David Meek (Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Scoop: Fer­ring, Black­stone’s $570M gene ther­a­py ven­ture has im­plod­ed af­ter CMC is­sues stymied a once high-pro­file quest

Back in late 2019, FerGene looked golden. It had a gene therapy for bladder cancer — spun out of Ferring — at the FDA, with a priority review and breakthrough status indicating that great things awaited on the near horizon.

Ferring backed up the venture with $170 million, with Nick Galakatos’ Blackstone Life Sciences chipping in another $400 million with great fanfare to get the company running. David Meek jumped from the CEO job at Ipsen to run it all, and a little over a year ago much of the executive team was assembled to bring it all home.

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At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; 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.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock plots her fu­ture at FDA, with se­nior ad­vi­sor role to fall back on if Califf wins con­fir­ma­tion

Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock has been the face of just about every drug approval decision at the agency since the turn of the century. Since the pandemic began, she’s moved between the top of the drugs center to the head of therapeutics at Operation Warp Speed, leading the drive for work on Covid-targeted mAbs and antivirals.

Looking forward — and pending a quick Senate confirmation to cement Rob Califf’s return to the top of FDA early next year — Woodcock’s role at the agency will again be in flux.

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Richard Pazdur (via AACR)

Ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval re­forms need mean­ing­ful con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al im­prove­ments, pro­fes­sors write in Sci­ence

Outside of Covid-19, 2021 has been the year of the accelerated approval.

Beginning last spring, FDA openly challenged six “dangling” accelerated approvals (hadn’t confirmed their clinical benefit yet), three of which were later pulled by the companies.

Then in June, FDA pulled out the accelerated approval pathway, seemingly out of nowhere, to sign off on Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm. It hadn’t even been mentioned at the drug’s adcomm.

One work­er at a Lat­vian man­u­fac­tur­er is dead af­ter a fire breaks out at fa­cil­i­ty

A press release referred to it as simply, “the incident.” But a fire at an Olainfarm site in Latvia last week has left one person dead, and injured another, the company announced Monday.

Just before midnight Nov. 26, a fire broke out in the production building of JSC Olainfarm,  as the result of an “accident,” a company spokesperson said in an email to Endpoints News. The two victims were both company employees, and the causes of the accident are still being determined.

Fu­ji­film Diosynth dumps an­oth­er $454M in­to its sup­ply chain, this time at a fa­cil­i­ty in the UK

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is in the middle of a monumental point in the company’s 10-year history, and the CDMO is about to grow even more, as it sets out to be the “beating heart” of the UK’s North East Life Sciences ecosystem.

A site in Billingham, Teeside, UK will receive a $453.72 million investment package from the manufacturer to double the existing footprint and create the largest multi-modal biopharmaceutical manufacturing site in the UK, bringing another 350 jobs to the region by late 2023.

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Lisa Deschamps, AviadoBio CEO

Ex-No­var­tis busi­ness head hops over to a gene ther­a­py start­up — and she's reeled in $80M for a dash to the clin­ic

Neurologist and King’s College London professor Christopher Shaw has been researching neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and collaborating with drugmakers for the last 25 years in the hopes of pushing new therapies forward. But unfortunately, none of those efforts have come anywhere close to fruition.

“So, you know, after 20 years in the game, I said, ‘Let’s try and do it ourselves,’” he told Endpoints News.