Serge Weinberg, Sanofi (Tristan Reynaud, SIPA via AP Images)

Serge Wein­berg is­sues sharp re­ver­sal as board, French gov­ern­ment re­act to CEO Paul Hud­son’s vac­cine re­marks

Sanofi chair Serge Wein­berg on Thurs­day walked back en­tire­ly his CEO Paul Hud­son’s re­marks that the US would have “the right to the largest pre-or­der” of the French drug­mak­er’s Covid-19 vac­cine, should it be com­plete.

“There will be no par­tic­u­lar ad­vance giv­en to any coun­try,” Wein­berg told France 2 tele­vi­sion, ac­cord­ing to Reuters. “The com­ments of our CEO have been al­tered. We con­sid­er vac­cines as a com­mon good.”

Paul Hud­son

Wein­berg’s com­ments joined a cho­rus among the board and the French gov­ern­ment over the com­ments made Wednes­day by Hud­son, who in­sists he was mis­un­der­stood and had been call­ing on­ly for Eu­rope to take stronger ac­tion to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of a vac­cine.

Re­mark­ing that a vac­cine should be for the “pub­lic good” and that Hud­son’s com­ments “af­fect­ed” French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told Bloomberg Hud­son and oth­er Sanofi lead­er­ship were called to the pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence at the Él­y­seé Palace for a meet­ing. Ear­li­er Thurs­day morn­ing, when news of  Macron’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion first sur­faced, Hud­son said in an in­ter­view for the Fi­nan­cial Times‘ Glob­al Board­room that it was “news to him” that the pres­i­dent want­ed a meet­ing.

French Prime Min­is­ter Édouard Philippe al­so spoke out, say­ing on Twit­ter that “a vac­cine against Covid-19 should be a pub­lic good for the world.”

Af­ter the com­pa­ny is­sued an ini­tial state­ment walk­ing back Hud­son’s com­ments on Wednes­day — say­ing that US pro­duc­tion will be main­ly for the US and ex-US pro­duc­tion for Eu­rope and the globe — Wein­berg and oth­er mem­bers of Sanofi’s board spoke out out in greater force on Thurs­day.

Olivi­er Bogillot

Olivi­er Bogillot, chair­man of Sanofi’s French unit, ap­peared on BFM Tele­vi­sion and said there was no ques­tion about what would hap­pen.

“Ob­vi­ous­ly, if Sanofi makes a break­through on a vac­cine for Covid-19 and it is ef­fec­tive, it will be made avail­able to all,” he said.

Hud­son, ap­pear­ing for a sched­uled in­ter­view at the FT vir­tu­al con­fer­ence, tried to clar­i­fy his re­marks. The still rel­a­tive­ly new CEO had told Bloomberg that the US would get the largest pre-or­der be­cause the US bio-de­fense agency BAR­DA had fi­nanced their Covid-19 ef­fort, back­ing it with a $30 mil­lion grant this year. He urged Eu­rope to make a sim­i­lar ef­fort so coun­tries on the con­ti­nent “don’t get left be­hind.”

“What I’m try­ing to say every­where I go is that the US has BAR­DA, which is like a bi­o­log­i­cal re­search group that gets ahead of these things ear­li­er to get peo­ple ready and to try to make sure the nec­es­sary ca­pac­i­ty is built and the risks are shared,” he said.  “My com­ments are re­al­ly around what do we need to do to make sure we’re in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion in Eu­rope. It was nev­er a choice. We need to get vac­cines to every­body.”

Ex­perts warn, though, that when Covid-19 vac­cines do ar­rive, they will come in batch­es, forc­ing po­ten­tial­ly dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions about who gets the first dos­es. As­traZeneca CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot said last month that the UK would get ear­ly ac­cess to the vac­cine they are pro­duc­ing with Ox­ford Uni­ver­si­ty.

Oust­ed BAR­DA chief Rick Bright said at a whistle­blow­er hear­ing Thurs­day that the US has a “place­hold­er” to or­der dos­es from some of the vac­cine com­pa­nies it fund­ed. The agency has put around $1 bil­lion to back J&J and Mod­er­na’s ef­forts. In ad­di­tion to the $30 mil­lion this spring, the agency has giv­en Sanofi and its re­com­bi­nant vac­cine sub­sidiary Pro­tein Sci­ences hun­dreds of mil­lions in grants over the last 15 years.

“The Unit­ed States has a place­hold­er with some of those com­pa­nies to be able to place or­ders for those vac­cines when they are avail­able,” Bright said. “And we did every­thing pos­si­ble to en­sure that those in­vest­ments were in com­pa­nies that would build ca­pac­i­ty in the Unit­ed States to man­u­fac­ture those vac­cines. We had to get in line first.”

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na read­ies to en­ter PhI­II in Ju­ly, As­traZeneca not far be­hind; EU ready to ne­go­ti­ate vac­cine ac­cess with $2.7B fund

Moderna may soon add another first to the Covid-19 vaccine race.

In March, the mRNA biotech was the first company to put a Covid-19 vaccine into humans. Next month, they may become the first company to put their vaccine into the large, late-stage trials that are needed to prove whether the vaccine is effective.

In an interview with JAMA editor Howard Bauchner, NIAID chief Anthony Fauci said that a 30,000-person, Phase III trial for Moderna’s vaccine could start in July. The news comes a week after Moderna began a Phase II study that will enroll several hundred people.

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Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.