EuroBiotech Report—Lilly, CureVac in $1.8B deal, Brexit hits AstraZeneca’s hiring, uniQure’s gamble, savolitinib and InflaRx

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Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly EuroBiotech Report. We start this week in Germany, where CureVac’s move to step up its business development activities paid off to the tune of a $1.8 billion deal with Eli Lilly. The agreement moves Lilly into the mRNA sector. AstraZeneca’s money has already bought it a spot in the field. The Anglo-Swedish company’s problem is its money can’t always get it the staff it wants. Some EU nationals are turning AstraZeneca down amid uncertainty about their right to live and work in the U.K. after Brexit. UniQure changed its lead candidate mid-development to close the efficacy gap on hemophilia B gene therapy rival Spark Therapeutics. AstraZeneca shared data on MET tyrosine kinase inhibitor savolitinib. InflaRx raised $55 million. And more—Nick Taylor  

1. Lilly, CureVac pen $1.8B mRNA cancer vaccine deal

Eli Lilly is putting up $1.8 billion (€1.5 billion) to work with CureVac on five mRNA cancer vaccines. The back-loaded deal moves Lilly into an emerging field that seeks to use mRNA to guide immune attacks on tumors. 

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2. AstraZeneca EVP: Brexit is hindering our hiring

People are turning down jobs at AstraZeneca because of uncertainty about their right to stay in the United Kingdom after Brexit, according to Mene Pangalos. The AstraZeneca EVP said the ongoing lack of clarity about what will happen to Europeans in the U.K. after March 2019 is leading some scientists to opt for jobs in other countries. 

3. UniQure tweaks hemophilia B gene therapy ahead of 2018 pivotal trial

UniQure has modified its hemophilia B gene therapy to dial up factor IX activity to the levels achieved by Spark Therapeutics’ rival product. The mid-development tweaks have the blessing of regulators, enabling uniQure to start a pivotal trial next year with its fast-track statuses intact.

4. AstraZeneca builds case for adding savolitinib to Iressa, Tagrisso

AstraZeneca has posted preliminary phase 1b/2 data on the use of savolitinib in combination with Iressa or Tagrisso. Adding the MET tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) to the approved drugs triggered partial responses in a significant minority of NSCLC patients who had progressed after treatment with an EGFR-TKI.

5. InflaRx snags $55M for inflammatory, autoimmune trials

InflaRx has raised $55 million (€47 million) in a new funding round. The series D follows fast after InflaRx established the potential of its anti-human complement factor C5a monoclonal antibody IFX-1 with phase 2a data. 

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