Ke­to in a pill? Jim Mel­lon de­buts an­ti-ag­ing joint ven­ture with the Buck ded­i­cat­ed to in­duc­ing ke­to­sis

Jim Mel­lon

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Jim Mel­lon’s crew at Ju­ve­nes­cence has found its lat­est ven­ture idea in a pop­u­lar di­et mak­ing its rounds in biotech cir­cles.

Er­ic Verdin

Once again team­ing up with the Buck In­sti­tute for Re­search on Ag­ing, Ju­ve­nes­cence has launched BHB Ther­a­peu­tics to ex­plore pre­ven­ta­tive med­i­cines that have po­ten­tial to pro­tect against age-re­lat­ed dis­ease by in­duc­ing a state of ke­to­sis, where the body burns fat in­stead of carbs, spurring the pro­duc­tion of an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry ke­tone bod­ies.

In par­tic­u­lar, the biotech start­up will fo­cus on the ke­tone body be­ta-hy­drox­y­bu­tyrate, or — you guessed it — BHB. Er­ic Verdin, the Buck pres­i­dent and CEO whose re­search in­spired an­oth­er Ju­ve­nes­cence spin­out, has dis­cov­ered that BHB helps the body re­spond to stress.

John New­man

A ke­to­genic di­et — which has been her­ald­ed for its ef­fects in weight loss, hunger sup­pres­sion as well as con­cen­tra­tion — and the con­se­quent longterm ex­po­sure to ke­tone bod­ies can al­so ex­tend healthy lifes­pan in mod­el sys­tems, Verdin and col­lab­o­ra­tor John New­man found.

The duo has gen­er­at­ed “hard sci­en­tif­ic da­ta” in mice that show ke­to­sis can be car­dio-pro­tec­tive, CEO Greg Bai­ley told End­points News. Ob­vi­ous­ly, they have a long way to go.

“The rea­son we think that car­dio-pro­tec­tion may trans­late to hu­mans is be­cause if giv­en sug­ar or ke­tones, many peo­ple’s hearts pre­fer ke­tones, where­as the brain is the op­po­site,” he said. “If giv­en the op­tion be­tween sug­ar or ke­tones, the brain will take sug­ar. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, in­di­vid­u­als when they hit 50 (plus or mi­nus a cou­ple years) they be­come in­sulin re­sis­tant — and then the sug­ar can go se­ri­ous­ly high in a va­ri­ety of or­gans and that leads to a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent patholo­gies.”

The com­pa­ny is look­ing to be­gin “ag­gres­sive safe­ty stud­ies” in the near-term, Bai­ley added. Should the com­pounds be found safe, he plans to take al­ter­na­tive routes rather than the con­ven­tion­al reg­u­la­to­ry path­way — which he be­lieves can lead to quick­er hu­man test­ing.

Greg Bai­ley

Just days ago, Ju­ve­nes­cence un­veiled the first $46 mil­lion tranche of a promised $100 mil­lion raise that’s de­signed to bankroll longevi­ty projects with the col­lec­tive goal of ex­tend­ing the hu­man lifes­pan to 150 years. So far, it’s ticked off stem cell tech and or­gan re­gen­er­a­tion among the fields it’s es­tab­lished it­self through joint ven­tures with AI groups — In­sil­i­co and Ne­tra­mark — and con­trol­ling in­ter­ests in AgeX and Ly­Ge­n­e­sis.

The goal, founder and chair­man Mel­lon said back then, is to have 18 projects un­der­way by the end of the year.

Look for two or three of them to be an­nounced over the next few weeks, Bai­ley said, not­ing that there should al­so be three or four let­ters of in­tent go­ing out short­ly.


With ad­di­tion­al re­port­ing by Na­tal­ie Grover.

Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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Hal Barron. GSK

GSK's Hal Bar­ron her­alds their sec­ond pos­i­tive piv­otal for cru­cial an­ti-BC­MA ther­a­py, point­ing to a push for quick OKs in a crowd­ed field

Hal Barron has his second positive round of Phase III data in hand for his anti-BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916). And GSK’s research chief says the data paves the way for their drive in search of an FDA approval for treating multiple myeloma.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this drug for GSK, a cornerstone of Barron’s campaign to make a dramatic impact on the oncology market and provide some long-lost excitement for the pharma giant’s pipeline. They’re putting this BCMA program at the front of that charge — looking to lead a host of rivals all aimed at the same target.

We don’t know what the data are yet, but DREAMM-2 falls on the heels of a promising set of data delivered 5 months ago for DREAMM-1. There investigators noted that complete responses among treatment-resistant patients rose to 15% in the extra year’s worth of data to look over, with a median progression-free survival rate of 12 months, up from 7.9 months reported earlier. The median duration of response was 14.3 months.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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Video: Putting the AI in R&D — with Badhri Srini­vasan, Tony Wood, Rosana Kapeller, Hugo Ceule­mans, Saurabh Sa­ha and Shoibal Dat­ta

During BIO this year, I had a chance to moderate a panel among some of the top tech experts in biopharma on their real-world use of artificial intelligence in R&D. There’s been a lot said about the potential of AI, but I wanted to explore more about what some of the larger players are actually doing with this technology today, and how they see it advancing in the future. It was a fascinating exchange, which you can see here. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. — John Carroll

As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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Why would Am­gen want to buy Alex­ion? An­a­lysts call hot­ly ru­mored takeover un­like­ly, but seize the mo­ment

A rumor that Amgen is closing in on buyout deal for Alexion has sparked a guessing game on just what kind of M&A strategy Amgen is pursuing and how much Alexion is worth.

Mizuho analyst Salim Syed first lent credence to the report out of the Spanish news outlet Intereconomía, which said Amgen is bidding as much as $200 per share. While the source may be questionable, “the concept of this happening doesn’t sound too crazy to me,” he wrote.