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.

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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.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

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Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

FDA+ roundup: Bs­U­FA III ready for show­time, court tells FDA to re-work com­pound­ing plan, new guid­ance up­dates and more

The FDA has now spelled out what exactly will be included in the third iteration of Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA) from 2023 through 2027, which similarly to the prescription drug deal, sets fees that industry has to pay for submitting applications, in exchange for firm timelines that the agency must meet.

This latest deal includes several sweeteners for the biosimilar industry, which has yet to make great strides in the US market, with shorter review timelines for safety labeling updates and updates to add or remove an indication that does not contain efficacy data.

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Jean Bennett (Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP Images)

Lux­tur­na in­ven­tor Jean Ben­nett starts a new gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny to tack­le rare dis­eases left be­hind by phar­ma, VCs

A few years ago Jean Bennett found herself in a surprising place for a woman who invented the first gene therapy ever approved in the United States: No one, it seemed, wanted her work.

Bennett, who designed and co-developed Luxturna, approved in 2018 for a rare form of blindness, had kept building new gene therapies for eye diseases at her University of Pennsylvania lab. But although the results in animals looked promising, pharma companies and investors kept turning down the pedigreed ophthalmology professor.

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Maureen Hillenmeyer, Hexagon Bio CEO

Hexa­gon Bio rais­es $61M to con­tin­ue ef­forts to turn fun­gi in­to drugs

A year after raising a $47 million launch round, the fungi-loving drug hunters at Hexagon Bio have more than doubled their coffers.

Hexagon announced today that it raised another $61 million for its efforts to design cancer and infectious disease drugs based on insights mined from the DNA in millions of species of fungi. The new financing brings Hexagon’s committed funding to over $108 million.