Sanofi backs immunotherapy hub, U.K. mulls its own 'breakthrough,' Allergy player banks £20M

Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly EuroBiotech Report. This week, Marseille made a pitch to turn its rich history of immunity research into a seat at the top table of immunotherapy R&D. Sanofi ($SNY) and Innate Pharma have signed up as founders of the lab at the center of the push, which hopes to turn scientific hypotheses into preclinically validated, licensing-ready research programs. A panel in the United Kingdom has similar topics on its mind. The government put former civil service bigwig Sir Hugh Johnson in charge of the review and tasked him with assessing what the U.K. can learn from the FDA's "breakthrough" designation. A pair of British research programs reported positive news. Allergy Therapeutics moved to raise £20 million ($30 million) to finance its U.S. clinical development program, eight years after the FDA stymied its progress by hitting Pollinex Quattro Grass with a clinical hold. Some 60 miles away in London, a team of academics celebrated snagging £2 million to move their stem cell-gene therapy lung cancer drug into the clinic. Alcobra's ($ADHD) week was more of a mixed bag. The Israeli biotech trumpeted the safety and tolerability of its drug MDX in a Phase II pediatric attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but its failure to outperform the placebo soured the situation. And more. Nick Taylor (email | Twitter)

1. Sanofi backs pitch to turn Marseille into an immunotherapy R&D hub

The French city of Marseille has staked its claim for a corner of the booming immunotherapy R&D ecosystem. And the plan has some big-name backers, with Sanofi and Innate Pharma both signing up as founders of the MI-mAbs immunotherapy research center in the city.

2. U.K. looks to FDA 'breakthrough' status for inspiration in regulatory revamp

The United Kingdom government has established the scope of the hotly anticipated review into the development and reimbursement of drugs. And the independent panel is being tasked with looking beyond the U.K.'s borders for inspiration, with an analysis of what can be learnt from the U.S. FDA's "breakthrough" designation on its to-do list.

3. Allergy Therapeutics raises £20M to bounce back from 5-year clinical hold

Allergy Therapeutics has turned to public investors for £20 million ($30 million) to move its subcutaneous immunotherapy allergy vaccine through late-phase development. The cash will fund Allergy Therapeutics' attempt to bounce back from the 5-year clinical hold of its U.S. trial program.

4. U.K. academics move cell-gene lung cancer therapy into clinic

A team of London-based academics is set to trial a stem cell-delivered gene therapy in patients with lung cancer. The 56-person trial is the first time a stem cell-gene therapy combination has been tested in humans in the U.K.

5. Alcobra misses efficacy endpoint in ADHD trial

Alcobra's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug MDX has failed to statistically outperform the placebo in a Phase II trial. The outcome meant the trial missed its secondary efficacy endpoint, but Alcobra did its best to talk up the significance of the positive safety data.

And more >>