Debra Yu (LianBio)

Pfiz­er hands Lian­Bio $70M to tag along Per­cep­tive's Chi­na play, with an eye to beef­ing up re­gion­al port­fo­lio

When Per­cep­tive un­veiled its care­ful­ly cu­rat­ed syn­di­cate for Lian­Bio’s $310 mil­lion Se­ries A, Pfiz­er stood out as the on­ly phar­ma amid a mar­quee group of VCs. It turns out that the drug­mak­er wasn’t on­ly look­ing to share the fruits of Lian­Bio’s la­bor, it al­so wants to get down in­to the trench­es.

Pfiz­er has put an ad­di­tion­al $70 mil­lion on the ta­ble for Lian­Bio — which Per­cep­tive set out to shape in­to a “best-in-class sourc­ing and de­vel­op­ment en­gine” in Chi­na — to in-li­cense pro­grams that they can then co-de­vel­op. If a drug reach­es the mar­ket, Pfiz­er will be first in line to ne­go­ti­ate for stand­alone com­mer­cial deals.

Kon­stan­tin Poukalov

Hav­ing just re­cent­ly signed off on a $480 mil­lion col­lab­o­ra­tion to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize CStone’s PD-1 in Chi­na, Doug Gior­dano, SVP of Pfiz­er world­wide busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, said the new deal ex­pands its “abil­i­ty to part­ner across the biotech ecosys­tem” and de­liv­er med­ical break­throughs to Chi­nese pa­tients.

“We’ve heard this re­peat­ed­ly from Big Phar­mas over the years that they get pro­grams com­ing down from glob­al but there’s of­ten not as much em­pha­sis and lit­tle ac­tiv­i­ty at the re­gion­al lev­el for busi­ness de­vel­op­ment,” De­bra Yu, Lian­Bio’s pres­i­dent/CBO and a Pfiz­er alum, told End­points News.

For Lian­Bio, the al­liance doesn’t just of­fer heavy­weight en­dorse­ment of its mod­el but al­so a way to tap in­to com­mer­cial in­fra­struc­ture that Pfiz­er has built over a decade.

Kon­stan­tin Poukalov, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Per­cep­tive and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man at Lian­Bio, not­ed that the in-kind help that Pfiz­er has com­mit­ted might just be as im­por­tant as the cash. From clin­i­cal tri­al ex­per­tise — Pfiz­er has 60-plus stud­ies un­der­way in the coun­try — and KOL net­work to cre­at­ing mar­ket ac­cess and deal­ing with the re­im­burse­ment process, the phar­ma gi­ant brings sig­nif­i­cant knowl­edge and ca­pac­i­ty to the pact.

Bing Li

In par­tic­u­lar, he adds, Lian­Bio will be pre­sent­ing to Pfiz­er as­sets that re­quire a large, spread-out sales force to cov­er vast ge­o­graph­i­cal re­gions. As­sets that are more tar­get­ed around spe­cif­ic cen­ters of care are more like­ly to be han­dled by the 30-plus Lian­Bio staffers (they’re still re­cruit­ing) CEO Bing Li is lead­ing in Shang­hai and Bei­jing.

As Yu scouts new deals with her New Jer­sey-based team, she be­lieves hav­ing Pfiz­er on board would con­vince biotech part­ners that by li­cens­ing Chi­na rights to Lian­Bio they will get the “best of both worlds.”

“It’s a very spe­cial kind of be­spoke cre­ative part­ner­ship that ben­e­fits all the three par­ties that are in­volved,” she said.

Pre­vi­ous­ly, Lian’s pitch­es main­ly re­volved around de­tailed mar­ket analy­ses and tai­lor-made de­vel­op­ment pro­pos­als that Bridge­Bio CEO Neil Ku­mar has praised as cre­ative. For $26.5 mil­lion in near-term pay­ments, he hand­ed over two tar­get­ed can­cer drug can­di­dates and gave away pref­er­en­tial fu­ture ac­cess to pro­grams across his sub­sidiaries’ port­fo­lio.

MyoKar­dia, mean­while, pro­vid­ed Lian with its first car­dio drug be­fore Bris­tol My­ers Squibb bought it for $13 bil­lion. Lian paid $40 mil­lion up­front for mava­camten and is on the hook for an­oth­er $147.5 mil­lion.

While Lian doesn’t en­vi­sion do­ing an­oth­er deal like the Pfiz­er one — elect­ing in­stead to pri­or­i­tize find­ing new drugs for its pipeline — Poukalov be­lieves oth­er phar­ma gi­ants are sim­i­lar­ly look­ing for ways to get their hands on drugs they may not oth­er­wise have ac­cess to.

“Just like you’ve seen in As­traZeneca’s case where they were able to do re­gion­al spe­cif­ic deals to dri­ve re­gion­al rev­enue, I think that’s top of mind for a lot of oth­er MNCs that are try­ing to evolve and re­al­ly kind of con­tin­ue to an­chor their po­si­tion in the mar­ket­place,” Poukalov said.

Clin­i­cal tri­al mon­i­tor­ing is about to change for­ev­er

In 2006, a clinical trial called ILLUMINATE halted abruptly. Trial subjects treated with an investigational drug called torcetrapib started experiencing unexpected cardiovascular problems, in some cases resulting in death. After 15 years and nearly 1 billion dollars, the development of torcetrapib froze.

Nine years later, a paper published in the journal Circulation explained how the ILLUMINATE disaster could have been predicted and prevented if just 9 proteins had been measured in clinical trial participants following initial treatments.

Niall Martin, Artios CEO

Mer­ck KGaA bets big on DNA dam­age up­start, push­ing $30M up­front and hefty in­cen­tives for a Lyn­parza pi­o­neer

The DNA damage specialists over at Artios Pharma have remained largely quiet in the 2 1/2 years since their last fundraise, but whatever they’ve been up to, it’s impressed Merck KGaA.

The Big Pharma announced Thursday that they had inked a three-year-deal with Artios to discover and develop small molecule cancer drugs that target DNA repair enzymes. The German Merck will pay Artios $30 million upfront, with another $865 million in milestone available per target.

Long af­ter Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers cre­at­ed a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar mar­ket, the PD-1 lead­ers are once again duk­ing it out — this time over a $12B-plus pot

Six years after Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb captured the attention of the oncology world with the first approval of their PD-1 drugs Keytruda and Opdivo, sales revenue has started to level off after a host of rivals joined the hunt for new OKs for metastatic conditions, where the FDA has proven quick to act.

But a key analyst covering biopharma believes that there’s a vast, still largely untapped frontier for new approvals to come in the adjuvant setting that could once again ignite the growth of these leading cancer franchises. And once again, he’s pointing to the 2 leaders in the field as the most likely players to come out ahead — way, way ahead.

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Jaz­z's $1B SCLC drug fails com­bo tri­al, quash­ing hopes of quick full ap­proval

Lurbinectedin was looking like a great turnaround story for Spanish biotech PharmaMar. More than a year after the drug flopped in a Phase III ovarian cancer study, it hit the mark for overall response rate in small cell lung cancer, attracted Jazz Pharma to gamble on a $1 billion pact and landed an accelerated approval earlier this year.

Until it failed the overall survival endpoint in a new Phase III study.

Covid-19 roundup: WHO re­searchers raise new ques­tions on remde­sivir; FDA chief Stephen Hahn de­fends the agen­cy's vac­cine ap­proval process

The WHO has been beating the drum against Gilead’s remdesivir since mid-October when a preprint of their SOLIDARITY trial showed the antiviral had no substantial effect in three key areas. Now, the organization has published its results in full.

Researchers maintain what had been reported six weeks ago: remdesivir and the three other therapies in the trial — hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon — did not improve mortality rates, reduce the amount of patients needing ventilators or shorten hospital stays. And this time, they published an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine explaining their thoughts on the data.

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin

UP­DAT­ED: UK grants Pfiz­er, BioN­Tech his­toric first OK for mR­NA vac­cine, ex­pects mil­lions of dos­es by year end

Pfizer and BioNTech have scored a historic OK for their Covid-19 vaccine in the UK, where the first doses are expected to be delivered within days.

Days after the British government authorized its Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to make a call independent of the European Union — from which it’s in the process of exiting — the regulators gave the green light for emergency use of BNT162b2.

Alan Sandler (Roche via YouTube)

A top can­cer R&D ex­ec at Genen­tech joins the ex­o­dus, jump­ing to a mar­quee Chi­na biotech as the new on­col­o­gy chief, deal­mak­er

In the oncology world, there’s no better hunting ground for cancer R&D execs than Genentech. The biotech franchise at Roche has worked on some of the leading drugs in the field, proven themselves with blockbuster returns, and carries weight for whatever it says and does.

The exodus of R&D talent out of the South San Francisco hub is a testament to their success.

Now one of their top research execs has been raided by a top China biotech player to satisfy not just their need for an oncology R&D chief as they build up their muscle in discovery and drug development, but also add a spotter for new cancer drug deals.

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Chris Varma, Frontier Medicines CEO (file photo)

Ab­b­Vie eyes can­cer, im­munol­o­gy in lat­est pro­tein degra­da­tion pact, hand­ing Fron­tier Med­i­cines $55M up­front

Two years after tiptoeing into the protein degradation space with a discovery pact centered on neurodegeneration, AbbVie is wading deeper to explore the more common applications in cancer and immunological diseases.

The pharma giant is handing Frontier Medicines $55 million upfront to get things started while promising to reimburse its preclinical R&D costs. In addition to drug candidates that target E3 ligases — a key member of the body’s natural degradation system — Frontier will also be scouting small molecule binders to targets.

J&J buys an ear­ly-stage gene ther­a­py for the eye — the on­ly known pro­gram for an un­der-the-radar biotech

Just weeks after MeiraGTx touted their latest update on data emerging from their gene therapy alliance with J&J on inherited retinal diseases, the pharma giant is back with an acquisition tailored to beef up their R&D efforts in the field.

This deal is focused on HMR59, an early-stage gene therapy at a small biotech called Hemera Biosciences. They’re keeping the terms under wraps for now, but J&J is grabbing a once-and-done gene therapy that is designed to protect levels of CD59, a key protein that guards the retina.