News brief­ing: Gilead part­ner Gala­pa­gos sells off CRO for $37M; Polyphor bags $3.3M from CF Foun­da­tion

Close Gilead al­ly Gala­pa­gos is sell­ing off one of its con­tract re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions to a Pol­ish phar­ma com­pa­ny.

Gala­pa­gos has agreed to sell 100% of the out­stand­ing shares in the CRO Fi­delta to Selvi­ta, in a deal worth rough­ly $37 mil­lion ex­pect­ed to close in the first week of Jan­u­ary. The ac­qui­si­tion is ex­pect­ed to near­ly dou­ble Selvi­ta’s rev­enues, the com­pa­ny says, as well as ex­pand its drug dis­cov­ery ef­forts.

“This is a per­fect fit for us: an ex­ten­sive­ly ex­pe­ri­enced or­ga­ni­za­tion, with a full range of in-house drug dis­cov­ery ca­pa­bil­i­ties and an es­tab­lished track record of clin­i­cal can­di­date de­liv­ery,” Selvi­ta CEO Bo­gus­law Sieczkows­ki said.

Fi­delta’s main ar­eas of fo­cus are in­flam­ma­tion, fi­bro­sis, and an­ti-in­fec­tives, and its R&D fa­cil­i­ty is lo­cat­ed in Croa­t­ia. With the ac­qui­si­tion, Selvi­ta hopes to boost its ca­pac­i­ties in drug me­tab­o­lism and phar­ma­co­ki­net­ics, in vi­vo phar­ma­col­o­gy and tox­i­col­o­gy.

For Gala­pa­gos, the move comes on the heels of bad news af­ter bad news fol­low­ing the news that one of their top de­vel­op­ment pro­grams fell flat in a mid-stage study for os­teoarthri­tis last month. The pro­gram missed the pri­ma­ry and all key sec­ondary end­points, and came af­ter Gilead had in­vest­ed $5 bil­lion to col­lab­o­rate with the com­pa­ny. — Max Gel­man

Polyphor nets $3.3M from CF Foun­da­tion

The CF Foun­da­tion is best known for fi­nanc­ing de­vel­op­ment of the Ver­tex CFTR in­hibitors that have changed the lives of mil­lions of peo­ple with cys­tic fi­bro­sis. But the non-prof­it ven­ture al­so doles out cash for projects that could ame­lio­rate the var­i­ous com­pli­ca­tions that come with CF, be­yond the di­rect dis­ease bi­ol­o­gy.

On Tues­day, the foun­da­tion gave Polyphor $3.3 mil­lion to fund a Phase Ib/IIa tri­al on their in­haled an­tibi­ot­ic for chron­ic Pseudomonas aerug­i­nosa in­fec­tions in cys­tic fi­bro­sis. The bac­te­ria can in­fect peo­ple with­out CF, but it is a par­tic­u­lar threat for peo­ple with the lung dis­or­der, even those who are on CFTR in­hibitors.

Like many an­tibi­ot­ic com­pa­nies, Polyphor has strug­gled over the last two years as the bit­ter eco­nom­ics of the mar­ket be­came in­creas­ing­ly clear. Mak­ing mat­ters worse, the com­pa­ny had to scrap a Phase III on their lead drug in May of 2019, af­ter kid­ney com­pli­ca­tions cropped up.

Af­ter rais­ing $165 mil­lion in 2018 off the strength of that lead drug, the com­pa­ny has more re­cent­ly turned to grants, win­ning up to $18.44 mil­lion this year from CARB-X. – Ja­son Mast

BY­OD Best Prac­tices: How Mo­bile De­vice Strat­e­gy Leads to More Pa­tient-Cen­tric Clin­i­cal Tri­als

Some of the most time- and cost-consuming components of clinical research center on gathering, analyzing, and reporting data. To improve efficiency, many clinical trial sponsors have shifted to electronic clinical outcome assessments (eCOA), including electronic patient-reported outcome (ePRO) tools.

In most cases, patients enter data using apps installed on provisioned devices. At a time when 81% of Americans own a smartphone, why not use the device they rely on every day?

Chris Gibson (Photo By Vaughn Ridley/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)

Re­cur­sion founders gin for­tunes as IPO back­ers show­er $436M on one of the biggest boasts in AI -- based on some very small deals

In the AI drug development world, boasting often comes with the territory. Yet few can rival Recursion when it comes to claiming the lead role in what company execs like to call the industrialization of drug development, with promises of continued exponential growth in the number of drugs it has in the pipeline.

On Friday, the Salt Lake City-based biotech translated its unicorn-sized boasts into a killer IPO, pricing more than 24 million shares at the high end of its range and bringing in $436 million — with a large chunk of that promised by some deep-pocket backers.

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Covid-19 vac­cine halt drags on, an FDA ap­point­ment at long last, the great CRO con­sol­i­da­tion, 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.

Conference season is upon us, and while we’d much prefer to be wandering down the hallways and presentation rooms in person, the team is ready to cover the most consequential data coming out of these scientific meetings. Get in touch early if you have news to share.

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Eli Lil­ly asks FDA to re­voke EUA for Covid-19 treat­ment

Eli Lilly on Friday requested that the FDA revoke the emergency authorization for its Covid-19 drug bamlanivimab, which is no longer as effective as a combo therapy because of a rise in coronavirus variants across the US.

“With the growing prevalence of variants in the U.S. that bamlanivimab alone may not fully neutralize, and with sufficient supply of etesevimab, we believe now is the right time to complete our planned transition and focus on the administration of these two neutralizing antibodies together,” Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s CSO, said in a statement.

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Ex­clu­sive in­ter­view: Pe­ter Marks on why full Covid-19 vac­cine ap­provals could be just months away

Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, took time out of his busy schedule last Friday to discuss with Endpoints News all things related to his work regulating vaccines and the pandemic.

Marks, who quietly coined the name “Operation Warp Speed” before deciding to stick with his work regulating vaccines at the FDA rather than join the Trump-era program, has been the face of vaccine regulation for the FDA throughout the pandemic, and is usually spotted in Zoom meetings seated in front of his wife’s paintings.

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Near­ly a year af­ter Au­den­tes' gene ther­a­py deaths, the tri­al con­tin­ues. What hap­pened re­mains a mys­tery

Natalie Holles was five months into her tenure as Audentes CEO and working to smooth out a $3 billion merger when the world crashed in.

Holles and her team received word on the morning of May 5 that, hours before, a patient died in a trial for their lead gene therapy. They went into triage mode, alerting the FDA, calling trial investigators to begin to understand what happened, and, the next day, writing a letter to alert the patient community so they would be the first to know. “We wanted to be as forthright and transparent as possible,” Holles told me late last month.

The brief letter noted two other patients also suffered severe reactions after receiving a high dose of the therapy and were undergoing treatment. One died a month and a half later, at which point news of the deaths became public, jolting an emergent gene therapy field and raising questions about the safety of the high doses Audentes and others were now using. The third patient died in August.

“It was deeply saddening,” Holles said. “But I was — we were — resolute and determined to understand what happened and learn from it and get back on track.”

Eleven months have now passed since the first death and the therapy, a potential cure for a rare and fatal muscle-wasting disease called X-linked myotubular myopathy, is back on track, the FDA having cleared the company to resume dosing at a lower level. Audentes itself is no more; last month, Japanese pharma giant Astellas announced it had completed working out the kinks of the $3 billion merger and had restructured and rebranded the subsidiary as Astellas Gene Therapies. Holles, having successfully steered both efforts, departed.

Still, questions about precisely what led to the deaths of the 3 boys still linger. Trial investigators released key details about the case last August and December, pointing to a biological landmine that Audentes could not have seen coming — a moment of profound medical misfortune. In an emerging field that’s promised cures for devastating diseases but also seen its share of safety setbacks, the cases provided a cautionary tale.

Audentes “contributed in a positive way by giving a painful but important example for others to look at and learn from,” Terry Flotte, dean of the UMass School of Medicine and editor of the journal Human Gene Therapy, told me. “I can’t see anything they did wrong.”

Yet some researchers say they’re still waiting on Astellas to release more data. The company has yet to publish a full paper detailing what happened, nor have they indicated that they will. In the meantime, it remains unclear what triggered the events and how to prevent them in the future.

“Since Audentes was the first one and we don’t have additional information, we’re kind of in a holding pattern, flying around, waiting to figure out how to land our vehicles,” said Jude Samulski, professor of pharmacology at UNC’s Gene Therapy Center and CSO of the gene therapy biotech AskBio, now a subsidiary of Bayer.

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TG Ther­a­peu­tics pre­pares to ap­proach reg­u­la­tors with MS drug; In­vestors bet $93M on a life sci­ences tools com­pa­ny

Gearing up for a battle with pharma giants, TG Therapeutics says it’s nearly ready to approach regulators with its CD20 drug for multiple sclerosis.

The biotech read out results from two Phase III trials at AAN, which show its candidate ublituximab reduced patients’ annualized relapse rate by 60% and 50% compared to Sanofi’s Aubagio, or teriflunomide — an 8-year-old drug that’s often used as a benchmark.

J&J faces CDC ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee again next week to weigh Covid-19 vac­cine risks

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices punted earlier this week on deciding whether or not to recommend lifting a pause on the administration of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine, but the committee will meet again in an emergency session next Friday to discuss the safety issues further.

The timing of the meeting likely means that the J&J vaccine will not return to the US market before the end of next week as the FDA looks to work hand-in-hand with the CDC to ensure the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks for all age groups.

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Osman Kibar (Samumed, now Biosplice)

Os­man Kibar lays down his hand at Sa­mumed, step­ping away from CEO role as his once-her­ald­ed an­ti-ag­ing biotech re­brands

Samumed made quite the entrance back in 2016, when it launched with some anti-aging programs and a whopping $12 billion valuation. That level of fanfare was nowhere to be found on Thursday, when the company added another $120 million to its coffers and quietly changed its name to Biosplice Therapeutics.

Why the sudden rebrand?

“We did that for obvious reasons,” CFO and CBO Erich Horsley told Endpoints News. “The name Biosplice echoes our science much more than Samumed does.”

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