GeneOnline’s Weekly News Highlights: July 24-28

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GeneOnline’s editorial team has compiled a digest of top international biotechnology and healthcare news of the week to help readers keep abreast of global biomedical industry updates.

Biogen Makes Big Moves in July, with Cost-Cutting Program and Major Acquisition

Biogen, a company renowned for developing drugs for neurological disorders, made two major announcements in the previous week. First, on July 25, the company announced its Q2 financial results and stated that it would launch a cost-cutting program to reduce $700 million in operating costs by 2025. Then on July 28, Biogen announced that it has reached a definitive agreement with Texas-based Reata Pharmaceuticals, under which Biogen has agreed to acquire Reata for $172.50 per share in cash, reflecting an enterprise value of approximately $7.3 billion.

BIO Asia-Taiwan 2023: Global Biotech Development 

Co-organized by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and the Taiwan Bio Industry Organization (Taiwan BIO), 2023 BIO Asia-Taiwan was successfully held at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center from 26 to 30 July. With the theme of “Embracing Asian Dynamics”, this annual event for the Asian biotech industry boasted a scale of exhibition and conference that surpassed the pre-COVID-19 level, culminating in a record-breaking level of international participation. In addition to exhibitors from 19 countries, a total of 22 sessions of international forums were held during the event, attracting biotech professionals from more than 30 countries. 

New Over-the-Counter Naloxone Spray Approved by FDA 

On July 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the second nonprescription naloxone product, RiVive. RiVive is a 3 milligram naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. The approval of this over-the-counter product comes at a great time as the opioid epidemic in the U.S. worsens and there is a steep rise in the use of fentanyl. The approval represents a further step by the FDA to improve accessibility to opioid overdose reversal products as well as prevent overdose and exposure to opioids.

Alexion Acquires Pfizer’s Rare Disease Therapies

Alexion, AstraZeneca’s Rare Disease group, announced on July 28 that it has entered into an agreement to acquire preclinical gene therapy programs from Pfizer. According to the agreement, Alexion will be purchasing and licensing assets from Pfizer’s rare disease gene therapy portfolio. Part of this portfolio includes novel adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsids that are effective mechanisms to deliver gene therapies. The deal is valued at up to $1 billion, which includes tiered royalties on future sales, and is set to close in the third quarter of 2023. The acquisition will strengthen Alexion’s genomic medicines and enhance their platforms for broad therapeutic applications.

Merck and Moderna Commence Phase 3 Trials for their Melanoma Vaccine 

On July 26, Merck (known as MSD outside of the U.S. and Canada) and Moderna announced the initiation of their phase 3 trials for their cancer vaccine, mRNA-4157, for the treatment of high-risk melanoma. The study is being carried out in combination with Keytruda. MRNA-4157 is an individualized neoantigen therapy (INT) that consists of a single synthetic mRNA that is designed to be based on the patient’s tumor. The trial is set to be a double-blind, randomized study that will combine mRNA-4157 with Keytruda. I will study the efficacy and safety of the therapy. Global recruitment for the trial has begun, and it will enroll about 1,089 patients in 25 countries. 

EVYD Technology and A*STAR Launch $8M Joint AI Research Lab to Revolutionize Healthcare Solutions

EVYD Technology and Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have joined forces to establish a cutting-edge AI research lab focused on population health and digital health advancements. The collaboration aims to leverage the power of AI to enhance healthcare solutions and positively impact patient outcomes. The A*STAR-EVYD Joint Lab will tackle various healthcare challenges, including developing a health domain data collection and wellness score to promote healthy habits,

Revolutionizing Anticancer Therapy with Click Chemistry 

Researchers at UCL and Stanford University have  developed an anti-cancer therapy using “click chemistry”. They were able to create a three component therapy that targets cancer cells. This new approach of using click chemistry for developing cancer immunotherapies opens up new possibilities for future therapeutic advancements.

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