Why wait? Trump mounts an ear­ly raid on NIH’s ’17 bud­get in search of some spend­ing mon­ey

Chanelle Case Bor­den, PhD, a post­doc­tor­al fel­low in the Na­tion­al Can­cer In­sti­tute’s Ex­per­i­men­tal Im­munol­o­gy Branch, check­ing DNA gel. Gel elec­trophore­sis is a method for sep­a­ra­tion and analy­sis of macro­mol­e­cules (DNA, RNA and pro­teins) and their frag­ments, based on their size and charge. Daniel Sone / Na­tion­al Can­cer In­sti­tute 

Pres­i­dent Trump is look­ing for some ex­tra cash this year. And to get it he’s ready to start slash­ing NIH fund­ing now, rather than wait un­til the next bud­get year gets start­ed.

Ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments mak­ing the cir­cuit in DC yes­ter­day, Trump wants to cut $1.2 bil­lion out of NIH re­search spend­ing. And the full $18 bil­lion he’s look­ing for in­cludes a $40 mil­lion hit at the FDA, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in Bloomberg, where the pres­i­dent would pre­fer to slow hir­ing in ex­change for some fast spend­ing mon­ey.

The new Trump bud­get for 2018 has al­ready set out a pro­pos­al to carve out $5.8 bil­lion in fund­ing at the NIH, which is en­joy­ing its first sig­nif­i­cant bud­get in­crease in years af­ter a bi­par­ti­san group of law­mak­ers joined hands on the ini­tia­tive.

Trump clear­ly would like to shift re­search and non-de­fense spend­ing to pay for some of his cam­paign promis­es around bor­der se­cu­ri­ty. But these cuts are not pop­u­lar among law­mak­ers. In bio­phar­ma, where the NIH seeds the drug re­search of the fu­ture, along with a con­sid­er­able amount of trans­la­tion­al work, it’s anath­e­ma.

John Crow­ley, the CEO of Am­i­cus and a guest of hon­or—with his daugh­ter Megan—at Trump’s re­cent ad­dress to Con­gress, told Ax­ios:

For me as an en­tre­pre­neur, it’s all about in­ven­tions and heal­ing, and I think NIH plays a cru­cial role. It’s part of this vir­tu­ous cir­cle that it nec­es­sary to ad­vance med­i­cines to pa­tients, which al­so in­cludes the grants that NIH pro­vides to our aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions. Our uni­ver­si­ty re­search sys­tem is the core for ba­sic sci­ence and ba­sic trans­la­tion­al re­search and is the ba­sis for a lot of the good ideas that come in­to a com­pa­ny like ours.

The con­tro­ver­sy has al­ready in­spired the launch of one new lob­by­ing group, the Coali­tion to Save NIH fund­ing, and a num­ber of law­mak­ers in both par­ties say that the cuts are a non­starter.

That said, with the fail­ure of Trump­care and the prospect of a new scrap over tax re­form, it’s hard to de­ter­mine who’s run­ning the shop in Wash­ing­ton these days.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.