Lil­ly, In­cyte-al­lied Chi­nese drug­mak­er In­novent bags Roche as part­ner in deal that could yield bil­lions

Chi­na’s bi­o­log­ic pow­er­house In­novent has snagged an­oth­er il­lus­tri­ous part­ner: Roche.

The com­pa­ny — which made its pub­lic de­but on Hong Kong Stock Ex­change in 2018 rais­ing a whop­ping $421 mil­lion — is al­ready col­lab­o­rat­ing with a host of key bio­phar­ma and aca­d­e­m­ic groups such as Eli Lil­ly, In­cyte and the MD An­der­son Can­cer Cen­ter. Now, In­novent has inked a deal with Roche that grants it ac­cess to the Swiss drug­mak­er’s bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­body and CAR-T tech­nol­o­gy.

Har­ness­ing these plat­forms, In­novent is tasked with dis­cov­er­ing, de­vel­op­ing and com­mer­cial­iz­ing bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies and cell ther­a­pies for use in hema­to­log­i­cal and sol­id can­cers. Roche will have the op­tion right to li­cense each prod­uct for ex-Chi­na de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion. If those op­tions are ex­er­cised, the 1896-found­ed drug­mak­er will be on the hook for $140 mil­lion, plus ad­di­tion­al mile­stone pay­ments up to $1.96 bil­lion if the drugs are suc­cess­ful­ly de­vel­oped and com­mer­cial­ized. In­novent will al­so be el­i­gi­ble for roy­al­ties over and above that meaty fig­ure.

Roche, the world’s biggest di­ag­nos­tic mak­er, has a large on­col­o­gy port­fo­lio — 6 out of 10 of its topselling drugs last year were can­cer ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing its old­er Avastin and Her­ceptin ther­a­pies as well as new­er of­fer­ings such as Tecen­triq and Kad­cy­la. Roche has been carv­ing out niche ap­provals for its block­buster check­point in­hibitor Tecen­triq, as it plays catch up the mar­ket-lead­ing drugs from Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb. But its plan to con­sol­i­date its po­si­tion in the field rests on its sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion check­point in­hibitor. The com­pa­ny’s an­ti-TIG­IT mol­e­cule tiragolum­ab, which is track­ing ahead of its ri­vals, should give the com­pa­ny an edge over ex­ist­ing ther­a­pies, al­though so far, da­ta have been mixed.

In­novent, mean­while, was the first drug­mak­er to get a home­grown Chi­nese check­point in­hibitor across the fin­ish line in the coun­try — in late 2018, the Lil­ly-part­nered PD-1 agent Tyvyt (sin­til­imab) scored ap­proval for pa­tients with re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry clas­si­cal Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. The com­pa­ny is a promi­nent mem­ber of a pack of Chi­nese biotech firms that have mush­roomed to cater to the sky­rock­et­ing rates of can­cer in the re­gion and have lured mil­lions in ven­ture fund­ing and pub­lic list­ings.

The Suzhou-based com­pa­ny has a brim­ming pipeline with 23 ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­pies un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for use in a raft of dis­eases, in­clud­ing can­cer, meta­bol­ic and au­toim­mune dis­or­ders. Last year, Lil­ly ex­pand­ed its part­ner­ship with In­novent by out-li­cens­ing a slice of its di­a­betes pipeline, a fran­chise that has pro­duced the In­di­anapo­lis-based drug­mak­er’s best­selling drugs Trulic­i­ty and Hu­ma­log. In late 2018, In­novent part­ed with $40 mil­lion in cash for Chi­na rights to three ex­per­i­men­tal In­cyte drugs un­der de­vel­op­ment for dif­fer­ent can­cers and graft ver­sus host dis­ease.

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.

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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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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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.”

Atomwise CEO and co-founder Abraham Heifets (left) and co-founder Izhar Wallach

A cou­ple bil­lion for Ex­sci­en­tia was on­ly part of Sanofi's AI am­bi­tions, as the Big Phar­ma adds Atom­wise to the ta­ble

Sanofi made clear its AI ambitions were real at the beginning of this year when the Big Pharma took its drug discovery collaboration with Exscientia to the next level, inking a pact that could birth 15 drugs and deliver $5.3 billion to the UK partner.

Seven months later, the AI blueprint is far from over at the French Big Pharma, as another of the much-hyped drug discovery startups is coming to the table in a five-drug deal. Sanofi will pay Atomwise $20 million to kick off the hunt for up to five targets, which are aimed at leading to the creation of new small molecules. Another $1 billion is on the line — as are royalties — and the companies kept mum on the specific diseases or broader therapeutic areas of interest.

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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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FDA ap­proves one of the prici­est new treat­ments of all time — blue­bird's gene ther­a­py for be­ta tha­lassemia

The FDA on Wednesday approved the first gene therapy for a chronic condition — bluebird bio’s new Zynteglo (beti-cel) as a potentially curative treatment for those with transfusion-dependent thalassemia.

The thumbs-up from the FDA follows a unanimous adcomm vote in June, with outside experts pointing to extraordinary efficacy, with 89% of subjects with TDT who received beti-cel having achieved transfusion independence.

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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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