Mo­men­ta whacks top ex­ecs, 110 jobs in re­struc­tur­ing; Genen­tech gains $62M in R&D back­ing from BAR­DA

Mo­men­ta Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $MN­TA is re­struc­tur­ing, boot­ing 110 jobs and a slate of ex­ecs in search of some deep bud­get cuts. As part of the re­struc­tur­ing, Mo­men­ta says it will nar­row its biosim­i­lars work to two late-stage pro­grams while it shifts fo­cus to nov­el ther­a­peu­tics.

Mo­men­ta says it will shed 5 pro­grams in­volved in its part­ner­ship with My­lan, stick­ing with a knock­off of Oren­cia. 

Out: Ganesh Kaun­dinya, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer and chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer; Bruce Le­ich­er, SVP, gen­er­al coun­sel and sec­re­tary; James An­der­son, SVP phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sci­ence; Robert Ciap­penel­li, SVP and head of com­mer­cial; and Scott Stor­er, SVP, chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and trea­sur­er.

“Our goal when we en­tered this strate­gic re­view was to find an ef­fec­tive way to re­duce our lev­el of in­volve­ment in biosim­i­lar de­vel­op­ment so that we could re­fo­cus our re­sources on our promis­ing nov­el drug can­di­dates for im­mune-me­di­at­ed dis­eases. We ex­plored a num­ber of op­tions, in­clud­ing the sale of all of our biosim­i­lar as­sets in a sin­gle trans­ac­tion,” said Mo­men­ta CEO Craig Wheel­er. “Af­ter mul­ti­ple rounds of com­plex ne­go­ti­a­tions, it was de­ter­mined that the re­struc­tur­ing of our Com­pa­ny to fo­cus on the ad­vance­ment of our nov­el drug pipeline and the con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of our two late-stage biosim­i­lar pro­grams, M923 and M710, pro­vides us with what we be­lieve to be the best path for­ward be­cause of the po­ten­tial for these two biosim­i­lar pro­grams to gen­er­ate rev­enues that could help fund our fu­ture Phase 3 nov­el drug clin­i­cal tri­als.”

Genen­tech has won some sig­nif­i­cant sup­port for its new flu drug from a new part­ner — and this one is hap­py to con­tribute to the cause with­out tak­ing any­thing in re­turn. BAR­DA is con­tribut­ing $43 mil­lion over five years to sup­port a study of balox­avir mar­box­il. Roche of­fi­cials have been bull­ish about this drug, es­pe­cial­ly as they’d like to re­place the rev­enue be­ing lost to cheap knock­offs of Tam­i­flu with a new brand­ed drug rev­enue stream. They’ve talked up its abil­i­ty to re­solve the flu in 24 hours, ver­sus 72 hours for Tam­i­flu, but the pres­ence of a cheap gener­ic has dragged back sales ex­pec­ta­tions. BAR­DA will al­so pro­vide $19 mil­lion over 18 months to ad­vance al­teplase (tPA) for a new in­di­ca­tion to treat acute lung in­juries called cast for­ma­tion caused by in­hal­ing sul­fur mus­tard gas. 

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.

As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.