Swiss court keeps ex-GSK sci­en­tist's broth­er be­hind bars as US push­es to ex­tra­dite him on R&D theft charges

A Swiss crim­i­nal court is keep­ing Chi­nese sci­en­tist Gong­da Xue in jail for now as US of­fi­cials look to ex­tra­dite him for his role in a fam­i­ly en­ter­prise that stole more than a half bil­lion dol­lars in drug se­crets and trans­ferred them to Chi­na.

Lo­cal news sources in Switzer­land re­port that the crim­i­nal court re­ject­ed the sci­en­tist’s ap­peal, say­ing that a po­ten­tial 20-year prison sen­tence makes him a clear flight risk.

The US has been af­ter Gong­da Xue for his al­leged in­volve­ment in a crim­i­nal con­spir­a­cy with his sis­ter, Yu “Joyce” Xue, a GSK sci­en­tist in Up­per Meri­on, PA, who pled guilty to one count of trans­fer­ring the phar­ma gi­ant’s trade se­crets to a com­pa­ny they had cre­at­ed called Renophar­ma in Nan­jing. That biotech was sub­si­dized by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to US charges, Yu Xue stole se­crets and trans­ferred them to her broth­er in Switzer­land, where he did work on them at the Friedrich Mi­esch­er In­sti­tute. Reuters con­firmed with the in­sti­tute that he had been a post-doc there. From there the se­crets went to Chi­na, where they were mar­ket­ed by an al­leged ac­com­plice.

Yu Xue’s guilty plea last sum­mer came with the caveat that she nev­er be­lieved she was steal­ing ac­tu­al se­crets, say­ing that the in­for­ma­tion on patents was all pub­licly avail­able.

Yu Xue leaves court in Au­gust 2018. Matt Rourke, AP Im­ages

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The FBI ar­rest­ed an­oth­er Chi­nese sci­en­tist, Tao Li, in 2016 and found “a num­ber of GSK doc­u­ments con­tain­ing trade se­cret and con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion” on his com­put­er re­gard­ing prod­ucts un­der de­vel­op­ment, re­search da­ta as well as re­search, man­u­fac­tur­ing and de­vel­op­ment process­es. He al­so pled guilty to one charge.

The con­spir­a­cy case that US of­fi­cials made against Yu Xue came just ahead of sev­er­al re­cent in­stances where Chi­nese sci­en­tists were ex­pelled from their jobs at MD An­der­son and Emory for mis­con­duct — fail­ing to dis­close re­search and busi­ness ties in Chi­na. In the most re­cent case, Emory fired two sci­en­tists born in Chi­na — nat­u­ral­ized US cit­i­zens Xi­ao­jiang Li and Shi­hua Li — and shut down their lab, or­der­ing sev­er­al post-docs in the lab back to Chi­na.

The sci­en­tists, though, have fired back, say­ing that the uni­ver­si­ty had act­ed im­prop­er­ly and that their ties to Chi­nese re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions were dis­closed.

There may well be more of these cas­es com­ing up, as the US gov­ern­ment and the NIH have put uni­ver­si­ties on no­tice that they’re be­ing vig­i­lant about los­ing im­por­tant and ex­pen­sive re­search in­for­ma­tion to the Asian pow­er­house.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

Two days after a fairly benign review from FDA staff, an independent panel of experts largely endorsed the efficacy and safety of Aimmune’s peanut allergy therapy, laying the groundwork for approval with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS).

Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

Ear­ly snap­shot of Ad­verum's eye gene ther­a­py sparks con­cern about vi­sion loss

An early-stage update on Adverum Biotechnologies’ intravitreal gene therapy has triggered investor concern, after patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) saw their vision deteriorate, despite signs that the treatment is improving retinal anatomy.

Adverum, on Wednesday, unveiled 24-week data from the OPTIC trial of its experimental therapy, ADVM-022, in six patients who have been administered with one dose of the therapy. On average, patients in the trial had severe disease with an average of 6.2 anti-VEGF injections in the eight months prior to screening and an average annualized injection frequency of 9.3 injections.

Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.

Arde­lyx bags its first FDA OK for IBS, set­ting up a show­down with Al­ler­gan, Iron­wood

In the first of what it hopes will be a couple of major regulatory milestones for its new drug, Ardelyx has bagged an FDA approval to market Ibsrela (tenapanor) for irritable bowel syndrome.

The drug’s first application will be for IBS with constipation (IBS-C), inhibiting sodium-hydrogen exchanger NHE3 in the GI tract in such a way as to increase bowel movements and decrease abdominal pain. This comes on the heels of two successful Phase III trials.

Ver­tex deal for Scot­land — no deal for Eng­land

Cystic fibrosis (CF) drug maker Vertex Pharmaceuticals — which is still locked in negotiation with NHS England to endorse the use of its medicines — has successfully negotiated a deal with Scottish authorities.

A month ago, the Scottish Medicines Consortium spurned two of the company’s medicines — Orkambi and Symkevi — citing uncertainty over their long-term efficacy in relation to their cost.

Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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