Sanofi bol­sters its po­si­tion on mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis with a $765M BTK li­cens­ing deal

Sanofi is snap­ping up an ear­ly-stage pro­gram from San Fran­cis­co’s Prin­cip­ia Bio­phar­ma, shoring up the phar­ma gi­ant’s po­si­tion in mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

Sanofi will write a check for $40 mil­lion up­front, with fu­ture mile­stone pay­ments that could to­tal $765 mil­lion. In re­turn, Sanofi gets a world­wide li­cense to de­vel­op and sell PRN2246. The as­set, which just en­tered Phase I clin­i­cal tri­als, is a BTK in­hibitor de­signed to ac­cess the brain and spinal col­umn by cross­ing the blood-brain bar­ri­er. Once there, it’s meant to im­pact im­mune cell and brain cell sig­nal­ing. The com­pa­nies hope this may treat MS and oth­er cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem dis­eases.

Ri­ta Bal­ice-Gor­don, Sanofi

The as­set makes sense for Sanofi, as the drug mak­er al­ready has two suc­cess­ful MS drugs on the shelves: Auba­gio and Lem­tra­da. The two prod­ucts make up a sig­nif­i­cant part of Sanofi’s over­all rev­enue.

Sanofi’s neu­ro­science re­search head Ri­ta Bal­ice-Gor­don said the in­vest­ment high­light’s Sanofi’s fo­cus on MS and neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­ease.

“Com­ple­ment­ing our own in­ter­nal R&D ex­per­tise, ex­ter­nal re­la­tion­ships like this may ac­cel­er­ate de­liv­ery of new treat­ments to pa­tients liv­ing with these se­ri­ous dis­eases,” Bal­ice-Gor­don said.

Mar­tin Babler, Prin­cip­ia CEO

Prin­cip­ia’s CEO Mar­tin Babler said part­ner­ing with a phar­ma gi­ant with MS ex­pe­ri­ence al­lows the start­up to make bet­ter use of its re­sources.

“The agree­ment al­lows Prin­cip­ia to max­i­mize the BTK op­por­tu­ni­ty in neu­rol­o­gy with a strong part­ner for PRN2246 while fo­cus­ing in­ter­nal re­sources on our lead BTK in­hibitor in an­oth­er ther­a­peu­tic area,” Babler said.

The com­pa­ny’s lead pro­gram, PRN1008, is in Phase II tri­als in pa­tients with pem­phi­gus, an or­phan au­toim­mune dis­ease.

The deal be­tween Sanofi and Prin­cip­ia is a tad open-end­ed. Prin­cip­ia has the op­tion to co-fund Phase III de­vel­op­ment, should the as­set progress that far. If they choose that op­tion, they can get in­creased roy­al­ties on glob­al sales or a prof­it and loss shar­ing agree­ment in the US.

The trans­ac­tion is ex­pect­ed to close in the fourth quar­ter.

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

Credit: Shutterstock

How Chi­na turned the ta­bles on bio­phar­ma's glob­al deal­mak­ing

Fenlai Tan still gets chills thinking about the darkest day of his life.

Three out of eight lung cancer patients who received a tyrosine kinase inhibitor developed by his company, Betta Pharma, died in the span of a month. Tan, the chief medical officer, was summoned to Peking Union Medical College Hospital, where the head of the clinical trial department told him that the trial investigators would be conducting an autopsy to see if the patients had died of the disease — they were all very sick by the time they enrolled — or of interstitial lung disease, a deadly side effect tied to the TKI class that’s been reported in Japan.

No­var­tis' sec­ond at­tempt to repli­cate a stun­ning can­cer re­sult falls flat

Novartis’ hopes of turning one of the most surprising trial data points of the last decade into a lung cancer drug has taken another setback.

The Swiss pharma announced Monday that its IL-1 inhibitor canakinumab did not significantly extend the lives or slow the disease progression of patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer when compared to standard of-care alone.

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No­var­tis dumps AveX­is pro­gram for Rett syn­drome af­ter fail­ing re­peat round of pre­clin­i­cal test­ing

Say goodbye to AVXS-201.

The Rett syndrome gene therapy drug made by AveXis — the biotech that was bought, kept separate, then renamed and finally absorbed by Novartis into its R&D division — has been dropped by the biopharma.

In Novartis’ third quarter financial report, the pharma had found that preclinical data did not support development of the gene therapy into IND-enabling trials and beyond. The announcement comes a year after Novartis told the Rett Society how excited it was by the drug — and its potential benefits and uses.

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Peter Nell, Mammoth Biosciences CBO

UP­DAT­ED: Jen­nifer Doud­na spin­out inks a Mam­moth CRISPR deal with Ver­tex worth near­ly $700M

When a company gets its start in gene editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna’s lab, it’s bound to make headlines. But three years in, the fanfare still hasn’t died down for Mammoth Biosciences. Now, the Brisbane, CA-based company is cheering on its first major R&D pact.

Mammoth unveiled a nearly $700 million deal with Vertex on Tuesday morning, good for the development of in vivo gene therapies for two mystery diseases. The stars of the show are Mammoth’s ultra-small CRISPR systems, including two Cas enzymes licensed from Doudna’s lab over the past couple years, Cas14 and Casɸ.

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AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot (Raphael Lafargue/Abaca/Sipa USA)

A com­bo of As­traZeneca's Imfinzi and chemo wins where oth­ers have failed in piv­otal bil­iary tract test

Looking to run with the big dogs in the PD-(L)1 class, AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi has a tall hill to climb to compete in an increasingly bustling market. An aggressive combo strategy for the drug has paid off so far, and now AstraZeneca is adding another notch to its belt.

A combo of Imfinzi (durvalumab) and chemotherapy significantly extended the lives of first-line patients with advanced biliary tract cancer over chemo alone, according to topline results from the Phase III TOPAZ-1 study revealed Monday.

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Sean Ianchulev, Eyenovia CEO and CMO

Re­cent court de­ci­sion push­es FDA to re­ject and re­clas­si­fy drug-de­vice com­bo, crush­ing shares

Back in April, the FDA lost a crucial court case in which its broad discretion of regulating medical products that might satisfy the legal definitions of either “drug” and/or “medical device” was sharply curtailed.

In addition to the appeals court ruling that Genus Medical Technologies’ contrast agent barium sulfate (aka Vanilla SilQ) should not be considered a drug, as the FDA had initially ruled, but as a medical device, the agency also was forced to spell out which drugs would transition to devices as a result of the ruling.

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An­gion's or­gan dam­age drug strikes out again, this time in high-risk kid­ney trans­plant pa­tients

After flopping a test in Covid-19 earlier this year, Angion’s lead organ damage drug has now hit the skids again in kidney transplant patients.

Angion and partner Vifor Pharma’s ANG-3777 failed to beat out placebo in terms of improving eGFR, a measure of kidney function, in patients who had received a deceased donor kidney transplant and were at high risk of developing what is known as delayed graft function, according to Phase III results released Tuesday.

(Photo courtesy Pfizer)

FDA's vac­cine ad­comm votes al­most unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of Pfiz­er's Covid-19 vac­cine for younger chil­dren

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on Tuesday voted 17-0, with one panelist abstaining, that the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outweigh the risks for children between the ages of five and 12.

The vote will likely trigger a process that could allow the shots to begin rolling out as early as next week.

The vaccine, which is one-third of the adult Pfizer dose, proved to be about 90% effective in a placebo-controlled trial in which about 1,500 kids in this age range received the vaccine, and only about 12% of those receiving the vaccine had any adverse event. All serious adverse events in the trial were unrelated to the vaccine.