After shunning public attention for more than a year, cancer immunotherapy startup Flexus Biosciences is ready for the limelight now that it is headed toward the clinic, has banked its first two venture rounds totaling $38 million and boasts impressive management, board and advisory rosters.
Immunocore has struck another cancer R&D pact with one of the world's top drugmakers, signing a deal with Eli Lilly that'll both bring in short-term revenue and help the biotech build value in its proprietary pipeline.
Today, Roche put out the word that their PD-L1 drug MPDL3280A won the FDA's coveted breakthrough therapy designation, potentially putting it on an inside track at the agency, which has been hurrying along new medicines in the pipeline.
MD Anderson's popular "moon-shot" immuno-oncology research project has won over another big industry player looking to play catch-up in the hottest race in cancer drug R&D. AstraZeneca's biologics arm, MedImmune, has become the latest Big Pharma player to join a team that has already attracted Pfizer and J&J.
What should we make of the heavy, some would say unhealthy, concentration of drug R&D in certain hot categories like oncology and inflammation?
At Merck, the already giant-sized hope that its cancer immunotherapy program for the PD-1 drug MK-3475 represents just swelled significantly in importance. Just ahead of its 2013 earnings report Wednesday, the pharma giant announced plans to tie up with a trio of major league biopharma partners to launch a whole new slate of combination studies that could significantly extend its reach in the oncology market.
One of Pfizer's top late-stage prospects is its cancer drug palbociclib, an oral inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) 4 and 6 that the FDA put in its first group of therapies awarded their "breakthrough" drug designation. But Pfizer is not the only Big Pharma company to view the CDK 4/6 pathway as a likely goldmine in oncology. Novartis has now started a slate of Phase I studies of LEE011, which its researchers are touting as a best-in-class contender.
Over the past two years Bayer has snagged an impressive string of key approvals for cancer and cardiovascular drugs--a much better record than many of its larger Big Pharma rivals. And today the pharma player is rolling out its slate of the next top drug prospects being groomed for late-stage pipeline work.
Researchers have posted early-stage data demonstrating that Roche's PD-L1 drug MPDL3280A--which takes the blinders off the immune system to spur an attack on cancer--scored a hopeful 26% response rate among a small group of non-small cell lung cancer patients who smoked.
In the deal AstraZeneca is paying Merck $50 million upfront and a slate of undisclosed milestones to bring in MK-1775, a WEE1 inhibitor that Merck took up because of its potential to spur repeated cell division, offering a new way to destroy cancer cells.