Fierce Pharma Asia—Roche, Eisai's HER2 deals; Takeda's layoffs in the US

In separate HER2-focused licensing deals, Roche and Eisai bought drugs from Chinese companies. Takeda announced a plan to lay off 186 staffers across Massachusetts. EQRx, after scrapping its original business model, has returned three drugs it previously licensed from Chinese biotechs. And more.

1. Roche, with HER2 franchise under pressure, pays $70M for breast cancer brain metastases prospect

Roche, the HER2 pioneer, has in-licensed a HER2 drug from China’s Zion Pharma. For $70 million upfront and up to $610 million in milestones, Roche got Zion’s ZN-A-1041, a HER2-targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor that’s designed to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to potentially treat brain metastasis. The drug is currently in phase 1 testing.

2. Enher-tu, Eisai? Japanese drugmaker inks Bliss ADC deal to tee up challenge to AstraZeneca-Daiichi Sankyo blockbuster

In the second HER2-focused deal this week, Eisai inked a potential $2 billion deal with China’s Bliss Biopharmaceutical for a HER2 antibody-drug conjugate. This marks another example of a Chinese HER2 ADC making its way to a large pharma company. RemeGen sold its program to Seagen in 2021 in a deal potentially worth $2.6 billion. Last month, BioNTech bought two ADCs from Duality Biologics, including a HER2 candidate.

3. Takeda confirms fallout from gene therapy R&D refocus: up to 186 layoffs

Meanwhile, Takeda is cutting 186 jobs at the company’s various Massachusetts sites starting in July. They include 138 positions under the Takeda Development Centers America department and 48 within the Human Genetic Therapies unit. The company said there is "no plan for a company-wide reduction.”

4. EQRx abandons low cost drug plan, slashes programs down to one and cuts staff in 'reset'

EQRx has officially ditched its original plan to develop drugs at lower prices. After deprioritizing a PD-L1 inhibitor from CStone Pharmaceuticals, EQRx has now returned rights of the drug, sugemalimab, plus a PD-1 inhibitor nofazinlimab, back to the Chinese company. The U.S. biotech also nixed a deal with China’s Lynk Pharmaceuticals around the latter’s JAK-1 inhibitor, and it’s laying off 170 staffers.

5. Reata, Kyowa Kirin's bardoxolone faces the music after ph. 3 flop, ending 13-year saga

Kyowa Kirin and partner Reata are calling it quits on bardoxolone as a treatment for chronic kidney disease. The decision ended ended a decade-plus saga after early troubles way back in 2012. The decision came after a phase 3 trial in Japan returned lackluster results.

6. Samsung Galaxy Watch joins Apple Watch, Fitbit with FDA nod for afib-warning feature

The FDA has cleared Samsung’s Galaxy Watch to have a built-in feature that monitors for potential signs of atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeats. The device can send an alert if it detects consistent irregularities. Samsung said it will begin adding the feature to new models that are slated for release later this year before upgrading older systems. Apple Watch and Fitbit already have this function.