Park­er-backed can­cer sci­en­tists shine a light on an emerg­ing path­way in pan­cre­at­ic can­cer

A cou­ple of high-pro­file can­cer re­searchers at MD An­der­son backed by the Park­er In­sti­tute have been ex­plor­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal path­way that they be­lieve shows some re­al po­ten­tial in treat­ing pan­cre­at­ic can­cer. And the news could buoy de­vel­op­ers beaver­ing away at clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in this are­na of im­munother­a­py.

Pad­ma­nee Shar­ma along with her long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor, hus­band and No­bel lau­re­ate Jim Al­li­son ap­proached the is­sue by com­par­ing pan­cre­at­ic can­cer tu­mors against melanoma, where PD-1/L1 and CT­LA-4 check­point in­hibitors have showed some of their great­est suc­cess­es. Pan­cre­at­ic can­cer, though, has a small 5-year sur­vival rate, demon­strat­ing its re­sis­tance to the new check­point class of drugs now out on the mar­ket.

Shar­ma and Al­li­son’s team not­ed a sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent pro­file for each can­cer, with a much high­er lev­el of stro­ma in pan­cre­at­ic can­cer tu­mors that could be in­ter­fer­ing with ex­ist­ing check­points. The stro­ma — sup­port­ive cells — is lay­ered in­to pan­cre­at­ic can­cer.

“In melanoma, you have a large area of ma­lig­nant cells sur­round­ed by a thin lay­er of stro­ma,” not­ed Shar­ma. “With pan­cre­at­ic can­cer, it’s more like can­cer cells, stro­ma, can­cer cells, stro­ma ― blend­ed.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors al­so not­ed a high­er ex­pres­sion of VISTA — V-do­main Ig sup­pres­sor of T cell ac­ti­va­tion — in pan­cre­at­ic can­cer.

Al­li­son’s ob­ser­va­tion is that stro­ma may in turn keep T cells out of the pan­cre­at­ic can­cer tu­mors. The can­cer sci­en­tist won the No­bel prize in med­i­cine for his orig­i­nal work on the CT­LA-4 check­point, which opened the door to an im­mense amount of work glob­al­ly fol­low­ing it up with new ap­proach­es.

There are sev­er­al VISTA an­ti­bod­ies in the glob­al pipeline, they note. That group ev­i­dent­ly in­cludes Curis, a pen­ny stock mi­cro­cap which has a small mol­e­cule pro­gram that com­bines VISTA and PD-L1.

The goal now, the MD An­der­son pair sum up, is to see about start­ing work on some new check­point com­bos — per­haps match­ing CT­LA-4 and VISTA. Their work was fund­ed by Pan­cre­at­ic Can­cer Moon Shot, a grant from the Na­tion­al Can­cer In­sti­tute and the Park­er In­sti­tute for Can­cer Im­munother­a­py.


Im­age: Jim Al­li­son and Pad­ma­nee Shar­ma at the King’s din­ner for the No­bel Lau­re­ates. AP IM­AGES

Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis de­tails plans to axe 8,000 staffers as Narasimhan be­gins sec­ond phase of a glob­al re­org

We now know the number of jobs coming under the axe at Novartis, and it isn’t small.

The pharma giant is confirming a report from Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that it is chopping 8,000 jobs out of its 108,000 global staffers. A large segment will hit right at company headquarters in Basel, as CEO Vas Narasimhan axes some 1,400 of a little more than 11,000  jobs in Switzerland.

The first phase of the work is almost done, the company says in a statement to Endpoints News. Now it’s on to phase two. In the statement, Novartis says:

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Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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Eliot Charles, MiroBio executive chairman

Ox­ford spin­out nabs al­most $100M in new cash to test PD-1 in au­toim­mune dis­eases and hunt for a CEO

After about 15 years in an Oxford lab and three more years in the upstart world following a 2019 spinout, MiroBio is ready to enter UK clinical trials and, en route to the clinic, the biotech has picked up $97 million in Series B funds.

The £80 million financing round kicked off in earnest last September and includes a transatlantic consortium — led by Medicxi — ready to bankroll that first clinical trial, beginning “imminently,” as well as the debut study of a second program thereafter, executive chair Eliot Charles, an SR One venture partner, told Endpoints News.

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Some phar­ma com­pa­nies promise to cov­er abor­tion-re­lat­ed trav­el costs — while oth­ers won't go that far yet

As the US Department of Health and Human Services promises to support the millions of women who would now need to cross state lines to receive a legal abortion, a handful of pharma companies have said they will pick up employees’ travel expenses.

GSK, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, BeiGene, Alnylam and Gilead have all committed to covering abortion-related travel expenses just four days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked women’s constitutional right to an abortion.

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Aurobindo Pharma co-founders P. V. Ram Prasad Reddy (L) and K. Nityananda Reddy

Au­robindo Phar­ma re­ceives warn­ing let­ter from In­di­a's SEC fol­low­ing more FDA ques­tion marks

Indian-based generics manufacturer Aurobindo Pharma has been in the crosshairs of the FDA for several years now, but the company is also attracting attention from regulators within the subcontinent.

According to the Indian business news site Business Standard, a warning letter was sent to the company from the Securities Exchange Board of India, or SEBI.

The letter is related to disclosures made by the company on an ongoing FDA audit of the company’s Unit-1 API facility in Hyderabad, India as well as observations made by the US regulator between 2019 and 2022.

New Charles River Laboratories High Quality (HQ) Plasmid DNA Centre of Excellence at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. (Charles River)

Charles Riv­er Lab­o­ra­to­ries to start cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing at UK site in Sep­tem­ber

While Massachusetts-based Charles River Laboratories has been on an acquisition spree, they are not against planting their flag. The latest move by the company sees them crossing the pond to establish a manufacturing site in the UK.

The company on Tuesday opened its cell and gene therapy manufacturing center at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. The expansion follows Charles River’s acquisition of Cognate BioServices and Cobra Biologics in 2021 for $875 million. Cognate is a plasmid DNA, viral vector and cell therapy CDMO.

Bristol Myers Squibb (Alamy)

CVS re­sumes cov­er­age of block­buster blood thin­ner af­ter price drop fol­lows Jan­u­ary ex­clu­sion

Following some backlash from the American College of Cardiology and patients, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer lowered the price of their blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis, thus ensuring that CVS Caremark would cover the drug after 6 months of it being off the major PBM’s formulary.

“Because we secured lower net costs for patients from negotiations with the drug manufacturer, Eliquis will be added back to our template formularies for the commercial segment effective July 1, 2022, and patient choices will be expanded,” CVS Health said in an emailed statement. “Anti-coagulant therapies are among the non-specialty products where we are seeing the fastest cost increases from drug manufacturers and we will continue to push back on unwarranted price increases.”