Less than two years af­ter nine-fig­ure IPO, Ap­plied Mol­e­c­u­lar Trans­port cuts back on staff, pipeline ef­forts

An­oth­er day, an­oth­er biotech un­der­go­ing a sig­nif­i­cant shift thanks to the bear mar­ket.

Wednes­day’s vic­tim is Ap­plied Mol­e­c­u­lar Trans­port. This morn­ing the San Fran­cis­co-based biotech said it would lay off 52 em­ploy­ees and elim­i­nate three oth­er po­si­tions fol­low­ing res­ig­na­tions to re­duce its work­force by 40%. The firm is al­so chang­ing up its main fo­cus to hone in on its lead pro­gram, ef­fec­tive­ly hit­ting the pause but­ton on oth­er pipeline can­di­dates.

On top of that, there’s al­so some C-suite shuf­fling tak­ing place. The com­pa­ny’s co-founder and chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer Ran­dall Mrsny will be de­part­ing, AMT not­ed in an SEC fil­ing. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, CFO Shawn Cross is mov­ing to pres­i­dent and COO, while Bran­don Hants earns a pro­mo­tion to CFO.

“It has been my great plea­sure and hon­or to work along­side Randy to build AMT in or­der to cre­ate and ad­vance nov­el oral bi­o­log­ic ther­a­peu­tics,” CEO and co-founder Tahir Mah­mood said in a state­ment. “Part­ing with the em­ploy­ees who have brought AMT to such an ad­vanced stage is a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion.”

AMT’s shift comes less than two years af­ter its $154 mil­lion IPO in June 2020. At the time, the com­pa­ny not­ed it had doubts about be­ing able to con­tin­ue with avail­able cash. As of AMT’s first quar­ter re­port ear­li­er this month, the biotech had $126.5 mil­lion cash on hand, which it said would be enough run­way for the next 12 months.

But the com­pa­ny’s stock $AMTI is down about 70% for the year, as it’s proven vul­ner­a­ble to the biotech bear mar­ket much like many that went pub­lic dur­ing the pan­dem­ic IPO boom. AMT record­ed a $42.6 mil­lion loss in the first quar­ter as well, more than dou­ble the loss it record­ed in 2021’s Q1.

The new fo­cus will be al­most sole­ly on the biotech’s lead can­di­date, dubbed AMT-101. Re­searchers are de­vel­op­ing the drug can­di­date, an oral com­pound de­signed to tar­get IL-10 and cross the in­testi­nal ep­ithe­lial bar­ri­er with­out en­ter­ing the blood­stream, to treat in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­eases and sys­temic in­flam­ma­to­ry in­di­ca­tions.

AMT-101 is a po­ten­tial­ly multi­bil­lion-dol­lar drug, ac­cord­ing to Jef­feries an­a­lyst Chris How­er­ton, but ap­provals could be years away. Though AMT re­leased pos­i­tive Phase II da­ta in chron­ic pou­ch­i­tis last month, the re­al mon­ey mak­ers will come in ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, Crohn’s dis­ease and rheuma­toid arthri­tis.

Phase II mod­er­ate-to-se­vere UC da­ta are ex­pect­ed some­time this quar­ter in com­bi­na­tion with an an­ti-TN­Fα for bi­o­log­ic-naive pa­tients. Even in a pes­simistic sce­nario, How­er­ton ex­pects an ap­proval in this in­di­ca­tion in 2027 with about $1 bil­lion in peak sales. The more op­ti­mistic side sees ap­provals in UC in 2027, and Crohn’s and RA in 2028.

AMT has not, how­ev­er, ex­pressed much pub­licly about go­ing af­ter the Crohn’s in­di­ca­tion. The dis­ease is not list­ed on the pipeline sec­tion of its web­site and it’s not cur­rent­ly un­der­go­ing any stud­ies in Crohn’s.

Go­ing for­ward, AMT says it ex­pects to com­plete three re­main­ing Phase II stud­ies, with da­ta read­outs all com­ing this year. The on­ly oth­er an­nounced pipeline pro­gram, an oral IL-22 drug called AMT-126, re­cent­ly read out Phase Ia da­ta but the com­pa­ny is “eval­u­at­ing next steps,” sug­gest­ing a de­vel­op­ment pause.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images)

Up­dat­ed: Hit by an­oth­er PhI­II flop, Sanofi culls breast can­cer drug — sound­ing alarm for the class

Sanofi is officially giving up on its oral SERD.

The French drugmaker put out word Wednesday morning that it will discontinue the global development program of amcenestrant, the selective estrogen receptor degrader once billed as a top late-stage prospect. Having already failed a Phase II monotherapy test earlier this year, a combo with the drug also missed the bar in a second trial for breast cancer, triggering the decision to drop the whole program.

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Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Kate Haviland, Blueprint Medicines CEO

Blue­print met all its end­points in bid for ex­pand­ed Ay­vak­it la­bel — but stock trends low­er any­way

Blueprint Medicines announced this morning that the second part of its study on Ayvakit in non-advanced systemic mastocytosis (SM) — a rare disease in which a type of white blood cells known as mast cells builds up — met all endpoints, but the biopharma left key questions unanswered.

In 212 patients, with 141 in the treatment arm and 71 in the control arm, patients who got Ayvakit saw an average 15.6-point decrease in their symptom scores compared to a 9.2-point decrease in the placebo arm at 24 weeks. In an extension study, those on Ayvakit saw their symptom scores drop by 20.2 points by week 48.

Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Marisol Peron, Genmab SVP of communications and corporate affairs

Gen­mab launch­es cor­po­rate cam­paign am­pli­fy­ing its ‘knock your socks off’ an­ti­bod­ies

Genmab often talks about its “knock-your-socks-off” antibodies — and now the term is getting its own logo and corporate campaign.

The teal and purple logo for the acronym KYSO — Genmab pronounces it “ky-so” — debuts on Wednesday and comes on the heels of Genmab’s newly announced 2030 vision. That aspiration aims to expand Genmab’s drug development beyond oncology to include other serious diseases, while also doubling down on its own drug development.

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