With Big Phar­ma castoffs in hand, Mereo files for $81M IPO; Lon­don's Verona sees stock surge on PhI­Ib COPD da­ta

→ Mereo Bio­Phar­ma, a Lon­don biotech de­vel­op­ing a pipeline of as­sets it snagged from Big Phar­ma shelves, is head­ing to the Nas­daq with hopes of rais­ing around $81 mil­lion in an IPO. The com­pa­ny is al­ready list­ed on the Lon­don Stock Ex­change and plans to use the ex­tra cash to de­vel­op at least three drug can­di­dates through mid-stage tri­als. In an SEC state­ment sig­nal­ing the stock of­fer­ing, Mereo said the mon­ey would fu­el two pro­grams it picked up from No­var­tis and one it got from As­traZeneca. The pro­ceeds should get BPS-804 (setrusum­ab), an ex-No­var­tis rare dis­ease drug for pa­tients with os­teo­ge­n­e­sis im­per­fec­ta, in­to Phase IIb/III tri­als in 2018. The cash will al­so fund the ex-No­var­tis drug BGS-649 for the treat­ment of hy­pog­o­nadotrop­ic hy­pog­o­nadism in obese men through Phase IIb and in­to late-stage tri­als; and AZD-9668, a res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease as­set Mereo out-li­censed from As­traZeneca last fall, through proof-of-con­cept tri­als. Mereo plans to list un­der the stock sym­bol $MPH.

→ Lon­don-based Verona Phar­ma saw its Lon­don-list­ed stock (LON: $VRP) jump 19% Mon­day fol­low­ing news that its Phase IIb study test­ing its chron­ic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease (COPD) treat­ment RPL554 had promis­ing re­sults. The drug showed “a clin­i­cal­ly and sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment” in pa­tients with COPD com­pared to place­bo. “These re­sults are very en­cour­ag­ing and strong­ly sup­port the pro­gres­sion of RPL554 in­to lat­er stage de­vel­op­ment as an in­haled treat­ment for COPD pa­tients,” said Jan-An­ders Karls­son, CEO of Verona Phar­ma, in a state­ment. “The fu­ture clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and the po­si­tion­ing of this nov­el treat­ment will be in­formed by these da­ta as well as by the out­come of the clin­i­cal study as an add-on to es­tab­lished com­bi­na­tion ther­a­pies planned to start this year, and our on­go­ing mar­ket re­search.”

AR­MO Bio­Sciences $AR­MO, fresh off a $120 mil­lion IPO, re­port­ed out an ear­ly look at its PhI­II tri­al test­ing AM0010 (pegilode­cakin) with Fol­fox in pa­tients with pan­cre­at­ic can­cer. The in­ter­im analy­sis showed the com­bo was cleared to pro­ceed through the tri­al. The analy­sis, done by the Da­ta Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee (DMC), was meant to find out if the com­bo was safe based on over­all sur­vival as well as phar­ma­co­ki­net­ics in the first 60 sub­jects en­rolled in the study that re­ceived at least four months of ther­a­py. AR­MO’s CMO Joseph Lev­eque had this to say: “The DMC’s rec­om­men­da­tion sup­ports the safe­ty pro­file we have seen with pegilode­cakin when com­bined with 5-flu­o­roura­cyl and plat­inum-based chemother­a­py which is the ba­sis for a num­ber of dif­fi­cult to treat can­cers.  As such, we be­lieve that pegilode­cakin in com­bi­na­tion with Fol­fox could pro­vide a safe and ef­fi­ca­cious ther­a­peu­tic op­tion for sec­ond-line pan­cre­at­ic duc­tal ade­no­car­ci­no­ma pa­tients.” Fi­nal da­ta are ex­pect­ed in 2020.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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Take­da snaps up the Japan­ese rights to an old Shire cast-off; Boehringer In­gel­heim ac­quires Abexxa Bi­o­log­ics

A week before the FDA is set to decide on Mirum Pharmaceuticals’ lead liver disease drug — an old Shire cast-off called maralixibat — Takeda is swooping in to secure the rights in Japan.

Maralixibat’s roots trace back to Lumena, which was snapped up by Shire for $260 million-plus back in 2014. While the candidate had failed mid-stage studies at Shire, Mirum believes better trial design and patient selection will deliver the wins it needs. The drug is currently in development for Alagille syndrome (a condition called ALGS in which bile builds up in the liver), progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC, which causes progressive liver disease) and biliary atresia (a blockage in the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder).

When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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Jay Bradner (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

Div­ing deep­er in­to in­her­it­ed reti­nal dis­or­ders, No­var­tis gob­bles up an­oth­er bite-sized op­to­ge­net­ics biotech

Right about a year ago, a Novartis team led by Jay Bradner and Cynthia Grosskreutz at NIBR swooped in to scoop up a Cambridge, MA-based opthalmology gene therapy company called Vedere. Their focus was on a specific market niche: inherited retinal dystrophies that include a wide range of genetic retinal disorders marked by the loss of photoreceptor cells and progressive vision loss.

But that was just the first deal that whet their appetite.

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Vicente Anido (University of West Virginia via YouTube)

Aerie fires CEO af­ter lead pro­gram flop, com­ments about pri­ma­ry end­points be­ing 'not re­quired'

Aerie Pharmaceuticals CEO Vicente Anido has left the company less than a week after trying to chart a Phase III study in the wake of a serious Phase IIb flop.

Anido’s last day at Aerie was Friday, the biotech announced in a news release Tuesday morning, and Benjamin McGraw is taking his place in an interim role. The now former CEO was terminated without cause, according to an SEC filing.

The board has started looking for a full-time chief to take his place.

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Covid-19 roundup: J&J boost­er shot da­ta show promise; CD­C's ACIP meet­ing this week to dis­cuss Pfiz­er boost­ers

J&J revealed a summary of new Covid-19 vaccine data today, including new results showing booster shots may help with protection.

A Phase III study (ENSEMBLE 2) looked at booster shots at two different points in time: a second shot 56 days after the first shot, or a second shot six months after the first. The eight-week shot showed increased protection against symptomatic Covid-19, with the following levels of protection: