Richard Lerner (Scott Audette/AP Images)

Richard Lern­er, an­ti­body pi­o­neer and long­time pres­i­dent of Scripps Re­search, dies at 83

Richard Lern­er, the es­teemed bio­chemist who pi­o­neered a new way to de­vel­op mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies and led Scripps Re­search In­sti­tute to promi­nence, has passed away.

A spokesper­son for Scripps told the San Diego Union-Tri­bune that Lern­er died of can­cer in his La Jol­la home. He was 83 years old.

Among oth­er things, Lern­er’s lab was known for de­vis­ing a new tech­nique for cre­at­ing an­ti­bod­ies — de­ployed as can­cer treat­ments as well as in im­munol­o­gy and dis­ease re­search — one that the New York Times called a “ma­jor ad­vance in biotech­nol­o­gy.” It led to com­pa­nies mak­ing mAbs a thou­sand times faster, more ac­cu­rate­ly, at a low­er cost. That foun­da­tion­al re­search ce­ment­ed the dis­cov­ery of Hu­mi­ra, which went on to be­come the world’s best-sell­ing treat­ment.

Lern­er was trained at Stan­ford, and served as the di­rec­tor and pres­i­dent of Scripps from 1987 un­til 2012. In that time, the in­sti­tu­tion es­tab­lished a Flori­da cam­pus, start­ed a bi-coastal grad­u­ate school and climbed its way to the top-10 grad­u­ate pro­grams of its kind in the US.

“We felt we were with him on a non-stop ad­ven­ture,” Paul Shim­mel, a pro­fes­sor of mol­e­c­u­lar med­i­cine at Scripps, said in an obit­u­ary. “Like pi­o­neers of the old west, who would trans­form med­ical re­search and its as­so­ci­at­ed grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion.”

As a man­ag­er, Lern­er had an eye for star re­searchers, fa­mous­ly re­cruit­ing Bar­ry Sharp­less, who went on to win the No­bel Prize. Two oth­er sci­en­tists with ties to Scripps — Ben­jamin List, a for­mer post­doc­tor­al re­searcher for Lern­er — and Ar­dem Pat­apout­ian, who is cur­rent­ly with Scripps, were award­ed No­bel Prizes this fall.

“Richard had a tremen­dous in­flu­ence on sci­ence, the in­sti­tute, and the lives and work of many of us at Scripps Re­search,” Scripps CEO and pres­i­dent Pe­ter Schultz said. “He was tru­ly a gi­ant and his vi­sion, lead­er­ship and pas­sion for sci­ence will be deeply missed.”

Known as a cre­ative in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary sci­en­tist, Lern­er’s lab de­vel­oped syn­thet­ic pep­tide vac­cines, cat­alyt­ic an­ti­bod­ies, and com­bi­na­to­r­i­al an­ti­body and DNA-en­cod­ed chem­i­cal li­braries. He start­ed at Scripps as a post­doc­tor­al fel­low in 1965, then left for a year to do re­search for the Wis­tar In­sti­tute in Philadel­phia be­fore com­ing back home to Scripps in 1970.

Lern­er, of­ten de­scribed as en­tre­pre­neur­ial, was al­so a mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors for sev­er­al com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Kraft Foods, Se­quenom, Te­va Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and In­tra-Cel­lu­lar Ther­a­peu­ties. He holds holds hon­orary de­grees from from Ox­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, Ben-Gu­ri­on Uni­ver­si­ty, North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty, Karolin­s­ka In­sti­tute and Flori­da At­lantic Uni­ver­si­ty.

He is sur­vived by his wife Nicky, and three chil­dren Dan­i­ca, Arik and Aaron.

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His­toric drug pric­ing re­forms pass; Pfiz­er ac­quires GBT; The long search for non-opi­oid pain drugs; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

The Endpoints Weekly has officially crossed the 60,000 mark on subscribers — thanks to all of your support. As the editorial team grows, we’ve been able to do a lot more, with many of those on display this week. Be sure to check out Lei Lei Wu’s deep dive on pain R&D. If you missed it, you may also rewatch her companion panel here.

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Gold for adults, sil­ver for in­fants: Pfiz­er's Pre­vnar 2.0 head­ed to FDA months af­ter Mer­ck­'s green light

Pfizer was first to the finish line for the next-gen pneumococcal vaccine in adults, but Merck beat its rival with a jab for children in June.

Now, two months after Merck’s 15-valent Vaxneuvance won the FDA stamp of approval for kids, Pfizer is out with some late-stage data on its 20-valent shot for infants.

Known as Prevnar 20 for adults, Pfizer’s 20vPnC will head to the FDA by the end of this year for an approval request in infants, the Big Pharma said Friday morning. Discussions with the FDA will occur first and more late-stage pediatric trials are expected to read out soon, informing the regulatory pathway in other countries and regions.

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No­var­tis re­ports two pa­tient deaths af­ter treat­ment with Zol­gens­ma

Two children with spinal muscular atrophy have died after receiving Novartis’ Zolgensma, a gene therapy designed as a one-time treatment for the rare fatal disease.

The deaths, which resulted from acute liver failure, occurred in Russia and Kazakhstan, Novartis confirmed in a statement to Endpoints News. Having notified health authorities across all the markets where Zolgensma is available, it will update the drug label “to specify that fatal acute liver failure has been reported,” a spokesperson wrote.

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Winselow Tucker, Eli Lilly's new Loxo unit chief commercial officer

Eli Lil­ly plucks a new com­mer­cial chief from Bris­tol My­ers in man­age­ment shuf­fle as HR chief re­tires

Eli Lilly has found a new chief commercial officer from among the ranks at Bristol Myers Squibb, as it says farewell to its longtime head of human resources Stephen Fry.

Fry announced on Thursday his plans to retire after more than 35 years with Lilly. He’ll vacate his seat as SVP of human resources and diversity at the end of the year, and current Loxo CCO Eric Dozier is slated to take his place. As a result, BMS’ Winselow Tucker is joining the team as Loxo CCO at the end of the month.

Simba Gill, Evelo Biosciences CEO

Sim­ba Gill heads back to Flag­ship af­ter sev­en-year run as Evelo CEO

Evelo Biosciences is on the hunt for a new CEO, with its founding chief Simba Gill switching to the chairman post to free up time for his new gig at Evelo’s incubator, Flagship Pioneering.

Gill will trade in his former Flagship title of venture partner with the higher-up role of executive partner, after originally joining in 2015. He’ll serve as CEO of Evelo until his successor is chosen, and at Flagship his priorities will be counseling and supporting the venture firm’s portfolio companies.

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House pass­es his­toric drug pric­ing re­forms, lin­ing up decades-in-the-mak­ing win for Biden and De­moc­rats

The US House of Representatives today voted along party lines (all Dems voted for it), 220-207 to pass new, wide-ranging legislation that will allow Medicare drug price negotiations for the first time ever, and cap seniors’ drug expenses to $2,000 per year and seniors’ insulin costs at $35 per month.

Setting up a major victory for President Joe Biden, representatives returned from their summer recess to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, even as many noted the bill would only modestly reduce inflation.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO via AP Images)

Sen­ate Fi­nance chair con­tin­ues his in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to phar­ma tax­es with re­quests for Am­gen

Amgen is the latest pharma company to appear on the radar of Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is investigating the way pharma companies are using subsidiaries in low- or zero-tax countries to lower their tax bills.

Like its peers Merck, AbbVie and Bristol Myers Squibb, Wyden notes how Amgen uses its Puerto Rico operations to consistently pay tax rates that are substantially lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate of 21%, with an effective tax rate of 10.7% in 2020 and 12.1% in 2021.

FDA ap­proves sec­ond in­di­ca­tion for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi's En­her­tu in less than a week

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu scored its second approval in less than a week, this time for a subset of lung cancer patients.

Enhertu received accelerated approval on Thursday to treat adults with unresectable or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have activating HER2 (ERBB2) mutations, and who have already received a prior systemic therapy.

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