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

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Tom Barnes (Orna)

The mR­NA era is here. MPM be­lieves the fu­ture be­longs to oR­NA — and Big Phar­ma wants a seat at the ta­ble

If the ultra-fast clinical development of Covid-19 vaccines opened the world’s eyes to the promises of messenger RNA, the subsequent delays in supply offered a crash course on the ultra-complex process of producing them. Even before the formulation and fill-finish steps, mRNA is the precious end product from an arduous journey involving enzyme-aided transcription, modification and purification.

For Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Gilead’s Kite and Astellas, it’s time to rethink the way therapeutic RNA is engineered.

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S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Glax­o­SmithK­line re­thinks strat­e­gy for Covid-19 an­ti­body — not the Vir ones — af­ter tri­al flop. Is there hope in high-risk pa­tients?

In the search for a better Covid-19 therapeutic, GlaxoSmithKline and Vir have partnered up on two antibodies they hope have a chance. GSK is also testing its own in-house antibody, and early results may have shut the door on its widespread use.

A combination of GSK’s monoclonal antibody otilimab plus standard of care couldn’t best standard of care alone in preventing death and respiratory failure in hospitalized Covid-19 patients after 28 days, according to data from the Phase IIa OSCAR study unveiled Thursday.

Photo: Shutterstock

Bio­phar­ma's suc­cess rate in bring­ing drugs to mar­ket has long been abysmal. Can new tools help rewrite that trou­bled past?

In 2011, a team of researchers at British drugmaker AstraZeneca had a problem they were looking to solve.

For years, drug discovery and development were a wasteland for innovation. Novel drugs largely fell into one of two categories — monoclonal antibodies and small molecules — and new therapeutic modalities were hard to come by. After a rush of promising approvals in the late 1990s — including then-Biogen’s CD20 targeting antibody breakthrough Rituxan — the field stagnated and attrition rates stayed sky-high. What exactly is the industry doing wrong? AstraZeneca asked itself.

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