Top Wood­ford lieu­tenant hits ex­it in shake­up; Roche posts more im­pres­sive da­ta on he­mo­phil­ia A drug

Saku Sa­ha, one of Neil Wood­ford’s top lieu­tenants, has left the be­lea­guered UK com­pa­ny af­ter its con­tro­ver­sial clos­ing of the flag­ship fund fol­low­ing heavy loss­es, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the Evening Stan­dard. The move, which was con­firmed, comes a decade af­ter Sa­ha be­gan work­ing with Wood­ford. He was one of three se­nior fund man­agers and had been in charge of ear­ly-stage biotech in­vest­ments. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, his de­par­ture was han­dled am­i­ca­bly.

Roche is up­dat­ing its da­ta on Hem­li­bra, the big new he­mo­phil­ia drug that has shak­en up the mar­ket. Over 83 weeks 87% of the he­mo­phil­ia A pa­tients have had no bleeds, and “over 92 per­cent of par­tic­i­pants ex­pe­ri­enced no spon­ta­neous bleeds in each in­ter­val from week 25.” Those are im­por­tant mark­ers that could fig­ure promi­nent­ly as 3 dif­fer­ent groups — Bio­Marin, Spark and Sang­amo/Pfiz­errush to gain ap­provals on new gene ther­a­pies for the dis­ease. The leader, which is cur­rent­ly Bio­Marin, may face a pref­er­ence by pa­tients to stay on Hem­li­bra un­til they get their pick of gene ther­a­pies. 

Gilead has turned to Lyn­dra Ther­a­peu­tics to use its plat­form tech in de­vel­op­ing “ul­tra-long-act­ing” HIV med­i­cines. Gilead has long been a leader in the HIV field, of­ten go­ing toe-to-toe with GSK’s Vi­iV on new ther­a­pies aimed at con­tain­ing the virus.

Cel­sius Ther­a­peu­tics has struck a deal to col­lab­o­rate with Janssen Biotech, ap­ply­ing its sin­gle-cell ge­nomics and ma­chine learn­ing plat­form to “iden­ti­fy pre­dic­tive bio­mark­ers of re­sponse from Janssen’s VE­GA study, a Phase IIa clin­i­cal tri­al eval­u­at­ing the ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty of com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py with guselkum­ab and goli­mum­ab in pa­tients with ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis.”

→ On a deal-mak­ing spree, CD­MO Catal­ent has struck a pact with Sanofi in which the phar­ma gi­ant will pro­vide Catal­ent with ac­cess to spray dry­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing ser­vices for their cus­tomers at Sanofi’s Haver­hill, UK fa­cil­i­ty.

Lessons for biotech and phar­ma from a doc­tor who chased his own cure

After being struck by a rare disease as a healthy third year medical student, David Fajgenbaum began an arduous journey chasing his own cure. Amidst the hustle of this year’s JP Morgan conference, the digital trials platform Medable partnered with Endpoints Studio to share Dr. Fajgenbaum’s story with the drug development industry.

What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation between Medable CEO Dr. Michelle Longmire and Dr. Fajgenbaum, and it is full of lessons for biotech executives charged with bringing the next generation of medicines to patients.

Left to right, top to bottom: Carl Gordon, Adam Stone, Peter Moglia, David Schenkein, Robert Nelsen, Carol Gallagher; Srinivas Akkaraju, Ray Debbane, Jim Flynn, Peter Kolchinsky, Thilo Schroeder, Brad Bolzon

The top 100 bio­phar­ma ven­ture in­vestors at the mega­bil­lions deal ta­ble

The VC crowd took a step back last year, but nevertheless maintained a furious pace of new investments in therapeutic tech platforms and biotech startups. And the top 100 players completely dominated the megabillions game.

Just looking at the number of deals done by each of the top 100, OrbiMed came in at the top, with 20, followed by Alexandria (18), Perceptive (16) and the ubiquitous RA Capital at 16. It’s impossible to say exactly how much they invested in total — those numbers are only rarely provided — but it is clear from the numbers assembled by Chris Dokomajilar at DealForma who’s most likely to be found sitting at the table during the go-go days of biotech investing.

Dokomajilar tracked $14.06 billion in biotech venture investing last year, a dip from the frenzied pace of $16.02 billion in 2018 and more than $10 billion higher than he recorded for 2010, as the economy was recovering from a profound economic crisis.

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Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, chief executive officer of Novo Nordisk A/S, (via Getty Images)

The list of the 11 block­busters-to-be in line for a 2020 launch high­light agony and ec­sta­sy of drug R&D

For all the talk about unmet medical need and patients first and so on, the key criteria investors watch for any new drug in the pipelines is peak sales projection. Are you going to hit the blockbuster mark, at $1 billion-plus, or are you going to be an also-ran in the sales department?

Of course, analysts’ peak sales projections by themselves are of limited value in many cases. When the PCSK9 drugs started arriving 5 years ago, Repatha was billed as a $2.5 billion peak earner. They’re nowhere near that, with new competition threatening current levels. And if Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab (submission planned but not on the list) is approved, per chance, will payers cover it?

Maybe not. And then those $10 billion in peak sales assumptions would go straight down the drain.

But, analysts are analysts, and peak sales projections have to be factored in when assessing the top experimental drugs up for a launch in the year ahead.

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Warren Buffett, AP Images

War­ren Buf­fet gets a dou­ble take as the in­vest­ment pow­er­house set­tles on its first biotech in­vest­ment

Coke. American-Express. Apple. And Biogen?

Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, which made itself into a symbol of rock-solid investment strategy, has revealed a stake in the big biotech as it takes on one of the biggest gambles in the industry.

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For­mer No­var­tis ex­ec pleads guilty to gener­ic price fix­ing

On Friday, Hector Armando Kellum — a former senior executive at Novartis’ Sandoz unit plead guilty to charges of conspiring to fix the prices of products, including eczema and psoriasis treatment clobetasol and anti-fungal therapy nystatin triamcinolone, the Justice Department said.

His alleged partners-in-crime included Ara Aprahamian, a former sales and marketing executive at Taro Pharmaceutical Industries, who was also indicted in Philadelphia earlier this month for price-fixing and bid-rigging.

AstraZeneca executives at earnings conference, February 2020 (Natalie Grover for Endpoints News)

Coro­n­avirus out­break clouds As­traZeneca's Q4 re­sults and 2020 out­look

LONDON — With nearly a fifth of total sales coming from China, AstraZeneca counts the coronavirus-hit nation as one of its biggest growth drivers. The impact of the deadly epidemic has unsurprisingly weighed on the British drugmaker’s fourth-quarter results.

On Friday, AstraZeneca posted fourth-quarter sales of $6.25 billion, just shy of Wall Street estimates. Nearly $1.2 billion of that product revenue came from China.

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Carl June, via Getty

Carl June on CRISPR, CAR–T and how the Viet­nam War dropped him in­to med­i­cine

In August of 2011, Carl June and his team published a landmark paper showing their CAR–T treatment had cleared a patient of cancer. A year-to-the-month later, Jennifer Doudna made an even bigger splash when she published the first major CRISPR paper, setting off a decade of intense research and sometimes even more intense public debate over the ethics of what the gene-editing tool could do.

Last week, June, whose CAR–T work was eventually developed by Novartis into Kymriah, published in Science the first US paper showing how the two could be brought together. It was not only one of the first time scientists have combined the groundbreaking tools, but the first peer-reviewed American paper showing how CRISPR could be used in patients.

New Sanofi chief Paul Hud­son takes the ax to his ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, chop­ping 4 key play­ers

Sanofi’s new CEO is jettisoning 4 top execs from the pharma giant’s executive committee as he reorganizes the company and attempts a reboot of the global organization. And each of them were promoted to their current positions over the last 2 or 3 years, as ex-CEO Olivier Brandicourt tried to put his own stamp on the company.

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Palleon's first CSO ex­plains how they (and she) got here; En­ter­prise taps Roche and No­var­tis vet David Mor­ris as CMO

For a decade, Li Peng built antibodies at the MedImmune labs outside DC: A bispecific Amgen is now testing in GI cancer, an Il-5 for certain kinds of asthma, another that impacts natural killer cells near tumors.

It was a sensible approach. The first antibody to treat cancer was introduced not long before she began grad school and the hunt has played a major role in biotech for much of Peng’s career.

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