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Bristol Myers hunkers down at the deals table, executing a new I/O play in biotech buyout

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb president of research and early development (BMS)

August 24, 2020 09:54 AM EDTUpdated 01:14 PM

Bris­tol My­ers hun­kers down at the deals ta­ble, ex­e­cut­ing a new I/O play in biotech buy­out

John Carroll

Editor & Founder

A week after Bristol Myers Squibb plunked down $475 million upfront to partner with Dragonfly on an IL-12 program — which fits neatly into the broad effort to expand their big immuno-oncology effort — their early-stage R&D chief Rupert Vessey has snapped up a biotech whose pipeline matches their oncology deal profile.

This time the deal centers on a little player called Forbius, which has a lead drug called AVID200, the tip of their TGF-beta program spear that looks to use the cytokine to regulate the immune system. As Vessey notes in his attached statement, that presents one new way to serve patients not currently helped by Opdivo or other immunotherapies, as TGF-beta 1 & 3 inhibition is synergistic with I/O.

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From cancer to COVID, how one powerful concept, the “R&D Hybrid,” advances new treatments

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August 24, 2020 08:00 AM EDT

The In­ge­nu­ity En­gine: Trans­la­tion­al Re­search and the Need for Speed

Ildiko Csiki

Chief Commercial Research & Development Officer

Today, the world waits in desperate hope for a coronavirus vaccine. Meanwhile, people continue to contend with other serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes, which also require new research innovations. At City of Hope — a biomedical research complex and National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Southern California — such innovations and patient care are continuing uninterrupted. In large part, this is due to the institution’s recognition that cancer and other urgent medical conditions don’t stop for COVID-19.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel (AP Images)

August 22, 2020 09:47 AM EDTUpdated 7 hours ago

UP­DAT­ED: The lead­ers in the race to de­vel­op a Covid-19 vac­cine say they could have piv­otal da­ta in Oc­to­ber — but Trump claims FDA is slow­ing re­cruit­ment

Late Friday night Moderna tweeted that their Phase III study had come close to the halfway mark in recruiting the 30,000 or so subjects needed for the pivotal test of their Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273.

READ MORE:   UK economy contracted by 20.4% in April, the largest monthly fall on record

So I thought it was a good time to catch up with CEO Stéphane Bancel on the timing of the readout, which is of intense interest around the world — and particularly in Washington DC, where the top regulators and scientists involved repeatedly insist they won’t tolerate any political interference in pushing a premature announcement of a win ahead of the election November 3rd.

August 24, 2020 09:11 AM EDT

Which big bio­phar­ma play­er should gam­ble $34B on a ripe rare-dis­ease M&A tar­get? An ac­tion-hun­gry top an­a­lyst fills in the blanks

John Carroll

Editor & Founder

Geoffrey Porges has been openly unhappy with Ludwig Hantson and the team that runs Alexion $ALXN. Their discount M&A deals don’t make much sense, as underscored by a suffering share price, and he believes the company would have been better offering dividends to investors than squandering it on a misguided BD strategy.

In the best of all worlds, Alexion’s investors might be best served with a premium takeout, and Porges has been thinking about which potential buyer makes the most sense.

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August 24, 2020 10:34 AM EDT

Vir en­lists Covid-19 an­ti­body ri­val for can­cer, in­fec­tious dis­ease dis­cov­ery work

Vir — Bob Nelsen and George Scangos’ infectious disease startup — is going into immuno-oncology.

Enlisting Harbour BioMed as a partner, Vir will tap the trans-Pacific biotech’s platform tech to generate a suite of antibodies aimed at treating both cancer and infectious diseases. The goal is to “exploit similar underlying immune mechanisms that likely play a critical role” in both areas, said Harbour CEO Jingsong Wang.

Tony Coles, Yumanity chairman and co-founder

August 24, 2020 09:44 AM EDTUpdated 12:55 PM

Tony Coles takes sec­ond neu­ro­science start­up pub­lic as Yu­man­i­ty re­verse merges

Jason Mast

Associate Editor

Maybe Tony Coles just doesn’t like IPOs.

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A month after taking one of his two neuroscience biotechs — Cerevel — public as part of a $445 million SPAC transaction, the longtime executive and drug developer is taking the other one public as part of a reverse merger. Yumanity Therapeutics will reverse merge with struggling cystic fibrosis biotech Proteostasis Therapeutics.

In an interview after Cerevel went public, Coles noted the stability a SPAC could give over an IPO during a turbulent market. On Monday, he talked up the shared scientific background between Yumanity and Proteostasis.

Norbert Bischofberger, Kronos Bio CEO

August 24, 2020 08:00 AM EDT

Dri­ving to the $278M mark on rais­es, a leg­endary R&D ex­pert sets his sights on an­oth­er piv­otal goal line

John Carroll

Editor & Founder

Thinking back on his arrival at a fledgling Kronos Bio a little more than 2 years ago, Norbert Bischofberger — otherwise known as employee #5 — was acutely aware of the work that needed to be done.

“When I started,” he says, “there was an interesting screening methodology, but not much else.”

But for one of the world’s most accomplished R&D executives who turned biotech entrepreneur at 62, the big question is always the same: “Where’s the drug? Where’s the product?”

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Christophe Weber, Takeda president and CEO (AP Images)

August 24, 2020 07:36 AM EDT

Take­da gets a $2.2B deal for its OTC unit as debt-re­lief dri­ve nears its end

Nicole DeFeudis

Associate Editor

In a big step toward its $10 billion divestment goal, Takeda struck a deal to sell its Japanese consumer healthcare business, known for over-the-counter products, to US private equity firm Blackstone Group.

Takeda Consumer Healthcare Company was priced at around ¥242 billion ($2.28 billion), though that value will be adjusted to account for net debt and working capital, according to Takeda.

The deal — expected to close by the end of March 2021 —is part of Takeda’s plan to shed $10 billion in non-core assets to balance out debt incurred in the company’s $62 billion Shire acquisition. The buyout made Takeda a top 10 international drug company, but also saddled it with a reported $48 billion in net debt. Following the acquisition, Takeda shifted its focus to the following five areas: gastroenterology (GI), rare diseases, plasma-derived therapies, oncology and neuroscience.

READ MORE:   Amazon employee at Seattle headquarters tests positive for coronavirus

August 24, 2020 07:04 AM EDTUpdated 11:03 AM

Covid-19 roundup: No­vavax be­gins PhII tri­al in US and Aus­tralia; As­traZeneca signs US man­u­fac­tur­ing deal with Catal­ent

Max Gelman

Associate Editor

Novavax is pushing forward with the Phase II portion of a Phase I/II trial for its vaccine in the US and Australia — this time putting the focus on older patients.

About 50% of participants enrolled in the Phase II portion are between the ages of 60 to 84, according to the US-based company. Novavax recently wrapped up the Phase I portion in Australia, and reported in a preprint that the candidate, NVX-CoV2373, elicited antibody responses greater than those seen in convalescent sera.

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President Trump listens as FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn speaks at the White House on Sunday August 23, 2020 (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

August 23, 2020 05:23 PM EDTUpdated 7 hours ago

Trump her­alds a ‘his­toric break­through’ in the R&D fight against Covid-19 — now comes the in­stant back­lash as the FDA pro­vides a con­tro­ver­sial as­sist

John Carroll

Editor & Founder

The president has unveiled his latest Trump card in the White House campaign to push through new drugs and vaccines for Covid-19 at a lightning pace.

In a breathlessly promoted press conference Sunday, Donald Trump heralded the use of blood plasma from Covid-19 survivors as a “historic breakthrough” in the war against the pandemic. The therapy, he acclaimed, without evidence, “will save countless lives,” going on to call plasma “a powerful therapy.”

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