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Blackstone wants in on red-hot immunology market

The need-to-know this morning

  • Biogen and Ionis Pharmaceuticals are ending their development of an experimental drug for ALS based on results of a Phase 1/2 trial.
  • Johnson & Johnson said it will acquire Proteologix, a privately-held biotech focused on immune-mediated diseases, for $850 million with potential for additional milestone payments.
  • Novartis said it’s met all tender offer conditions to acquire German biotech Morphosys.

Roche shares up on early obesity results

The Swiss pharma company reported this morning that its recently acquired obesity drug led to a placebo-adjusted weight loss of 18.8% in a 24-week Phase 1 trial.

(For context, in Phase 3 trials lasting over a year, the difference in weight loss between Wegovy and placebo was 12.4 percentage points, and in the Zepbound trial, it was 17.8 percentage points. It’s difficult to compare across trials, though, especially across different development stages.)

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The Roche drug, called CT-388, activates receptors of the GLP-1 and GIP hormones, utilizing a similar mechanism as Eli Lilly’s Zepbound. Roche got this asset in its $2.7 billion acquistion of Carmot Therapeutics last year.

Roche said that side effects were consistent with other drugs in the class, but did not disclose specific rates of adverse events like nausea and vomiting.

Read more from STAT’s Drew Joseph.

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WuXi steps up efforts to fight China bill

Executives of WuXi Biologics have now registered to lobby Congress, as legislators move along a bill that would prevent certain Chinese biotechs from doing business in the U.S.

The bill, called the BIOSECURE Act, would prohibit the U.S. government from contracting with, or providing grants to, companies that do business with Chinese “biotechnology companies of concern.” It specifically lists WuXi.

BIO, the biotech industry’s main trade group, supports the bill but has warned that it would jeopardize the drug supply for millions of American patients if passed in its current form, since many U.S. drugmakers rely on Chines firms to manufacture medicines.

Read more from STAT’s John Wilkerson.

It’s Lilly vs. Novo again, but not on GLP-1s

It’s not really in headlines anymore, but both these companies do still make insulin. Lilly today reported that its experimental weekly insulin, efsitora alfa, worked as well as daily insulin products in two late-stage studies.

Lilly has three more Phase 3 studies on this drug that are expected to read out later this year. If they’re all positive, that sets up efsitora to compete with the weekly insulin that Novo is developing, called icodec.

Weekly insulin would be more convenient to take and match up well for type 2 diabetes patients already taking weekly GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro. But some patients, particularly type 1 patients, might want insulins with shorter-lasting effects that they can use more flexibly.

Read more from me.

Galapagos opens up shop next door

CAR-T maker Galapagos announced a deal yesterday with the Blood Centers of America to open up dozens of sites around the country to manufacture its cell-based medicines.

CAR-Ts are potent cancer treatments, but they’re complicated to make. Immune cells have to be removed from a patient, shipped to specialty sites, where they’re engineered with cancer-killing abilities, and then returned to the hospital for infusion back into patients. The process, which can take weeks if not months, has put a crunch on the number of patients companies have been able to reach.

Though many other companies (such as Gilead, Bristol Myers Squibb, J&J)  are further ahead in the CAR-T field, Galapagos is banking on this new deal to shorten the manufacturing turnaround time and differentiate itself.

Read more from Drew.

Blackstone wants in on red-hot immunology market

Blackstone Life Sciences said yesterday it’s committing up to $300 million to launch a new immunology and inflammation-focused company called Uniquity Bio.

Uniquity will soon start Phase 2 trials for its drug solrikitug, a monoclonal antibody targeting TSLP, in COPD and asthma.

Blackstone sees this as a rapidly growing area, citing projections that the global immunology and inflammation market could grow from $98 billion in 2023 to $257 billion in 2032. It follows other firms that have been clamoring to invest in immunology-focused biotechs this year.

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