Patrick Lucy, Lykan Bioscience CEO

Two CD­MOs come to­geth­er as they look to ex­pand their reach in cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing

As the cell ther­a­py field has ma­tured, the man­u­fac­tur­ing of such ther­a­pies be­comes a greater fo­cus for com­pa­nies small and large. Amid this growth, two CD­MOs have come to­geth­er in a merg­er to ex­pand their reach.

Lykan Bio­science, based in Mass­a­chu­setts, and RoslinCT, based in Ed­in­burgh, UK, will be­come a sin­gle ad­vanced ther­a­pies CD­MO. The new­ly com­bined group will of­fer process de­vel­op­ment ex­per­tise as well as cGMP man­u­fac­tur­ing for a broad range of au­tol­o­gous and al­lo­gene­ic cell ther­a­pies, along with gene edit­ing and in­duced pluripo­tent stem cell (iP­SC) ca­pa­bil­i­ties for cell ther­a­py de­vel­op­ment. Fi­nan­cial terms of the deal were not dis­closed.

As to why the two com­pa­nies are com­bin­ing, Lykan CEO Patrick Lucy said in an in­ter­view with End­points News that the deal came about as the com­pa­ny saw an op­por­tu­ni­ty ear­ly in the year to di­ver­si­fy the in­vestor base, and af­ter some de­lib­er­a­tion, RoslinCT rose to the top the list.

Pe­ter Cole­man

Ac­cord­ing to Roslin’s CEO Pe­ter Cole­man, the com­pa­ny has grown rapid­ly. Af­ter net­ting an in­vest­ment from GHO Cap­i­tal Part­ners ear­li­er this year, Roslin had glob­al am­bi­tions and Lykan arose in con­ver­sa­tion as a po­ten­tial merg­er part­ner.

But there are oth­er fac­tors as to why the deal works well for the com­pa­nies. Both Lykan and Roslin have a deep knowl­edge in the fields of cell ther­a­py, and with each com­pa­ny po­si­tioned on dif­fer­ent sides of the At­lantic, they now have a pres­ence in each oth­er’s re­spec­tive mar­kets.

The deal aims to short­en the de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing time­lines for cell ther­a­py spon­sors and the com­mer­cial prod­uct re­lease in both the US and the UK.

How­ev­er, there are el­e­ments that both com­pa­nies bring to the ta­ble that in­ter­est the oth­er.

“When I think about Roslin, and their her­itage from Roslin In­sti­tute, what they bring is deep sci­ence, and in par­tic­u­lar with re­gard to stem cell tech­nol­o­gy, and more specif­i­cal­ly around iP­SC tech­nol­o­gy, gene edit­ing, in ad­di­tion to ex­ist­ing clients,” Lucy said. “So, we are par­tic­u­lar­ly ex­cit­ed about the iP­SC and gene edit­ing plat­form that is pre­sent­ed by Roslin and be­lieve that could be a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­en­tia­tor for the busi­ness go­ing for­ward in com­bi­na­tion with the man­u­fac­tur­ing knowl­edge pos­sessed by both com­pa­nies.”

For Cole­man, the in­tro in­to the US mar­ket as well as Lykan’s tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties were pieces that brought the deal to­geth­er.

Dis­cus­sions for the deal start­ed in Q1 and took around six months to com­plete. Both CD­MOs will re­tain their brand iden­ti­ties and their mar­ket­places. All em­ploy­ees will al­so re­main with their re­spec­tive com­pa­nies, which brings a to­tal head­count to around 300 peo­ple.

The deal al­so sees the two com­pa­nies hav­ing ac­cess to size­able lo­ca­tions in Ed­in­burgh, Scot­land, and Hop­kin­ton, MA. Lykan com­mis­sioned a 64,000 square-foot cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty last year and is hop­ing to have 16 cGMP pro­cess­ing suites run­ning by the end of the year. More lab­o­ra­to­ry and cGMP ca­pac­i­ty ex­pan­sion in Scot­land is planned for RoslinCT’s ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties, which in­clude a 40,000 square-foot fa­cil­i­ty with eight cGMP suites.

Lucy said Lykan has com­plet­ed the ne­go­ti­a­tions with the town of Hop­kin­ton and the state of Mass­a­chu­setts on a tax in­cre­ment and fi­nanc­ing agree­ments. Ac­cord­ing to Cole­man, he is al­so look­ing to triple Roslin’s space by 2023 or 2024 and have a to­tal of 16 suites.

Cole­man notes that the merg­er is hard to com­pare with oth­er deals like this in the mar­ket with both com­pa­nies get­ting ac­cess to a US and UK fa­cil­i­ty pres­ence, a late-stage com­mer­cial prod­uct, gene edit­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and a new fa­cil­i­ty.

“The im­por­tant thing is that you can add in­vest­ments and changes in terms of the or­ga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture, but I just know the com­bi­na­tion will con­tin­ue to run in the vein that’s re­quired as a CD­MO, which is that flex­i­bil­i­ty and re­spon­sive­ness that you need to op­er­ate in this en­vi­ron­ment that makes cus­tomers sat­is­fied with what you’re de­liv­er­ing for them. And I just feel al­ready straight away … that’s the same in both or­ga­ni­za­tions,” Cole­man said.

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Ted Love, Global Blood Therapeutics CEO

Up­dat­ed: Pfiz­er scoops up Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics and its sick­le cell ther­a­pies for $5.4B

Pfizer is dropping $5.4 billion to acquire Global Blood Therapeutics.

Just ahead of the weekend, word got out that Pfizer was close to clinching a $5 billion buyout — albeit with other potential buyers still at the table. The pharma giant, flush with cash from Covid-19 vaccine sales, apparently got out on top.

The deal immediately swells Pfizer’s previously tiny sickle cell disease portfolio from just a Phase I program to one with an approved drug, Oxbryta, plus a whole pipeline that, if all approved, the company believes could make for a $3 billion franchise at peak.

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BREAK­ING: Math­ai Mam­men makes an abrupt ex­it as head of the big R&D group at J&J

In an after-the-bell shocker, J&J announced Monday evening that Mathai Mammen has abruptly exited J&J as head of its top-10 R&D group.

Recruited from Merck 5 years ago, where the soft spoken Mammen was being groomed as the successor to Roger Perlmutter, he had been one of the top-paid R&D chiefs in biopharma. His group spent $12 billion last year on drug development, putting it in the top 5 in the industry.

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Bernhardt Zeiher, outgoing Astellas CMO (Astellas)

Q&A: Astel­las' re­tir­ing head of de­vel­op­ment re­flects on gene ther­a­py deaths

For anyone who’s been following discussions about the safety alarms surrounding the adeno-associated viruses (AAV) commonly used to deliver gene therapy, Astellas should be a familiar name.

The Japanese pharma — which bought out Audentes Therapeutics near the end of 2019 and later built a gene therapy unit around the acquisition — rocked the field when it reported three patient deaths in a trial testing AT132, the lead program from Audentes designed to treat a rare muscle disease called X-linked myotubular myopathy (XLMTM).

When the company restarted the trial, it adjusted the dose and instituted a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again. But tragically, the first patient to receive the new regimen died just weeks after administration. The therapy remains under clinical hold, and just weeks ago, Astellas flagged another safety-related hold for a separate gene therapy candidate. In the process of investigating the deaths, the company has also taken flak about the way it disclosed information.

Big questions remain — questions that can have big implications about the future of AAV gene therapies.

Bernhardt Zeiher did not imagine any of it when he first joined Astellas as the therapeutic area leader in inflammation, immunology and infectious diseases. But his ascent to chief medical officer and head of development coincided almost exactly with Astellas’ big move into gene therapy, putting him often in the driver’s seat to grapple with the setbacks.

As Zeiher prepares to retire next month after a 12-year tenure — leaving the unfinished tasks to his successor, a seasoned cancer drug developer — he chatted with Endpoints News, in part, to discuss the effort to understand what happened, lessons learned and the criticism along the way.

The transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Endpoints: I want to also ask you a bit about the gene therapy efforts you’ve been working on. Astellas has really been at the forefront of discovering the safety concerns associated with AAV gene therapy. What’s that been like for you?

Zeiher: Well, I have to admit, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. We acquired Audentes. Huge amount of enthusiasm. What we saw with AT132 — that was the lead program in XLMTM — was just remarkable efficacy. I mean, kids who went from being on ventilators, not able to eat for themselves, sit up, do things like that, to off ventilators, walking, you know, really — one investigator called it this Lazarus-like effect. It was just really dramatic efficacy. And then to have the safety events that occurred. So they actually occurred within that first year of the acquisition. So we had the three patient deaths. Me and my organization became very, very much involved. In fact, Ed Conner, who had been the chief medical officer, he left after some of the deaths, but I stepped in as the kind of acting chief medical officer, we had another chief medical officer who was involved, and then we had a fourth death, and I became acting again for a period of time.

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No­vavax shares shred­ded as Covid vac­cine sales fall more than 90% in Q2

Months after Novavax celebrated its first profitable quarter as a commercial company, the Gaithersburg, MD-based company is back in the red.

Sales for Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine slipped to $55 million last quarter, down from $586 million in Q1, CEO Stanley Erck revealed on Monday after market close. The company’s stock $NVAX plummeted more than 32% in after-hours trading.

Upon kicking off the call with analysts and investors, Erck addressed the elephant in the room:

Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Break­ing: Pfiz­er in hot pur­suit of a $5B buy­out of Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has vowed to leave no stone unturned in the search for new biotech deals, and the BD team is not letting him down.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Pfizer is in the final stages of acquiring Global Blood Therapeutics for $5 billion. According to the Journal report, though, Pfizer is not the only buyer at the deal table and while the pharma giant may be close to clinching it, there are no guarantees it will continue.

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Anna Protopapas, Mersana CEO

In $1.36B biobuck deal with GSK, Mer­sana touts 'biggest pre­clin­i­cal ADC deal ever'

Days after Enhertu reeled in another FDA nod, with the first-ever green light for HER2-low breast cancer, another antibody drug conjugate biotech claims it has secured the largest preclinical ADC pact to date for a single asset.

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo made waves with their nearly $7 billion collaboration back in spring 2019, but at that point, Enhertu was already nearing the FDA’s doors with clinical data. The latest ADC tie-up to enter the biopharma fray centers around a preclinical asset, Mersana Therapeutics’ XMT-2056.

Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

De­spite falling Covid-19 sales, BioN­Tech main­tains '22 sales guid­ance

While Pfizer raked in almost $28 billion last quarter, its Covid-19 vaccine partner BioNTech reported a rise in total dose orders but a drop in sales.

The German biotech reported over $3.2 billion in revenue in Q2 on Monday, down from more than $6.7 billion in Q1, in part due to falling Covid sales. While management said last quarter that they anticipated a Covid sales drop — CEO Uğur Şahin said at the time that “the pandemic situation is still very much uncertain” — Q2 sales still missed consensus by 14%.

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FDA commissioner Rob Califf (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

With drug pric­ing al­most done, Con­gress looks to wrap up FDA user fee leg­is­la­tion

The Senate won’t return from its summer recess until Sept. 6, but when it does, it officially has 18 business days to finalize the reauthorization of the FDA user fee programs for the next 5 years, or else thousands of drug and biologics reviewers will be laid off and PDUFA dates will vanish in the interim.

FDA commissioner Rob Califf recently sent agency staff a memo explaining how, “Our latest estimates are that we have carryover for PDUFA [Prescription Drug User Fee Act], the user fee funding program that will run out of funding first, to cover only about 5 weeks into the next fiscal year.”