Trevor Bed­ford, Cigall Kadoch among this year's in­com­ing HH­MI in­ves­ti­ga­tors

Trevor Bed­ford

The Howard Hugh­es Med­ical In­sti­tute — the non­prof­it known for dol­ing out gen­er­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tor awards to bio­phar­ma’s ris­ing stars — has se­lect­ed its Class of 2021.

This year’s list of 33 in­ves­ti­ga­tors fea­tures some note­wor­thy names, in­clud­ing Fred Hutchin­son’s Trevor Bed­ford, who sound­ed the alarm on the first known com­mu­ni­ty trans­mis­sion of Covid-19 in the US last Feb­ru­ary; Foghorn founder and Dana-Far­ber re­searcher Cigall Kadoch, who re­cent­ly joined End­points News for a pan­el dis­cus­sion dur­ing #ES­MO21; and award-win­ning Johns Hop­kins stem cell re­searcher Xin Chen.

Cigall Kadoch

“HH­MI is com­mit­ted to giv­ing out­stand­ing bio­med­ical sci­en­tists the time, re­sources, and free­dom they need to ex­plore un­chart­ed sci­en­tif­ic ter­ri­to­ry,” pres­i­dent Erin O’Shea said in a state­ment.

So far, the in­sti­tute has churned out 32 No­bel Prize win­ners, in­clud­ing gene ther­a­py pi­o­neer Jen­nifer Doud­na and RNA ex­pert Thomas Cech. And the fund­ing is noth­ing to scoff at.

HH­MI says it’ll in­vest $300 mil­lion in this year’s new in­ves­ti­ga­tors, who are join­ing HH­MI’s com­mu­ni­ty of about 250 sci­en­tists. Each new in­ves­ti­ga­tor will re­ceive rough­ly $9 mil­lion over a sev­en-year term, which is re­new­able pend­ing a sci­en­tif­ic re­view.

Xin Chen

A few years ago, HH­MI land­ed it­self in some hot wa­ter when two for­mer in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Jean­nie Lee and Vi­vian Che­ung, al­leged they were un­fair­ly de­nied re­new­al of grants be­cause of their sex, age, na­tion­al ori­gin or dis­abil­i­ty. In re­sponse to a Sci­ence piece about the al­le­ga­tions pub­lished in 2019, O’Shea wrote that the in­sti­tute is “ful­ly con­fi­dent in the in­tegri­ty of our re­view process.”

Em­ploy­ing sci­en­tists as HH­MI In­ves­ti­ga­tors, rather than sim­ply hand­ing out re­search grants, al­lows HH­MI to fo­cus on “peo­ple, not projects,” O’Shea said in a state­ment about the new class of in­ves­ti­ga­tors on Thurs­day.

This year’s full class in­cludes:

Emi­ly Bal­skus of Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty; Gre­go­ry Bar­ton of UC-Berke­ley; Di­ana Bautista of UC-Berke­ley; Trevor Bed­ford of the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter; Flaminia Cat­teruc­cia of Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty; Xin Chen of Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty; Rhi­ju Das of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty; Ka­fui Dzi­rasa of Duke Uni­ver­si­ty; Nels El­de of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Utah; Cagla Eroglu of Duke Uni­ver­si­ty; Cas­san­dra Ex­tavour of Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty; Chenghua Gu of Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty; Sun Hur of Boston Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal; Mar­tin Jonikas of Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty; Cigall Kadoch of the Dana-Far­ber Can­cer In­sti­tute; Shin­go Ka­jimu­ra of the Beth Is­rael Dea­coness Med­ical Cen­ter; Daniel Kro­nauer of The Rock­e­feller Uni­ver­si­ty; Fred­er­ick Mat­sen IV of the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter; Ian Maze of the Ic­ahn School of Med­i­cine at Mount Sinai; John Mc­Cutcheon of Ari­zona State Uni­ver­si­ty; Michelle Mon­je of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty; Daniel Mu­ci­da of The Rock­e­feller Uni­ver­si­ty; Dana Pe’er of the Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter; Kristy Red-Horse of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty; Vanes­sa Ru­ta of The Rock­e­feller Uni­ver­si­ty; David Sav­age of UC-Berke­ley; Mikhail Shapiro of the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy; Vin­cent Tagliabrac­ci of the UT-South­west­ern Med­ical Cen­ter; Ben­jamin Tu of the UT-South­west­ern Med­ical Cen­ter; Kay Tye of the Salk In­sti­tute for Bi­o­log­i­cal Stud­ies; David Veesler of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton; Eliz­a­beth Vil­la of UC-San Diego; and Jochen Zim­mer of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia.

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.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; 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.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Rob Califf (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Biden like­ly to nom­i­nate Ver­i­ly's Rob Califf to lead the FDA again

Capping a controversially long period for the FDA to go without a permanent leader, President Joe Biden is likely to select Verily’s Rob Califf, a former FDA commissioner under President Obama, as the next FDA commissioner nominee.

A former Duke cardiologist and member of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine, Califf will be a welcome face for an agency grappling with high-profile retirements in CBER and CDER. He’ll also return to a role that he was comfortable in for a short stint at the end of Obama’s presidency. The Washington Post first reported the news.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.