Eric Roman, Pace Analytical CEO

This mid­west­ern CD­MO just picked up 3 ac­qui­si­tions in less than a week

A rel­a­tive­ly qui­et Min­neapo­lis-based CD­MO is mak­ing waves, an­nounc­ing its third ac­qui­si­tion in just one week.

Pace has ac­quired Ve­le­sco Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals Ser­vices, which will add to its liq­uid, se­mi-sol­id and oral sol­id dose man­u­fac­tur­ing, the com­pa­ny said. The CD­MO has al­so brought on BC Lab­o­ra­to­ries out of Cal­i­for­nia and Pro­Science An­a­lyt­i­cal Ser­vices

David Barnes

The Ve­le­sco ac­qui­si­tion al­lows Pace to broad­en its drug de­liv­ery op­tions, and tai­lor them for clients’ mod­ules, dose range and drug de­liv­ery route. With the ac­qui­si­tion, Pace will get Ve­le­sco’s clin­i­cal tri­al man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­i­ty, which in­cludes spe­cial­ized, small-scale cus­tomized ex­per­i­ments, soft­gel cap­sule, sus­pen­sion and non-ster­ile liq­uid drug sup­port and ex­per­tise in non-clin­i­cal tox­i­col­o­gy stud­ies.

“Pace sci­en­tists and pro­fes­sion­als pro­vide ex­per­tise and sup­port to clients through­out their drug de­vel­op­ment time­line,” Pace CEO Er­ic Ro­man said in a state­ment. “Adding Ve­le­sco to our port­fo­lio is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing cus­tomers across the drug de­liv­ery spec­trum.”

Pace is a part of the Au­ro­ra Cap­i­tal Part­ners port­fo­lio. It of­fers an­a­lyt­i­cal test­ing to the phar­ma, bio­phar­ma and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tries.

Greg Kupp

Ve­le­sco’s CEO David Barnes will move to the role of VP of sci­en­tif­ic af­fairs, while COO Ger­ry Cox will take over as the VP of com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment. Ve­le­sco’s two sites in Wixom, MI will switch their brand­ing to Pace. The com­pa­ny has lo­ca­tions in Boston, St. Paul, MN, Philadel­phia, Salem, NH and Puer­to Ri­co.

“Dave Barnes and Ger­ry Cox have much to of­fer to the Pace team, and we are ex­cit­ed to have them con­tin­ue on in key roles,” Greg Kupp, pres­i­dent of Pace An­a­lyt­i­cal Life Sci­ences, said in a press re­lease. “The rep­u­ta­tion of the Ve­le­sco team, their strong his­to­ry and flex­i­ble re­sponse to client de­mand, make this a great cul­tur­al fit while adding tremen­dous val­ue to our clients.”

Greg Whit­man

Pro­Science is a Woburn, MA-based provider of en­vi­ron­men­tal an­a­lyt­i­cal ser­vices, that tests air, wa­ter, soil, sed­i­ment, sludge and paint, among oth­er things. Whit­man said in a press re­lease that the ac­qui­si­tion will al­low Pace to up its as­bestos test­ing busi­ness, which has been in high de­mand late­ly.

BC Labs al­so pro­vides en­vi­ron­men­tal an­a­lyt­i­cal ser­vices, but for the west­ern part of the coun­try.

“Cal­i­for­nia has been a leader in the charge for man­dat­ed test­ing for con­t­a­m­i­nants and haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als – and in pro­vid­ing greater trans­paren­cy for con­sumers,” Greg Whit­man, pres­i­dent of Pace An­a­lyt­i­cal En­vi­ron­men­tal, said. “By ex­pand­ing our ex­ist­ing foot­print in Cal­i­for­nia, we have both the ca­pac­i­ty and ca­pa­bil­i­ties to meet this grow­ing de­mand.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

So — that pig-to-hu­man trans­plant; Po­ten­tial di­a­betes cure reach­es pa­tient; Ac­cused MIT sci­en­tist lash­es back; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

We’re incredibly excited to welcome Beth Bulik, seasoned pharma marketing reporter, to the team. You can find much of her work in our new Marketing channel — and in her weekly newsletter, Endpoints PharmaRx, which will launch in early November. Add it to your subscriptions here.

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NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

No, sci­en­tists are not any clos­er to pig-to-hu­man trans­plants than they were last week

Steve Holtzman was awoken by a 1 a.m. call from a doctor at Duke University asking if he could put some pigs on a plane and fly them from Ohio to North Carolina that day. A motorcyclist had gotten into a horrific crash, the doctor explained. He believed the pigs’ livers, sutured onto the patient’s skin like an external filter, might be able to tide the young man over until a donor liver became available.

UP­DAT­ED: Agenus calls out FDA for play­ing fa­vorites with Mer­ck, pulls cer­vi­cal can­cer BLA at agen­cy's re­quest

While criticizing the FDA for what may be some favoritism towards Merck, Agenus on Friday officially pulled its accelerated BLA for its anti-PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab as a potential second-line treatment for cervical cancer because of the recent full approval for Merck’s Keytruda in the same indication.

The company said the BLA, which was due for an FDA decision by Dec. 16, was withdrawn “when the window for accelerated approval of balstilimab closed,” thanks to the conversion of Keytruda’s accelerated approval to a full approval four months prior to its PDUFA date.

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How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data are messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data are exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.

No­vo CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen on R&D risk, the deal strat­e­gy and tar­gets for gen­der di­ver­si­ty

 

I kicked off our European R&D summit last week with a conversation involving Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo is aiming to launch a new era of obesity management with a new approval for semaglutide. And Jørgensen had a lot to say about what comes next in R&D, how they manage risk and gender diversity targets at the trendsetting European pharma giant.

John Carroll: I’m here with Lars Jørgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk. Lars, it’s been a really interesting year so far with Novo Nordisk, right? You’ve projected a new era of growing sales. You’ve been able to expand on the GLP-1 franchise that was already well established in diabetes now going into obesity. And I think a tremendous number of people are really interested in how that’s working out. You have forecast a growing amount of sales. We don’t know specifically how that might play out. I know a lot of the analysts have different ideas, how those numbers might play out, but that we are in fact embarking on a new era for Novo Nordisk in terms of what the company’s capable of doing and what it’s able to do and what it wants to do. And I wanted to start off by asking you about obesity in particular. Semaglutide has been approved in the United States for obesity. It’s an area of R&D that’s been very troubled for decades. There have been weight loss drugs that have come along. They’ve attracted a lot of attention, but they haven’t actually ever gained traction in the market. My first question is what’s different this time about obesity? What is different about this drug and why do you expect it to work now whereas previous drugs haven’t?

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Bris­tol My­ers pledges to sell its Ac­celeron shares as ac­tivist in­vestors cir­cle Mer­ck­'s $11.5B buy­out — re­port

Just as Avoro Capital’s campaign to derail Merck’s proposed $11.5 billion buyout of Acceleron gains steam, Bristol Myers Squibb is leaning in with some hefty counterweight.

The pharma giant is planning to tender its Acceleron shares, Bloomberg reported, which add up to a sizable 11.5% stake. Based on the offer price, the sale would net Bristol Myers around $1.3 billion.

To complete its deal, Merck needs a majority of shareholders to agree to sell their shares.

Hedge fund jumps in with Avoro ac­tivists in an at­tempt to de­rail Mer­ck­'s $11B Ac­celeron buy­out

Avoro Capital, which made its bones blowing up the Seagen-Immunomedics deal and then selling the smaller biotech for $21 billion, is getting an assist in its quest to derail Merck’s $11 billion buyout of Acceleron $XLRN.

Wednesday morning one of Acceleron’s biggest investors joined the opposition. Darwin Global Management, a hedge fund which owns about 4% of Acceleron, blasted the Merck deal, saying the Big Pharma is getting the company for billions less than what it’s worth. Earlier, Holocene Advisers, reportedly a top-20 investor in Acceleron, said it would not tender its stock after criticizing the $180-per-share deal.

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