No­var­tis joins the Big Phar­ma ex­o­dus out of an­tibi­otics, dump­ing re­search, cut­ting 140 and out-li­cens­ing pro­grams

An­oth­er Big Phar­ma is re­treat­ing from the an­tibi­otics field.

No­var­tis to­day says its ear­ly-stage re­search group at NI­BR is drop­ping an­tibac­te­r­i­al and an­tivi­ral re­search pro­grams based in Emeryville, CA. And they’re do­ing it at a time that drug-re­sis­tant strains of bac­te­ria are spread­ing around the world — an is­sue that once com­mand­ed con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion at No­var­tis.

The re­or­ga­ni­za­tion will trig­ger the lay­off of about 140 staffers. No­var­tis not­ed:

The groups that are im­pact­ed in their en­tire­ty are an­tibac­te­r­i­al and an­tivi­ral re­search. As a re­sult, oth­er groups are al­so af­fect­ed in­clud­ing, Phar­ma­col­o­gy, Pro­tein Sci­ences, Pro­ject Man­age­ment and glob­al sup­port func­tions in Glob­al Dis­cov­ery Chem­istry, NI­BR In­for­mat­ics, Sci­en­tif­ic Op­er­tions and Trans­la­tion­al Med­i­cine. About 150 em­ploy­ees will re­main in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area in sup­port of NITD and our drug dis­cov­ery ef­forts.

On the chop­ping block are a group of pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams as well as LYS228, their clin­i­cal-stage ef­fort in the field. Most of the af­fect­ed staffers will have a 60-day pe­ri­od to work out their de­par­ture, with sev­er­ance, while a small group will stay on to han­dle the shut­down.

No­var­tis added:

While the sci­ence for these pro­grams is com­pelling, we have de­cid­ed to pri­or­i­tize our re­sources in oth­er ar­eas where we be­lieve we are bet­ter po­si­tioned to de­vel­op in­no­v­a­tive med­i­cines that will have a pos­i­tive im­pact for pa­tients. The need for these types of med­i­cines is clear and to max­i­mize the chances that these pro­grams will one day help pa­tients we are ac­tive­ly en­gaged in out-li­cens­ing dis­cus­sions with com­pa­nies fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing med­i­cines in these ar­eas.

This isn’t the first time NI­BR has re­or­ga­nized. There was a con­sid­er­able re­vamp short­ly af­ter Jay Brad­ner took the reins at the in­sti­tutes. And No­var­tis it­self is known for a rest­less search for cost cuts wher­ev­er it can find them — which trig­gered their de­ci­sion to scrap a spe­cial gene and cell ther­a­py unit and in­ter­grate the group in the main de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion. 

Phar­ma start­ed bail­ing on an­tibi­otics re­search years ago, dis­cour­aged by the no­table ab­sence of prof­its as gener­ics dom­i­nat­ed treat­ment. That left R&D to a small group of biotechs look­ing to come up with new ap­proach­es that could be used as drug-re­sis­tance be­come in­creas­ing­ly com­mon.

The sur­viv­ing play­ers will now get a chance to pick over what is be­ing scrapped now, just as As­traZeneca once tried to sell of their unit near Boston — un­til they were forced to fi­nal­ly spin it off as a new com­pa­ny.


Im­age: Jay Brad­ner, Pres­i­dent of the No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­Med­ical Re­search, speaks at an End­points News event in San Fran­cis­co, Jan­u­ary 2018 — Jeff Ru­mans End­points News

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock to be act­ing FDA com­mis­sion­er while Biden team fi­nal­izes nom­i­nee — re­ports

Janet Woodcock is set to be the most powerful person at the FDA in less than a week.

The veteran regulator and longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has been tapped as acting commissioner of the FDA, according to reports by BioCentury’s Steve Usdin and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

The appointment was requested by the incoming Biden team, Karlin-Smith added, as they sort out the nomination of a permanent successor to Stephen Hahn — whose one-year tenure has been defined by Covid-19.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock is in the run­ning for FDA com­mis­sion­er — what does that mean for the agen­cy's fu­ture?

Just a day after reports emerged that Janet Woodcock will serve as interim chief of the FDA, word has gotten out that she is also in the running for the permanent job.

The decision, as the initial wave of reactions suggest, could have dramatic implications for where the agency is headed in the next four years — if not beyond.

Woodcock, the longtime CDER director, is being vetted alongside former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Bloomberg reported. Already tapped as acting head of the agency, she’s set to take over from Stephen Hahn right after Biden’s inauguration next week.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

CEO Brett Monia (Ionis)

Can Brett Mo­nia push Io­n­is be­yond Spin­raza?

For 30 years, Brett Monia struggled as one of Ionis’ top scientists to get their antisense technology to work. Now, as CEO, he’s trying to use it to turn Ionis into one of the industry’s biggest biotechs.

Monia, one of the handful of young scientists who in 1989 followed Stanley Crooke across the country from SmithKline (now GSK) in Philadelphia to found Ionis in Northern California, replaced Crooke as CEO last January. By then, they had proven antisense, an RNA-based method for manipulating gene expression, could work dramatically well in at least some instances, transforming spinal muscular atrophy with the Biogen-partnered blockbuster Spinraza.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

Paint­ing by the num­bers, Sana founders carve up a gi­ant uni­corn-sized IPO — for a biotech that has­n't quite made it to the clin­ic

Sana Biotechnology is one of those startups that was sketched in on the chalkboard day one in the shape of a unicorn.

A giant unicorn.

And from the numbers the cell therapy 2.0 play spelled out in their S-1 $SANA, it’s clear that the company founders — led by a pair of major VCs aligned with some high-profile industry figures — are hunting a big chunk of that value for themselves.

The raise they penciled in — $150 million — isn’t likely what they actually have in mind, and it doesn’t do justice to the size of their ambitions.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Terry Rosen, Arcus CEO

Gilead part­ner Ar­cus earns an­a­lyst­s' plau­dits for ear­ly pan­cre­at­ic can­cer da­ta that 'ex­ceed­ed ex­pec­ta­tion­s'

Arcus’ small molecule CD73 inhibitor for pancreatic cancer got a standing ovation from analysts who said preliminary data “exceeded expectations”— making waves in a field that’s seen little progress in several years and proving the candidate could be worth the hundreds of millions Gilead provided upfront in a deal that included more than a billion dollars for opt-in rights and milestones.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

David Kessler in April 2009 (Eric Risberg/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Hack­ers start re­leas­ing 'ma­nip­u­lat­ed' Covid-19 vac­cine docs; Ex-FDA com­mish David Kessler to re­place Mon­cef Slaoui as Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief — re­port

There’s a new twist on the EMA Covid-19 hacking story.

Friday the European agency put out the 5th in a series of statements about the hackers who broke into their system, noting that some of the information on vaccines that was gleaned in the attack is showing up online — altered to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaccines now in use.

This included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines. Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

With KRAS break­through on the hori­zon, Am­gen's David Reese re­flects on so­tora­si­b's loom­ing re­view date and murky fu­ture

After decades of failures laid waste to R&D outfits looking to solve the KRAS G12C puzzle, Amgen is as close as anyone ever has been to an approval with sotorasib. For Amgen R&D head David Reese, the drug’s looming review date is a point of reflection for his own career and a big milestone for Amgen’s blooming — if controversial — next-gen oncology pipeline.

Amgen filed its FDA application for sotorasib in December to treat metastatic non-small cell lung cancer with the KRAS mutation — once thought to be “undruggable” — months after the agency offered its breakthrough designation based on pivotal Phase I data showing previously unheard of response rates.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

News brief­ing: Five Prime fi­nal­izes PhI­II plans for gas­tric can­cer; AI di­ag­nos­tics-fo­cused Paige ex­pands staff

Five Prime Therapeutics has finalized a plan to take their comeback gastric cancer drug into late-stage studies.

The South San Francisco-based biotech released full Phase II data for bemarituzumab on Friday, which Five Prime said in November met all of its pre-specified efficacy endpoints in a topline readout. Now, the company is announcing it plans to launch a Phase III trial for the program in 2021. Following November’s readout, the future of bemarituzumab had not yet been finalized.

Peter Thiel, Getty (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

Pe­ter Thiel's psy­che­delics-fo­cused ATAI ac­quires ma­jor­i­ty stake in Recog­ni­fy and its lead schiz­o­phre­nia can­di­date

Billionaire Peter Thiel has made significant and sometimes controversial pushes into life sciences over the past few years, and one of his startups out of Berlin has made a new acquisition less than two months after achieving unicorn status.

ATAI Life Sciences purchased a majority stake Tuesday in Recognify Life Sciences, a company focused on developing treatments for cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia. The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the acquisition follows up a $125 million Series C in November co-led by Thiel, leading to a post-money valuation of about $1 billion for ATAI.