Uni­corn Mod­er­na joins line­up to list on Hong Kong's ex­change; Proces­sa li­cens­es com­pound from Con­cert

→ Ru­mors are fly­ing that biotech’s biggest uni­corn, Mod­er­na, which was re­cent­ly val­ued at $7 bil­lion, is plan­ning a dual IPO list­ing on both the Nas­daq and the Hong Kong ex­changes. That’s ac­cord­ing to a Wall Street Jour­nal re­port, which cites un­named sources fa­mil­iar with the com­pa­ny’s plans. The list­ing, they say, could be as ear­ly as next year. Mod­er­na would be one of sev­er­al biotechs lin­ing up to list on Hong Kong’s ex­change, which just re­cent­ly an­nounced a rule change that would al­low life sci­ence star­tups to list. An­nounced in De­cem­ber (and tak­ing ef­fect this year), the rule change will al­low com­pa­nies that haven’t earned rev­enue or prof­it to ap­ply for IPOs in Hong Kong — as long as they’re val­ued at HK$1.5 bil­lion (US$192 mil­lion). The com­pa­nies must meet some cri­te­ria first, like be­ing at least 2 years old and hav­ing some patents. An­oth­er biotech uni­corn, Grail, which has raised over $1 bil­lion and whose back­ers in­clude GV (for­mer­ly Google Ven­tures) and Bill Gates, is al­so gear­ing up for a $500 mil­lion Hong Kong list­ing. The rules for the Hong Kong ex­change are ex­pect­ed to be fi­nal­ized in late April. When the gate lifts, we ex­pect to see lots of biotechs trot­ting through.

→ Hanover, Mary­land-based Proces­sa Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has picked up a li­cense for a com­pound called CTP-499, which it says has po­ten­tial for mul­ti­ple phar­ma­co­log­i­cal tar­gets. First, the com­pa­ny says its tack­ling a chron­ic, dis­fig­ur­ing con­di­tion called Necro­sis Lipoidi­ca (NL). “The Proces­sa de­vel­op­ment team has al­ready met with the FDA on NL and has a sol­id strat­e­gy for mov­ing for­ward with the de­vel­op­ment of CTP-499 in NL start­ing with a Phase II clin­i­cal tri­al in NL pa­tients in 2018,” said Proces­sa’s CEO David Young in a state­ment. “We al­so hope to meet with the FDA on a sec­ond clin­i­cal stage in­di­ca­tion for CTP-499 in the next few months.” For the li­cense, Proces­sa is pay­ing $8 mil­lion in shares to Con­cert Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Con­cert is el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive roy­al­ties on com­mer­cial sales.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

President Donald Trump (via AP Images)

Signs of an 'Oc­to­ber Vac­cine Sur­prise' alarm ca­reer sci­en­tists

President Donald Trump, who seems intent on announcing a COVID-19 vaccine before Election Day, could legally authorize a vaccine over the objections of experts, officials at the FDA and even vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged not to release any vaccine unless it’s proved safe and effective.

In podcasts, public forums, social media and medical journals, a growing number of prominent health leaders say they fear that Trump — who has repeatedly signaled his desire for the swift approval of a vaccine and his displeasure with perceived delays at the FDA — will take matters into his own hands, running roughshod over the usual regulatory process.

#ES­MO20: Push­ing in­to front­line, Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers duke it out with new slate of GI can­cer da­ta

Having worked in parallel for years to move their respective PD-1 inhibitors up to the first-line treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb finally have the data at ESMO for a showdown.

Comparing KEYNOTE-590 and CheckMate-649, of course, comes with the usual caveats. But a side-by-side look at the overall survival numbers also offer some perspective on a new frontier for the reigning checkpoint rivals, both of whom are claiming to have achieved a first.

News brief­ing: Bausch Health clos­ing in on deal to ac­quire Al­le­gro as­sets; PharmAbcine strikes deal with Sam­sung Bi­o­log­ics to de­vel­op an­ti­body pro­gram

Bausch Health is closing in on a deal that would allow it to buy out all of Allegro Ophthalmics’ eye-related assets — including the rights to lead candidate risuteganib — for $50 million.

The payment would be made in two tranches: $10 million at signing, and $40 million in 2021.

Risuteganib is in clinical development for intermediate dry Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). It’s expected to enter two concurrent Phase III trials for that indication in the next year. The drug is also being tested in patients with diabetic macular edema (DME), and last year met the primary endpoint in a Phase II study, with 48% of patients gaining 8 or more letters in visual acuity from baseline at week 28, compared to 7% in the control group at week 12.

UP­DAT­ED: Two wild weeks for Grail end in $8B Il­lu­mi­na buy­out

Grail’s whirlwind two weeks have ended in the wealthy arms of its former founder and benefactors.

Illumina has shelled out $8 billion to reacquire the closely-watched liquid biopsy startup they spun out just 5 years ago and sold off much of its shares just 3 years ago. The deal comes nearly two weeks after the well-heeled startup filed for a potentially massive IPO — one that was disrupted just a week later when Bloomberg reported that Illumina was in talks to buy their former spinout for up to $8 billion.

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Roche vaults to the front of the NL­RP3 clin­i­cal race, pay­ing $448M up­front to bag In­fla­zome

Roche is going all in on NLRP3.

The pharma giant is putting down $448 million (€380 million) upfront to snatch Novartis-backed Inflazome, which makes it a clinical player in the space overnight.

Dublin and Cambridge, UK-based Inflazome is the second NLRP3-focused biotech Roche has acquired in less than two years, and although no numbers were disclosed in the Jecure buyout, this is almost certainly a much larger deal.

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Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

A press of­fi­cer at An­tho­ny Fau­ci’s NI­AID was un­masked as a hard-right Covid troll. He just re­tired to­day

William B Crews had been a public affairs specialist at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

That ended today when he informed the agency of his decision to retire, after he was identified as the managing editor at RedState, a prominent Trump loyalist website.

Crews’ RedState duties are performed under the alias streiff. While enjoying the benefits of pseudonymity, he disparaged and worked against NIAID with an incendiary level of rhetoric in the midst of a pandemic.

#ES­MO20: Bris­tol My­ers marks Op­di­vo's sec­ond ad­ju­vant win — eye­ing a stan­dard of care gap

Moving into earlier and earlier treatment lines, Bristol Myers Squibb is reporting that adjuvant treatment with Opdivo has doubled the time that esophageal or gastroesophageal junction cancer patients stay free of disease.

With the CheckMate-577 data at ESMO, CMO Samit Hirawat said, the company believes it can change the treatment paradigm.

While a quarter to 30% of patients typically achieve a complete response following chemoradiation therapy and surgery, the rest do not, said Ronan Kelly of Baylor University Medical Center. The recurrence rate is also high within the first year, Hirawat added.

Eli Lilly CSO Dan Skovronsky (file photo)

UP­DAT­ED: #ES­MO20: Eli Lil­ly shows off the da­ta for its Verzenio suc­cess. Was it worth $18 bil­lion?

The press release alone, devoid of any number except for the size of the trial, added nearly $20 billion to Eli Lilly’s market cap back in June. Now investors and oncologists will get to see if the data live up to the hype.

On Sunday at ESMO, Eli Lilly announced the full results for its Phase III MonarchE trial of Verzenio, showing that across over 5,000 women who had had HR+, HER2- breast cancer, the drug reduced the odds of recurrence by 25%. That meant 7.8% of the patients on the drug arm saw their cancers return within 2 years, compared with 11.3% on the placebo arm.

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