MD An­der­son to biotech bil­lion­aire Soon-Sh­iong: Get your own slo­gan. ‘Moon Shots’ be­longs to us

Dr. Patrick Soon Sh­iong, cred­it NHS Con­fed­er­a­tion

MD An­der­son has been pro­mot­ing its can­cer moon shots pro­grams for four years. The ban­ner for its can­cer re­search ini­tia­tive has helped raise some $380 mil­lion in char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions over the years. And the vast Hous­ton can­cer cen­ter is not about to let some John­ny-come-late­ly biotech up­start like bil­lion­aire Patrick Soon-Sh­iong come along and take it for him­self.

Now they want a re­strain­ing or­der and dam­ages. And they have one of the top le­gal gun­slingers in the Lone Star state plead­ing their cause.

From the suit:

“Through such years of sub­stan­tial and con­tin­u­ous use, Plain­tiff (that’s MD An­der­son) has ac­quired se­nior valid, sub­sist­ing, and con­tin­u­ous trade­mark rights and as­so­ci­at­ed good­will in and to the Se­nior Marks. Ac­cord­ing­ly, Plain­tiff is the ex­clu­sive own­er of all rights, ti­tles, and in­ter­ests through­out the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca in and to the Se­nior Marks, to­geth­er with all good­will of the busi­ness(es) con­nect­ed with the use of and sym­bol­ized by the Se­nior Marks, which are of sig­nif­i­cant val­ue.”

That’s the gist of a law­suit that MD An­der­son filed in late Oc­to­ber against Soon-Sh­iong and his net­work of Nant-named ven­tures: NantHealth, Nant­Works and Nant Hold­ings.

First re­port­ed by The Can­cer Let­ter, the law­suit spells out the many ways that MD An­der­son used Moon Shots, claim­ing se­nior rights that date back to long be­fore the Nants came along to start us­ing it in late 2015 or ear­ly 2016 as Moon­Shots.

The law­suit was filed by Charles Bab­cock, one of the best known First Amend­ment at­tor­neys in Texas. (Full dis­clo­sure, Chip Bab­cock was my at­tor­ney dur­ing part of my time as pub­lish­er of the Dal­las Busi­ness Jour­nal in the ear­ly ’90s.) Bab­cock rep­re­sent­ed Oprah Win­frey in her free speech de­fense in 1998 for a mad cow dis­ease sto­ry and has the rare dis­tinc­tion of be­ing one of the few, and per­haps the on­ly, tri­al lawyer to ap­pear on her show to dis­cuss the con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­tec­tions for speech.

There is an­oth­er Can­cer Moon­shot at­tract­ing at­ten­tion in the US. Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden has fired up his own cam­paign for a fed­er­al project, which en­list­ed none oth­er than Patrick Soon-Sh­iong for the blue rib­bon pan­el formed for its own pro­mo­tion to tack­le on­col­o­gy. That tie-up ap­par­ent­ly cre­at­ed some­thing of an em­bar­rass­ing over­lap of moon shots. But MD An­der­son doesn’t tar­get Biden or his ri­val fed­er­al moon shot in its law­suit against the biotech bil­lion­aire.

De­vel­op­ment of the Next Gen­er­a­tion NKG2D CAR T-cell Man­u­fac­tur­ing Process

Celyad’s view on developing and delivering a CAR T-cell therapy with multi-tumor specificity combined with cell manufacturing success
Overview
Transitioning potential therapeutic assets from academia into the commercial environment is an exercise that is largely underappreciated by stakeholders, except for drug developers themselves. The promise of preclinical or early clinical results drives enthusiasm, but the pragmatic delivery of a therapy outside of small, local testing is most often a major challenge for drug developers especially, including among other things, the manufacturing challenges that surround the production of just-in-time and personalized autologous cell therapy products.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

UP­DAT­ED: Sanofi CEO Hud­son lays out new R&D fo­cus — chop­ping di­a­betes, car­dio and slash­ing $2B-plus costs in sur­gi­cal dis­sec­tion

Earlier on Monday, new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson baited the hook on his upcoming strategy presentation Tuesday with a tell-tale deal to buy Synthorx for $2.5 billion. That fits squarely with hints that he’s pointing the company to a bigger future in oncology, which also squares with a major industry tilt.

In a big reveal later in the day, though, Hudson offered a slate of stunners on his plans to surgically dissect and reassemble the portfoloio, saying that the company is dropping cardio and diabetes research — which covers two of its biggest franchise arenas. Sanofi missed the boat on developing new diabetes drugs, and now it’s pulling out entirely. As part of the pullback, it’s dropping efpeglenatide, their once-weekly GLP-1 injection for diabetes.

“To be out of cardiovascular and diabetes is not easy for a company like ours with an incredibly proud history,” Hudson said on a call with reporters, according to the Wall Street Journal. “As tough a choice as that is, we’re making that choice.”

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Chris Garabedian. Xontogeny

Per­cep­tive teams up with Chris Garabe­di­an to open up a new, $210M biotech fund fo­cused on A rounds

Perceptive Advisors is one of those prolific biotech investor groups which has traditionally enjoyed zeroing in on clinical-stage investments and crossover rounds, a group that prefers more established drug development players with near-term payoff potential.

But now they’re partnering with Xontogeny chief and longtime biotech entrepreneur Chris Garabedian on a $210 million fund — with money contributed by institutional investors and family funds — to go into the launch space with their first early-stage VC fund. Dubbed the Perceptive Xontogeny Venture Fund, LP, or just PXV Fund, they plan to favor upstarts that Garabedian is fostering in his incubator. But they’ll also plan to reach outside that inner circle for more A rounds to back, with plans to dominate initial funding with $10 million to $20 million per newborn biotech.

Roger Perlmutter, Merck

#ASH19: Here’s why Mer­ck is pay­ing $2.7B to­day to grab Ar­Qule and its next-gen BTK drug, lin­ing up Eli Lil­ly ri­val­ry

Just a few months after making a splash at the European Hematology Association scientific confab with an early snapshot of positive data for their BTK inhibitor ARQ 531, ArQule has won a $2.7 billion buyout deal from Merck.

Merck is scooping up a next-gen BTK drug — which is making a splash at ASH today — from ArQule in an M&A pact set at $20 a share $ARQL. That’s more than twice Friday’s $9.66 close. And Merck R&D chief Roger Perlmutter heralded a deal that nets “multiple clinical-stage oral kinase inhibitors.”

This is the second biotech buyout pact today, marking a brisk tempo of M&A deals in the lead-up to the big JP Morgan gathering in mid-January. It’s no surprise the acquisitions are both for cancer drugs, where Sanofi will try to make its mark while Merck beefs up a stellar oncology franchise. And bolt-ons are all the rage at the major pharma players, which you could also see in Novartis’ recent $9.7 billion MedCo buyout.

ArQule — which comes out on top after their original lead drug foundered in Phase III — highlighted early data on ‘531 at EHA from a group of 6 chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients who got the 65 mg dose. Four of them experienced a partial response — a big advance for a company that failed with earlier attempts.

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US biosim­i­lar launch­es about to turn a cor­ner

The US biosimilar industry has lingered in the shadow of the European market since the US pathway for approvals was initiated in 2009.

Ten years later (or less than five years since the first FDA approval of a biosimilar), and just 42% (11 out of 26) of FDA-approved biosimilars have launched. But in the next three months (see chart below), a clutch of new biosimilars will hit the market, including new ones in oncology, hinting at a wave of uptake.

Left top to right: Mark Timney, Alex Denner, Vas Narasimhan. (The Medicines Company, Getty, AP/Endpoints News)

In a play-by-play of the $9.7B Med­Co buy­out, No­var­tis ad­mits it over­paid while of­fer­ing a huge wind­fall to ex­ecs

A month into his tenure at The Medicines Company, new CEO Mark Timney reached out to then-Novartis pharma chief Paul Hudson: Any interest in a partnership?

No, Hudson told him. Not now, at least.

Ten months later, Hudson had left to run Sanofi and Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan was paying $9.7 billion for the one-drug biotech – the largest in the string of acquisitions Narasimhan has signed since his 2017 appointment.

The deal was the product of an activist investor and his controversial partner working through nearly a year of cat-and-mouse negotiations to secure a deal with Big Pharma’s most expansionist executive. It represented a huge bet in a cardiovascular field that already saw two major busts in recent years and brought massive returns for two of the industry’s most eye-raising names.

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Paul Hudson. Sanofi

New Sanofi CEO Hud­son adds next-gen can­cer drug tech to the R&D quest, buy­ing Syn­thorx for $2.5B

When Paul Hudson lays out his R&D vision for Sanofi tomorrow, he will have a new slate of interleukin therapies and a synthetic biology platform to boast about.

The French pharma giant announced early Monday that it is snagging San Diego biotech Synthorx in a $2.5 billion deal. That marks an affordable bolt-on for Sanofi but a considerable return for Synthorx backers, including Avalon, RA Capital and OrbiMed: At $68 per share, the price represents a 172% premium to Friday’s closing.

Synthorx’s take on alternative IL-2 drugs for both cancer and autoimmune disorders — enabled by a synthetic DNA base pair pioneered by Scripps professor Floyd Romesberg — “fits perfectly” with the kind of innovation that he wants at Sanofi, Hudson said.

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Game on: Re­gen­eron's BC­MA bis­pe­cif­ic makes clin­i­cal da­ta de­but, kick­ing off mul­ti­ple myelo­ma matchup with Bris­tol-My­ers

As J&J attempts to jostle past Bristol-Myers Squibb and bluebird for a landmark approval of its anti-BCMA CAR-T — and while GlaxoSmithKline maps a quick path to the FDA riding on its own BCMA-targeting antibody-drug conjugates — the bispecifics are arriving on the scene to stake a claim for a market that could cross $10 billion per year.

The main rivalry in multiple myeloma is shaping up to be one between Regeneron and Bristol-Myers, which picked up a bispecific antibody to BCMA through its recently closed $74 billion takeover of Celgene. Both presented promising first-in-human data at the ASH 2019 meeting.

FDA lifts hold on Abeon­a's but­ter­fly dis­ease ther­a­py, paving way for piv­otal study

It’s been a difficult few years for gene and cell therapy startup Abeona Therapeutics. Its newly crowned chief Carsten Thiel was forced out last year following accusations of unspecified “personal misconduct,” and this September, the FDA imposed a clinical hold on its therapy for a form of “butterfly” disease. But things are beginning to perk up. On Monday, the company said the regulator had lifted its hold and the experimental therapy is now set to be evaluated in a late-stage study.