News briefing: Verastem CMO exits two weeks after joining company; Thermo Fisher inks $550M M&A deal
Two weeks after joining Verastem Oncology as chief medical officer, Frank Neumann is leaving the company for another job.
Neumann had joined Verastem after leaving bluebird bio, which surprisingly split into two companies last week, one in oncology and one in rare diseases. It’s not yet clear to where Neumann is headed next, but he noted in a statement that Verastem’s data and strategy were “truly exciting.”
“This decision to leave is difficult and based solely on continuing my work in cell therapy,” Neumann said. “I am confident that Verastem will continue to make a positive impact on patients’ lives.”
Before his tenure at bluebird, Neumann devoted five years to Takeda, leading clinical development across their cell therapy spectrum in his final year there. He was Takeda’s global clinical lead for ponatinib and medical team lead for ixazomib. — Max Gelman
Thermo Fisher inks $550M M&A deal for rapid testing company
Thermo Fisher is shelling out $450 million in cash and promising $100 million in milestones to snap up Mesa Biotech, a diagnostics outfit that makes rapid tests for infectious diseases — including Covid-19.
Mesa was one of the first companies to roll out a quick test for SARS-CoV-2.
Mark Stevenson, executive VP and COO of Thermo Fisher Scientific, had this to say in a prepared statement:
”The addition of Mesa Biotech’s easy-to-use, rapid PCR-based test is highly complementary to our existing offering and will further help us meet the continuing demand for COVID-related testing while we work to rapidly scale and develop point-of care tests for other infectious diseases in the future.” — John Carroll
SCOTUS declines to take up Merck patent appeal for sofosbuvir
Merck’s final hope to revive a massive damages award has been quashed.
The Big Pharma had sought intervention from the US Supreme Court to restore a decision that would have granted the company more than $2.5 billion in damages related to a patent fight with Gilead. But the justices declined to take up the case, leaving the lower court’s ruling in place and Merck without further recourse.
Tuesday’s decision stems from a battle over Gilead’s sofosbuvir, which Merck had claimed infringed on a patent held by Merck subsidiary Idenix Pharmaceuticals. A federal court ruled in favor of Merck in 2016 and ordered Gilead to pay $2.54 billion in penalties.
But a federal judge threw out the verdict in 2018, determining that the patent in question was invalid. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld that ruling the next year, giving Merck one last chance to appeal to the Supreme Court. Their efforts came up short Tuesday.
Sofosbuvir, sold as Sovaldi in the US, is used in combination with ribavirin either with or without injectable peginterferon alfa to treat chronic hepatitis C infection in patients older than 3. — Max Gelman
AstraZeneca, Daiichi’s Enhertu earns EU nod for HER2-positive breast cancer
A day after earning the FDA’s trust for its application in stomach cancer, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu has snared an EU nod for metastatic breast cancer.
The targeted population has been diagnosed with tumors that express the HER2 gene, Enhertu’s specialty. The EMA based its review on data from the pivotal Phase II DESTINY-Breast01 trial, in which Enhertu posted an objective response rate of 61.4% at the 20.5-month followup mark, including a 6.5% complete response rate and a 54.9% partial response rate.
The drug also induced an estimated median duration of response of 20.8 months in patients who had received at least two previous lines of therapy.
Earlier this week, Enhertu scored an FDA nod in gastric cancer to match its earlier approval in breast cancer. That approval made it the first ADC with the go-ahead to treat advanced stomach cancer, a difficult-to-treat disease with a poor prognosis. — Kyle Blankenship