Fierce Pharma Asia—Takeda's cancer drug woes; Merck's 2nd Kelun ADC deal; Astellas' cell and gene therapy hub

Takeda's oncology department has been hit hard thanks to U.S. generic entry to Velcade and other problems. Merck signs a near-$1 billion deal with Kelun Biotech for the Chinese biotech's antibody-drug conjugate program. Astellas is investing in a new campus that can bring its scattered Bay Area operations together. And more.

1. Takeda pulls Exkivity lung cancer app in EU as Velcade generics cost oncology franchise dearly

Takeda cuts ties to cancer drug landed in $120M Turnstone deal

Takeda’s oncology department suffered miserably in the past quarter. Blood cancer drug Velcade, which was the oncology franchise’s top-selling product, saw sales drop over 50% at constant currencies thanks to U.S. generic entries starting in May. The company also pulled a European application for EGFR exon 20 lung cancer drug Exkivity after regulators indicated it would need more data. On the pipeline side, Takeda returned the rights to oncolytic virus TAK-605 to Turnstone Biologics, which at least got $120 million in an upfront payment when the deal was signed in late 2019.

2. Merck strikes 2nd ADC deal with Kelun-Biotech, paying $35M for rights to unnamed asset

Merck has signed a second antibody-drug conjugate deal with China’s Kelun Biotech in just two months. The New Jersey pharma has shelled out $35 million to obtain exclusive rights and committed up to $901 million in milestones for the candidate, although the target remains unclear. Kelun also disclosed TROP2 as the target of a previous ADC deal with Merck signed in May.

3. Astellas spends $70M on Bay Area gene therapy hub, bringing R&D work under one wing

Astellas is investing $70 million to build a new campus in South San Francisco. The 154,000-square-foot building will bring together several Astellas operations currently scattered in different parts of the region. Astellas said the new hub will provide lab space and support future growth as it advances cell and gene therapies in rare diseases and cancer.   

4. Eisai, ever hopeful for an Alzheimer's drug win, hires former Lilly exec as new commercial lead

Eisai has hired a U.S. Alzheimer’s commercial chief as the Japanese pharma gears up for an FDA decision for Biogen-partnered Aduhelm follow-on drug lecanemab. Former Eli Lilly Alzheimer’s and marketing lead Thomas Fagan Jr. was tapped for the job.

5. J&J partner Legend Biotech looks to raise $350M amid Carvykti rollout, global expansion

Legend Biotech is looking to raise $350 million from selling over 8 million shares in the U.S. The company cited expenses for commercial activities around Johnson & Johnson-partnered CAR-T therapy Carvykti as one reason why it’s looking for additional funding. It also comes as the company looks to shake off a delisting warning from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

6. Enhertu's groundbreaking HER2-low breast cancer nod could come this year as AZ, Daiichi seek ambitious approval

The FDA is bestowing AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s application for Enhertu in HER2-low breast cancer with all sorts of VIP treatment. A priority review has now set a decision for the fourth quarter of 2022. The two companies are asking for a very ambitious label in patients who’ve received at least one prior therapy in the metastatic setting regardless of HR status.

7. China's Rona raises stake in the siRNA game by buying platform, 4 preclinical liver drugs from Sanofi

Fresh off a $33 million raise in April, Shanghai-based Rona Therapeutic has acquired a small interfering RNA platform, along with four preclinical candidates, from Sanofi. The siRNA platform will enable discovery programs in neuro and muscular diseases, with Sanofi retaining the option to acquire drug candidates for ex-China territories.

8. After manufacturing errors, Sun Pharma and Glenmark recall generic products in the US

Sun Pharma recently launched a recall of 50,680 vials of testosterone cypionate injection because of water leakage at a plant in Gujarat, India. Meanwhile, Glenmark earlier recalled 98,307 packs of mometasone furoate topical solution because of defective packaging.

9. Elevation Oncology sets out for clinic climb in $27M licensing deal for CSPC's ADC

China’s CSPC Pharma has out-licensed a Claudin18.2 antibody-drug conjugate, EO-3021, to Elevation Oncology for $27 million upfront, plus $148 million in development milestones and up to $1 billion in commercial milestones. Elevation plans to launch a phase 1 U.S. clinical trial in 2023 with an FDA go-ahead in hand.