Mi­cro­bio­me test mak­er uBio­me cuts 55 jobs to sharp­en fo­cus on drugs, part­ner­ships — CN­BC

Jes­si­ca Rich­man (uBio­me)

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A Cal­i­for­nia-based start­up called uBio­me, which maps the ecosys­tem of mi­crobes in the body to de­vel­op tests eval­u­at­ing gut and vagi­nal health, is re­port­ed­ly cut­ting 55 jobs from its 300-per­son work­force.

Found­ed in 2012 via a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign that raised more than $350,000 to fa­cil­i­tate a mi­cro­bio­me study, uBio­me has since at­tract­ed fund­ing from Y Com­bi­na­tor, 8VC, OS Fund and has hauled in more than $100 mil­lion in ven­ture cap­i­tal.

The com­pa­ny has laid off 30 work­ers in the Unit­ed States, and a fur­ther 25 over­seas, CFO Joel Jung and CEO Jes­si­ca Rich­man told CN­BC, adding that the lay­offs came about as the com­pa­ny fo­cus­es its re­sources on drugs and part­ner­ships with drug­mak­ers.

A num­ber of drug de­vel­op­ers such as Seres, Re­bi­otix and Vedan­ta are hop­ing to har­ness the in­sights gained from gut mi­cro­bio­ta to de­vel­op drugs. Glob­al­ly, hun­dreds of tri­als are un­der­way test­ing the po­ten­tial of fe­cal trans­plant ther­a­py — which in­volves the trans­fer of stool flush with healthy mi­crobes — in­to pa­tients suf­fer­ing from var­i­ous ill­ness­es from autism to obe­si­ty.

Mean­while, uBio­me — which counts a num­ber of lead­ing sci­en­tists from UCSF and Har­vard, in­clud­ing ge­neti­cist George Church, on its sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board — has re­leased a hand­ful of tests de­signed to gauge mi­cro­bial health.

Their first test — called Ex­plor­er — was de­vel­oped to help in­di­vid­u­als learn more about their mi­cro­bio­me us­ing DNA se­quenc­ing. Since then uBio­me has launched more tar­get­ed tests, de­signed to eval­u­ate gut health, vagi­nal health and the mi­crobes that may be im­pli­cat­ed in pa­tients’ flu symp­toms.

Last year, the com­pa­ny’s board re­ceived con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion when uBio­me re­cruit­ed for­mer con­tro­ver­sial No­var­tis CEO Joe Jimenez to the board via in­vestor 8VC.

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

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FDA re­jects Ac­er's rare dis­ease drug, asks for new tri­al — shares crater

Ac­er Ther­a­peu­tics’ bid to re­pur­pose celipro­lol — a be­ta-block­er on the mar­ket for hy­per­ten­sion — as a treat­ment for a rare, in­her­it­ed con­nec­tive tis­sue dis­or­der has hit a se­vere set­back. The New­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny on Tues­day said the FDA re­ject­ed the drug and has asked for an­oth­er clin­i­cal tri­al.

The com­pa­ny’s shares $AC­ER cratered near­ly 77% to $4.47 in Tues­day morn­ing trad­ing.

Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

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Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three ma­jor buy­outs an­nounced: Take­da/Shire; Bris­tol-My­ers/Cel­gene and now Ab­b­Vie/Al­ler­gan. And with this lat­est deal it’s in­creas­ing­ly clear that the sharp fall from grace suf­fered by high-pro­file play­ers which have seen their share prices blast­ed has cre­at­ed an open­ing for the growth play­ers in big phar­ma to up their game — in sharp con­trast to the pop­u­lar bolt-on deals that have been dri­ving the growth strat­e­gy at No­var­tis, Mer­ck, Roche and oth­ers.

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UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

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Tasly Bio­phar­ma pitch­es long-await­ed IPO — will it trig­ger an­oth­er $1B gold rush on HKEX?

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Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus grabs the ax and packs it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of set­backs

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.

With 4 more biotech IPOs due to wrap up Q2, how is the class of 2019 far­ing?

With 22 biotech IPOs on the books and four more set to price in the last week of June, in­vest­ment ad­vis­er Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal has tak­en the pulse of the re­cent rush.

By the IPO ex­perts’ count, 25 out of 32 health­care of­fer­ings this year have been from biotechs — dif­fer­ing slight­ly from Brad Lon­car’s tal­ly — and the over­all pic­ture is one of un­der­per­for­mance. While they av­er­aged a first-day re­turn of 9.0%, col­lec­tive­ly they have trad­ed down to a 5.9% re­turn. Turn­ing Point $TP­TX and Cor­texyme $CRTX emerged on top at the half-year mark, ris­ing 135% and 109% re­spec­tive­ly.