No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion tees up $47.5M to ex­plore the dri­vers of ge­net­ic dis­ease with the Broad In­sti­tute

The Broad In­sti­tute of Har­vard and MIT played a sig­nif­i­cant role in map­ping out genes as part of the Hu­man Genome Pro­ject about two decades ago. Now, it’s join­ing forces with one of the in­dus­try’s largest re­search foun­da­tions in an ef­fort to trans­late those maps.

The No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion, which op­er­ates in­de­pen­dent­ly from the biotech No­vo Nordisk, is tee­ing up $47.5 mil­lion to work with the Broad on min­ing ge­net­ic da­ta in the hopes of bet­ter un­der­stand­ing how vari­ants dri­ve dis­ease.

The ini­tia­tive, dubbed the No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion Cen­ter for Ge­nom­ic Mech­a­nisms of Dis­ease, seeks to link sci­en­tists from Dan­ish uni­ver­si­ties to ge­nom­ic tech­nol­o­gy at the Broad, with an ini­tial fo­cus on Type 2 di­a­betes and obe­si­ty.

“Den­mark has par­tic­u­lar strength in meta­bol­ic re­search, and ob­vi­ous­ly the Broad In­sti­tute has its long and proud his­to­ry in ge­nomics, and then the da­ta sci­ences and gene reg­u­la­tion tech­nolo­gies. So the idea is to re­al­ly cre­ate syn­er­gies be­tween those two ar­eas of ex­per­tise,” said Broad In­sti­tute as­so­ciate mem­ber Kasper Lage, who’s been tapped to lead the ini­tia­tive.

The cen­ter will gen­er­ate sys­tem­at­ic datasets, which will be shared freely with the re­search com­mu­ni­ty to help pave the way for new med­i­cines.

“Over the last decade, (the Broad) has been enor­mous­ly suc­cess­ful in cre­at­ing very large re­sources, and maps of ge­net­ic as­so­ci­a­tion, and un­der­stand­ing which vari­ants play a role in dis­ease,” Lage told End­points News. “But re­al­ly the big next chal­lenge is to turn these ge­net­ic maps in­to mech­a­nis­tic in­sights.”

The No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion has hand­ed out more than $4 bil­lion over the last decade, but this type of large in­ter­na­tion­al part­ner­ship is a new mod­el for the or­ga­ni­za­tion, Lage said. The foun­da­tion has a his­to­ry in back­ing next-gen an­tibi­ot­ic re­search, and was one of 20 or so com­pa­nies to sup­port the AMR Ac­tion Fund last sum­mer. Three years ago, it com­mis­sioned a $165 mil­lion fund, ex­e­cut­ed by No­vo Hold­ings, de­signed specif­i­cal­ly to in­vest in ear­ly-stage biotechs join­ing the fight against an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance.

In De­cem­ber, the BioIn­no­va­tion In­sti­tute, a 2017 ini­tia­tive of the No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion, splin­tered off on its own as an in­de­pen­dent foun­da­tion. The BII was es­tab­lished as an ex­ten­sion of the NNF to ad­vance re­search and en­tre­pre­neur­ship in biotech, and fund­ed some 85 re­search projects and star­tups over the course of two years.

“With its lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties and hos­pi­tals, Boston is renowned as an in­ter­na­tion­al epi­cen­ter for bio­med­ical re­search and in­no­va­tion—and the Broad In­sti­tute has earned a rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing a key nexus in this rich ecosys­tem,” Niels-Hen­rik von-Hol­stein-Rathlou, the No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion’s se­nior VP of bio­med­i­cine and health sci­ences, said in a state­ment.

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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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.

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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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.

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.

John Oyler, BeiGene CEO (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bris­tol My­ers wants to pull out of its Abrax­ane deal in Chi­na. BeiGene says no way

A year and a half after Chinese officials ordered BeiGene to stop selling Bristol Myers Squibb’s Abraxane in the wake of an alarming inspection of a US facility, the manufacturing issues at the root of the import suspension still appear unresolved.

And Bristol Myers wants to axe the Abraxane supply deal altogether.

But BeiGene, which is currently in arbitration proceedings against its Big Pharma partner, won’t let it off the hook so easily.

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FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.