No­var­tis un­veils a new glob­al R&D struc­ture, cre­at­ing cen­ters in Cam­bridge, MA and Basel


No­var­tis is un­veil­ing some big new changes to its R&D or­ga­ni­za­tion to­day, fo­cus­ing heav­i­ly on new re­search op­er­a­tions based in Cam­bridge, MA as well as Basel while shut­ter­ing two units in Chi­na and Switzer­land and re­lo­cat­ing an­oth­er from Sin­ga­pore to the Bay Area.

Hot on the heels of its stun­ning de­ci­sion to shut down its cell and gene ther­a­py group while lay­ing off 120, the com­pa­ny plans to tell em­ploy­ees at town hall meet­ings lat­er to­day that it is es­tab­lish­ing a new ear­ly-stage op­er­a­tion along with the cre­ation of two new re­search cen­ters. Here’s a quick look at the over­all plan as out­lined by No­var­tis in re­sponse to a query from End­points News:

— The phar­ma gi­ant is set­ting up an ear­ly dis­cov­ery re­search group in Basel and Cam­bridge, MA, which it says will be “in­te­grat­ed with NI­BR’s drug dis­cov­ery teams around the world.” The Chem­i­cal Bi­ol­o­gy and Ther­a­peu­tics team will merge two ex­ist­ing teams and fo­cus on “har­ness­ing the pow­er of chem­i­cal bi­ol­o­gy and oth­er cut­ting edge tech­nolo­gies such as CRISPR, DNA-en­cod­ed li­braries and tar­get­ed pro­tein degra­da­tion to dis­cov­er new drug tar­gets. CBT will al­so in­clude teams fo­cused on path­way bi­ol­o­gy and high through­put screen­ing.”

— Two new “cen­ters of ex­cel­lence” for bio­ther­a­peu­tics re­search in Basel, Switzer­land and Cam­bridge, MA, USA will “ex­plore new di­rec­tions for de­liv­er­ing bi­o­log­ic ther­a­pies.” And the phar­ma gi­ant says that the de­vel­op­ment of those two cen­ters will force the clo­sure of a group in Shang­hai as well ES­BAT­e­ch, a bi­o­log­ics unit based in Schlieren, Switzer­land. Twen­ty to 25 new po­si­tions will be opened in the bi­o­log­ics cen­ter of ex­cel­lence in Basel.

— No­var­tis is al­so cre­at­ing a new re­search group fo­cus­ing on dis­cov­er­ing new med­i­cines for res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­eases while re­lo­cat­ing the No­var­tis In­sti­tute for Trop­i­cal Dis­eases (NITD) from Sin­ga­pore to Emeryville, CA.

Al­con ac­quired ES­BAT­e­ch and its an­ti­body frag­ment tech un­der the watch­ful eye of No­var­tis, which was com­plet­ing its own deal to ac­quire Al­con, back in 2009. That deal cost $150 mil­lion up­front plus an­oth­er $439 mil­lion in mile­stones. The group re­port­ed­ly has 73 staffers who are now be­ing axed.

“The Shang­hai Bi­o­log­ics group that is clos­ing has 18 peo­ple,” a spokesper­son for No­var­tis tells me via email. ” The re­lo­ca­tion of NITD pro­grams and op­er­a­tions to Emeryville will af­fect 84 peo­ple in Sin­ga­pore. In ad­di­tion to the 20-25 jobs that will be added in Basel for bi­o­log­ics, we will add jobs in Emeryville for NITD and in Cam­bridge for the Res­pi­ra­to­ry group. De­tails on Cam­bridge and Emeryville jobs are still be­ing worked out.”

No­var­tis still has big plans for Shang­hai, where it’s been build­ing a ma­jor R&D op­er­a­tion in the grow­ing Asian biotech hub.

NI­BR has a fa­cil­i­ty in Emeryville, just north of Oak­land in the Bay Area. And a whole group of Big Phar­mas have been con­cen­trat­ing their forces in the big re­search hubs like the San Fran­cis­co area, in­clud­ing Mer­ck and As­traZeneca. Cam­bridge, MA, mean­while, has al­so ben­e­fit­ed great­ly from the glob­al mi­gra­tion of Big Phar­ma to the big hubs, while Basel is home to the multi­na­tion­al com­pa­ny.

No­var­tis has been fo­cused on a shake­up for much of the year, dat­ing back to its de­ci­sion to carve out an on­col­o­gy group in May. No­var­tis shocked the 400 staffers at its cell and gene ther­a­py group re­cent­ly when it un­ex­pect­ed­ly an­nounced plans to lay off 120 and in­te­grate the re­main­ing play­ers in the can­cer re­search op­er­a­tions. The com­pa­ny is known for one of the biggest re­search bud­gets in bio­phar­ma, spend­ing $9 bil­lion last year on R&D. But it’s al­so well known for look­ing for greater ef­fi­cien­cies wher­ev­er they can be found.

That can make job se­cu­ri­ty a risky prospect at No­var­tis.

“Mov­ing the (No­var­tis In­sti­tute for Trop­i­cal Dis­eases) is re­al­ly in­tend­ed to em­pow­er the re­search through the strength of col­lab­o­ra­tive prox­im­i­ty,” NI­BR chief Jay Brad­ner told the lo­cal Sin­ga­pore press. No­var­tis doesn’t like to sim­ply fire work­ers, of­fer­ing some the chance to re­lo­cate or ap­ply for oth­er po­si­tions. But clear­ing the hur­dle be­tween Sin­ga­pore and the Bay Area couldn’t be easy.

This isn’t the first time that No­var­tis switched up its glob­al R&D struc­ture, and it like­ly won’t be the last. Big Phar­ma got re­al se­ri­ous about cut­ting back the head count and out­sourc­ing work sev­er­al years ago, and prac­ti­cal­ly all of them have tak­en the ax to their re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions. Giv­en the ane­mic flow of new drug ap­provals this year, there’s no rea­son to be­lieve that the pres­sure be­hind these changes is de­clin­ing at all.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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The Advance Clinical leadership team: CEO Yvonne Lungershausen, Sandrien Louwaars - Director Business Development Operations, Gabriel Kremmidiotis - Chief Scientific Officer, Ben Edwards - Chief Strategy Officer

How Aus­tralia De­liv­ers Rapid Start-up and 43.5% Re­bate for Ear­ly Phase On­col­o­gy Tri­als

About Avance Clinical

Avance Clinical is an Australian owned Contract Research Organisation that has been providing high-quality clinical research services to the local and international drug development industry for 20 years. They specialise in working with biotech companies to execute Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials to deliver high-quality outcomes fit for global regulatory standards.

As oncology sponsors look internationally to speed-up trials after unprecedented COVID-19 suspensions and delays, Australia, which has led the world in minimizing the pandemic’s impact, stands out as an attractive destination for early phase trials. This in combination with the streamlined regulatory system and the financial benefits including a very favourable exchange rate and the R & D cash rebate makes Australia the perfect location for accelerating biotech clinical programs.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Bryan Roberts, Venrock

Ven­rock sur­vey shows grow­ing recog­ni­tion of coro­n­avirus toll, wan­ing con­fi­dence in ar­rival of vac­cines and treat­ments

When Venrock partner Bryan Roberts went to check the results from their annual survey of healthcare leaders, what he found was an imprint of the pandemic’s slow arrival in America.

The venture firm had sent their form out to hundreds of insurance and health tech executives, investors, officials and academics on February 24 and gave them two weeks to fill it out. No Americans had died at that point but the coronavirus had become enough of a global crisis that they included two questions about the virus, including “Total U.S. deaths in 2020 from the novel coronavirus will be:”.

Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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David Hoey (Vaxxas)

In for the long vac­cine game, Mer­ck buys in­to patch de­liv­ery tech with pan­dem­ic po­ten­tial

When Merck dived into the R&D fray for a Covid-19 vaccine earlier this week, execs made it clear that they’re not necessarily looking to be first — with CEO Ken Frazier throwing cold water on the hotly-discussed 12- to 18-month timelines. But when it does emerge from behind, the pharma giant clearly expects to play a significant part.

Part of that will depend on next-generation delivery technology that reshapes the world’s imagination of a vaccine.

No­var­tis jumps in­to Covid-19 vac­cine hunt, as Big Phar­ma and big biotech com­mit to bil­lions of dos­es

After spending most of the pandemic on the sidelines, Novartis is offering its aid in the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

AveXis, the Swiss pharma’s gene therapy subsidiary, has agreed to manufacture the vaccine being developed by Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. The biotech will begin manufacturing this month, while the vaccine undergoes further preclinical testing. They’ve agreed to provide the vaccine for free for clinical trials beginning in the second half of 2020, but have not disclosed financials for after.

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De­nali un­veils new way of cross­ing blood brain bar­ri­er as the big neu­ro­science bet en­ters its clin­i­cal years

Five years ago, as much of pharma began leaving neuroscience, three big-name scientists from Genentech and some A-list investors, including ARCH and Flagship, made a $217 million bet that new genetic insights and a reliance on biomarkers could bring them success. They called it Denali Therapeutics.

Still, Denali faced the problem that neuroscience developers have faced for decades: How do you get a large molecule across the blood-brain barrier, a natural defense evolved precisely to keep them out? Enzyme replacement therapy, for instance, would be a great candidate to treat several neurological disorders, but enzymes can’t cross the barrier.