Fierce Pharma Asia—Astellas' gene therapy ding; BeiGene, Novartis' PD-1 win; Serum Institute's unused COVID shots

Astellas took another big impairment from its gene therapy programs. Novartis and BeiGene's PD-1 inhibitor posted a survival win in esophageal cancer. AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing partner Serum Institute of India has halted production. And more.

1. Astellas takes $170M hit as DMD gene therapy plan unravels in wake of preclinical data

The gene therapy ambition Astellas laid out in its $3 billion acquisition of Audentes Therapeutics in 2019 didn’t pan out. After reviewing data, the Japanese pharma has scrapped development of three Duchenne muscular dystrophy programs and taken an impairment of $170 million. It adds on to the $540 million charge the company took a year ago on its lead candidate following patient deaths.

2. Novartis spotlights BeiGene-partnered cancer immunotherapy data to move it earlier in the treatment paradigm

While awaiting an FDA decision for what could be tislelizumab's first U.S. indication in previously treated esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), Novartis and BeiGene’s PD-1 drug returned positive phase 3 results in previously untreated patients. Adding the PD-1 inhibitor to chemotherapy helped frontline ESCC patients live significantly longer.

3. With 200M unused doses, AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine partner Serum Institute halts production

As demand for COVID-19 vaccines ebbs, Serum Institute of India has halted production after having accumulated a stockpile of 200 million doses. The company is partnered to make AstraZeneca’s shot, known as Covishield in India, and is a core supplier to the global distribution initiative COVAX. But poorer countries are now declining the shot.

4. AstraZeneca staves off last Tagrisso copycat with settlement—for now

AstraZeneca has settled a patent infringement lawsuit around its star lung cancer med Tagrisso. India’s Alembic Pharmaceuticals, the last of three generic holdouts, is now barred from selling its Tagrisso copy until the originator’s patents expire in the mid-2030s, “[e]xcept as specifically authorized,” a court document shows.

5. WuXi Advanced Therapies teams with Singapore group on cell therapy production tech

WuXi Advanced Therapies has partnered with Singapore’s A*STAR to expand the reach of the CDMO’s Tetracycline-Enabled Self-Silencing Adenovirus (TESSA) technology for cell and gene therapies in Asia Pacific. WuXi says its technology improves adeno-associated virus yields and particle quality compared with plasmid-based manufacturing.

6. Vivo Capital seeds new venture with $60M to take Arrowhead therapies to China

Vivo Capital is pouring $60 million into a joint venture with Arrowhead Pharma. The new company, called Visirna Therapeutics, will bring four of the U.S. biotech’s RNA interference therapies to China. Arrowhead has one phase 3 candidate, ARO-APOC3, under development for hypertriglyceridemia.

7. South Korean imaging AI developer Lunit outlines plans to go public

Artificial intelligence medtech startup Lunit has received a preliminary go-ahead for an IPO on the South Korean Kosdaq market. Founded in 2013, the company is developing AI products for analyzing tissues for cancer biomarkers as well as scanning X-ray images for common chest conditions.