No­var­tis lat­er­als two PhII an­ti-ag­ing drugs to a PureTech start­up, grab­bing an eq­ui­ty stake

Jay Brad­ner, No­var­tis

Phar­ma gi­ant No­var­tis is spin­ning out a pair of Phase IIb-ready drugs now bound for ad­vanced tri­als on re­pair­ing the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing im­pact of ag­ing on the hu­man im­mune sys­tem.

Boston-based PureTech Health is on the re­ceiv­ing end of the deal, set­ting up a sub­sidiary called resTOR­bio which it will now fund, in tranch­es, with $15 mil­lion. And it can earn a grow­ing stake in the op­er­a­tion, ris­ing to 58% on the al­lo­ca­tion of the full $15 mil­lion, with an op­tion to in­crease that to 67% if it adds $10 mil­lion more.

No­var­tis re­tains an eq­ui­ty stake as well as un­spec­i­fied mile­stones and roy­al­ties.

There’s noth­ing new about a ma­jor phar­ma op­er­a­tion like No­var­tis spin­ning out as­sets from a large pipeline. Vivek Ra­maswamy’s Roivant has es­tab­lished com­pa­nies based on ne­go­ti­at­ing the re­ceiv­ing end of that arrange­ment. And No­var­tis it­self has a few oth­er re­cent deals to un­der­score the trend.

What’s in­ter­est­ing this year is that the whole field of di­vest­ing as­sets is grow­ing hot­ter as com­pa­nies look to repri­or­i­tize pipelines in the wake of in­creas­ing re­sis­tance by pay­ers, as Ernst & Young point­ed out re­cent­ly.

In this case PureTech is grab­bing two drugs that have com­plet­ed stud­ies for im­munose­nes­cence. The treat­ment in­hibits the mTORC1 path­way, which has been long stud­ied for its abil­i­ty — in an­i­mals — to re­vi­tal­ize T cell func­tion and amp up an ag­ing im­mune sys­tem.

“mTORC1 in­hibitors could lead us to a new par­a­digm for treat­ing sev­er­al ag­ing-re­lat­ed con­di­tions,” said Chen Schor, a PureTech se­nior ex­ec­u­tive and the leader of the resTOR­bio pro­gram.

Ag­ing has been a grow­ing fo­cus among a hand­ful of biotechs, though there are still plen­ty of pesky de­tails about de­vel­op­ment and end­points that still need to be worked out with the FDA. Still, this is an ad­vanced ef­fort, es­pe­cial­ly com­pared to cell senes­cence pro­grams at star­tups like Uni­ty.

Don’t be sur­prised if you see some more of these kinds of out­sourc­ing deals from No­var­tis.

Jay Brad­ner, who runs the No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­Med­ical Re­search (NI­BR), said:

We re­gard the fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of these com­pounds by PureTech Health for the po­ten­tial treat­ment of con­di­tions such as im­munose­nes­cence, as a prime ex­am­ple of our con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to work more open­ly with in­no­va­tors be­yond our walls to ad­vance projects that have the po­ten­tial to help pa­tients lead health­i­er lives.

Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

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Why wait? Cel­gene re­struc­tures a big Jounce pact — ze­ro­ing in on new I/O path­way with $530M deal and bump­ing ICOS

Celgene’s business team isn’t waiting for the big merger with Bristol-Myers Squibb to go through before syncing its strategy with the new mother ship.

Tuesday evening the big biotech unveiled a $530 million deal — $50 million in upfront cash — to amend their alliance with Jounce Therapeutics $JNCE to gain worldwide rights to JTX-8064, an antibody that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages. Their old, $2.6 billion deal is being scrapped, leaving Jounce with a pipeline that includes the lead drug, the ICOS-targeting vopratelimab.

Michel Vounatsos, Getty Images

UP­DAT­ED: Stay tuned: Bio­gen’s num­bers are great — it’s their wor­ri­some fu­ture that leaves an­a­lysts skit­tish

Biogen came out with an upbeat assessment of their Q2 numbers today, discounting the arrival of a key rival for its blockbuster Spinraza franchise. But the top execs remain grimly determined to not say much anything new about the sore points that have dragged down its stock, including the future of its big investment in Alzheimer’s or how it plans to invest the considerable cash that the big biotech continues to reap.

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PACT Phar­ma says it's per­fect­ed the tech to se­lect neoanti­gens for per­son­al­ized ther­a­py — now on­to the clin­ic

At PACT Pharma, the lofty goal to unleash a “tsunami” of T cells personalized for each patient has hinged on the ability to correctly identify the neoantigens that form something of a fingerprint for each tumor, and extract the small group of T cells primed to attack the cancer. It still has a long way to go testing a treatment in humans, but the biotech says it has nailed that highly technical piece of the process.

UP­DAT­ED: My­ovan­t's uter­ine fi­broid drug looks com­pet­i­tive in PhI­II — but can they van­quish mighty Ab­b­Vie?

Vivek Ramaswamy’s Myovant $MYOV has closely matched its positive first round of Phase III data for their uterine fibroid drug relugolix, setting up a head-to-head rivalry with pharma giant AbbVie as the little biotech steers to the market with a planned filing in Q4.

Here’s how Myovant plans to prevail over the AbbVie $ABBV empire.

In the study, 71.2% of women receiving once-daily relugolix combination therapy achieved the clinical response they were looking for, compared to only 14.7% in the control arm. The data comfortably reflected the same outcomes in the first Phase III — 73.4% of women receiving once-daily oral relugolix combination therapy achieved the responder criteria compared with 18.9% of women receiving placebo — which will reassure regulators that they are getting the carefully randomized data that qualifies for the FDA’s gold standard for success.

Lit­tle Mar­i­nus sees its shares eclipsed as the Sage ri­val fails to com­pare on PPD in PhII

The executive team at Sage $SAGE have skirted another potential pitfall on its way to racking up a big future for its depression drug Zulresso.

Little Marinus Pharmaceuticals $MRNS had sought to challenge the Sage drug with an IV formulation — followed by an oral version — of ganaxolone for postpartum depression. But researchers say their Phase II study failed to positively differentiate itself from a placebo at 28 days — leaving them to hold up “clinically meaningful” data within the first day of administration compared to the control arm.

Roche cuts loose Tam­i­flu OTC rights, hand­ing Sanofi the keys as the phar­ma gi­ant dou­bles down on Xofluza

Roche set out to make a better flu medicine than Tamiflu as that franchise was headed to a generic showdown. Now they’ll see just how well Xofluza stacks up against the mainstay drug after handing off over-the-counter rights in the US to Sanofi.

Sanofi $SNY says it will now step in to negotiate a deal with the FDA to steer Tamiflu into the OTC market, a role that could well involve new studies to ease passage of the drug out of doctor’s hands and into the consumer end of the market. And the French pharma giant will have first dibs over “selected” OTC markets around the world as they push ahead.

Aca­dia is mak­ing the best of it, but their lat­est PhI­II Nu­plazid study is a bust

Acadia’s late-stage program to widen the commercial prospects for Nuplazid has hit a wall. The biotech reported that their Phase III ENHANCE trial flat failed. And while they $ACAD did their best to cherry pick positive data wherever they can be found, this is a clear setback for the biotech.

With close to 400 patients enrolled, researchers said the drug flunked the primary endpoint as an adjunctive therapy for patients with an inadequate response to antipsychotic therapy. The p-value was an ugly 0.0940 on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, which the company called out as a positive trend.

Their shares slid 12% on the news, good for a $426 million hit on a $3.7 billion market cap at close.

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Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.