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

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Susan Galbraith speaking at Endpoints News' virtual EUBIO21 summit

Imfinzi/treme­li­mum­ab com­bo scores As­traZeneca an­oth­er OS win — this time in liv­er can­cer

Is the tide turning on AstraZeneca’s battered PD-L1/CTLA4 combo?

A single priming dose of the experimental tremelimumab, followed by Imfinzi every four weeks, beat Nexavar (sorafenib) in helping a group of liver cancer patients live longer in a Phase III study, the company reported, meeting the primary endpoint.

Specifically, the two drugs extended overall survival for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma who had not received prior systemic therapy and were not eligible for localized treatment.

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Rahul Singhvi, Resilience CEO

A Bob Nelsen start­up turns to Har­vard to help sharp­en its tech, in­spir­ing first spin­out

One of Bob Nelsen’s latest projects is headed to Harvard.

Resilience, a company started with the goal of establishing itself as a “one-stop-shop” for companies looking to scale manufacturing, including for hard-to-develop cell and gene therapies, is less than a year old. Friday, it announced a five-year R&D deal with Harvard University that includes $30 million to develop biologics, including vaccines, nucleic acids and cell and gene therapies.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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