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

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

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Sometimes, being late can give you an advantage.

That’s what Sanofi and GSK are trying to say as the Big Pharma partners report positive results from a late-stage trial of their next-gen bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which was designed to protect against both the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Beta variant. Specifically, against Omicron, they note, the vaccine delivered 72% efficacy in all adults and 93.2% in those previously infected.

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In randomized clinical trial data from a small number of patients, Dutch biotech uniQure shared that its gene therapy for Huntington’s disease seems to reduce the amount of the mutant protein responsible for the disease over the course of a year.

In seven patients with early-stage Huntington’s — four who got the treatment and three who got a placebo — mutant huntingtin protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid decreased by an average of just over 50% in patients who got the gene therapy compared to around a 17% drop in patients who got the placebo after a year.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

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Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.