Fred Aslan, Artiva

Mer­ck part­ner Arti­va blue­prints San Diego R&D, man­u­fac­tur­ing site to take NK cell op­er­a­tion to the next lev­el

In Jan­u­ary, Arti­va Bio­ther­a­peu­tics CEO Fred Aslan said his com­pa­ny is look­ing to cre­ate CAR-NK ther­a­pies with best-in-class ef­fi­ca­cy made in a whol­ly owned man­u­fac­tur­ing process. Arti­va is now an­oth­er step clos­er to that goal.

Arti­va will open a 52,000 square-foot head­quar­ters in San Diego that will house its R&D and man­u­fac­tur­ing of NK cell ther­a­pies. The site will have a mul­ti-suite, cus­tom-built man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty up to cur­rent GMP stan­dards and adds to its cur­rent man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions at GC Lab­Cell’s 300,000-square-foot lo­ca­tion in South Ko­rea. This new site won’t re­place what’s go­ing on in Ko­rea but dou­ble down on the amount of ca­pac­i­ty the com­pa­ny has.

Pe­ter Fly­nn

“We have this man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tem that will al­low us to make thou­sands of dos­es of cells from a batch … so we al­ready have a scaled process that’s al­lowed us to de­sign this new man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter in San Diego very ef­fi­cient­ly,” COO Pe­ter Fly­nn said in an in­ter­view. “It’s a cus­tom fa­cil­i­ty for our process, and it will al­low us not on­ly to think about pipeline ex­pan­sion, go­ing for­ward, but al­so al­low us to fur­ther re­fine the process to get ready for piv­otal and ul­ti­mate­ly reg­is­tra­tion of com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing. So re­al­ly, this is an eye on the fu­ture.”

The site is be­ing built out of an al­ready ex­ist­ing build­ing and is ex­pect­ed to be fin­ished in 2022. The of­fices will be filled short­ly af­ter, and Fly­nn said that man­u­fac­tur­ing will like­ly com­mence by the start of 2023. Right now, the 2.5-year-old com­pa­ny op­er­ates out of a 13,000-square-foot space in San Diego.

The move is a big step for the biotech, which gained at­ten­tion from Mer­ck at the start of this year and signed a col­lab­o­ra­tion agree­ment worth near­ly $2 bil­lion. That deal taps Arti­va’s tech to pre­serve, freeze and ship NK cell ther­a­pies with­out los­ing qual­i­ty.

In Feb­ru­ary, the biotech kicked off a $120 mil­lion Se­ries B fi­nanc­ing round, bring­ing its to­tal amount of funds raised to near­ly $200 mil­lion.

“The NK cell ther­a­py field is re­al­ly in­her­it­ing a lot of the orig­i­nal ex­cite­ment that was present with the CAR Ts,” Aslan said in a call with End­points Wednes­day. “We feel that NK cells re­al­ly will on­ly live up to their promise to can­cer pa­tients if they can be man­u­fac­tured and dis­trib­uted like oth­er bi­o­log­ic drugs like an­ti­bod­ies. ”

The site will be lo­cat­ed at 5505 More­house Dri­ve, ex­act­ly three miles from its cur­rent San Diego head­quar­ters.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Rahul Singhvi, Resilience CEO

A Bob Nelsen start­up turns to Har­vard to help sharp­en its tech, in­spir­ing first spin­out

One of Bob Nelsen’s latest projects is headed to Harvard.

Resilience, a company started with the goal of establishing itself as a “one-stop-shop” for companies looking to scale manufacturing, including for hard-to-develop cell and gene therapies, is less than a year old. Friday, it announced a five-year R&D deal with Harvard University that includes $30 million to develop biologics, including vaccines, nucleic acids and cell and gene therapies.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

FDA ad­comm to de­cide on mol­nupi­ravir EUA; Can­cer at­las un­veils new po­ten­tial drug tar­get

The FDA has another adcomm coming down the pipeline — this time on Covid-19 oral antiviral molnupiravir.

The federal agency’s advisory committee will meet on November 30th to go over Merck and Ridgeback’s EUA request for their investigational antiviral drug, and discuss the available data supporting its use in Covid-19 patients.

This comes two weeks after Merck claimed that their antiviral pill reduced the chance that newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients would be hospitalized or die by 50%. The pharma made the announcement after interim data on 775 patients in their clinical trial showed the antiviral’s potential.