Spark re­cruits gene ther­a­py ex­pert Min­gozzi as new CSO; Fu­sion brings ven­ture round to $46M; Chi­na OKs Gilead’s So­val­di for hep C

⇨ Spark Ther­a­peu­tics $ONCE has re­cruit­ed Fed­eri­co Min­gozzi, a not­ed gene ther­a­py ex­pert at IN­SERM and Genethon in France, as chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer. Min­gozzi picked up his PhD at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Fer­rara, Italy and an MBA from Drex­el Uni­ver­si­ty in Philadel­phia.

⇨ The for­mer SVP for di­a­betes mar­ket­ing at No­vo Nordisk has been poached by Bio­gen to take the same lead on their Alzheimer’s fran­chise. Camille Lee will be in charge of mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy on Alzheimer’s, pro­vid­ed Bio­gen gets any through the reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proval process. She re­ports now to Al San­drock.

⇨ Cana­da’s Fu­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has added a $21 mil­lion tranche to its lat­est ven­ture round, bring­ing the to­tal to $46 mil­lion.  Its lead drug — FPX-01 — us­es al­pha-par­ti­cle emit­ting ra­dioiso­topes to at­tack can­cer cells. Ter­ry Gould of Adams Street Part­ners and Alan O’Con­nell of Ser­o­ba Life Sci­ences have joined the com­pa­ny’s board of di­rec­tors.

⇨ Two months af­ter an FDA pan­el vot­ed over­whelm­ing­ly to nix Toron­to-based In­tel­liphar­ma­ceu­tics$IP­CI new pain drug Rex­ista, the agency has for­mal­ly slammed the door shut. The biotech says that it re­ceived a CRL from reg­u­la­tors spelling out the ad­di­tion­al clin­i­cal da­ta they would need for a re­turn trip to the agency. Com­pa­ny ex­ecs say they were pleased to gain the clar­i­ty on the road ahead for a ther­a­py they’ve billed —un­suc­cess­ful­ly so far — as an abuse-re­sis­tant ver­sion of oxy.

⇨ Rhythm Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has set its terms for an up­com­ing IPO, look­ing to sell 6.7 mil­lion shares at $14 to $16 a share.

⇨ South San Fran­cis­co-based Ex­elix­is $EX­EL is re­port­ing that its part­ner Dai­ichi Sankyo post­ed pos­i­tive top-line re­sults from a Phase III piv­otal tri­al of esax­erenone in pa­tients with es­sen­tial hy­per­ten­sion in Japan. Dai­ichi Sankyo plans to sub­mit a Japan­ese reg­u­la­to­ry ap­pli­ca­tion for esax­erenone for an es­sen­tial hy­per­ten­sion in­di­ca­tion in the first quar­ter of 2018.

⇨ New check­point com­bo an­nounce­ments con­tin­ue to roll out. This morn­ing it’s In­fin­i­ty’s $IN­FI turn to an­nounce a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb $BMY on a com­bo of its PI3K-gam­ma in­hibitor IPI-549 with Op­di­vo. And NewLink $NLNK got a boost from the news that it will spon­sor a com­bi­na­tion Phase II study us­ing its IDO path­way in­hibitor with As­traZeneca’s $AZN dur­val­um­ab.

⇨ Iso­Plex­is, a Brand­ford, CT-based biotech spe­cial­iz­ing in sin­gle-cell an­a­lyt­ics, raised a $13.5 mil­lion B roundSpring Moun­tain Cap­i­tal led the round with par­tic­i­pa­tion by Con­necti­cut In­no­va­tions, North Sound Ven­tures, and Iron­wood Cap­i­tal.

⇨ Gilead has now el­bowed its way in­to the big hep C mar­ket in Chi­na. The com­pa­ny says reg­u­la­tors in Chi­na have OK’d their sale of So­val­di, the block­buster med that helped pave the way for a new stan­dard of treat­ment in the field.

George Scangos (L) and Marianne De Backer

Pi­o­neer­ing biotech icon George Scan­gos hands in his re­tire­ment pa­pers — and this time it’s for re­al

George Scangos, one of the all-time great biotech CEOs, says the time has come to turn over the reins one last time.

The 74-year-old biotech legend spent close to three decades in a CEO post. The first was at Exelixis — which is still heavily focused on a drug Scangos advanced in the clinic. The second “retirement” was at Biogen, where he and his team were credited with a big turnaround with the now fading MS blockbuster Tecfidera. And the third comes at Vir, where he traded in his Big Biotech credentials for a marquee founder’s role back on the West Coast, hammering out a Covid-19 alliance with Hal Barron — then R&D chief at GSK — and breaking new ground on infectious diseases with some high-powered venture players.

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Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine (Credit: Jamie Scott Lytle)

A stem cell pi­o­neer sent an ex­per­i­ment in­to space. Pa­tients are the next fron­tier

Last July, Jeanne Loring stood on a dirt road surrounded by Florida swampland and watched as a nearby SpaceX rocket blasted into the sky. The payload included a very personal belonging: cell clusters mimicking parts of her brain.

For more than two decades, Loring has been at the forefront of a stem cell field that always seems on the brink of becoming the next thing in medicine, but has been slow to lift off.

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FDA re­ports ini­tial 'no sig­nal' for stroke risk with Pfiz­er boost­ers, launch­es con­comi­tant flu shot study

The FDA hasn’t detected any potential safety signals, including for stroke, in people aged 65 years and older who have received Pfizer’s bivalent Covid booster, one senior official told members of the agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Thursday.

The update comes as the FDA and CDC investigate a “preliminary signal” that may indicate an increased risk of ischemic stroke in older Americans who received Pfizer’s updated shot.

FDA cuts off use for As­traZeneca’s Covid-19 ther­a­py Evusheld

The FDA has stopped use of another drug as a result of the new coronavirus variants. On Thursday, the agency announced that AstraZeneca’s antibody combo Evusheld, which was an important prevention option for many immunocompromised people and others, is no longer authorized.

The FDA said it made its decision based on the fact that Evusheld works on fewer than 10% of circulating variants.

Evusheld was initially given emergency authorization at the end of 2021. However, as Omicron emerged, so did studies that showed Evusheld might not work against the dominant Omicron strain. In October, the FDA warned healthcare providers that Evusheld was useless against the Omicron subvariant BA.4.6. It followed that up with another announcement earlier this month that it did not think Evusheld would work against the latest Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

Evotec inks li­cense agree­ment with J&J; On­colyt­ic virus biotech prices $15M IPO

Drug discovery and development player Evotec entered another licensing deal with Big Pharma — this time with J&J’s Janssen.

The companies put out word that they entered into a strategic collaboration and license agreement with each other that focuses on targeted immune-based cancer therapies, to be commercialized by Janssen.

According to a statement, the collaboration will hinge on Evotec’s integrated drug discovery and manufacturing capabilities. During the pre-clinical R&D phase, the companies will collaborate closely — and then Janssen will take on full responsibility for both clinical development and commercialization.

In­vestor 'misalign­men­t' leads to tR­NA biotech's shut­ter­ing

A small biotech looking to carve a lane in the tRNA field has folded, an investor and a co-founder confirmed to Endpoints News.

Similar to Flagship’s Alltrna and other upstarts like Takeda-backed hC Bioscience, the now-shuttered Theonys was attempting to go after transfer RNA, seen as a potential Swiss Army knife in the broader RNA therapeutics space. The idea is that one tRNA drug could be used across a galaxy of disorders and diseases.

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#JPM23: What's re­al­ly dri­ving the cost of health­care and drugs in 2023?

Executive Editor Drew Armstrong spoke with PhRMA CEO Steve Ubl, EmsanaRx CEO Greg Baker and ICER President Steve Pearson about how the debate over drug costs has changed (or not) in the last decade, the shifting payer landscape and why there seems to be so little movement on drug rebates. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Drew Armstrong:

So first of all, thank you to everybody for being here and for our panel for being here. Incredibly excited to have this discussion on the cost of healthcare and drugs and what’s driving that. We’re here with Steve Ubl, the head of PhRMA. Thank you so much. Steve Pearson from ICER, and Greg Baker from EmsanaRx. I want to start this conversation with a little bit of a personal reminiscence. So about almost 10 years exactly. I was a reporter back in my previous job and I was covering drug pricing and Gilead had just launched their hepatitis C drug and I was having a conversation with another Steve over at Express Scripts and he made some comments essentially about how they intended to launch a price war over hepatitis C therapies.

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Pa­tient death spurs tri­al halt for Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics

Magenta Therapeutics is pausing an early-stage clinical trial after a patient died. The death was deemed to be possibly related to its drug, MGTA-117.

The biotech said the pause of the Phase I/II trial is voluntary and gives it time to review all available data before deciding what to do next. It’s also reported the known information to the FDA.

The dose-escalation trial was designed to test whether MGTA-117, an antibody-drug conjugate, could serve as a more targeted alternative to high-intensity chemotherapy as a conditioning agent for cancer patients who are set to receive a stem cell transplant. It recruited patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.

In a win for Re­gen­eron, No­var­tis' sy­ringe for AMD drug de­clared 'un­patentable'

Regeneron has won a patent case against Swiss pharma giant Novartis over the delivery system for its eye drug Eylea.

The US Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled that Novartis’ pre-filled syringe for injecting its eye medication Lucentis was “unpatentable” and handed the victory to Regeneron and its AMD drug Eylea.

In the initial complaint in 2020, Novartis alleged to the US International Trade Commission that certain pre-filled syringes for the intravitreal injection, and ultimately Regeneron’s delivery system for Eylea, were infringing on Novartis’ patent. Regeneron filed a petition to review Novartis’ claims in 2021.