Up­start Oys­ter Point has big plans for dis­rupt­ing the oph­thal­mol­o­gy space, but you'll have to wait for the de­tails

Tech­ni­cal­ly, Oys­ter Point Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is com­ing out of stealth mode to­day with a $22 mil­lion A round from NEA and Ver­sant that will fi­nance a pair of mid-stage stud­ies for re­pur­posed drugs which have been in-li­censed for the launch. But the full sto­ry on the San Fran­cis­co-based biotech is go­ing to have to wait a bit be­fore the ex­ecs in­volved can ful­ly re­veal their plans.

Part of their plan, though, in­volves hir­ing staff.

Jeff Nau

“Right now there is one em­ploy­ee,” says a cheer­ful Jeff Nau, the CEO. “And you are talk­ing to him.”

Nau, who left Oph­thotech as it was in the process of strik­ing out in three Phase III stud­ies for their lead drug, will now start as­sem­bling a small team of less than 10 for what’s ahead. And while things have to re­main hush-hush for now on just what the com­pa­ny plans to put in­to Phase II — there’s no rea­son to tip off po­ten­tial ri­vals at this point — the first mid-stage tri­al is set to launch in a loom­ing Q1 of 2018.

Be­ing dis­creet about the drugs right now, though, doesn’t mean that Nau can’t talk up the biotech’s am­bi­tions.

“If you look across the land­scape” in oph­thal­mol­o­gy, he says, you’ll see a lot of drugs look­ing to ad­dress the symp­toms of the chron­ic, in­flam­ma­to­ry ail­ments that cause dry eye and more. Oys­ter Point’s goal is to pro­duce nat­ur­al tears to fix the root cause of one com­mon eye dis­ease suf­fered by mil­lions, while build­ing a pipeline of clear­ly dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed ther­a­pies for oc­u­lar sur­face dis­eases. They want to own that big niche. And Nau has a pair of the best known ven­ture groups in the in­dus­try to back him up as they lay the foun­da­tion for end of Phase II meet­ings with the FDA while map­ping plans for Phase III.

That’s not too shab­by for a biotech you like­ly nev­er heard of be­fore.

The eye has be­come a hot tar­get in drug de­vel­op­ment, in part be­cause it’s a close­ly con­tained or­gan, which can in­spire care­ful­ly fo­cused ther­a­pies.

To guide the way, Oys­ter Point al­so has a sci­en­tif­ic board that Nau says has im­pres­sive cre­den­tials. But, if he told me who they were right now, he’d prob­a­bly give away some of those se­crets he wants to hold on to for a few more months, as the Phase II stud­ies get un­der­way.

Stealth has now giv­en way to se­mi-stealth at Oys­ter Point. To be con­tin­ued….

Fol­low­ing news of job cuts in Eu­ro­pean R&D ops, Sanofi con­firms it’s of­fer­ing US work­ers an 'ear­ly ex­it'

Ear­li­er in the week we learned that Sanofi was bring­ing out the bud­get ax to trim 466 R&D jobs in Eu­rope, re­tool­ing its ap­proach to car­dio as re­search chief John Reed beefed up their work in can­cer and gene ther­a­pies. And we’re end­ing the week with news that the phar­ma gi­ant has al­so been qui­et­ly re­duc­ing staff in the US, tar­get­ing hun­dreds of jobs as the com­pa­ny push­es vol­un­tary buy­outs with a fo­cus on R&D sup­port ser­vices.

How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

Why would the FDA ap­prove an­oth­er con­tro­ver­sial drug to spur a woman’s li­bido with these da­ta? And why no ex­pert pan­el re­view?

AMAG Pharmaceuticals’ newly approved drug for spurring women’s sexual desire may never make much money, but it’s a big hit at sparking media attention.

The therapy — Vyleesi (bremelanotide) — got the green light from regulators on Friday evening, swiftly lighting up a range of stories around the world, from The New York Times to The Guardian. Several headlines inevitably referred to it as the “female Viagra,” invoking Pfizer’s old erectile dysfunction blockbuster.

But the two drugs have little in common.

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Which top 10 big phar­mas have the most to gain — or lose — over the next 5 years?

When Evaluate Pharma crunched the likely drug sales numbers for the big 10, 2 stood out. 

Takeda, with its big Shire buyout under its belt, is set to almost double its worldwide sales record for 2018 over 5 years, putting it in the big 10 — the 9th spot, to be exact — which is exactly where CEO Christophe Weber wants to be. 

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Roger Perlmutter. Merck via webcast

'Our lega­cy mat­ter­s': Mer­ck maps out Keytru­da king­dom while spot­light­ing ad­vances in vac­cines, hos­pi­tal care

“You can for the mo­ment stop tak­ing notes. You can put down your pens and your pad. I have no slides. I have no sub­stan­tive da­ta. I have no pitch.”

So be­gan Roger Perl­mut­ter’s brief ap­pear­ance on­stage at Mer­ck’s first in­vestor day in five years, where he dived in­to the com­pa­ny’s his­to­ry dat­ing back to 1933. The first em­ploy­ees at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries, hand­picked by founder George W. Mer­ck, were crit­i­cal to Mer­ck’s abil­i­ty to achieve clin­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess.

Eli Casdin, Casdin Capital

Eli Cas­din backs Codex­is' plat­form tech with $50M eq­ui­ty buy

About a month af­ter Codex­is notched a deal with No­var­tis $NVS, the Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­ny $CDXS on Thurs­day said long-time in­vestor Cas­din Cap­i­tal is putting up $50 mil­lion in a pri­vate place­ment, which puts the New York-based in­vest­ment firm in con­trol of more than 5% of the pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing play­er’s stock.

Eli Cas­din start­ed his epony­mous in­vest­ment firm in 2012 and dates his re­la­tion­ship with Codex­is back to at least a decade. About three years ago, Cas­din Cap­i­tal be­gan in­vest­ing in the in­dus­tri­al biotech com­pa­ny, af­ter it piv­ot­ed its fo­cus to the life sci­ences — un­der the aus­pices of new chief John Nicols — away from the en­er­gy in­dus­try.

Partners Innovation Fund

David de Graaf now has his $28.5M launch round in place, build­ing a coen­zyme A plat­form in his lat­est start­up

Long­time biotech ex­ec David de Graaf has the cash he needs to set up the pre­clin­i­cal foun­da­tion for his coen­zyme A me­tab­o­lism com­pa­ny Comet. A few high-pro­file in­vestors joined the ven­ture syn­di­cate to sup­ply Comet with $28.5 mil­lion in launch mon­ey — enough to get it two years in­to the plat­form-build­ing game, with­in knock­ing dis­tance of the clin­ic.

Canaan jumped in along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestor Sofinno­va Part­ners to co-lead the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tion by ex­ist­ing in­vestor INKEF Cap­i­tal and new in­vestor BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal.

John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.

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Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford braces po­lit­i­cal storm as UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors scru­ti­nize fund sus­pen­sion

The shock of Neil Wood­ford’s de­ci­sion to block with­drawals for his flag­ship fund is still rip­pling through the rest of his port­fo­lio — and be­yond. Un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors are now tak­ing a hard look while in­vestors con­tin­ue to flee.

In a re­sponse let­ter to an MP, the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty re­vealed that it’s opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing months of en­gage­ment with Link Fund So­lu­tions, which tech­ni­cal­ly del­e­gat­ed Wood­ford’s firm to man­age its funds.