UCB sketch­es grand plans for new head­quar­ters as it grabs Eli Lil­ly's aban­doned neu­ro R&D cam­pus

Bel­gium’s UCB is set to in­vest more than £1 bil­lion ($1.29 bil­lion) in the UK over the next five years — start­ing with a brand new head­quar­ters built on a cam­pus it’s ac­quir­ing from Eli Lil­ly.

The com­pa­ny has “state-of-the-art re­fur­bish­ment” planned for the 47-acre fa­cil­i­ty in Windle­sham, Sur­rey, be­fore it re­lo­cates from the cur­rent UK home in Slough, Berk­shire. For an idea of its scale, UCB boast­ed that its new cam­pus used to be Lil­ly’s sec­ond-largest re­search site world­wide.

Lil­ly had an­nounced last year that it was shut­ter­ing the out­post, which had been hous­ing a neu­ro­science R&D unit, as it con­sol­i­dat­ed re­search back in­to Cam­bridge, MA. As a re­sult, the phar­ma gi­ant axed 80 jobs and moved the re­main­ing 270 or so em­ploy­ees to a near­by site.

For UCB, it will now nur­ture new pro­grams in gene ther­a­py on top of its lega­cy an­ti­body dis­cov­ery work and oth­ers.

Jean-Christophe Tel­li­er

Sit­u­at­ed on the out­skirts of Lon­don — in fact, just 30 min­utes from its old cam­pus — the new UK hub will al­low sci­en­tists to con­tin­ue col­lab­o­rat­ing with uni­ver­si­ties, biotechs and med­ical re­search char­i­ties, UCB chief Jean-Christophe Tel­li­er not­ed.

“We have a strong track record of dis­cov­er­ing med­i­cines in the UK which go on to make a dif­fer­ence to the lives of pa­tients world­wide,” he said in a state­ment.

The CEO has been bring­ing in new as­sets in neu­rol­o­gy and rare dis­eases to com­ple­ment a pipeline large­ly dom­i­nat­ed by im­munol­o­gy, first bag­ging Ra Phar­ma and its C5 in­hibitor for myas­the­nia gravis in a $2.1 bil­lion buy­out and then pick­ing up En­gage Ther­a­peu­tics for $125 mil­lion up­front.

Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

As FDA sets the stage for the first Covid-19 vac­cine EUAs, some big play­ers are ask­ing for a tweak of the guide­lines

Setting the stage for an extraordinary one-day meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee this Thursday, the FDA has cleared 2 experts of financial conflicts to help beef up the committee. And regulators went on to specify the safety, efficacy and CMC input they’re looking for on EUAs, before they move on to the full BLA approval process.

All of this has already been spelled out to the developers. But the devil is in the details, and it’s clear from the first round of posted responses that some of the top players — including J&J and Pfizer — would like some adjustments and added feedback. And on Thursday, the experts can offer their own thoughts on shaping the first OKs.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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A new chap­ter in the de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal tri­al ap­proach

Despite the promised decentralized trial revolution, we haven’t yet moved the needle in a significant way, although we are seeing far bolder commitments to this as we continue to experience the pandemic restrictions for some time to come. The vision of grandeur is one thing, but operationalizing and execution are another and recognising that change, particularly mid-flight on studies, is worthy of thorough evaluation and consideration in order to achieve success. Here we will discuss one of the critical building blocks of a Decentralized and Remote Trial strategy: TeleConsent; more than paper under glass, it is a paradigm change and key digital enabler.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er is on the verge of claim­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar first-mover ad­van­tage with their Covid-19 vac­cine — an­a­lyst

From the beginning, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla eschewed government funding for his Covid-19 vaccine work with BioNTech, willing to take all the $1 billion-plus risk of a lightning-fast development campaign in exchange for all the rewards that could fall its way with success. And now that the pharma giant has seized a solid lead in the race to the market, those rewards loom large.

SVB Leerink’s Geoff Porges has been running the numbers on Pfizer’s vaccine, the mRNA BNT162b2 program that the German biotech partnered on. And he sees a $3.5 billion peak in windfall revenue next year alone. Even after the pandemic is brought to heel, though, Porges sees a continuing blockbuster role for this vaccine as people around the world look to guard against a new, thoroughly endemic virus that will pose a permanent threat.

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CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics gets a snap­shot of off-the-shelf CAR-T suc­cess in B-cell ma­lig­nan­cies — marred by the death of a pa­tient

Just days after scientific founder Emmanuelle Charpentier shared the Nobel prize for her work on CRISPR/Cas9, CRISPR Therapeutics $CRSP is showing off a snapshot of success in their early-stage study for an off-the-shelf CAR-T approach to CD19+ B cell malignancies — a snapshot marred by the death of a patient who had been given a high dose of the treatment.

Using their gene editing tech, researchers for CRISPR engineered cells from healthy donors into an attack vehicle aimed at cancer, something that has been achieved with great success using patients’ own cells — the autologous approach. But autologous CAR-T is hampered by the more complex vein-to-vein requirement that delays treatment, and now CRISPR Therapeutics along with other players like Allogene are determined to replace the pioneers with CAR-T 2.0.

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Roche finds a home for a new, $500M man­u­fac­tur­ing lo­gis­tics hub, promis­ing 500 jobs

Roche is pouring $500 million into its Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario to set up a new hub that will coordinate logistics for its global supply chain.

Over the 5-year investment, the Swiss pharma giant expects to add 200 jobs over next year and another 300 by the end of 2023.

Introduced as a $190 million global pharmaceutical development site in 2011, the campus currently houses Roche’s Canadian commercial unit as well as product development, global procurement and pharma informatics. The new expansion will see it organize manufacturing across 13 plants and 11 sites, according to FiercePharma.

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CEO Grace Colón (InCarda)

Look­ing to re­pur­pose an old drug to treat ir­reg­u­lar heart­beats, In­Car­da rais­es $30M in first Se­ries C close

A little less than two years after completing its $42 million Series B round, InCarda has returned to the venture well.

The San Francisco-based biotech announced the first portion of its Series C on Wednesday, pulling in $30 million in new funding. Most of the money will give enough runway for InCarda’s InRhythm program, an inhaled therapeutic aiming to treat sudden episodes of irregular heartbeats, through its Phase II trials and prepare it for Phase III.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­bott prof­its soar on test­ing kits; As­traZeneca could soon re­sume US vac­cine tri­als

Abbott Laboratories, one of the companies at the forefront of Covid-19 testing, is seeing big windfalls as a result of the pandemic.

The company reported its third-quarter results Wednesday morning, noting that overall profit went up 26.9% over the same period in 2019 as well as 28.2% in the first nine months of 2020 compared to that timeframe last year. Abbott’s Covid-19 tests drove the profits after seeing strong demand and helped the company beat quarterly estimates.

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Un­fazed by PhII miss, Roche ush­ers Prothena's Parkin­son's drug in­to late-stage tri­al — a $60M move

Prothena’s prasinezumab may not have met the primary endpoint in Phase II, but its partners at Roche are seeing enough to move it into a late-stage trial for Parkinson’s disease.

The Phase IIb will build on the Phase II PASADENA study, adding a subgroup of early Parkinson’s patients on stable levodopa therapy to the population.

It’s a significant milestone for a $600 million deal that dates back to 2013, as dosing of the first patient — expected next year — will trigger a $60 million milestone payment to Prothena.