José Baselga (Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: José Basel­ga, ac­claimed drug hunter, physi­cian and As­traZeneca's pi­o­neer­ing can­cer R&D chief, has died

José Basel­ga, the bril­liant on­col­o­gy R&D chief at As­traZeneca and a tow­er­ing fig­ure in can­cer drug de­vel­op­ment who had ear­li­er been chief med­ical of­fi­cer at Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing, has died at the age of 61.

Basel­ga suc­cumbed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob dis­ease, a rapid­ly pro­gres­sive and lethal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease close­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with mad cow dis­ease that is trig­gered in about 1 in every mil­lion peo­ple.

Pas­cal So­ri­ot moved swift­ly to re­or­ga­nize As­traZeneca’s R&D op­er­a­tions around Basel­ga af­ter he joined from Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing, where he had gar­nered ac­co­lades for his work in can­cer R&D.

News of his sud­den and shock­ing death spread swift­ly on Twit­ter, as col­leagues and friends weighed in with their farewells.

The Barcelona na­tive had an in­stant im­pact on the pipeline at As­traZeneca, di­rect­ing the phar­ma gi­ant to a late-stage al­liance on En­her­tu, which was quick­ly re­ward­ed with an ap­proval and a shot at a rapid­ly ex­pand­ing fran­chise. So­ri­ot hailed him at the time he joined the com­pa­ny as an “out­stand­ing sci­en­tif­ic leader” whose work at MSK had led to a va­ri­ety of sig­nif­i­cant new can­cer drugs. He had worked as an ad­vis­er with some of the biggest play­ers in on­col­o­gy, though his fail­ure to con­sis­tent­ly cite those re­la­tion­ships in the lit­er­a­ture would lead to a dust-up that led to his ex­it from MSK.

Basel­ga apol­o­gized di­rect­ly for that, and quite a num­ber of peo­ple in in­dus­try had felt that the con­tro­ver­sy was overblown at the time.

A not­ed breast can­cer spe­cial­ist, Basel­ga has been cit­ed for his ef­forts around PI3K re­search, which has more re­cent­ly in­spired fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion around mTOR and AKT in­hi­bi­tion.

So­ri­ot of­fered a heart­felt trib­ute to­day:

José cham­pi­oned our trans­for­ma­tive col­lab­o­ra­tions with Dai­ichi-Sankyo in re­la­tion to the clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of En­her­tu (trastuzum­ab derux­te­can) and datopotam­ab derux­te­can, two med­i­cines which have demon­strat­ed great po­ten­tial to ben­e­fit can­cer pa­tients. He led a team to ac­cel­er­ate oth­er ex­cit­ing new sci­ence in an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates, cell ther­a­py, epi­ge­net­ics, as well as new can­cer treat­ments. He al­so cham­pi­oned the use of re­al-world ev­i­dence and dig­i­tal tools to trans­form the way we de­sign and im­ple­ment clin­i­cal tri­als.

José built a world-class On­col­o­gy R&D team who will miss him dear­ly, just as all his col­leagues will through­out our en­tire Com­pa­ny.

José was more than a col­league to me. He was a friend, and some­one I im­mense­ly re­spect­ed and cher­ished. I will enor­mous­ly miss hav­ing him along­side me, and I will con­tin­ue to be in­spired by his work and vi­sion.

I had a chance to talk to Basel­ga about his work at As­traZeneca re­cent­ly, which you can see here.

Basel­ga’s daugh­ter — Clara Basel­ga-Gar­ri­ga — launched a fundrais­er Sun­day to sup­port re­search in­to Creutzfeldt-Jakob dis­ease (CJD). You can check it out here.

Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

As you start planning for #JPM23, we hope you will consider joining Endpoints News for our live and virtual events. For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving, we hope you are enjoying the long weekend with loved ones. And if you’re not — we’ll see you next week!

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL lands FDA ap­proval for he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py, sets $3.5M list price

The FDA has approved the world’s first gene therapy for hemophilia B, ushering into the market a treatment that’s historic in both what it promises to do and how much it will cost.

CSL will be marketing the drug, Hemgenix, at a list price of $3.5 million — which sets a new record for the most expensive single-use gene therapy in the US.

In a statement provided to Endpoints News, the Australian company noted that the current costs of treating people with moderate to severe hemophilia B can be significant over a lifetime. By some estimates, healthcare systems could spend more than $20 million per person.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Image: Shutterstock

MIT re­searchers re­veal DNA "Paste" tech be­hind lat­est gene edit­ing start­up

MIT scientists have developed a tool that they say can insert large gene sequences where they want in the genome.

In a paper published Thursday in Nature Biotechnology, MIT fellows Omar Abudayyeh, Jonathan Gootenberg and colleagues detail a technology they call PASTE, which they say can potentially be used to insert long strands of DNA and treat genetic diseases caused by many different mutations, such as cystic fibrosis and Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare eye disorder that causes blindness.

Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Biggest drug com­pa­nies halt­ed Twit­ter ad buys af­ter Lil­ly in­sulin spoof

Almost all of the drug industry’s biggest advertisers cut their spending on Twitter to zero or near-zero over the last two weeks amid worries about impersonation of their brands by pranksters and the future of the social media company.

Among 18 of the biggest pharmaceutical advertisers in the US market, 12 cut their Twitter ad spending to nothing for the week beginning Nov. 14, according to Pathmatics, which tracks data on prescription drug ad spending as well as general corporate advertising. The list of drugmakers cutting spending to zero includes Merck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer and others.

Rob Davis, Merck CEO

Up­dat­ed: No Seagen here: 'Do more' means a small $1.35B pur­chase of Ima­go for Mer­ck

Merck is making an acquisition, the Big Pharma announced before Monday’s opening bell. No, Seagen is not entering the fold, as had been speculated for quarters.

Folding under Merck’s wings will be Pfizer-backed Imago BioSciences. For nearly a year, Merck CEO Rob Davis has been saying the pharma giant needs to “do more” on the business development front after its 2021 $11.5 billion acquisition of Acceleron.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Peter Hecht, Cyclerion CEO

Cy­cle­ri­on board quick­ly nix­es CEO Pe­ter Hecht's un­ortho­dox pitch for low cash re­serves

It’s been less than two months since Cyclerion laid out a new R&D strategy around its lead drug in mitochondrial diseases, one that triggered the company to lay off close to half of its employees and explore licensing deals for the rest of the pipeline. But CEO Peter Hecht apparently has other plans in mind.

Hecht, who led Ironwood for close to 20 years before spinning out Cyclerion, disclosed in an SEC filing Monday that a “newly-formed private company” that he “may have or may acquire an interest” submitted a proposal to Cyclerion the day prior to purchase Cyclerion’s CNS assets, including CY6463 and CY3018 — the top two programs listed in the pipeline.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

J&J's Spra­va­to pulls a PhI­II win against Sero­quel XR in treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion

A day before Thanksgiving, J&J’s Janssen has a new cut of Phase III Spravato data to be grateful for.

The pharma giant announced on Wednesday that its nasal spray, also known as esketamine, beat extended-release quetiapine, previously sold by AstraZeneca as Seroquel XR, in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Of 676 adults, a significantly higher number of patients on Spravato were able to achieve remission and avoid relapse after 32 weeks, according to J&J.

Dermavant Sciences' first consumer TV ad for its Vtama psoriasis med shows people ready for a new topical treatment.

Roivant’s Der­ma­vant de­buts first-ever TV com­mer­cial for pso­ri­a­sis cream Vta­ma

Dermavant Sciences has been marketing its first product, psoriasis med Vtama, to dermatologists for months, but on Tuesday it rolled out its first consumer campaign. The debut DTC effort including a streaming TV commercial encourages patients to a “Topical Uprising” in a nod to Vtama being a topical cream.

In the new commercial, a swell of people discards scarves and jacket coverings, gathering in the street to converge on a pharmacy to demand a steroid-free prescription. A moment of levity follows when a pharmacist says, “You know you can just talk to your doctor, right?” The gathered crowds collectively says, “Oh.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 154,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

FDA preps for DMD drug gener­ics as Sarep­ta has yet to fin­ish its con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al

The FDA typically releases guidance to help generic drug manufacturers develop new copycats of small molecule drugs, oftentimes in preparation for a brand name product’s patents or exclusivity to expire.

This week, FDA released such bioequivalence guidance for any generic drugmakers looking to take on Sarepta’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) drug Exondys 51 (eteplirsen), even though the drug’s sponsor has yet to convert the accelerated approval to a full approval, showing clinical benefit.