Unum racks up yet an­oth­er FDA hold as it twists its way through a re­struc­tur­ing, look­ing for a fresh start with a pre­clin­i­cal drug

Chuck Wil­son Unum

The drum­beat of bad news at Unum Ther­a­peu­tics just won’t stop.

In a fil­ing with the SEC to­day, the trou­bled biotech re­port­ed that its ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py AC­TR707 — used in com­bi­na­tion with rit­ux­imab in pa­tients with CD20+ B cell non-Hodgkin lym­phoma — may have been re­spon­si­ble for a pos­si­ble new ma­lig­nan­cy. The FDA slapped a par­tial hold on the study March 4 while the agency and the biotech ex­plore what hap­pened to trig­ger the Grade 3 SAE.

Unum’s stock, which had al­ready sunk deep in­to pen­ny stock ter­rain, dropped 5% Mon­day evening af­ter an 8% drop over the day, leav­ing the stock at 46 cents. The com­pa­ny is helmed by Chuck Wil­son and chaired by At­las’ Bruce Booth. And they’ve had to deal with one set­back af­ter the next since fil­ing to go pub­lic 2 years ago.

The hold came ex­act­ly 2 days af­ter the biotech re­port­ed that it was re­struc­tur­ing the com­pa­ny, lay­ing off 60% of the staff, and re­fo­cus­ing ef­forts away from the trou­ble­some AC­TR707 in fa­vor of a pre­clin­i­cal sol­id tu­mor ef­fort in the pipeline. At the same time, CSO Seth Et­ten­berg re­signed af­ter 5 years with Unum.

Seth Et­ten­berg Unum

Last sum­mer the biotech re­port­ed that its then pre­mier drug — AC­TR087 — was linked to se­ri­ous ad­verse events that in­clud­ed grade 3 neu­ro­tox­i­c­i­ty and cy­tomegalovirus in­fec­tion as well as grade 4 res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­tress, trig­ger­ing a hold. That came af­ter the IPO, when Unum wait­ed un­til it filed the S-1 to re­port that their drug was linked to two deaths — with 2 cas­es of AC­TR087-re­lat­ed se­vere CRS while one pa­tient died from AC­TR087-re­lat­ed neu­ro­tox­i­c­i­ty.

That al­so trig­gered a hold which was lift­ed just ahead of the IPO.

Unum plans to file an IND ap­pli­ca­tion for BOXR1030 in late 2020 as it works to get back in­to the clin­ic. It has a long way to go, though, in restor­ing faith among in­vestors.

So­cial im­age: Chuck Wil­son, Unum Ther­a­peu­tics

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock to be act­ing FDA com­mis­sion­er while Biden team fi­nal­izes nom­i­nee — re­ports

Janet Woodcock is set to be the most powerful person at the FDA in less than a week.

The veteran regulator and longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has been tapped as acting commissioner of the FDA, according to reports by BioCentury’s Steve Usdin and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

The appointment was requested by the incoming Biden team, Karlin-Smith added, as they sort out the nomination of a permanent successor to Stephen Hahn — whose one-year tenure has been defined by Covid-19.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock is in the run­ning for FDA com­mis­sion­er — what does that mean for the agen­cy's fu­ture?

Just a day after reports emerged that Janet Woodcock will serve as interim chief of the FDA, word has gotten out that she is also in the running for the permanent job.

The decision, as the initial wave of reactions suggest, could have dramatic implications for where the agency is headed in the next four years — if not beyond.

Woodcock, the longtime CDER director, is being vetted alongside former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Bloomberg reported. Already tapped as acting head of the agency, she’s set to take over from Stephen Hahn right after Biden’s inauguration next week.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

CEO Brett Monia (Ionis)

Can Brett Mo­nia push Io­n­is be­yond Spin­raza?

For 30 years, Brett Monia struggled as one of Ionis’ top scientists to get their antisense technology to work. Now, as CEO, he’s trying to use it to turn Ionis into one of the industry’s biggest biotechs.

Monia, one of the handful of young scientists who in 1989 followed Stanley Crooke across the country from SmithKline (now GSK) in Philadelphia to found Ionis in Northern California, replaced Crooke as CEO last January. By then, they had proven antisense, an RNA-based method for manipulating gene expression, could work dramatically well in at least some instances, transforming spinal muscular atrophy with the Biogen-partnered blockbuster Spinraza.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

Paint­ing by the num­bers, Sana founders carve up a gi­ant uni­corn-sized IPO — for a biotech that has­n't quite made it to the clin­ic

Sana Biotechnology is one of those startups that was sketched in on the chalkboard day one in the shape of a unicorn.

A giant unicorn.

And from the numbers the cell therapy 2.0 play spelled out in their S-1 $SANA, it’s clear that the company founders — led by a pair of major VCs aligned with some high-profile industry figures — are hunting a big chunk of that value for themselves.

The raise they penciled in — $150 million — isn’t likely what they actually have in mind, and it doesn’t do justice to the size of their ambitions.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Terry Rosen, Arcus CEO

Gilead part­ner Ar­cus earns an­a­lyst­s' plau­dits for ear­ly pan­cre­at­ic can­cer da­ta that 'ex­ceed­ed ex­pec­ta­tion­s'

Arcus’ small molecule CD73 inhibitor for pancreatic cancer got a standing ovation from analysts who said preliminary data “exceeded expectations”— making waves in a field that’s seen little progress in several years and proving the candidate could be worth the hundreds of millions Gilead provided upfront in a deal that included more than a billion dollars for opt-in rights and milestones.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

David Kessler in April 2009 (Eric Risberg/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Hack­ers start re­leas­ing 'ma­nip­u­lat­ed' Covid-19 vac­cine docs; Ex-FDA com­mish David Kessler to re­place Mon­cef Slaoui as Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief — re­port

There’s a new twist on the EMA Covid-19 hacking story.

Friday the European agency put out the 5th in a series of statements about the hackers who broke into their system, noting that some of the information on vaccines that was gleaned in the attack is showing up online — altered to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaccines now in use.

This included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines. Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

With KRAS break­through on the hori­zon, Am­gen's David Reese re­flects on so­tora­si­b's loom­ing re­view date and murky fu­ture

After decades of failures laid waste to R&D outfits looking to solve the KRAS G12C puzzle, Amgen is as close as anyone ever has been to an approval with sotorasib. For Amgen R&D head David Reese, the drug’s looming review date is a point of reflection for his own career and a big milestone for Amgen’s blooming — if controversial — next-gen oncology pipeline.

Amgen filed its FDA application for sotorasib in December to treat metastatic non-small cell lung cancer with the KRAS mutation — once thought to be “undruggable” — months after the agency offered its breakthrough designation based on pivotal Phase I data showing previously unheard of response rates.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

News brief­ing: Five Prime fi­nal­izes PhI­II plans for gas­tric can­cer; AI di­ag­nos­tics-fo­cused Paige ex­pands staff

Five Prime Therapeutics has finalized a plan to take their comeback gastric cancer drug into late-stage studies.

The South San Francisco-based biotech released full Phase II data for bemarituzumab on Friday, which Five Prime said in November met all of its pre-specified efficacy endpoints in a topline readout. Now, the company is announcing it plans to launch a Phase III trial for the program in 2021. Following November’s readout, the future of bemarituzumab had not yet been finalized.

Peter Thiel, Getty (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

Pe­ter Thiel's psy­che­delics-fo­cused ATAI ac­quires ma­jor­i­ty stake in Recog­ni­fy and its lead schiz­o­phre­nia can­di­date

Billionaire Peter Thiel has made significant and sometimes controversial pushes into life sciences over the past few years, and one of his startups out of Berlin has made a new acquisition less than two months after achieving unicorn status.

ATAI Life Sciences purchased a majority stake Tuesday in Recognify Life Sciences, a company focused on developing treatments for cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia. The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the acquisition follows up a $125 million Series C in November co-led by Thiel, leading to a post-money valuation of about $1 billion for ATAI.