NHS re­fus­es to cov­er Ocre­vus for pri­ma­ry pro­gres­sive MS; OxStem taps vet­er­an drug hunter Georg Ter­stap­pen as CSO

→ UK drug price watch­dog NICE is not rec­om­mend­ing NHS cov­er­age of Roche’s Ocre­vus for pri­ma­ry pro­gres­sive mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. The de­ci­sion im­me­di­ate­ly trig­gered an out­cry from pa­tient groups. The drug is cov­ered for the re­laps­ing/re­mit­ting form of the dis­ease, but has less de­ci­sive da­ta to back it up as a unique en­try for the pri­ma­ry pro­gres­sive form of the dis­ease. Roche sug­gest­ed a con­fi­den­tial price to com­pro­mise on that, but red tape is pre­vent­ing the watch­dogs from con­sid­er­ing it. You can ex­pect plen­ty more de­bate on this one.

Georg Ter­stap­pen

→ Af­ter a brief stint at Glax­o­SmithK­line’s R&D cen­ter in Shang­hai, Georg Ter­stap­pen is back in Eu­rope to take a CSO job with OxStem. Found­ed by Ox­ford pro­fes­sors and se­r­i­al en­tre­pre­neurs Steve Davies, Kay Davies and An­gela Rus­sell, the biotech’s big idea is it can treat age-re­lat­ed con­di­tions by send­ing in small mol­e­cule drugs to pro­gram stem and stem-like cells in situ. An ex­pe­ri­enced drug hunter, Ter­stap­pen had pre­vi­ous­ly start­ed his own drug dis­cov­ery biotech be­fore work­ing for Ab­b­Vie and lead­ing a pub­lic-pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Eu­rope.

In­nate Im­munother­a­pies has changed its name to Am­plia Ther­a­peu­tics in a break with its trou­bled past — and per­haps with the dis­graced con­gress­man that brought it to in­famy. Am­plia is the name of the com­pa­ny In­nate ac­quired in May and the de­vel­op­er of its new lead pro­grams in im­muno-on­col­o­gy, which re­placed an ex­per­i­men­tal mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis drug that failed de­fin­i­tive­ly in a Phase IIb study. The name change, de­scribed by Am­plia as “part of a wider brand­ing re­fresh of the com­pa­ny,” comes in the wake of the in­dict­ment of New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins, a for­mer share­hold­er and board mem­ber who was ac­cused of shar­ing in­side tips with fam­i­ly and friends ahead of that tri­al fail­ure.

→ Biotech vet Lin­da Basse has been named the new CMO at Swe­den’s Medi­vir. She’s had stints at Zealand and Gen­mab while build­ing an 18-year track record in drug de­vel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing. She has a PhD from Copen­hagen Uni­ver­si­ty.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

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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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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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.

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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RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

David Meline (file photo)

Mod­er­na’s new CFO took a cut in salary to jump to the mR­NA rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But then there’s the rest of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age

David Meline took a little off the top of his salary when he jumped from the CFO post at giant Amgen to become the numbers czar at the upstart vaccines revolutionary Moderna. But the SEC filing that goes with a major hire also illustrates how it puts him in line for a fortune — provided the biotech player makes good as a promising game changer.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the base salary: $600,000. Or the up-to 50% annual cash bonus — an industry standard — that comes with it. True, the 62-year-old earned $999,000 at Amgen in 2019, but it’s the stock options that really count in the current market bliss for all things biopharma. And there Meline did well.

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