Andrey Zarur, GreenLight Biosciences CEO

Q&A: De­ter­mined to not re­peat mis­takes from the last pan­dem­ic, An­drey Zarur talks about lat­est deal with Serum In­sti­tute

The Mass­a­chu­setts biotech Green­Light made waves Mon­day with the an­nounce­ment of its li­cens­ing deal with the Serum In­sti­tute of In­dia. Three of its mR­NA prod­ucts, start­ing with its shin­gles vac­cine, will be pro­duced by Serum in a deal that pig­gy­backs off of its $10 mil­lion in­vest­ment from No­vem­ber.

Green­Light is rid­ing high off of its re­verse merg­er that net­ted it­self a $1.5 bil­lion val­u­a­tion, af­ter it merged with the SPAC En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact Ac­qui­si­tion Corp. It’s still work­ing on ex­per­i­men­tal vac­cines and ther­a­pies us­ing mR­NA tech­nol­o­gy for the sea­son­al flu and sick­le cell dis­ease, a long way from where it orig­i­nal­ly got its start: shak­ing up the pes­ti­cides mar­ket for agri­cul­ture.

An­drey Zarur, the founder and CEO of Green­Light, took some time to sit down and talk with me about the deal with Serum on Tues­day. Here’s our con­ver­sa­tion.

Con­grat­u­la­tions on this deal. What does the part­ner­ship mean for Green­Light?

We’re su­per ex­cit­ed, right? I mean, Serum is not on­ly the largest vac­cine man­u­fac­ture in the world, by the num­ber of dos­es sold, but they al­so have an in­cred­i­ble foot­print and reach across the low­er- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, which are a fun­da­men­tal piece of pre­vent­ing pan­demics. If we’ve learned any­thing about Covid it’s that if we just ig­nore the rest of the world and do what we al­ways do, here in the US and Eu­rope, we’re go­ing to get screwed time and again. We are one hu­man race, and we need to treat it as such. The on­ly way to get out of this is to have a co­or­di­nat­ed glob­al vac­cine strat­e­gy, which Serum is go­ing to help us with …Their abil­i­ty to dis­trib­ute glob­al is I think what is miss­ing from this equa­tion.

Talk to me about the treat­ments and vac­cines to be named lat­er. Are those some­thing you’ve had con­ver­sa­tions about that you’re wait­ing to an­nounce pub­licly?

We haven’t made a de­ci­sion yet … We have a close re­la­tion­ship, and they’re very aligned with our mis­sion. And a lit­tle of it is where are the needs that are preva­lent that are not be­ing ad­dressed, and an­oth­er one is where are these dis­eases go­ing.

Can you talk to me about how you’ve iden­ti­fied the shin­gles vac­cine as a key area of fo­cus?

The shin­gles virus is the same virus as (the chick­en pox). In the US, we vac­ci­nate kids against the chick­en pox. And so the chances that they grow up to be adults and get shin­gles is rel­a­tive­ly low. But the rest of the world, that’s not the case. The rest of the world, you get chick­en pox when you’re a kid, pret­ty much every­body con­tin­ues to get chick­en pox as they get old­er. It can be dan­ger­ous and it is ex­tra­or­di­nary painful. It’s a huge un­met need, there are bil­lions of peo­ple who are at risk of shin­gles who don’t have a so­lu­tion, and of course there is no es­tab­lished busi­ness mod­el. So we’re fo­cused on a ma­jor need that’s like­ly to af­fect every­body over the age of 60.

I had shin­gles when I was a fresh­man in high school, which I know is a weird time to get it, but I can vouch for how painful it can be.

I had it in my thir­ties, and you can still see the big scar it left. But it nev­er re­al­ly goes away.

It’s been such a crazy jour­ney for you all, can you walk me through the last year or so on your end?

It hasn’t re­al­ly been crazy. It was a long and very, very chal­leng­ing jour­ney by de­sign.

We set out in 2008 to come up with a new way of pro­duc­ing bi­o­log­i­cal en­er­gy, which the vast ma­jor­i­ty of the top bi­ol­o­gy pro­grams in all the top re­search in­sti­tu­tions had tried and failed. So we knew that we were em­bark­ing on a near-im­pos­si­ble jour­ney … This is re­al­ly hard. We’re try­ing to rewire na­ture, so we knew it was go­ing to be in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult when we start­ed. It took 7 or 8 years to fig­ure out a sys­tem that would en­able us to con­trol bi­ol­o­gy.

Once we got there five or six years ago, we start­ed with agri­cul­ture be­cause we be­lieved we need­ed to make a dra­mat­ic im­pact in the way the world grows their own food. It is, I be­lieve, the biggest threat to life on the plan­et, more so than glob­al warm­ing. Be­cause while glob­al warm­ing is re­al­ly re­al­ly se­ri­ous, at the end of the day, with enough mon­ey and enough sci­en­tists, you can mit­i­gate those ef­fects, and the world is al­ready mak­ing a tran­si­tion to clean en­er­gy. You look at our fields, and we haven’t done any­thing for the last 50 years. In fact, every­thing we’ve done has made the agri­cul­tur­al sys­tem less sus­tain­able.

Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Pearl Huang, Dunad Therapeutics CEO (Ken Richardson, PR Newswire)

Long­time biotech leader Pearl Huang takes the reins as CEO of No­var­tis-backed up­start

It has only been a few months since Pearl Huang exited the top seat at Cygnal Therapeutics, but now she’s back at the helm of another biotech.

After taking a few months off — passing an exam in that time to get her captain’s license from the US Coast Guard — she’s been named CEO of Dunad Therapeutics, a biotech focused on developing a small molecule covalent therapies that was founded in 2020. Huang told Endpoints News that two factors attracted her to going back to the c-suite: the company’s technology and its co-founders.

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Matt Gline, Roivant CEO (John Sciulli/Getty Images for GLG)

Roivant chops sick­le cell gene ther­a­py, der­ma­tol­ogy drugs to fo­cus on 'high­er val­ue pro­ject­s'

Roivant is sweeping a suite of drugs, including a gene therapy for sickle cell disease already in the clinic, out of its pipeline.

Six programs from four of its “vants” are being wound down as part of “a company-wide cost optimization and pipeline reprioritization initiative to reduce our expected operating expenses and prioritize our capital resources.”

When reached by Endpoints News, a spokesperson said, “We don’t anticipate a material reduction in headcount but we will likely reassign some folks to higher value projects as part of winding down specific programs.”

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Laurence Reid, Decibel CEO

Still in pre­clin­i­cal test­ing for ear gene ther­a­pies, Deci­bel touts small snap­shot of chemo-in­duced hear­ing loss drug

Though Decibel Therapeutics has largely pivoted toward gene therapies for the inner ear, its lead clinical candidate simply aims to protect cancer patients from chemotherapy-induced hearing loss. On Tuesday, the biotech presented its first efficacy data for the program, and execs like what they see.

Decibel reported interim results from a Phase Ib study showing the experimental drug, dubbed DB-020, largely protected a small group of patients from losing their hearing. Researchers used a particularly unique study design, administering the compound in one of each patients’ ears before they received cisplatin chemotherapy and placebo in the other.

Alex­ion puts €65M for­ward to strength­en its po­si­tion on the Emer­ald Isle

Ireland has been on a roll in 2022, with several large pharma companies announcing multimillion-euro projects. Now AstraZeneca’s rare disease outfit Alexion is looking to get in on the action.

Alexion on Friday announced a €65 million ($68.8 million) investment in new and enhanced capabilities across two sites in the country, including at College Park in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown and the Monksland Industrial Park in the central Irish town of Athlone, according to the Industrial Development Agency of Ireland.

Members of the G7 from left to right: Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden and G7 na­tions of­fer funds for vac­cine and med­ical prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing project in Sene­gal

Amidst recently broader vaccine manufacturing initiatives from the EU and European companies, the G7 summit in the mountains of Bavaria has brought about some positive news for closing vaccine and medical product manufacturing gaps around the globe.

According to a statement from the White House, the G7 leaders have formally launched the partnership for global infrastructure, PGII. The effort will aim to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars to deliver infrastructure projects in several sectors including the medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing space.

Ben Zimmer, Priovant CEO

Roivant un­veils lat­est spin­out as Pfiz­er en­trusts JAK1/TYK2 to Pri­o­vant

In November, Pfizer disclosed it’s spun out the Phase II dual JAK1/TYK2 inhibitor to a startup formed in collaboration with an unnamed, experienced partner.

We now know who the partner is. And as Pfizer and Roivant officially take the wraps off Priovant Therapeutics, the companies reveal that they have started two registrational trials of the drug, brepocitinib, as part of a broader plan to develop a big, first-in-class franchise spanning multiple orphan and specialty autoimmune diseases.