Pfiz­er Foun­da­tion of­fers $2M in grants to NGOs tack­ling an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance; Bio­gen, In­vi­tae join forces to de­vel­op faster SMA di­ag­nos­tic

→ Most of Big Phar­ma has left the build­ing when it comes to an­timi­cro­bial drug de­vel­op­ment, and small com­pa­nies with new­ly ap­proved an­tibi­otics are strug­gling to stay afloat. Mean­while, the foun­da­tion arm of Pfiz­er $PFE is of­fer­ing its sup­port, in the form of grants for NGO and so­cial en­ter­pris­es that are work­ing on ad­dress­ing this ma­jor health chal­lenge: an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance. Re­cip­i­ents of the one-year Glob­al Health In­no­va­tion Grants in­clude part­ners in 12 low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries who will each re­ceive $100,000. 

→ While Bio­gen‘s $BI­IB spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy treat­ment, Spin­raza, ri­vals No­var­tis$NVS gene-ther­a­py Zole­gens­ma, the US drug­mak­er has tied up with ge­net­ics com­pa­ny In­vi­tae $NV­TA to ush­er in a new ge­net­ic test for SMA, which will be of­fered at no charge to in­di­vid­u­als in the Unit­ed States as part of the SMA Iden­ti­fied pro­gram. The test re­duces the time need­ed for ge­net­ic test­ing to help con­firm a de­fin­i­tive SMA di­ag­no­sis to 4 days from 21, en­abling ear­li­er treat­ment for the of­ten life-threat­en­ing dis­ease, the com­pa­nies said on Tues­day.  

→ In its lat­est H1 re­port, Hong Kong-list­ed WuXi Vac­cines, a joint ven­ture of WuXi Bi­o­log­ics and Shang­hai Hile Bio-Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, in­di­cat­ed it had en­tered in­to a longterm man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with an un­named glob­al vac­cine com­pa­ny. The com­pa­ny es­ti­mates the val­ue of the 20-year con­tract to be over $3 bil­lion. WuXi is aim­ing to fi­nal­ize the con­tract this year and ex­pects it will make a “sub­stan­tial” rev­enue con­tri­bu­tion in 2022.

→ Late last year, af­ter their drug uben­imex proved to be an­oth­er flop, Eiger Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $EIGR CEO David Cory said that the com­pa­ny would be reshuf­fling and fo­cus­ing on, among oth­er things, its late-stage study in he­pati­tis delta virus (HDV), the most se­vere form of hu­man vi­ral he­pati­tis for which there is no ap­proved ther­a­py. On Tues­day, Eiger an­nounced that the FDA had grant­ed break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion for the com­pa­ny’s ex­per­i­men­tal drug, pegin­ter­fer­on lamb­da, to treat HDV, sup­port­ed by da­ta from a mid-stage study in 33 HDV-in­fect­ed pa­tients.  

iBio has inked a mas­ter ser­vices agree­ment (MSA) agree­ment with Unit­ed Ther­a­peu­tics sub­sidiary, Lung Biotech­nol­o­gy. Un­der the agree­ment, the com­pa­ny will pro­duce re­com­bi­nant hu­man col­la­gen (“rhCol­la­gen”)-based bioink for 3D bio­print­ed or­gan trans­plants. IBio will col­lab­o­rate with its part­ner to scale-up pro­duc­tion of rhCol­la­gen in to­bac­co plants us­ing iBio’s Fast­Pharm­ing Sys­tem — which com­bines plant pro­tein ex­pres­sion, au­to­mat­ed hy­dro­pon­ics, and gly­can en­gi­neer­ing tech­nolo­gies. The com­pa­ny is al­so look­ing to de­vel­op their own pipeline, with a lead as­set, CFB-03, for the treat­ment of fi­brot­ic dis­eases.

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

Take­da swoops in to buy lit­tle biotech part­ner and its celi­ac drug poised to 'change stan­dard of care'

Having spent three years carefully grooming PvP Biologics and its drug for celiac disease, Takeda is happy enough with the proof-of-concept data to buy it all.

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Bio­gen touts new ev­i­dence from the gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny it wa­gered $800M on

A year ago, Biogen made a big bet on a small gene therapy company. Now they have new evidence one of their therapies could work.

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Mi­cro­bio­me Q&A: New study maps the vagi­na's 'op­ti­mal mi­cro­bio­ta' — and its im­pli­ca­tions for bio­phar­ma

The widely-held notion that the “optimal” vaginal microbiota is dominated by one strain of lactic-acid producing bacteria has now been challenged in a new paper, published in Nature Communications on Wednesday, which used advanced gene sequencing methods to map out the most comprehensive gene catalog of the human vaginal microbiome.

Things have changed in the more than 50 years since the concept of vaginal microbiota transplants was proposed and subsequently tainted by a Texas-based gynecologist who transplanted the vaginal fluid of women who had bacterial vaginosis into healthy females, suspecting he had isolated the bacteria responsible for the condition.

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Fol­low­ing US, Chi­na hos­pi­tal ef­forts, Gilead plots its own PhI­II tri­als for close­ly watched Covid-19 drug

Gilead is launching its own Phase III trials of remdesivir, the repurposed antiviral that a WHO official called the “one drug right now we think may have real efficacy” against Covid-19 as the novel coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China ravages the world.

Announced just a day after the NIH and the University of Nebraska Medical Center registered their US-based trial online, Gilead’s program will comprise two studies enrolling around 1,000 patients beginning in March. They will recruit primarily in Asian countries but will also include patients from other locations with “high numbers of diagnosed cases,” the company said.

Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: NIH-part­nered Mod­er­na ships off its PhI-ready coro­n­avirus vac­cine can­di­date to a sea of un­cer­tain­ty

Off it goes.

Moderna has shipped the first batch of its mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 from its manufacturing facility in Norwood, Massachusetts, to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, for a pioneering Phase I study.

It’s a hectic race against time. In the 42 days since Moderna selected the sequence they would use to develop their vaccine — a record time, no less — the number of confirmed cases around the world has surged astronomically from a few dozen to over 80,000, per WHO and Johns Hopkins estimates.

The candidate that they came up with, mRNA-1273, encodes for a prefusion stabilized form of the spike protein, which gives the virus its crown shape and plays a key role in transmission. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Oslo-based group better known as CEPI, funded the manufacture of this batch.

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In at least one life-sci hub, gen­der and di­ver­si­ty ini­tia­tives haven’t made a dent

Gender and racial diversity at the top of UK life science companies has hardly budged over the last seven years despite repeated advocacy efforts, according to a new report.

The report, from the recruiting firm Liftstream, found that 14.8% of directors on life sciences boards were women and 21.1% of top executives were women. That’s a modest bump from the 9.8% of directors and 18.1% of executives Liftstream identified in their last report from 2014. The percentage of women CEOs moved from 8% to 9.8%.

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Will a 'risk-of­f' mind­set has­ten cell ther­a­py M&A? Io­vance surges on buy­out chat­ter

Is it time for some cell therapy M&A?

Investors of Iovance Biotherapeutics certainly thought so, sending its stock $IOVA up as much as 40% after Bloomberg reported that the cancer-focused biotech is talking to potential buyers.

While 2019 saw a number of high-profile gene therapy company takeovers — led by Roche’s $4.3 billion bid of Spark as Astellas went for Audentes, Biogen snapped up Nightstar and Vertex absorbed Exonics — large players appeared to prefer partnering on the cell therapy front, particularly when it comes to cancer. Hal Barron put his weight behind Rick Klausner’s startup as he rebuilt GlaxoSmithKline’s cancer pipeline. Takeda turned to MD Anderson to license their natural killer cell therapy.

One less ri­val for Im­muno­vant, as Alex­ion aban­dons FcRn in­hibitor

Less than one year after Alexion parted with $25 million upfront to secure access to a second anti-FcRn asset, it is abandoning the experimental drug. The discontinuation, disclosed at the SVB Leerink Global Healthcare Conference in New York during a fireside chat, bodes well for rival Immunovant.

The drug (ABY-039), partnered for development with Sweden’s Affibody, was forsaken on the basis of early-stage data that was not viewed favorably, Baird and SVB Leerink analysts noted.