Ox­ford gets £100M to seize a 'break­through mo­men­t' in fight­ing su­per­bugs

Close to 70 years af­ter Ox­ford sci­en­tists pu­ri­fied peni­cillin and con­firmed its ef­fect as an an­tibac­te­r­i­al drug, the uni­ver­si­ty is es­tab­lish­ing a new re­search in­sti­tute at the fore­front of com­bat­ing an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance.

The In­eos Ox­ford In­sti­tute for AMR Re­search will ini­tial­ly be pow­ered by a $136 mil­lion (£100 mil­lion) do­na­tion from In­eos, the UK-based chem­i­cals gi­ant found­ed by bil­lion­aire Jim Rat­cliffe, that al­so plays a hand in man­u­fac­tur­ing med­ical and phar­ma prod­ucts.

Tim­o­thy Walsh

“Covid-19 has been like an earth­quake,” Tim­o­thy Walsh, a vet­er­an AMR re­searcher who’s tak­ing the aca­d­e­m­ic lead on the mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gy side, said in a video. “So it’s been rapid, sud­den, where­as an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance you can’t see it, you can’t feel it, but nonethe­less it’s in­creas­ing year on year.”

Re­sis­tance to ex­ist­ing an­tibi­otics — most of which are decades old and dirt cheap — has been emerg­ing as a top con­cern for pub­lic health of­fi­cials and re­searchers world­wide. Even though a hand­ful of biotechs have man­aged to bring new drugs to the mar­ket, in­creas­ing aware­ness of an­tibi­ot­ic stew­ard­ship and rigid re­im­burse­ment struc­tures could put com­pa­nies in a Catch-22 where clin­i­cians try to lim­it their use to the most crit­i­cal cas­es, there­by al­so lim­it­ing rev­enue and of­ten dri­ving the drug­mak­ers in­to bank­rupt­cy. The re­sult had been an ex­o­dus from the field, even though cer­tain Big Phar­ma play­ers and pub­lic-pri­vate coali­tions have been try­ing to change that.

Econ­o­mist Jim O’Neill — who has helped doc­u­ment the dire sit­u­a­tion and ar­gued for ur­gent ac­tion in the “arms race against bac­te­ria” — said the col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach “could be the break­through mo­ment the glob­al AMR chal­lenge needs.”

Louise Richard­son

Louise Richard­son, vice chan­cel­lor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford, sug­gest­ed that In­eos might help trans­late the re­search. In ad­di­tion to ex­plor­ing new hu­man drugs, the group is mak­ing de­sign­ing an­i­mal-spe­cif­ic an­tibi­otics one of its goals giv­en that agri­cul­ture ac­counts for the ma­jor­i­ty of glob­al an­tibi­ot­ic con­sump­tion.

Chris Schofield, head of or­gan­ic chem­istry at Ox­ford, will be the aca­d­e­m­ic lead for chem­istry.

Chris Schofield

“The IOI pro­vides us with a won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ty to link world class syn­thet­ic chem­istry and mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gy with­in a sin­gle in­sti­tute with the aim of en­abling break­through new treat­ments in med­i­cine and agri­cul­ture,” he said in a state­ment.

Then there’s the mis­use of an­tibi­otics — overus­ing them, not fin­ish­ing a full pre­scribed dose — to tack­le, with re­searchers tasked with propos­ing bet­ter man­age­ment and en­gag­ing with pol­i­cy­mak­ers.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; 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.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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Frank Pallone (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP Images)

House com­mit­tee seeks more from FDA on in­spec­tion back­log, when to restart work on for­eign sites

House Energy & Commerce committee leaders are raising fresh questions about the FDA’s ability to conduct foreign manufacturing site inspections and bring down its growing backlog.

“While we understand that the emergence of COVID-19 required the agency to suspend in-person inspection activities temporarily, we remain concerned that more than one year into the pandemic, the strategy for resuming all inspections and addressing the backlog of delayed inspections remains unclear,” E&C chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and a group of five other bipartisan leaders of the committee wrote to FDA acting commissioner Janet Woodcock.