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.

 

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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New stan­dard of care? FDA hands Pfiz­er, Mer­ck KGaA an OK for Baven­cio in blad­der can­cer

The breakthrough therapy designation Pfizer and Merck KGaA notched for Bavencio in bladder cancer has quickly paved way for a full approval.

The PD-L1 drug is now sanctioned as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, applicable in cases where cancer hasn’t progressed after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Petros Grivas, the principal investigator of the supporting Phase III JAVELIN Bladder 100, called the approval “one of the most significant advances in the treatment paradigm in this setting in 30 years.”

Covid-19 roundup: Vac­cines will need to beat place­bo by 50% to qual­i­fy for FDA OK; UK tri­al drops Kale­tra

The FDA will set the bar for approving a Covid-19 vaccine at 50% efficacy, the Wall Street Journal reported, meaning any successful candidate will have to reduce the risk of coronavirus disease by at least half compared to placebo.

That requirement is part of guidance that the agency is set to release later today, laying out detailed criteria for vaccine developers — some of whom are eyeing an OK by the end of the year, in line with expectations at Operation Warp Speed.

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Look­ing for 'ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion,' Boehringer In­gel­heim re­serves $500M+ for new Shang­hai hub

Now that Boehringer Ingelheim’s bet on contract manufacturing in China has paid off, the German drugmaker is anteing up more to get into the research game.

Boehringer has set aside $507.9 million (€451 million) for a new External Innovation Hub to be built in Shanghai over five years. The site will become one of its “strategic pillars” as the team strives to get 71 approvals — either for new products or indications — by 2030, said Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim China.