therapeutics CEO

Jasper scraps piv­otal plans but adds a new in­di­ca­tion as more biotechs re­vise pipelines

A suite of bio­phar­mas dis­closed cuts to their pipelines this week as the in­dus­try gets a sweep­ing up­date of drugs in the works as part of the an­nu­al JP Mor­gan Health­care Con­fer­ence.

Jasper Ther­a­peu­tics, Ac­ti­cor Biotech, NGM Bio and An­nex­on were among those to slash parts of their de­vel­op­ment plans.

The moves fol­low a rough 2022 for the mar­ket, in which dozens of biotechs shift­ed pri­or­i­ties to con­serve cash and stay afloat. Bio­phar­mas rou­tine­ly fine-tune their pipelines, but the con­sis­ten­cy of culls and lay­offs last year stood out.

For Jasper, the ad­just­ment to its clin­i­cal plans has sent the stock price $JSPR soar­ing near­ly 28% af­ter Tues­day’s open­ing bell, con­tin­u­ing a share price rise from last week fol­low­ing a Phase I/II da­ta read­out in sick­le cell dis­ease (SCD) and be­ta tha­lassemia. The biotech had for near­ly a year been talk­ing about a reg­is­tra­tional study of the drug, briquil­imab, in pa­tients with myelodys­plas­tic syn­dromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). But those piv­otal plans, still in ex­is­tence as of a No­vem­ber up­date, are now shelved, ac­cord­ing to a Tues­day up­date.

“We be­lieve fo­cus­ing on the most well-char­ac­ter­ized op­por­tu­ni­ties with the clear­est and po­ten­tial­ly fastest path­way to mar­ket is in the best in­ter­est of pa­tients and our share­hold­ers,” pres­i­dent and CEO Ronald Martell said in a press re­lease.

The re­fined pipeline will fo­cus on ex­ist­ing stud­ies in SCD, Fan­coni ane­mia and se­vere com­bined im­mun­od­e­fi­cien­cy and launch­ing a tri­al in chron­ic low­er-risk myelodys­plas­tic syn­drome. The biotech is al­so adding a new in­di­ca­tion: chron­ic ur­ticaria, or hives and itchy skin welts that last for weeks on end.

“Based on pre­clin­i­cal and clin­i­cal stud­ies show­ing in­hi­bi­tion of c-Kit sig­nal­ing, de­ple­tion of mast cells in skin and lung and ex­tend­ed phar­ma­co­ki­net­ics of sub­cu­ta­neous dos­ing, the Com­pa­ny has pri­or­i­tized rapid­ly start­ing a clin­i­cal study in se­vere chron­ic ur­ticaria,” the Red­wood City, CA biotech said.

Ear­li­er in the week, Paris-based Ac­ti­cor said it would post­pone a Phase II study of glen­zocimab in pul­monary em­bolism. The drug will con­tin­ue in two on­go­ing Phase II/III stud­ies for stroke and one Phase IIb for my­ocar­dial in­farc­tion. One of those stud­ies is meant to sup­port a fast track des­ig­na­tion with the FDA and will be the ba­sis of a po­ten­tial mar­ket­ing au­tho­riza­tion fil­ing in the EU.

NGM Bio, af­ter reel­ing from an axed eye drug pact with Mer­ck last month, said it will seek a new part­ner for the drug, known as NGM621. The South San Fran­cis­co biotech will al­so shop around its NASH and bile acid dys­reg­u­la­tion can­di­date aldafer­min and a bis­pe­cif­ic (NGM936) in­tend­ed for pa­tients with mul­ti­ple myelo­ma and acute myeloid leukemia.

Au­toim­mune, neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive and oph­thalmic dis­or­ders biotech An­nex­on said it would end work in warm au­toim­mune he­molyt­ic ane­mia, or wAI­HA, in which healthy red blood cells are de­stroyed ear­ly. The Cal­i­for­nia biotech said it made the move “fol­low­ing an as­sess­ment of the mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ty in wAI­HA and a range of ad­di­tion­al au­toim­mune in­di­ca­tions.”

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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Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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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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