Scripps re­searchers add pow­er to an­tibi­ot­ic van­comycin, giv­ing it a third mech­a­nism to fight su­per­bugs

The emer­gence of an­tibi­ot­ic-re­sis­tant bac­te­ria is a ma­jor world­wide con­cern for health­care pro­fes­sion­als world­wide, who in some cas­es, have been ren­dered pow­er­less to help pa­tients sur­vive su­per­bug in­fec­tions that have out-evolved ex­ist­ing drugs. Progress has slowed on cre­at­ing new an­tibi­otics over sev­er­al decades as many com­pa­nies cal­cu­lat­ed their re­turn on in­vest­ment for de­vel­op­ing one won’t be suf­fi­cient, at least with­out spe­cial in­cen­tives. Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, “With­out ur­gent ac­tion, we are head­ing for a post-an­tibi­ot­ic era, in which com­mon in­fec­tions and mi­nor in­juries can once again kill.”

Re­searchers at The Scripps Re­search In­sti­tute in La Jol­la, Cal­i­for­nia have a new plan to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing.

Dale Boger

In a study pub­lished yes­ter­day in the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tion­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences, Dale Boger, co-chair of TSRI’s De­part­ment of Chem­istry, start­ed with van­comycin, an ex­ist­ing an­tibi­ot­ic that has stood up bet­ter than most to the growth of an­tibi­ot­ic re­sis­tance. The drug kills bac­te­ria by pre­vent­ing the cells from build­ing cell walls. Af­ter be­ing pre­scribed for over 60 years, very few of the or­gan­isms have man­aged to re­sist its cu­ra­tive pow­ers.  How­ev­er, some dan­ger­ous strains of gram-pos­i­tive bac­te­ria, such as En­te­ro­coc­ci, which was list­ed as a high pri­or­i­ty by WHO back in Feb­ru­ary, have re­cent­ly man­aged to evolve to evade the drug’s in­flu­ence.

Boger has been work­ing on mod­i­fy­ing and strength­en­ing the drug for sev­er­al years. In the cur­rent study, he has in­tro­duced a third mod­i­fi­ca­tion which makes the drug one thou­sand times more po­tent than it is in its orig­i­nal struc­ture. The new for­mu­la­tion kills bac­te­ria us­ing three sep­a­rate mech­a­nisms, mak­ing it high­ly un­like­ly that a bac­teri­um would evolve to dodge all three si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly. In the study, the drug was ef­fec­tive in killing En­te­ro­coc­ci in both its orig­i­nal and van­comycin-re­sis­tant forms.

The drug still has a long way to go be­fore doc­tors will be able to pre­scribe it though. It takes 30 steps to prop­er­ly syn­the­size the mol­e­cule the team has de­signed. It won’t be ready for hu­man tri­als un­til it can be syn­the­sized more prac­ti­cal­ly, but Boger de­scribes this step as the “easy part.”


Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.