Global Pharma Briefs: News from Asia, Europe, and the US

A roundup of news from Germany (Evotec, Secarna Pharmaceuticals, CureVac), Japan (Teva, Takeda), and the US (Astellas, Sorrento Therapeutics, and SRI Biosciences).


Evotec, Secarna Pharmaceuticals in Pact for Antisense Oligonucleotides
Evotec, a Hamburg, Germany-based drug-discovery and development company, and Secarna Pharmaceuticals, a Marburg, Germany-based antisense drug-discovery company, have entered into a strategic partnership for antisense oligonucleotide-based therapeutics.

With their framework agreement, Evotec and Secarna have initiated a long-term platform collaboration for a number of targets and indications. The first program has been identified, and the companies say they are progressing toward the establishment of a pipeline of co-owned antisense oligonucleotide therapies. The partnership creates an opportunity for biotech and pharmaceutical companies to enter the field of antisense therapeutics by partnering with Evotec and Secarna and to gain access to the companies’ co-owned pipeline through individual deal structures.

Source: Evotec

CureVac Names CEO and Chief Scientific Officer
CureVac, a Tubingen, Germany-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) therapeutics, has announced that Dr. Franz-Werner Haas, previously Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO), has been appointed CEO of the company.

Before Dr. Haas joined CureVac in June 2012, he worked as Vice President of Operations and Chief Compliance Officer of SYGNIS Pharma, a Heidelberg, Germany-based specialty pharmaceutical company, where he was responsible for the execution of mergers and acquisitions and capital market transactions. Dr. Haas started his professional career as an assistant to the management of a privately held holding company before assuming several management positions in the life-sciences industry, including Vice President and General Counsel of Lion Bioscience, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based provider of bio- and cheminformatics software products and services, and General Counsel of Sirona Dental Systems, a Long Island City, New York-headquartered dental manufacturer.

In addition to the appointment of Dr. Haas as CEO, CureVac has announced that Igor Splawski, PhD, joins the executive team as Chief Scientific Officer with immediate effect. In this role, he will be responsible for leading CureVac’s mRNA biology research.

Dr. Splawski comes to CureVac from the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), where he served for two years as Executive Director and Site Head of the NIBR Biologics Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Splawski was an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School from 2005 to 2008 and has a PhD in human genetics from the University of Utah. He is an inventor on 26 patents and an author of 22 research publications.

Source: CureVac


Teva, Takeda Divesting Majority of Japanese Generics JV
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Takeda Pharmaceuticals are divesting a majority of their generics joint venture in Japan to Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical, a Toyama, Japan-headquartered generic-drug company.

The companies had announced the joint venture in 2015 and formally launched the joint venture in April 2016 with a focus on generic drugs in Japan. They are now divesting the majority of the joint venture’s generic and operational assets to Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical. The transaction is expected to close by early 2021.

The joint venture will retain approximately 20 generic-drug molecules and several pipeline assets as well as its portfolio of authorized generics, long-listed products (i.e., off-patent brand name products), and specialty assets.

Source: Teva Pharmaceuticals


Astellas, LabCentral Partner to Assist Biotech Start-ups
Astellas Venture Management (AVM), a wholly owned venture capital subsidiary of Astellas Pharma, and LabCentral, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based provider of shared laboratory space, have formed a collaboration, the Golden Ticket Competition, to provide entrepreneurial scientists or emerging biotechnology start-ups one-year usage of LabCentral’s facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts and access to Astellas’ R&D capabilities and business leaders.

Companies awarded an Astellas Golden Ticket will gain one year’s priority admission or renewal to LabCentral’s laboratory and access to Astellas’ R&D scientists and business leaders. The competition opened July 23, 2020 and runs through August 21, 2020.

Astellas is offering up to two Golden Tickets for scientists with research that complements Astellas’ areas of therapeutic interest, including oncology, immunology/allergy, neuromuscular disorders, sensory disorders, and neuroscience.

Last year (2019), Astellas agreed to invest nearly $13 million into two innovation incubators operated by LabCentral: $12.5 million into a new incubator, slated to be operational in 2021, and $450,000 into LabCentral’s current incubator in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Source: Astellas

Sorrento Therapeutics To Acquire SmartPharm Therapeutics
Sorrento Therapeutics, a San Diego-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, has signed a letter of intent to acquire SmartPharm Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company developing non-viral gene therapies. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Sorrento and SmartPharm previously formed a R&D collaboration to encode and express in vivo Sorrento’s proprietary SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) neutralizing monoclonal antibodies using SmartPharm’s Gene Mab plasmid nanoparticle platform. SmartPharm’s Gene Mab platform delivers to muscles a low-immunogenic DNA plasmid encoded with a therapeutic antibody for expression in vivo.

Sorrento says it plans to accelerate the development of multiple candidates for in vivo gene-encoded expression of its antibodies, starting with STI-1499, or COVI-GUARD, a treatment against COVID-19, which is currently moving through preclinical and manufacturing requirements with an investigational new drug (IND) application targeted for submission in August 2020. If clinical trials are successful, a single administration of STI-1499 could allow a recipient’s own muscle cells to produce the antibody for a prolonged period of time after a single injection, thereby potentially providing extended protection against COVID-19 for periods of time that might provide an alternative to vaccines, according to information from Sorrento. Manufacturing of DNA plasmids (in bacterial fermenters) can be done with Sorrento’s in-house manufacturing capabilities.

Source: Sorrento Therapeutics

SRI Biosciences Gets $100-M US Gov’t Contract for Radiation/Nuclear R&D
SRI International, a Menlo Park, California-based non-profit research institute, has been awarded a contract of up to $100 million from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to support the research and development of radiation/nuclear medical countermeasures (MCMs).

SRI Biosciences, a division of SRI International, will provide facilities, expertise, and capabilities to advance the development of MCMs for the mitigation or treatment of acute radiation syndromes as well as for the treatment of the delayed effects from acute radiation exposure (ARS/DEARE) and internal radionuclide contamination. SRI researchers will also support NIAID’s ongoing biodosimetry efforts.

Under the seven-year contract, SRI Biosciences will provide supportive services to NIAID’s Radiation and Nuclear Medical Countermeasures Program to advance the development of candidate MCMs, including biodosimetric approaches to determine radiation exposure. SRI will perform research and development studies to advance candidate MCMs toward eventual US Food and Drug Administration approval or licensure for ARS or DEARE, as well as provide the administrative foundation to facilitate and coordinate these activities in partnership with the NIAID.

SRI Biosciences has a previous contract to develop treatments for the effects of radiation exposure with the NIH and NIAID that ends in August 2020. The newly awarded contract is an extension of this collaborative efforts with NIAID.

Source: SRI Biosciences

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