Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller. Imperial College London

Well­come Trust joins warn­ing for no-deal Brex­it, calls on Boris John­son to cast R&D vi­sion

Boris John­son may have pledged to con­tin­ue build­ing on Britain’s “enor­mous strengths” in life sci­ence as he blazes a path to­ward Brex­it, but one of the coun­try’s top fun­ders of bio­med­ical re­search is de­mand­ing more.

In a let­ter to the UK’s new Prime Min­is­ter, Well­come Trust warned that “the fi­nal months of 2019 could be a tip­ping point for UK sci­ence” and leav­ing the EU with­out a deal is a threat to the thriv­ing sec­tor. La­dy Eliza Man­ning­ham-Buller, who chairs the char­i­ty, urged John­son to make a sig­nif­i­cant state­ment on sci­ence to lay out his vi­sion in the face of glob­al health emer­gen­cies and the loom­ing loss of ac­cess to col­lab­o­ra­tion with Eu­ro­pean peers.

But David Grainger of Medicxi, a Lon­don-based VC firm known for its as­set-cen­tric plays around Eu­rope, dis­missed Well­come Trust’s let­ter as “more scare­mon­ger­ing” and as­sert­ed “UK as a place to do sci­ence will be un­af­fect­ed” by Brex­it.

One of John­son’s key promis­es to the par­ty mem­bers who elect­ed him was that he will ex­e­cute the UK’s de­par­ture from the EU by Oc­to­ber 31, come what may.

The con­cerns are hard­ly new. While John­son was still vy­ing for the lead­er­ship role against fel­low Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty MP Je­re­my Hunt, re­searcher or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing Can­cer Re­search UK have sound­ed sim­i­lar alarms. The un­cer­tain­ty around the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship be­tween the UK and oth­er coun­tries in Eu­rope has al­ready jeop­ar­dized re­searchers’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in con­ti­nen­tal re­search pacts, they said.

Man­ning­ham-Buller echoes that “some dam­age has al­ready been done, with loss of re­searchers, and in­flu­ence.” And like Pamela Kearns of CRUK, she raised con­cerns about se­cur­ing mem­ber­ship in Hori­zon Eu­rope, a €100 bil­lion (£89.9 bil­lion) fund­ing pro­gram that fea­tures can­cer as one of its key mis­sions.

“While sci­ence pro­motes glob­al col­lab­o­ra­tion, the bar­ri­ers to suc­cess need to be min­i­mized, in­clud­ing with Eu­rope where our clos­est and most ex­ten­sive sci­ence re­la­tion­ships are,” the let­ter read. “That means ne­go­ti­at­ing as­so­ci­at­ed coun­try sta­tus in the EU’s ‘Hori­zon Eu­rope’ re­search pro­gramme, even if we in­tend to cre­ate our own sys­tems in the years ahead.”

It is up to John­son’s gov­ern­ment to seize the op­por­tu­ni­ty and “spend the sort of mon­ey our com­peti­tors are do­ing” — such as Ger­many — Man­ning­ham-Buller told the BBC.

“The key to this will be to en­sure that in­creased pub­lic in­vest­ment leads to an even greater pri­vate sec­tor con­tri­bu­tion to­wards the de­vel­op­ment and use of new tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing through pa­tient cap­i­tal,” she wrote in her let­ter.

The FDA will hus­tle up an ex­pe­dit­ed re­view for As­traZeneca’s next shot at a block­buster can­cer drug fran­chise

AstraZeneca paid a hefty price to partner with Daiichi Sankyo on their experimental antibody drug conjugate for HER2 positive breast cancer. And they’ve been rewarded with a fast ride through the FDA, with a straight shot at creating another blockbuster oncology franchise.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 62,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sean Parker, AP

Sean Park­er helps cre­ate a CRISPRed cell ther­a­py 2.0 play — and he’s got a high-pro­file set of lead­ers on the team

You can rack up one more high-profile debut effort in the wave of activity forming around cell therapy 2.0. It’s another appealing Bay Area group that’s attracted some of the top hands in the business to a multi-year effort to create a breakthrough. And they have $85 million in hand to make that first big step to the clinic.

Today it’s Ken Drazan and the team at South San Francisco-based ArsenalBio that are coming from behind the curtain for a public bow, backed by billionaire Sean Parker and a collection of investors that includes Beth Seidenberg’s new venture investment operation based in LA.
Drazan — a J&J Innovation vet with a long record of entrepreneurial endeavors — exited the stage in 2018 when his last mission ended as he stepped aside as president of Grail. It wasn’t long, though, before he was helping out with a business plan for ArsenalBio that revolved around the work of a large group of interconnected scientists supported by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunology.
The biotech started by putting together an “arsenal” of technologies aimed at making cell therapies for cancer much, much better than the rather crude first-generation drugs that hit the market from Novartis and Kite.
Their drugs have become the baseline against which all others are being measured.
“The technology set we’re developing is independent of the chassis,” Drazan tells me. “It doesn’t have to be autologous (extracted from the patient) or allogeneic (off the shelf). It doesn’t have to be a T cell, it could be a B cell.” But they are starting out on the autologous side, where they have the most knowledge and insight into manufacturing techniques.
It also doesn’t have to be close to the clinic.
Drazan expects the biotech will be working its way through preclinical operations for “a few years,” with enough money from the $85 million launch round to get into humans.
By today’s superheated fundraising standards, that’s not a huge amount of cash. Lyell, another cell therapy 2.0 startup we featured last week, raised $600 million in a year, including a big chunk of cash from GlaxoSmithKline. Drazan is interested in dealmaking as well, but he also knows he has the cash necessary to support the company for a good run — a key part of what it takes to bring together a stellar team of top players.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 62,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Eli Lil­ly’s first PhI­II show­down for their $1.6B can­cer drug just flopped — what now?

When Eli Lilly plunked down $1.6 billion in cash to acquire Armo Biosciences a little more than a year ago, the stars seemed aligned in its favor. The jewel in the crown they were buying was pegilodecakin, which had cleared the proof-of-concept stage and was already in a Phase III trial for pancreatic cancer.

And that study just failed.

Lilly reported this morning that their cancer drug flopped on overall survival when added to FOLFOX (folinic acid, 5-FU, oxaliplatin), compared to FOLFOX alone among patients suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 62,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Swamy Vijayan. Plexium

San Diego up­start de­buts dis­cov­ery en­gine that puts a twist to pro­tein degra­da­tion

For years, the idea of protein degradation — utilizing the cell’s natural garbage disposal system to mark problematic proteins for destruction — remained an elegant but technically difficult concept. But now established as a promising clinical strategy, with major biopharma players such as Bayer, Gilead and Vertex trying to grab a foothold via partnership deals, a San Diego startup is looking to exploit it and push its limits.

CSL ac­cus­es ri­val Pharm­ing of par­tic­i­pat­ing in a scheme to rip off IP on HAE while re­cruit­ing se­nior R&D staffer

Pharming has landed in the middle of a legal donnybrook after recruiting a senior executive from a rival R&D team at CSL. The Australian pharma giant slapped Pharming with a lawsuit alleging that the Dutch biotech’s new employee, Joseph Chiao, looted a large cache of proprietary documents as he hit the exit. And they want it all back.
Federal Judge Juan Sanchez in the Eastern District Pennsylvania court issued an injunction on Tuesday prohibiting Chiao from doing any work on HAE or primary immune deficiency in his new job and demanding that he return any material from CSL that he may have in his possession. And he wants Pharming to tell its employees not to ask for any information on the forbidden topics.
For its part, Pharming fired off an indignant response this morning denying any involvement in extracting any kind of IP from CSL, adding that it’s cooperating in the internal probe that CSL has underway.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 62,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Hal Barron, GSK's president of R&D and CSO, speaks to Endpoints News founder and editor John Carroll in London at Endpoints' #UKBIO19 summit on October 8, 2019

[Video] Cel­e­brat­ing tri­al fail­ures, chang­ing the cul­ture and al­ly­ing with Cal­i­for­nia dream­ers: R&D chief Hal Bar­ron talks about a new era at GSK

Last week I had a chance to sit down with Hal Barron at Endpoints’ #UKBIO19 summit to discuss his views on R&D at GSK, a topic that has been central to his life since he took the top research post close to 2 years ago. During the conversation, Barron talked about changing the culture at GSK, a move that involves several new approaches — one of which involves celebrating their setbacks as they shift resources to the most promising programs in the pipeline. Barron also discussed his new alliances in the Bay Area — including his collaboration pact with Lyell, which we covered here — frankly assesses the pluses and minuses of the UK drug development scene, and talks about his plans for making GSK a much more effective drug developer.

This is one discussion you won’t want to miss. Insider and Enterprise subscribers can log-in to watch the video.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

Med­ical an­i­ma­tion: Mak­ing it eas­i­er for the site and the pa­tient to un­der­stand

Medical animation has in recent years become an increasingly important tool for conveying niche information to a varied audience, particularly to those audiences without expertise in the specialist area. Science programmes today, for example, have moved from the piece-to-camera of the university professor explaining how a complex disease mechanism works, to actually showing the viewer first-hand what it might look like to shrink ourselves down to the size of an ant’s foot, and travel inside the human body to witness these processes in action. Effectively communicating a complex disease pathophysiology, or the novel mechanism of action of a new drug, can be complex. This is especially difficult when the audience domain knowledge is limited or non-existent. Medical animation can help with this communication challenge in several ways.
Improved accessibility to visualisation
Visualisation is a core component of our ability to understand a concept. Ask 10 people to visualise an apple, and each will come up with a slightly different image, some apples smaller than others, some more round, some with bites taken. Acceptable, you say, we can move on to the next part of the story. Now ask 10 people to visualise how HIV’s capsid protein gets arranged into the hexamers and pentamers that form the viral capsid that holds HIV’s genetic material. This request may pose a challenge even to someone with some virology knowledge, and it is that inability to effectively visualise what is going on that holds us back from fully understanding the rest of the story. So how does medical animation help us to overcome this visualisation challenge?

UP­DAT­ED: Alex­ion pays $930M to buy out Achillion and its promis­ing com­pan­ion drug to Soliris

After a series of stock-crunching setbacks over the years, Achillion enjoyed a turn in the sun a few weeks ago as the FDA blessed their lead drug danicopan (ACH-4471) — a complementary therapy for PNH patients taking Alexion’s Soliris — with a breakthrough drug designation after taking a look at some solid supporting Phase II data.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 62,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

The $102B club: The top 15 R&D spenders in the glob­al bio­phar­ma busi­ness — 2019 edi­tion

Over the past few years, the deluge of capital into biotech has helped lead to a dramatic shift in focus on new drug approvals, as startups are now able to raise enough cash to get through a pivotal and onto the market. But the top 15 players still account for $102 billion in spending, and their successes and failures continue to determine just how productive the industry is.

Recently we’ve seen a number of new R&D chiefs take their places at the Big 15, either setting the stage for a more focused R&D strategy — often playing more heavily in oncology. That’s true for AstraZeneca, which has had some landmark successes, and GSK, which is in search of its own turnaround in pharma R&D. HIV and vaccines are separate from that group, now led by Hal Barron.

I’ve made a point of watching their track record every year for more than a decade now. What follows is intended as a broad gauge of their activity. You don’t have to have a lot of major successes to score a winning record here, but it’s virtually impossible without a blockbuster or three in the pipeline.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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