Mass­a­chu­setts Gov­er­nor Char­lie Bak­er un­veils a $500M pro­gram to keep its big biotech hub boom­ing

The biotech hub in Boston/Cam­bridge is boom­ing, and Gov­er­nor Char­lie Bak­er is ad­vo­cat­ing a $500 mil­lion pro­gram for the next five years aimed at keep­ing the good times rolling.

It’s set up as a suc­ces­sor to for­mer Gov­er­nor De­val Patrick’s high-pro­file $1 bil­lion plan, un­veiled in 2008, to help spark growth in the life sci­ences field. Bak­er is propos­ing to spend $295 mil­lion on in­fra­struc­ture col­lab­o­ra­tions in the state, while ear­mark­ing $150 mil­lion for tax in­cen­tives de­signed to lever­age the cre­ation of new jobs.

While cater­ing to po­lit­i­cal con­stituen­cies around the state to make it more palat­able to all law­mak­ers, the gov­er­nor’s pro­pos­al comes af­ter an era of sharp growth cen­tered in Cam­bridge and rip­pling through the big Boston metro area. Just this morn­ing a new re­port on key in­dus­try trends from EY high­light­ed the re­gion’s con­tin­ued abil­i­ty to at­tract bil­lions in in­vest­ment cap­i­tal for star­tups.

Bob Cough­lin

Be­fore De­val Patrick came along with his $1 bil­lion plan, the life sci­ences in­dus­try had grown deeply en­trenched in the state, build­ing a close re­la­tion­ship be­tween Har­vard and MIT and the life sci­ences busi­ness­es like Bio­gen that got start­ed here. The biotech in­dus­try en­joys the role of one of the most fa­vored groups in the state, and lo­cal ex­ecs lined up to praise the new ini­tia­tive and the politi­cian who will pro­mote it.

“Ver­tex calls Mass­a­chu­setts home be­cause the Com­mon­wealth is the glob­al leader in life sci­ences, and this leg­is­la­tion, cou­pled with the Gov­er­nor’s tremen­dous sup­port for the in­dus­try, will pro­vide the tools nec­es­sary to main­tain our lead­er­ship po­si­tion,” said Ver­tex CEO Jef­frey Lei­den in a state­ment.

Mass­Bio chief Bob Cough­lin loud­ly ap­plaud­ed the pro­gram, not­ing:

For Mass­a­chu­setts res­i­dents Gov­er­nor Bak­er’s ac­tions mean more high pay­ing jobs in all cor­ners of the state for years to come. For pa­tients of the world, it means more break­through cures and treat­ments will reach them faster.

Eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment pro­grams like these are cer­tain­ly wel­comed with a smile. But states like Flori­da that tried to ig­nite their own biotech booms have come away with lit­tle to show for it. Cal­i­for­nia’s stem cell pro­gram in­vest­ed bil­lions on the field, but that wave re­ced­ed with­out cre­at­ing much in the way of vi­able new com­pa­nies and jobs.

Mass­a­chu­setts, though, gets to help fu­el a fire that’s al­ready burn­ing bright­ly.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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