Pascal Soriot, Getty

Pas­cal So­ri­ot and As­traZeneca com­mit to ze­ro-car­bon by 2025, car­bon-neu­tral by 2030. Where's the rest of Phar­ma?

Pas­cal So­ri­ot has spent more than 20 years at the top of an in­dus­try re­cent­ly found to emit more car­bon than the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try.

He called him­self a “glob­al cit­i­zen,” and trav­eled of­ten across three-plus con­ti­nents. While CEO of As­traZeneca, he com­mis­sioned a flight ser­vice — me­dia-dubbed As­traZeneca air­lines — from Cam­bridge to the com­pa­ny’s oth­er Eu­ro­pean hub in Gothen­burg. He made few, if any, pub­lic state­ments on the en­vi­ron­ment or his com­pa­nies’ im­pact on it.

Now, Pas­cal So­ri­ot has had a change of heart.

As­traZeneca yes­ter­day an­nounced a $1 bil­lion plan to elim­i­nate emis­sions by 2025 and to, by 2030, make their en­tire sup­ply chain car­bon-neg­a­tive. So­ri­ot said think­ing about his grand­kids con­vinced him to push the com­pa­ny to­wards sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

“I have chil­dren and I have a grand­son, and they’re go­ing to look at me and say, ‘what did you do?'” So­ri­ot told Bloomberg News from Davos, Switzer­land where the an­nu­al World Eco­nom­ic Fo­rum meet­ing is un­der­way. This year has been heav­i­ly fo­cused on cli­mate change.

As­traZeneca is not the first Big Phar­ma com­pa­ny to make such a com­mit­ment, al­though the in­dus­try as a whole has been slow to adopt such pledges. Take­da told a JP Mor­gan crowd last week that they were aim­ing to be car­bon-neu­tral in 2020. No­vo Nordisk said in April they were on track to use on­ly re­new­ables in 2020. No­var­tis al­so has a car­bon-neu­tral-by-2025 plan, al­though it doesn’t in­clude their sup­ply chain.

No­tably, none of the eight largest US phar­ma com­pa­nies — J&J, Pfiz­er, Mer­ck, Ab­b­Vie, Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries, Eli Lil­ly, Am­gen and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb — have made sim­i­lar com­mit­ments, al­though al­most every­one has a ded­i­cat­ed por­tion of their web­site in which they “rec­og­nize,” “be­lieve,” or “un­der­stand,” the risks posed by cli­mate change and their re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to mit­i­gate that risk.

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb’s com­mit­ment is to a 5% re­duc­tion in green­house gas emis­sions by 2020. Mer­ck, one of the more com­mit­ted phar­ma com­pa­nies, has promised to make all “ex­ter­nal” elec­tric­i­ty re­new­able, but not un­til 2040. Eli Lil­ly — far and away the worst emit­ter of any phar­ma com­pa­ny as of 2015, ac­cord­ing to the pa­per cit­ed at the top of the ar­ti­cle, ac­count­ing for near­ly 4-times the emis­sions of As­traZeneca — said they would make a 20% re­duc­tion by 2020. Through 2017, they were 8.4% of the way there. A fur­ther up­date promised for June of last year, could not be im­me­di­ate­ly found on their web­site.

As­traZeneca will make them­selves car­bon-neu­tral by con­vert­ing to all re­new­ables for heat and pow­er and by switch­ing over their ve­hi­cles to elec­tric cars, both with­in 5 years. They will al­so be­gin plant­i­ng the “AZ For­est” — a 50-mil­lion tree re­for­esta­tion ef­fort, first in Aus­tralia and then in France, In­done­sia and else­where.

They will al­so un­veil a new gen­er­a­tion of me­tered-dose in­halers. These com­mon forms of in­halers tra­di­tion­al­ly re­lease hy­dro­flu­o­roalka­ne, a high­ly po­tent green­house gas.

So­ri­ot told Bloomberg that, on top of his own con­scious­ness, em­ploy­ees had asked for the com­pa­ny to make a sweep­ing com­mit­ment. But he said one group hadn’t, and it’s part of the rea­son oth­er com­pa­nies have yet to elim­i­nate emis­sions: Share­hold­ers.

“The pres­sure is not – I be­lieve not – yet strong enough, to be frank,” So­ri­ot said. “Com­pa­nies will have to be in­cen­tivized to do some­thing.”

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

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Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee lobs more bi­par­ti­san pres­sure on­to PBMs

Congress is honing in on how it wants to overhaul the rules of the road for pharmacy benefit managers, with a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday serving as the latest example of the Hill’s readiness to make changes to how pharma middlemen operate.

While pledging to ensure patients and pharmacies “don’t get a raw deal,” Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) laid out the beginning of what looks like a major bipartisan effort — moves the PBM industry is likely to challenge vigorously.

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Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bacteria are ruthless.

Some soil bacteria have evolved tiny, but deadly injection systems that attach to insect cells, perforate them and release toxins inside — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Scientists, on the other hand, want to leverage that system to deliver medicines.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, MIT CRISPR researcher Feng Zhang and his lab describe how they engineered these syringes made by bacteria to deliver potential therapies like toxins that kill cancer cells and gene editors. With the help of an AI program, they developed syringes that can load proteins of their choice and selectively target human cells.

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J&J bows out of RSV vac­cine race, end­ing PhI­II study and ced­ing to Pfiz­er, GSK

Johnson & Johnson announced Wednesday morning it is ending development of its adult RSV vaccine that was in the middle of a 27,200-patient trial, giving up a big slice of what’s expected to be the next multibillion-dollar pharma market.

The decision came down to the shifting RSV “competitive landscape,” a company spokesperson tells Endpoints News, adding the “breadth of options” was much different than when J&J first started its pivotal study. The spokesperson declined to comment on the Phase III data, saying only the shot is undergoing an “ongoing assessment.”

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No longer ‘dead or just hi­ber­nat­ing,’ drug­mak­ers re­turn to heart med­i­cines

In 2015, now-FDA Commissioner Robert Califf joined industry, academic and regulatory representatives in Washington to discuss why more drugs weren’t in development for cardiovascular diseases, the leading US cause of death and once a mainstay of pharmaceutical industry blockbusters.

The group pointed to many reasons. Clinical trials could take years and testing was expensive. Wide availability of generic drugs made the commercial prospects uncertain. Their paper title summed up the mood: “Cardiovascular Drug Development: Is it Dead or Just Hibernating?”

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Nicklas Westerholm, Egetis Therapeutics CEO

Ac­qui­si­tion talks on­go­ing for Swedish rare dis­ease biotech Egetis, shares up al­most 40%

Shares of the Sweden-based rare disease biotech Egetis Therapeutics skyrocketed on Thursday afternoon as the company said it’s engaged in “ongoing discussion” with external parties regarding a “potential acquisition.”

Egetis confirmed rumors with a statement on Thursday while noting that there is no certainty that a takeover offer will be made.

Nonetheless, the possibility of an acquisition has shot up Egetis’ share price. By the afternoon on Thursday, its stock price was {$EGTX.ST} up over 38%. An Egetis spokesperson told Endpoints News in an email that it has no further comments.

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Lu­pus drug de­vel­op­ment mar­ket heat­ing up, while FDA links with ad­vo­ca­cy group to fur­ther ac­cel­er­ate re­search

The long-underserved systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) market is suddenly buzzing with treatment possibilities. Less than two years after AstraZeneca’s approval for Saphnelo — the first new SLE drug in a decade and joining just one other approved in GSK’s Benlysta – the pipeline of potential drugs numbers in the dozens.

Although most are very early stage — Spherix Global Insights estimates five in Phase II/III — the pharma R&D enthusiasm is catching on among doctors, patients and advocacy groups. On Wednesday, the Lupus Research Alliance and the FDA formed a novel private-public partnership called Lupus Accelerating Breakthroughs Consortium (Lupus ABC) to help advance lupus clinical trial success.

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Af­ter safe­ty re­view, EMA mir­rors FDA with up­dat­ed rec­om­men­da­tions for JAK in­hibitors

The EMA released updated recommendations today for the use of JAK inhibitors (JAKi) after reviewing data from several clinical trials that showed increased incidents of issues in certain patients who have rheumatoid arthritis and other risk factors.

The EMA noted malignancy, major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE), serious infections, venous thromboembolism (VTE) and mortality in some patients.