PACT Phar­ma bags $75M for neoanti­gen TCR work, man­u­fac­tur­ing; Bay­er grabs ex­per­i­men­tal con­tra­cep­tive from Daré

→ With a new pres­i­dent and chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer in place, next-gen T cell ther­a­py play­er PACT Phar­ma has $75 mil­lion in fresh fi­nanc­ing to ex­pand the scope of its nascent clin­i­cal pro­grams and open its own man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in South San Fran­cis­co. By iso­lat­ing spe­cif­ic neoanti­gen re­cep­tors in pa­tients that ap­pear to be dri­ving an im­mune re­sponse, PACT promis­es to tack­le some of the tough­est sol­id tu­mors pre­vi­ous­ly im­pen­e­tra­ble to cell ther­a­pies. Vi­da Ven­tures, which has close ties to promi­nent cell ther­a­py biotechs such as Kite and Al­lo­gene, led the Se­ries C round. CTO Tim Moore, who jumped from Kite last Oc­to­ber, will su­per­vise ef­forts to au­to­mate some pro­duc­tion and an­a­lyt­ics process “to re­duce cy­cle time and man­u­fac­tur­ing costs.”

→ Large CRO Charles Riv­er is en­ter­ing a mul­ti-year drug dis­cov­ery col­lab­o­ra­tion with Take­da, fo­cus­ing on four ar­eas the Japan­ese drug­mak­er cham­pi­ons — on­col­o­gy, gas­troen­terol­o­gy, neu­ro­science and rare dis­ease. Un­der the deal, Charles Riv­er gets an undis­closed up­front fee from Take­da, and is el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive de­vel­op­ment pay­ments of up to $50 mil­lion per can­di­date as well as po­ten­tial com­mer­cial mile­stones of up to $120 mil­lion plus roy­al­ties on launched prod­ucts.

Bay­er has inked a li­cens­ing agree­ment with Daré Bio­science for com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al hor­mone-free month­ly vagi­nal con­tra­cep­tive, Ovaprene, in the US. San Diego-based Daré will re­ceive an undis­closed up­front and $20 mil­lion if Bay­er de­cides to ex­er­cise its op­tion, plus mile­stones that add up to $310 mil­lion. The biotech ex­pects to launch a piv­otal study in the sec­ond half of 2020.

→ Af­ter tout­ing in­ter­im Phase II re­sults on its lead COPD drug last March, Verona Phar­ma has chalked up an­oth­er win in the next stage. The com­pa­ny re­port­ed pos­i­tive da­ta in the 4-week Phase IIb study eval­u­at­ing neb­u­lized en­sifen­trine (0.375 mg, 0.75 mg, 1.5 mg and 3.0 mg) or place­bo as an add-on treat­ment to tiotropi­um (Spiri­va Respi­mat), a long-act­ing an­ti-mus­carinic (“LAMA”) bron­chodila­tor mar­ket­ed by Boehringer In­gel­heim. The pri­ma­ry end­point was met at all dos­es, with sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in lung func­tion at week 4.

Al­lo­gene and Spring­Works Ther­a­peu­tics — two not­ed star­tups de­vel­op­ing port­fo­lios of drugs flow­ing from Pfiz­er are team­ing up to eval­u­ate Al­lo­gene’s BC­MA Al­lo­CAR T ther­a­py, AL­LO-715, in com­bi­na­tion with Spring­Works’ gam­ma sec­re­tase in­hibitor (GSI), nirogace­s­tat, in pa­tients with re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry mul­ti­ple myelo­ma. Un­der the terms of agree­ment, Al­lo­gene will spon­sor and con­duct the Phase I study — which is ex­pect­ed to com­mence in the sec­ond half of 2020.

→ Back in No­vem­ber 2018, Eli Lil­ly showed their faith in NextCure by drop­ping $40 mil­lion in up­front and eq­ui­ty cash. Now, Lil­ly is ter­mi­nat­ing the deal, ef­fec­tive as of March 3, 2020.

→ For his lat­est com­pa­ny cre­ation, Vivek Ra­maswamy is look to serve the peo­ple who serve drug­mak­ers. Loka­vant’s stat­ed goal is to cen­tral­ize da­ta from over 1,000 tri­als “to pow­er a ma­chine learn­ing mod­el that an­tic­i­pates tri­al risk, pro­vides risk mit­i­ga­tion strate­gies, and pre­dicts the im­pact of mit­i­ga­tion strat­e­gy im­ple­men­ta­tion. Rhit Nam­bisan, head of dig­i­tal prod­uct at Roivant, will serve as pres­i­dent. The new com­pa­ny has al­so en­tered its first mul­ti-year en­ter­prise li­cense agree­ment with Parex­el, which re­cent­ly inked a re­al world ev­i­dence pact with an­oth­er Roivant sub­sidiary, Data­vant.

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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Mihael Polymeropoulos, Vanda Pharmaceuticals CEO

Phar­ma com­pa­ny con­tin­ues its FDA law­suit spree, this time af­ter agency de­nies fast-track des­ig­na­tion

Vanda Pharmaceuticals is making a name for itself, at least in terms of suing the FDA.

The DC-headquartered firm on Monday filed its latest suit against the agency, with the company raising concerns over the FDA’s failure to grant a fast track designation for Vanda’s potential chronic digestive disorder drug tradipitant, which is a neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist.

Specifically, Vanda said FDA’s “essential point” in its one-page denial letter on the designation pointed to “the lack of necessary safety data,” which was “inconsistent with the criteria for … Fast Track designation.”

Mod­er­na seeks to dis­miss Al­ny­lam suit over Covid-19 vac­cine com­po­nent, claim­ing wrong venue

RNAi therapeutics juggernaut Alnylam Pharmaceuticals made a splash in March when it sued and sought money from both Pfizer and Moderna regarding their use of Alnylam’s biodegradable lipids, which Alnylam claims have been integral to the way both companies’ mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines work.

But now, Moderna lawyers are firing back, telling the same Delaware district court that Alnylam’s claims can only proceed against the US government in the Court of Federal Claims because of the way the company’s contract is set up with the US government. The US has spent almost $10 billion on Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine so far.

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Cracks in the fa­cade: Is phar­ma's pan­dem­ic ‘feel good fac­tor’ wan­ing?

The discordant effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on pharma reputation continues. While the overall industry still retains a respectable halo from its Covid-19 quick response and leadership, a new patient group study reveals a different story emerging in the details.

On one hand, US patient advocacy groups rated the industry higher-than-ever overall. More than two-thirds (67%) of groups gave the industry a thumbs up for 2021, a whopping 10 percentage point increase over the year before, according to the PatientView annual study, now in its 9th year.

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FDA ac­cepts pri­or­i­ty re­view of CSL-uniQure he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py; Fo­s­un Phar­ma nets an­oth­er deal

The first potential gene therapy for hemophilia B has gotten one step closer to reaching patients as the FDA has accepted CSL Behring’s BLA for its uniQure-partnered one-time treatment. The therapy, dubbed etranacogene dezaparvovec, was accepted under “accelerated assessment” by the European Medicines Agency in March.

A priority review will be conducted for the gene therapy intended for patients with the hereditary bleeding disorder, CSL said Tuesday morning. The Pennsylvania biotech did not indicate the regulator’s decision date, but a priority review generally means the treatment’s fate will be handed down within six months rather than 10.

Michael Corbo, Pfizer CDO of inflammation & immunology

UP­DAT­ED: Plan­ning ahead for crowd­ed ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis mar­ket, Pfiz­er spells out PhI­II da­ta on $6.7B Are­na drug

Pfizer has laid out the detailed results behind its boast that etrasimod — the S1P receptor modulator at the center of its $6.7 billion buyout of Arena Pharma — is the winner of the class, potentially leapfrogging an earlier entrant from Bristol Myers Squibb.

Pivotal data from the ELEVATE program in ulcerative colitis — which consists of two Phase III trials, one lasting 52 weeks and the other just 12 weeks — illustrate an “encouraging balance of efficacy and safety,” according to Michael Corbo, chief development officer of inflammation & immunology at Pfizer. The company is presenting the results as a late breaker at Digestive Disease Week.

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Robert Califf (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP Images)

House Re­pub­li­cans at­tack Chi­na-on­ly da­ta in FDA sub­mis­sions, seek new in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to re­search in­spec­tions

Three Republican representatives are calling on the FDA to take a closer look at the applications including only clinical data from China.

The letter to FDA commissioner Rob Califf late last week comes as the agency recently rejected Eli Lilly’s anti-PD-1 antibody, which attempted to bring China-only data but ran into a bruising adcomm that may crush the hopes of any other companies looking to bring cheaper follow-ons based only on Chinese data.

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Amid mon­key­pox fears, biotechs spring to ac­tion; Mod­er­na’s CFO trou­ble; Cuts, cuts every­where; Craft­ing the right pro­teins; 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.

It’s always a bittersweet moment saying goodbye, but as Josh Sullivan goes off to new adventures we are grateful for the way he’s built up the Endpoints Manufacturing section — which the rest of the team will now carry forward. If you’re not already, this may be a good time to sign up for your weekly dose of drug manufacturing news. Thank you for reading and wish you a restful weekend.

Co­pay coupons gone wrong, again: Pfiz­er pays al­most $300K to set­tle com­plaints in four states

Pfizer has agreed to pay $290,000 to settle allegations of questionable copay coupon practices in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Vermont from 2014 to 2018.

While the company has not admitted any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, Pfizer has agreed to issue restitution checks to about 5,000 consumers.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the company has “enhanced its co-pay coupons to alleviate the concerns raised by states and agreed to a $30,000 payment to each.”