20 January 2020


  • Big pharma failing to invest in new antibiotics, says WHO – The Guardian
  • GSK and gene profiling group 23andMe set out aims – Financial Times
  • AstraZeneca to invest $500m in France over five years – Bloomberg
  • Cervical cancer is on its way to being eliminated – The Times
  • AstraZeneca treatments win orphan FDA status in liver cancer – Bloomberg
  • Judge slashes $8bn Risperdal award against Johnson & Johnson to $6.8m – Reuters
  • Open Orphan: Completion of merger with hVIVO and re-admission
  • Diurnal: Business and trading update
  • Momentum growing with Scancell antibody platform as third agreement signed
  • Destiny Pharma: Positive update on the development of new XF‐platform drug formulations
  • EPA dilutes plan on cancer-causing steriliser after FDA protest – Bloomberg Law
  • Novo Nordisk’s diabetes pill Rybelsus to be covered by Express Scripts – Reuters
  • Top trending life science tweets
Sarah Boseley at The Guardian writes that big pharma continues to walk away from investment in new antibiotics and there are alarmingly few useful new drugs in the pipeline to deal with the worsening crisis of antibiotic resistance, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The director general of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said “numerous initiatives are under way to reduce resistance, but we also need countries and the pharmaceutical industry to step up and contribute with sustainable funding and innovative new medicines.” The Guardian

Hannah Kuchler and Sarah Neville at the Financial Times write that GlaxoSmithKline expects its partnership with consumer genetics testing company 23andMe to have selected its first drug target and launched a clinical trial by the end of the year. Emma Walmsley, CEO of the UK drugmaker, said the $300m deal would improve the productivity of research and development, with 23andMe providing genetic information and a way to eventually reach potential trial participants. They have not yet revealed the disease the first drug will be designed to treat. Financial Times

Ania Nussbaum at Bloomberg writes that AstraZeneca will announce a five-year, $500m investment in France on Monday, on the sidelines of the government’s “Choose France” event to promote business in the country. It includes $230m through 2025 to help build a stand-alone assembly line and two assembly and packaging lines and modernisation of existing equipment, which could create around 100 highly skilled jobs. The Dunkirk site focuses on the development and manufacturing of inhaled products to help treat asthma. Bloomberg

Kaya Burgess at The Times writes that cervical cancer can be eliminated in this country thanks to advances in screening and vaccination, the NHS has declared. It is the first time the NHS has said that a form of cancer can be beaten to the extent that cases become extremely rare. A more sensitive and reliable form of cervical cancer screening has already been introduced for all women who undergo smear tests in England. This has combined with the development of a vaccine against the virus that is known to cause almost all cases of the disease. The Times

John Lauerman at Bloomberg writes that two AstraZeneca cancer drugs received orphan status for the treatment of liver cancer, a designation that may eventually speed progress to approval. The US Food and Drug Administration granted the special status reserved for rare conditions to Imfinzi, a lung cancer treatment, and tremelimumab, which has been tested in a combination in a variety of cancers, AstraZeneca said. Astra has been pulling out all the stops to get new drugs to market in cancer, one of the most lucrative segments of the pharma market. Bloomberg

Jonathan Stempel at Reuters writes that a Pennsylvania judge slashed to $6.8m from $8bn a punitive damages award against Johnson & Johnson for allegedly failing to warn men that they could grow breasts by using its antipsychotic drug Risperdal. The decision by the judge to reduce punitive damages for the plaintiff Nicholas Murray followed a jury’s imposition of the original award on 8 October. No reason was immediately given for the reduction, which was disclosed in court records. Both sides pledged to appeal. Reuters

Open Orphan has announced the completion of its merger with hVIVO. Trevor Phillips, CEO of Open Orphan commented: “We now have an industry leading team with the ability to generate substantial revenue growth and profitability, delivering the leadership’s vision to create a successful European full pharma services company. With the now complementary and wider specialist CRO services offering, it gives us the opportunity to generate substantially larger revenues and over the full-time course of the customer relationship.” Open Orphan

Diurnal today provides a trading update for the six months ended 31 December 2019. Alkindi revenues for the six months ended 31 December 2019 were £1.1m, compared to £0.2m for the six months ended 31 December 2018 (year on year growth of c. 450%). Martin Whitaker, CEO, said: “Diurnal starts 2020 in a strong position, with regulatory submissions completed during 2019 for Alkindi in the US, Israel and Australia and for Chronocort in Europe. We are pleased that Alkindi revenues continue to grow strongly and look forward to further launches in 2020.” Diurnal

Scancell today announces that it has signed a collaboration and non-exclusive research agreement with a US-based, clinical stage antibody company to assess monoclonal antibodies targeting tumour-associated glycans including those that have been enhanced with Scancell’s proprietary AvidiMab technology. Cliff Holloway, CEO, commented: “This is another important collaboration for Scancell and illustrates the future value that this third platform could potentially generate for the Company.” Scancell

Destiny Pharma announced the completion of the initial phase of its project with MedPharm to develop new topical formulations of the Company’s novel XF‐platform drugs. The project has identified a range of new, stable XF formulations with promising drug release profiles and scope for delivery of XF drugs designed to treat dermal and ocular infections. These formulations will form the basis of XF drug delivery for Destiny Pharma’s pre-clinical and clinical programmes and treatments for both acute and chronic infections. Destiny Pharma

Elliott Dube at Bloomberg Law writes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has watered down its request to find out more about how companies use ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment after the US Food and Drug Administration claimed jurisdiction over the use of the cancer-causing chemical. The EPA had asked whether it would be possible for medical sterilisation facilities to use low volumes of ethylene oxide on equipment in order to minimise airborne emissions of the toxic chemical. Bloomberg Law

Stine Jacobsen at Reuters writes that Novo Nordisk‘s new diabetes pill, Rybelsus, will be covered by Express Scripts, one of the largest US pharmacy benefit managers, the Danish drugmaker said. Pharmacy benefit managers act as middlemen in the drug supply chain, and negotiate discounts on drugs on behalf of health insurers. Express Scripts is part of US health benefits manager Cigna. Depending on the discounts drugmakers are willing to provide, pharmacy benefits managers make decisions about which drugs to include in coverage plans. Reuters

Upcoming events

  • World Stem Cell Summit, Miami (20-24 January)
  • LSX World Congress, London (2-5 February)
  • International Conference on PharmScience Research & Development 2019, Paris (4-5 February)
  • 2020 Healthcare Policy Symposium, New York (10-11 February)
  • 15th Annual Biomarkers Congress, Manchester (18-20 February)