So­bi signs $450M deal for rare dis­ease drug ema­palum­ab, boost­ing its in­flam­ma­tion, I/O pipeline

Swedish drug­mak­er So­bi has bought glob­al rights to a late-stage rare dis­ease drug from No­vaim­mune SA, build­ing up its in­flam­ma­tion busi­ness and po­ten­tial­ly lin­ing up a good chunk of new rev­enue should the drug get ap­proved.

So­bi paid $50 mil­lion up­front for the li­cens­ing pact, with an ad­di­tion­al $400 mil­lion over the next 8 years. In re­turn, it’s get­ting a glob­al li­cense for No­vaim­mune’s or­phan drug can­di­date ema­palum­ab, which treats a se­vere rare dis­ease called (stay with me) Haemophago­cyt­ic lym­pho­his­ti­o­cy­to­sis. HLH for short. This is a hema­to­log­ic dis­or­der more of­ten seen in chil­dren than adults. Pa­tients with HLH have over­ac­tive im­mune sys­tems, with a pro­lif­er­a­tion of lym­pho­cytes and macrophages that cause in­flam­ma­tion. In­stead of de­stroy­ing dam­aged cells in the body, the im­mune sys­tem goes af­ter the pa­tient’s own tis­sues and or­gans. HLH is clas­si­fied as one of the cy­tokine storm syn­dromes.

Gui­do Oelk­ers

A Eu­ro­pean fil­il­ng with the EMA is planned lat­er this year.

The drug might have oth­er ther­a­peu­tic val­ue, too. No­vaim­mune has stud­ies in sec­ondary HLH and haematopoi­et­ic stem cell trans­plant (HSCT) on­go­ing or planned. It’s al­so got some im­muno-on­col­o­gy ap­pli­ca­tions still be­ing test­ed out in pre­clin­i­cal tri­als.

The drug could bring in some near-term cash for the com­pa­ny, with sales po­ten­tial from 2019 on­ward, and with an es­ti­mat­ed an­nu­al 2.5 bil­lion-3.0 bil­lion Swedish Kro­na ($281 mil­lion —$337 mil­lion).

So­bi al­so said it’s signed a non-bind­ing let­ter of in­tent for a pos­si­ble ac­qui­si­tion of all ema­palum­ab as­sets, in­clud­ing the trans­fer of rel­e­vant em­ploy­ees. So­bi’s pres­i­dent and CEO Gui­do Oelk­ers had this to say in a state­ment:

We be­lieve this trans­ac­tion is an ex­cel­lent fit for So­bi and con­sis­tent with our strat­e­gy of ex­pand­ing our com­mer­cial Spe­cial­ty Care port­fo­lio, strength­en­ing our ge­o­graph­ic foot­print, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the US, and build­ing our R&D pipeline. The ad­di­tion of ema­palum­ab to So­bi’s port­fo­lio is a nat­ur­al fit that builds up­on our ex­per­tise with Kineret (anakin­ra) and fo­cus­es our busi­ness in in­flam­ma­tion, im­munol­o­gy and im­muno-on­col­o­gy. Our strate­gic goal is to build our Spe­cial­ty Care busi­ness area as a com­ple­ment to Haemophil­ia, al­low­ing So­bi to ad­vance our po­si­tion to be­come glob­al lead­ers in rare dis­eases.

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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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.

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.

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.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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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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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.

UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.