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.”

Grow­ing ac­cep­tance of ac­cel­er­at­ed path­ways for nov­el treat­ments: but does reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proval lead to com­mer­cial suc­cess?

By Mwango Kashoki, MD, MPH, Vice President-Technical, and Richard Macaulay, Senior Director, of Parexel Regulatory & Access

In recent years, we’ve seen a significant uptake in the use of regulatory options by companies looking to accelerate the journey of life-saving drugs to market. In 2018, 73% of the novel drugs approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) were designated under one or more expedited development program categories (Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, Priority Review, and Accelerated Approval).ᶦ

Sanofi out­lines big API plans as coro­n­avirus out­break re­port­ed­ly threat­ens short­age of 150 drugs

As the world becomes increasingly dependant on Asia for the ingredients of its medicines, Sanofi sees business to be done in Europe.

The French drugmaker said it’s creating the world’s second largest active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) manufacturer by spinning out its six current sites into a standalone company: Brindisi (Italy), Frankfurt Chemistry (Germany), Haverhill (UK), St Aubin les Elbeuf (France), Újpest (Hungary) and Vertolaye (France). They have mapped out €1 billion in expected sales by 2022 and 3,100 employees for the new operations headquartered in France.

UP­DAT­ED: NGM Bio takes leap for­ward in crowd­ed NASH field

South San Francisco-based NGM Bio may have underwhelmed with its interim analysis of a key cohort from a mid-stage NASH study last fall — but stellar topline data unveiled on Monday showed the compound induced significant signs of antifibrotic activity, NASH resolution and liver fat reduction, sending the company’s stock soaring.

There are an estimated 50+ companies focused on developing drugs for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a common liver disease that has long flummoxed researchers. The first wave of NASH drug developers struggled with efficacy as well as safety — and companies big and small have crashed and burned.

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Mickey Kertesz, KidsandArtOrg via YouTube

Soft­Bank's newest, $165M biotech in­vest­ment looks for in­fec­tious traces in the blood

SoftBank has found its newest biotech investment.

The Japanese bank has invested $165 million into Karius, a company that uses blood tests to diagnose infectious diseases, as part of its new Vision Fund 2. The full scope of the new fund has yet to be announced, but the first and newly-beleaguered Vision Fund poured $100 billion into technology companies, including the biotechs Vir Biotechnology and Roivant and the sequencing company 10x Genomics.

Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (Shutterstock)

FDA grants ‘break­through’ sta­tus to an­tibi­ot­ic al­ter­na­tive as Con­tra­Fect rush­es to join fight against su­per­bug

An experimental drug that promises to be the first anti-infective agent to prove superior to vancomycin — an antibiotic approved in 1958 — has notched the FDA’s “breakthrough” status.

ContraFect said the designation was based on Phase II data in which exebacase was tested against a superbug known as methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, or MRSA. In a subgroup analysis, the clinical responder rate at day 14 was 42.8% higher than that among those treated with standard of care, the company said (p=0.010).

Zhong Nanshan, CGTN via YouTube

Har­vard joins coro­n­avirus fight with $115 mil­lion and a high-pro­file Chi­nese part­ner

For two months, as the novel coronavirus swelled from a few early cases tied to a Wuhan market to a global epidemic, most of the world’s focus and dollars have flowed toward emergency initiatives: building vaccines at a record pace, plucking experimental antivirals out of freezers to see what sticks and immunizing mice for new antibodies.

Now a new and well-funded collaboration between Harvard and a top Chinese research institute will play the long game. In a 5-year, $115 million initiative backed by China Evergrande Group, researchers from the Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health will study the virus in an effort to develop therapies against infections by the novel coronavirus, known as SARS–CoV-2, and to prevent new ones.

No­var­tis gets a boost in block­buster mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis race with Roche

In the first step of what’s likely to be a long and uphill battle for the drugmaker, the FDA has accepted Novartis’s BLA submission for a new multiple sclerosis drug and given it priority review. The PDUFA date for the potential blockbuster drug is in June.

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Juergen Horn

An­i­mal health vet Juer­gen Horn makes new an­ti­body play for pets, rak­ing $15M in Se­ries A haul

Zoetis forked over $85 million in 2017 to acquire Nexvet Biopharma and its pipeline of monoclonal antibodies. Juergen Horn, Nexvet’s former chief product development officer, has now secured $15 million for his own biologic company for animals: Invetx.

Buoyed by emerging advances in gene therapies for humans, scientists have started looking at harnessing the technology for animals setting up companies such as Penn-partnered Scout Bio and George Church-founded Rejuvenate Bio. But akin to Nexvet, Invetx is working on leveraging the time-tested science of monoclonal antibodies to treat chronic diseases that afflict man’s best friend.

As coro­n­avirus out­break reach­es 'tip­ping point,' GSK lends ad­ju­vant tech to Chi­nese part­ner armed with pre­clin­i­cal vac­cine

As the coronavirus originating out of Wuhan spreads to South Korea, Italy and Iran, stoking already intense fears of a pandemic, GlaxoSmithKline has found another pair of trusted hands to place its adjuvant system. China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals will add the adjuvant to its preclinical, protein-based vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2.

Clover, which is based in the inland city of Chengdu, boasts of a platform dubbed Trimer-Tag that produces covalently-trimerized fusion proteins. Its candidate, COVID-19 S-Trimer, resembles the viral spike (S)-protein found in the virus.