No min­is­ter: UK biotech com­mu­ni­ty los­es its ded­i­cat­ed gov­ern­ment min­is­ter

George Free­man de­light­ed in telling peo­ple he was the world’s “first and on­ly” min­is­ter for the life sci­ences. The ques­tion now is whether he will al­so be the last.

George Free­man

In the big gov­ern­ment reshuf­fle fol­low­ing David Cameron’s de­par­ture in the wake of the stun­ning vote in fa­vor of leav­ing the EU, Free­man now has a new task as chair of the Prime Min­is­ter’s Pol­i­cy Board.

Free­man was a biotech en­tre­pre­neur him­self in the day, once run­ning a com­pa­ny called Amedis and back­ing biotechs as the di­rec­tor of ear­ly-stage ven­tures at Mer­lin. That back­ground pro­vid­ed an en­thu­si­as­tic wel­come from the coun­try’s biotech com­mu­ni­ty, which en­joyed the at­ten­tion the min­is­ter brought to the field. And his new post has trig­gered more than a few laments on Twit­ter.

Free­man’s main task was point­ing the coun­try’s grow­ing biotech com­mu­ni­ty to a lead­ing role on the world stage, en­cour­ag­ing new projects to ac­cel­er­ate ac­cess to ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­pies and back­ing an am­bi­tious ge­nomics project that helped high­light the UK’s phar­ma R&D in­dus­try.

Free­man’s ex­it from his high pro­file life sci­ences post comes as the UK tries to fig­ure out just how dam­ag­ing Brex­it is to its biotech in­dus­try. The EU brought con­sid­er­able re­search fund­ing to the coun­try’s sci­en­tists. And set­ting up a sep­a­rate reg­u­la­to­ry struc­ture for the coun­try – if it comes down to that – would al­so rel­e­gate the coun­try to an al­so-ran po­si­tion of im­por­tance for bio­phar­ma, be­hind the U.S. and then Eu­rope.

You could feel the shiv­ers run­ning up and down the in­dus­try’s spine read­ing Kris­ten Hal­lam’s piece in Bloomberg on Brex­it’s im­pact on biotech to­day. The de­ci­sion to step out of the EU will not on­ly shrink the amount of mon­ey avail­able for re­search, it is al­ready caus­ing tal­ent­ed in­di­vid­u­als on the con­ti­nent to steer clear of the UK. As the coun­try nev­er had a chance to ful­ly de­vel­op its biotech in­dus­try, a short­age of tal­ent was al­ready an is­sue for some VCs who were re­luc­tant to in­vest in UK biotech com­pa­nies. Brex­it can on­ly make mat­ters worse.

Now, fac­ing a chilly fu­ture, the sec­tor doesn’t even have its own min­is­ter/ad­vo­cate to warm things up at No. 10 Down­ing Street.


Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan [via Bloomberg/Getty]

I’m not per­fect: No­var­tis chief Vas Narasimhan al­most apol­o­gizes in the wake of a new cri­sis

Vas Narasimhan has warily stepped up with what might pass as something close to a borderline apology for the latest scandal to engulf Novartis.

But he couldn’t quite get there.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Levi Garraway. Broad Institute via Youtube

Roche raids Eli Lil­ly for its next chief med­ical of­fi­cer as San­dra Horn­ing plans to step down

We found out Monday morning where Levi Garraway was headed after he left Eli Lilly as head of oncology R&D a few days ago. Roche named Garraway as their new chief medical officer, replacing Sandra Horning, who they say is retiring from the company.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter a posse of Wall Street an­a­lysts pre­dict a like­ly new win for Sarep­ta, we're down to the wire on a crit­i­cal FDA de­ci­sion

As Bloomberg notes, most of the Wall Street analysts that cover Sarepta $SRPT are an upbeat bunch, ready to cheer on the team when it comes to their Duchenne MD drugs, or offer explanations when an odd setback occurs — as happened recently with a safety signal that was ‘erroneously’ reported last week.

Ritu Baral Cowen
Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Saqib Islam. CheckRare via YouTube

Spring­Works seeks $115M to push Pfiz­er drugs across fin­ish line while Sat­suma sells mi­graine play in $86M IPO

SpringWorks and Satsuma — both biotech spinouts that have closed B rounds in April — are loading up with IPO cash to boost their respective late-stage plans.

Bain-backed SpringWorks is the better-known company of the two, and it’s gunning for a larger windfall of $115 million to add to $228 million from previous financings. In the process, the Stamford, CT-based team is also drawing the curtains on the partnerships it has in mind for the pair of assets it had initially licensed from Pfizer.

Mi­nor­i­ty racial groups con­tin­ue to be dis­mal­ly rep­re­sent­ed in can­cer tri­als — study

Data reveal that different racial and ethnic groups — by nature and/or nurture — can respond differently in terms of pharmacokinetics, efficacy, or safety to therapeutics, but this disparity is not necessarily accounted for in clinical trials. A fresh analysis of the last decade of US cancer drug approvals suggests the trend continues, cementing previous research that suggests oncology trials are woefully under-representative of the racial makeup of the real world.

Van­da shares slide af­ter FDA spurns their big end­point and re­jects a pitch on jet lag re­lief

Back in the spring of last year, Vanda Pharmaceuticals $VNDA served up a hot stew of mixed data for a slate of endpoints related to what they called clear evidence that their melatonin sleep drug Hetlioz (tasimelteon) could help millions of travelers suffering from jet lag.

Never mind that they couldn’t get a planned 90 people in the study, settling for 25 instead; Vanda CEO Mihael H. Polymeropoulos said they were building on a body of data to prove it would help jet-lagged patients looking for added sleep benefits. And that, they added, would be worth a major upgrade from the agency as they sought to tackle a big market.

Jim Mellon [via YouTube]

Health­i­er, longer lifes­pans will be a re­al­i­ty soon­er than you think, Ju­ve­nes­cence promis­es as it clos­es $100M round

Earlier this year, an executive from Juvenescence-backed AgeX predicted the field of longevity will eventually “dwarf the dotcom boom.” Greg Bailey, the UK-based anti-aging biotech’s CEO, certainly hopes so.

On Monday, Juvenescence completed its $100 million Series B round of financing. The company is backed by British billionaire Jim Mellon — who wrote his 400-page guide to investing in the field of longevity shortly after launching the company in 2017. Bailey, who served as a board director for seven years at Medivation before Pfizer swallowed the biotech for $14 billion, is joined by Declan Doogan, an industry veteran with stints at Pfizer $PFE and Amarin $AMRN.

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.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.