18 May 2022

Summary

  • Merck acquires global rights to cancer drug from Kelun in $1.4bn deal – BioWorld
  • Evotec, Sernova team up to develop functional cure for type 1 diabetes – BioWorld
  • Covid-19: US FDA authorises Pfizer’s Covid-19 booster shot for young children – Reuters
  • Covid-19: African leaders urge global vaccine body to buy locally made Covid-19 jabs – Financial Times
  • Atlas-backed Remix adds $70m Series B, building on J&J deal – BioCentury
  • Nouscom unveils Janssen deal as lead cancer vaccine cleared for trials – BioWorld
  • Pfizer, Sarepta team with fellow DMD gene therapy makers to get to the bottom of adverse events – FierceBiotech
  • Hospitals cancel medical scans because of dye shortage – The Wall Street Journal
Doris Yu of BioWorld reports that in a deal potentially worth more than $1.4bn,  Sichuan Kelun Pharmaceutical has out-licensed a large molecule drug in cancer to Merck for development and commercialisation outside mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Neither Kelun nor Merck disclosed what the drug is, but industry insiders expect it to be the antibody-drug conjugate SKB-264, one of the most advanced candidates in Kelun’s pipeline.
BioWorld >>
Cormac Sheridan of BioWorld reports that Evotec and Sernova are joining forces in a bid to develop a functional cure for type 1 diabetes. The companies plan to file an IND early in 2024 for a combined cell therapy and medical device product comprising of Evotec’s human beta cells, derived from the company’s induced pluripotent stem cell platform, and Sernova’s cell pouch delivery system. The two companies will pursue preclinical development on a shared-cost basis. 
BioWorld >>
Manas Mishra and Michael Erman of Reuters report that the US FDA has authorised the use of a booster shot of Pfizer and BioNTech‘s Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, making everyone in the US over the age of 5 eligible for a third shot. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to sign off on the shots before they can be administered. The US government has been pushing for eligible Americans to get boosters in the face of data that shows vaccine immunity wanes over time.
Reuters >>
Oliver Barnes of the Financial Times reports that African leaders have called on the organisation in charge of procurement for the Covax vaccine sharing scheme to commit to buying at least 30% of all Covid-19 jabs produced on the continent, as the future of Africa’s biggest manufacturing facility hangs in the balance. Covid-19 vaccine production at the Aspen Pharmacare facility in South Africa ground to a halt in late March because of a drop-off in demand, putting its future in doubt and threatening to undermine African Union plans to increase local jab production.
Financial Times >>
Paul Bonanos of BioCentury reports that Remix Therapeutics’ new $70m Series B round brings a crossover investor into the fold, bringing the start-up’s total capitalisation to nearly $200m since its 2019 inception. The cash extends the runway for the company as it advances its preclinical pipeline of small molecules designed to alter how cellular complexes process RNA while circumventing some tissue distribution challenges of RNAi and antisense approaches. Remix has yet to name any candidates in its own pipeline, but has said it will explore oncology, rare diseases and CNS disorders.
BioCentury >>
Nuala Moran of BioWorld reports that off-the-shelf cancer vaccine specialist Nouscom has taken the wraps off a multiproject agreement with Janssen, after the lead candidate received US FDA approval to enter clinical trials. The viral vector-delivered vaccine, VAC-85135, is for an unspecified oncologic indication. After co-discovery of the relevant neoantigens, Janssen now has sole responsibility for clinical development of the product, while Nouscom is handling process development and manufacturing.
BioWorld >>
Annalee Armstrong of FierceBiotech reports that PfizerSareptaGenethon and Solid Biosciences have teamed up for a pooled safety analysis of gene therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The companies shared clinical and laboratory data and put together a panel of experts to take a look with the goal of minimising further medical complications. The collaborative approach was “instrumental” in helping quickly identify an anti-transgene mechanism and the risk factors that could lead to the adverse events in patients.
FierceBiotech >>
Peter Loftus of The Wall Street Journal reports that China’s Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns have led to a shortage of a dye widely used in medical scans, prompting US hospitals to ration supplies, postpone procedures or switch to less optimal imaging. The shortage arose in recent weeks for iodinated contrast media products including Omnipaque, made by General Electric’s GE Healthcare unit in Shanghai. Omnipaque is given by intravenous injection to patients before imaging procedures to make internal organs, blood and vessels more visible in procedures such as CT scans.
The Wall Street Journal >>

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