Fierce Pharma Asia—Novartis, Legend's CAR-T deal; Astellas' busy week; Ajinomoto's $620M purchase

Novartis inked a solid tumor CAR-T deal with Legend Biotech. In a busy week for Astellas, the Japanese pharma is buying a biotech, working to understand the deaths in its gene therapy trial and partnering up to drive drug discovery. Ajinomoto will buy a gene therapy CDMO. And more.

1. Novartis pays Legend $100M upfront to give solid tumor CAR-T the T-Charge treatment

Carvykti developer Legend Biotech has signed another CAR-T deal with a Big Pharma company. For $100 million upfront, Legend has sold to Novartis a portfolio of CAR-T candidates targeting DLL3. The Swiss pharma may use its T-Charge platform to enhance Legend’s program. One of the candidates in the deal, an autologous therapy coded LB2102, would be the first application of T-Charge on solid tumors.

2. Astellas pays $175M for Propella, clearing early-phase rival to J&J's Zytiga for takeoff

Astellas is paying $175 million to acquire Propella Therapeutics, which boasts a platform that combines medicinal chemistry with lymphatic targeting to create new cancer drugs. The biotech’s lead candidate is a long-acting prodrug version of Johnson & Johnson’s prostate cancer therapy Zytiga, a competitor to Astellas’ Pfizer-partnered Xtandi. The anti-androgen therapy is expected to enter phase 2a next year.

3. In analysis of gene therapy deaths, Astellas points to underlying liver issues

Astellas has offered details of the four deaths in a clinical trial of its X-linked myotubular myopathy gene therapy AT132. The four patients had cholestatic liver failure at the time of death. The liver toxicities appeared to have stemmed from a mechanism that’s different from those seen by other gene therapies. The ASPIRO trial remains on an FDA clinical hold.

4. Astellas partners with University of Tsukuba to accelerate drug discovery (Release)

Astellas has officially signed a strategic partnership with the University of Tsukuba. The two groups will work together to promote drug discovery using artificial intelligence and digital technologies. They will foster startups at the SakuLab-Tsukuba innovation hub at Astellas’ research center, according to a release.

5. CDMO Ajinomoto forges ahead with Forge Biologics in $620M acquisition

Ajinomoto shelled out $620 million to acquire Forge Biologics to beef up its gene therapy offerings. The Japanese CDMO will take over a 200,000-square-foot facility and about 300 staffers in Columbus, Ohio. Forge was founded in 2020 to focus on viral vector and plasmid products for gene therapies.

6. Takeda scores second FDA approval this week with green light for rare blood clotting disorder drug Adzynma

Takeda’s Adzynma has become the first drug approved by the FDA to treat congenital thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. The rare blood clotting disorder is marked by a mutation in the ADAMTS13 gene, which makes an enzyme that regulates blood clotting. Adzynma is a protein replacement therapy, and it’s approved to prevent symptoms or be used on demand during an acute event.

Other News of Note

7. FDA rules Otsuka marketing claim overstates Rexulti efficacy, threatening cornerstone of huge TV push

8. Chemo drug makes Daiichi Sankyo ADC more effective against aggressive prostate cancer in mice

9. Amid shortage, Accord Healthcare restarts production of cancer drug cisplatin