Bio Roundup: Sage Postpartum Help, Biogen Bids Adu, Heart Beats & More

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the live cell therapy known as CAR-T, could also reveal results this year.

—Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Merck KgAA reported another failure of their immunotherapy avelumab (Bavencio) in ovarian cancer. FiercePharma has the details.

— Urovant Sciences (NASDAQ: UROV) reported that vibegron, an experimental treatment for overactive bladder, beat a placebo in Phase 3 testing. But vibregon didn’t best a generic competitor, and Urovant shares sank more than 21 percent.

—Emricasan, a potential treatment from Conatus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CNAT) for the fatty liver disease nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, failed a Phase 2b trial. But Conatus will continue the study and evaluate the treatment in “more advanced-stage” NASH patients, the company said in a statement.

—Shares of Dermira (NASDAQ: DERM) doubled after the Menlo Park, CA, biotech reported that lebrikizumab, its experimental atopic dermatitis drug, succeeded in a mid-stage study. If successful, the drug could pose a threat to dupilumab (Dupixent), a drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) and Sanofi (NYSE: SNY).

—Aerpio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARPO) reported that its lead drug, AKB-9778, failed a midstage study in diabetic retinopathy. Shares of the Cincinnati company tumbled more than 67 percent.


Flagship Pioneering closed a new $824 million fund, the second so-called Special Opportunities fund the firm has raised to help fuel its more mature startups.

—Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) continued to roll up gene therapy assets, paying $51 million for 15 percent of Parisian biotech Vivet Therapeutics, which is developing a gene therapy for Wilson’s disease. Pfizer also gained an option to buy Vivet in the future.

—Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) took a $700 million write-off for AL-8176, a one-time drug prospect for respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus that it acquired in its $1.75 billion buyout of Alios Biopharma in 2014. J&J wrote off $630 million for AL-8176 last year after halting clinical tests of the drug.

—Imara, a startup from accelerator Cydan Development, grabbed a $63 million Series B to back IMR-687, an experimental drug for sickle cell disease. Imara acquired IMR-687, which is currently in mid-stage testing, from Danish firm H. Lundbeck. Imara will test the drug in beta-thalassemia as well.

—Biohaven Pharmaceutical (NYSE: BHVN) is paying $105 million for a priority review voucher that it will use to speed up FDA review of rimegepant, its experimental oral migraine drug.

—Karuna Therapeutics closed a $68 million Series B round to continue developing an experimental drug called KarXT for neuropsychiatric disorders. KarXT is currently in Phase 2 testing.

—Merck (NYSE: MRK) and South San Francisco, CA-based NGM Bio have tacked two years onto their collaboration, which now expires in 2022. The highlight so far has been Merck’s license of NGM’s experimental treatment for the liver disease NASH. The lowlight was Merck’s return of obesity drug NGM386 and other so-called GDF15 receptor agonists after disappointing Phase 1 results.


—The program is coming together for our latest life-sciences event, “What’s Hot in Boston Biotech,” on May 21 in Cambridge, MA. We’ll be tackling the gene therapy boom, what’s next for Alzheimer’s research, diversity initiatives within biopharma, and more. You can grab tickets here.


— Watertown, MA-based Forma Therapeutics said longtime CEO Steve Tregay is stepping aside. His replacement is Frank Lee, a pharma veteran who most recently spent 13 years at Genentech.

—Corcept Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CORT) hired Andreas Grauer away from Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) to serve as chief medical officer.

—Hsaio Lieu, senior vice president of early clinical development at Genentech, joined NGM Biopharmaceuticals to become its chief medical officer.

Ben Fidler and Frank Vinluan contributed to this report.

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