NIH al­lies with 11 top can­cer bio­phar­ma play­ers in $215M dri­ve to ex­plore bio­mark­ers, speed R&D

A who’s who of can­cer drug R&D com­pa­nies have band­ed to­geth­er to help fund a $215 mil­lion dri­ve at the NIH to ex­plore rel­e­vant bio­mark­ers that can help fo­cus im­munother­a­pies on the right pa­tient pop­u­la­tion while cut­ting the amount of time it takes to dri­ve bet­ter stud­ies through the clin­ic.

The NIH plans to put up the bulk of the mon­ey it­self, up to $160 mil­lion — de­pend­ing on its bud­get — while each of the bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies in­volved put up $1 mil­lion each for 5 years for an­oth­er $55 mil­lion.

The pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship in­cludes the fol­low­ing com­pa­nies (with the no­table ab­sence of Mer­ck):

Ab­b­Vie, Am­gen, Boehringer In­gel­heim, Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb, Cel­gene Cor­po­ra­tion, Genen­tech, Gilead Sci­ences, Glax­o­SmithK­line, John­son & John­son, the No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­med­ical Re­search and Pfiz­er.

Fran­cis Collins

Not on­ly does it in­clude key play­ers al­ready at or near the mar­ket with new ther­a­pies, it al­so in­volves Glax­o­SmithK­line, which has been step­ping up its fo­cus on on­col­o­gy af­ter Em­ma Walm­s­ley’s ar­rival in the CEO suite.

In ad­di­tion, the in­dus­try trade group PhRMA is play­ing a role in the R&D al­liance as well.

The group plans to take a more sys­tem­at­ic ap­proach to bio­mark­ers, find­ing out which work best for a broad range of po­ten­tial in­di­ca­tions while search­ing for new ones that can help dri­ve fresh ad­vances in tar­get­ing the right pa­tient pop­u­la­tions. And it wants a more stan­dard­ized ap­proach to the bio­mark­er work that can be shared with the par­tic­i­pants.

“We have seen dra­mat­ic re­spons­es from im­munother­a­py, of­ten erad­i­cat­ing can­cer com­plete­ly for some can­cer pa­tients,” said NIH di­rec­tor Fran­cis Collins  “We need to bring that kind of suc­cess — and hope — for more peo­ple and more types of can­cers, and we need to do it quick­ly.   A sys­tem­at­ic ap­proach like PACT will help us to achieve suc­cess faster.”

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

Zachary Hornby. Boundless

'A fourth rev­o­lu­tion in can­cer ther­a­pies': ARCH-backed Bound­less Bio flash­es big check, makes big­ger promis­es in de­but

It was the cellular equivalent of opening your car door and finding an active, roaring engine in the driver seat.

Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Mer­ck helps bankroll new part­ner Themis' game plan to fin­ish the chikun­gun­ya race and be­gin on­colyt­ic virus quest

As Themis gears up for a Phase III trial of its chikungunya vaccine, the Vienna-based biotech has closed out €40 million ($44 million) to foot the clinical and manufacturing bills.

Its heavyweight partners at Merck — which signed a pact around a mysterious “blockbuster indication” last month — jumped into the Series D, led by new investors Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures. Adjuvant Capital also joined, as did current investors Global Health Investment Fund, aws Gruenderfonds, Omnes Capital, Ventech and Wellington Partners Life Sciences.