Pas­cal So­ri­ot is stay­ing at As­traZeneca af­ter all, con­firm­ing up­com­ing pre­sen­ta­tion - re­ports

As­traZeneca has stayed mum for two long days filled with an in­tense round of ru­mors and spec­u­la­tion over the fu­ture of their CEO, Pas­cal So­ri­ot. But the lat­est re­port out of Lon­don is that So­ri­ot has de­cid­ed to stay with the phar­ma gi­ant af­ter all, for­go­ing a re­port­ed of­fer of a $20 mil­lion bonus and a chance to re­or­ga­nize a trou­bled Te­va. And the com­pa­ny, while stay­ing silent on the sto­ry, is con­firm­ing plans for So­ri­ot to make a key pre­sen­ta­tion in about two weeks.

The lat­est news was bro­ken by Bloomberg Fri­day af­ter­noon but didn’t hit the In­ter­net im­me­di­ate­ly. StreetInsid­er cit­ed the re­port in a brief, say­ing that So­ri­ot “is cur­rent­ly plan­ning to stay for the fore­see­able fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, cit­ing peo­ple with knowl­edge of the mat­ter.”

As­traZeneca in­vestors quick­ly bid up shares in the phar­ma gi­ant by more than 4% as news of the CEO’s plans to stay spread Fri­day, re­plac­ing the bil­lions lost ear­li­er as the mar­ket man­aged to over­come a bad case of nerves spurred by thoughts that an ex­it by So­ri­ot at this stage im­plied bad news for the cru­cial MYS­TIC study for dur­val­um­ab and treme­li­mum­ab. That Phase III da­ta is due any day now.

Of­fi­cial­ly, As­traZeneca is main­tain­ing the same po­si­tion it has held for the past two days. In re­sponse to a query of mine, a spokesper­son for As­traZeneca re­spond­ed: “Re­gard­ing the Te­va ru­mours still the same, we don’t com­ment on spec­u­la­tion.”

But the com­pa­ny did fol­low up with a time­ly note on an up­com­ing re­view of As­traZeneca’s H1 re­sults, for Ju­ly 27, close to two weeks from now, with a pre­sen­ta­tion by So­ri­ot. In­sid­ers are al­so telling the Fi­nan­cial Times that it’s busi­ness as usu­al at As­traZeneca.

There’s been plen­ty of time to chat­ter about all kinds of pos­si­bil­i­ties in the time since Cal­cal­ist first re­port­ed that So­ri­ot was in the fi­nal stages of ham­mer­ing out a con­tract. One of the lat­est dis­cus­sions cen­tered on the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Pfiz­er might make a re­newed bid if So­ri­ot was gone, leav­ing the door open to a deal that he spurned three years ago.

That ev­i­dent­ly won’t be hap­pen­ing, ei­ther.

Te­va Chair­man Sol Bar­er has made it clear that find­ing a cred­i­ble new CEO to lead the com­pa­ny at a time gener­ic pric­ing has erod­ed and its pipeline re­mains weak is a cru­cial task. Now he’ll be ex­pect­ed to go back and find some­one else to fill the po­si­tion — the fourth CEO in as many years. Te­va’s shares plunged 4% as the mar­ket clawed back gains from the last two days.

https://twit­ter.com/Arm­strong­Drew/sta­tus/885919752669057024

So­ri­ot is left in a dif­fi­cult spot, still work­ing on a turn­around as rev­enue slides in­to a trough and the pipeline proves far less ef­fec­tive than the CEO had promised.

One key are­na, on­col­o­gy, has de­liv­ered some sol­id gains with drugs like Lyn­parza and Tagris­so and pos­si­bly Imfinzi (dur­val­um­ab). But the big R&D cat­a­lyst this year cen­ters on As­traZeneca’s ques­tion­able MYS­TIC study, com­bin­ing dur­val­um­ab and treme­li­mum­ab, with plen­ty of deep seat­ed fears about the out­come. As­traZeneca had to set­tle for a fifth place fin­ish among the check­point con­tenders as it cen­tered its plans around So­ri­ot’s strat­e­gy of de­liv­er­ing com­bi­na­tions that could leapfrog the lead­ers in the field.

That strat­e­gy is far from be­ing ex­e­cut­ed on. And oth­er el­e­ments in the pipeline have been sore dis­ap­point­ments. As­traZeneca has ex­pe­ri­enced ma­jor set­backs on a score of big projects.

  • Bril­in­ta was sup­posed to be the un­pol­ished jew­el in As­traZeneca’s crown. It’s been a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment.
  • Selume­tinib has been a flop, fail­ing back-to-back Phase III stud­ies.
  • There was a Phase III miss for tralok­inum­ab in asth­ma.
  • ZS-9 was kicked back by reg­u­la­tors twice for man­u­fac­tur­ing rea­sons, giv­ing a ri­val time to re­group and so­lid­i­fy its po­si­tion in the mar­ket.
  • The com­pa­ny has qui­et­ly and steadi­ly pulled out of an­tibi­otics.
  • A whole se­ries of drugs — in ad­di­tion to an­tibi­otics — have been sold off to sup­ply some fast rev­enue in place of what had been big peak sales fore­casts, among them bro­dalum­ab.

Most of that laun­dry list of set­backs was racked up in the last year.

All these prob­lem­at­ic drugs were in­tend­ed to play a big role in dou­bling As­traZeneca’s $23 bil­lion in 2016 rev­enue. Keep­ing that promise by 2023, which So­ri­ot used to win over in­vestors and re­ject Pfiz­er’s bid for the com­pa­ny in 2014, has been an in­creas­ing­ly un­like­ly prospect.

When So­ri­ot ar­rived at As­traZeneca, he made a great show of an­nounc­ing plans for a big new cam­pus in Cam­bridge, UK. Now that project, like so many things about As­traZeneca, is un­fin­ished, be­hind sched­ule and way over bud­get. He was sup­posed to have that done in 2016.

Now So­ri­ot will re­port­ed­ly be stay­ing for the fore­see­able fu­ture, to see if he can get this right.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.