Top UCSF sci­en­tist Shaun Cough­lin joins mi­gra­tion to Big Phar­ma, leap­ing to No­var­tis

Shaun Cough­lin

You can count one more promi­nent aca­d­e­m­ic re­searcher who’s mak­ing the jump to Big Phar­ma.

Shaun Cough­lin is hand­ing in his old ti­tle as di­rec­tor of UC San Fran­cis­co’s Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Re­search Cen­ter in fa­vor of a new job run­ning the car­dio group for the No­var­tis In­sti­tute for Bio­med­ical Re­search in Cam­bridge, MA.

Cough­lin has been at UCSF for 33 years, but he’s re­turn­ing to some fa­mil­iar stomp­ing grounds. Cough­lin got his un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree at MIT, his MD at Har­vard Med and did his post­doc work at Mass Gen­er­al.

The dean of the UCSF med school, Tal­madge King, had this to say in his send­off to­day:

Cough­lin’s “re­search dis­cov­er­ies re­vealed a mech­a­nism by which pro­teas­es reg­u­late cel­lu­lar be­hav­iors in­clud­ing a key mech­a­nism that con­trols blood platelet ac­ti­va­tion and clot for­ma­tion. This work led to a new med­ical ther­a­py for pre­vent­ing heart at­tacks and strokes and has been hon­ored by the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion’s Ba­sic Sci­ence Award in 2003 and its Re­search Achieve­ment Award in 2014. Among his nu­mer­ous oth­er awards are the Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Re­search Award and the Dis­tin­guished Ca­reer Award from the In­ter­na­tion­al So­ci­ety on Throm­bo­sis and Haemosta­sis.”

Jay Brad­ner

Post-biotech boom on Wall Street, the com­pe­ti­tion in the in­dus­try for top sci­en­tif­ic tal­ent has be­come in­tense. Jay Brad­ner helped make this a trend when he left Dana-Far­ber and grabbed the top slot at NI­BR two years ago. New Dana-Far­ber chief Lau­rie Glim­ch­er fol­lowed up re­cent­ly by jump­ing from the board at Bris­tol-My­ers to GSK, which is amp­ing up its can­cer R&D work. Re­cent­ly we al­so saw Jean-Charles So­ria give up his job as a pro­fes­sor at South-Paris Uni­ver­si­ty (he was al­so a can­cer spe­cial­ist at In­sti­tut Gus­tave Roussy) to run the on­col­o­gy in­no­v­a­tive med­i­cines group at As­traZeneca.

But no group has been as in­tent at the poach­ing game as NI­BR. Pe­ter Ham­mer­man joined late last year, mak­ing the jump from Har­vard, fol­low­ing the path blazed by Jeff En­gel­man and Glen Dra­noff. All were lead­ing aca­d­e­m­ic can­cer re­searchers.

Biotechs, mean­while, have been steal­ing tal­ent from the Big Phar­mas, leav­ing open­ings for more aca­d­e­mics or cross-in­dus­try re­cruits.

 

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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A new chap­ter in the de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal tri­al ap­proach

Despite the promised decentralized trial revolution, we haven’t yet moved the needle in a significant way, although we are seeing far bolder commitments to this as we continue to experience the pandemic restrictions for some time to come. The vision of grandeur is one thing, but operationalizing and execution are another and recognising that change, particularly mid-flight on studies, is worthy of thorough evaluation and consideration in order to achieve success. Here we will discuss one of the critical building blocks of a Decentralized and Remote Trial strategy: TeleConsent; more than paper under glass, it is a paradigm change and key digital enabler.

Stephen Hoge, Moderna president (Moderna)

On morn­ing of FDA Covid-19 ad­comm, Mod­er­na com­pletes PhI­II en­roll­ment, putting them neck-and-neck with Pfiz­er

Weeks away from a potential EUA application, Moderna announced they have completed enrollment in their 30,000-person Phase III Covid-19 vaccine trial, with over a third of volunteers non-white and a quarter over the age of 65.

The announcement caps what has been the most closely-watched recruitment race in the history of drug development, as Pfizer and Moderna rushed to get enough volunteers to prove whether or not experimental vaccines could actually protect people from contracting Covid-19. Pfizer reached that mark on Sept. 15. Moderna said around the same time that they would slow down enrollment to ensure they enrolled enough participants from minority and at-risk groups.

Pfiz­er scoops up an an­tibi­ot­ic in rare M&A deal, bag­ging a vir­tu­al start­up op­er­at­ing on a shoe­string bud­get

Pfizer is stepping up with a rare antibiotics buyout deal today, grabbing Palo Alto, CA-based Arixa Pharmaceuticals in a bid to add a new oral version of avibactam, a beta lactamase inhibitor — or BLI — approved back in 2015 as part of the IV treatment Avycaz.

The Arixa acquisition follows some encouraging Phase I responses demonstrating that 60% to 80% of the oral drug is absorbed into the bloodstream. Only 7% of the IV version is absorbed orally, far below the 30% threshold Arixa has pointed to as a therapeutic threshold. The buyout gives Pfizer’s hospital group a line on a new oral combo with antibiotics like ceftibuten to go after drug-resistant cases of urinary tract infections and other ailments.

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John Maraganore, Alnylam CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

With lumasir­an on the FDA's doorstep, Al­ny­lam reads out new PhI­II da­ta in PH1

Just over a month away from its December PDUFA date, Alnylam flaunted new data from two Phase III studies to back lumasiran in primary hyperoxaluria type 1 (PH1), a rare liver condition.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech snagged a priority review for the candidate back in June, and got positive feedback from the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use just last week. Lumasiran uses RNA interference (RNAi) to silence the gene for glycolate oxidase, an enzyme used in the production of oxalate.

News brief­ing: UK biotech 4D phar­ma heads for Nas­daq via SPAC; Dr. Red­dy's shuts down man­u­fac­tur­ing af­ter cy­ber­at­tack

Another pharma company is intending to use a SPAC to join the Nasdaq.

4D pharma, a UK-based biotech, is reverse-merging with a blank check company in a deal worth up to $37.6 million. The move will give 4D pharma a new Nasdaq ticker, which will be $LBPS, using the American Depositary Share program.

As a result of the move, 4D pharma will gain $14.6 million in cash held by the blank check company, dubbed Longevity. The merger is expected to be completed in early 2021, after which shares will be immediately tradeable.

Can B cells break the bound­aries of cell ther­a­py? Long­wood start­up has $52M to prove a new en­gi­neer­ing tech

Back in December 2017, as the cell therapy world was still basking in the virtually back-to-back approvals of two pioneering CAR-Ts, researchers at Seattle Children’s Research Institute reported a scientific first in a different corner of the field: engineer B cells to treat disease.

The team, led by David Rawlings and Richard James, eventually worked with Longwood Fund to start a biotech around those findings. And now Atlas Venture and RA Capital Management are coming on board to lead a $52 million launch round, joined by Alta Partners, for Be Biopharma.

David Hung (file photo)

Mas­ter deal­mak­er David Hung re­tools a SPAC sedan in­to a fi­nanc­ing mus­cle ve­hi­cle that leaves his can­cer start­up with $850M and a place on Wall Street

It’s only right that one of the industry’s top dealmakers just completed one of the biggest SPAC-related deals in the pipeline.

David Hung, of Medivation fame, has completed a back flip into the market, merging with EcoR1 Capital’s SPAC Panacea and landing neatly on Wall Street with an $NUVB stock ticker after filling out the blank check in his name. In addition to the $144 million held in the SPAC — provided none of the investors opt out — Hung is getting ahold of $500 million more being chipped in by a slate of institutional investors who feel that Hung could have the keys to another Medivation-style success.

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Jason Kelly, Gingko Bioworks CEO (Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe)

Ex­clu­sive: Eye­ing big Covid-19 test­ing ex­pan­sion, Gink­go rolls out 50M rapid anti­gen di­ag­nos­tics

In what they hope will be a key part of an extensive effort to boost Covid-19 testing in the US, Ginkgo Bioworks is acquiring and distributing 50 million rapid antigen tests that can potentially be used for virus surveillance in schools and communities and for quick, on the ground diagnoses.

The tests, developed by SD Biosensor, are in line with proposals from the Rockefeller Foundation and Harvard epidemiologists, among others, to blanket the country with fast, low-cost tests. Although not yet authorized in the US, they are a key part of testing efforts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who announced plans last month to distribute 120 million of them in low and middle income countries. Roche has commercialized the diagnostic in Europe.