New York gam­bles $1.15B in new funds and in­cen­tives in search of a biotech jack­pot

Of all the biotech hub wannabes in the world, and they are le­gion, New York has per­haps one of the best claims on top-rank sta­tus. Man­hat­tan is home to some of the world’s great­est re­search in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing some in­volved di­rect­ly in the im­muno-on­col­o­gy rev­o­lu­tion now un­der­way. And it has a small but grow­ing hub in Mid­town to help house a boom.

To­day, it al­so can add a $650 mil­lion ini­tia­tive from the gov­er­nor to help spark a boom. And then New York May­or Bill de­Bla­sio fol­lowed up with a $500 mil­lion ef­fort aimed at cre­at­ing 9,000 biotech jobs over the next 10 years.

The city pro­gram in­cludes $100 mil­lion in­vest­ment for a new life sci­ences cam­pus on Man­hat­tan’s East Side or in neigh­bor­ing Long Is­land City; a $50 mil­lion in­vest­ment to cre­ate new work space at 8 top re­search in­sti­tu­tions; $20 mil­lion in new seed funds;  and $300 mil­lion in tax in­cen­tives.

Gov­er­nor An­drew Cuo­mo’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has come up with a mix of tax in­cen­tives and new ven­ture cash to make New York state top of mind for any up-and-com­ing biotech in the world look­ing for some­place to call home. The list of good­ies in­cludes:

  • $250 mil­lion in tax in­cen­tives that can be doled out in $10 mil­lion al­lot­ments to ex­ist­ing biotechs. This in­cludes a 15% tax cred­it on ap­proved R&D ex­pens­es for new life sci­ence com­pa­nies. And there’s a 25% tax cred­it for an­gel in­vestors who in­vest in biotechs, worth up to $250,000.
  • There’s a new $200 mil­lion-plus ven­ture fund, which the state is pro­vid­ing $100 mil­lion to in match­ing cash, for ear­ly-stage com­pa­nies. There’s grant and prize mon­ey avail­able to star­tups, which will be doled out in com­pe­ti­tions look­ing for the best and bright­est up­starts.
  • There’s al­so a $200 mil­lion pro­gram to back up cap­i­tal in­vest­ments, with land and of­fice space avail­able at dozens of state col­leges.

The goal here is to ri­val the two gold­en states in biotech: Mass­a­chu­setts and Cal­i­for­nia. Just like every­body else in the eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment game, New York state and city of­fi­cials are shoot­ing for brag­ging rights to be­ing home to an in­dus­try that is known for good, high-pay­ing jobs fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing im­por­tant new drugs.

But these lo­cal ini­tia­tives rarely pan out as elect­ed of­fi­cials like to boast they will. Flori­da Gov­er­nor Jeb Bush in­vest­ed heav­i­ly in new re­search in­sti­tu­tions, look­ing to build the foun­da­tion for a life sci­ences in­dus­try of their own. But they nev­er at­tract­ed the kind of re­search sup­port need­ed, and now some of the in­sti­tu­tions are sim­ply falling apart af­ter fail­ing to gen­er­ate the jobs they promised. Cal­i­for­nia has seen lit­tle tan­gi­ble progress with its stem cell ini­tia­tive. And Texas is still try­ing to seed the in­dus­try with can­cer re­search cash.

New York at least doesn’t have to start from scratch. But it still has a long way to go.

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group under José Baselga keeps churning out hits.

Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.