UK Pharma News: Novo Nordisk Safety Review; AstraZeneca/Quell Deal; GSK Bellus Acquisition


The latest news from UK healthcare and life sciences, including the safety review of Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 receptor agonists; VaxEquity’s grant to scale up RNA vaccine manufacturing; AstraZeneca/Quell Therapeutics cell therapy agreement and GSK’s acquisition of Bellus Health.


More evidence needed on Lilly’s weight loss drug, UK watchdog says (Reuters)

UK’s drug cost-effectiveness watchdog did not recommend Eli Lilly’s weight loss drug for adults with diabetes, saying more evidence was needed before it could be used by the National Health Service (NHS).

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in its draft guidance said it asked the company for more data on whether the drug Mounjaro, also known as tirzepatide, resulted in better weight loss than other drugs belonging to the same class of treatments.


UK probes Novo’s Ozempic, weight-loss drug Saxenda over suicidal, self-harming thoughts (Reuters)

Britain is reviewing a class of drugs used in a diabetes medicine and a weight-loss treatment sold by Novo Nordisk after some patients reported suicidal or self-harming thoughts, two weeks after similar action by the European Union.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement to Reuters it was reviewing safety data on a class of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists.


VaxEquity secures UK grant to expand RNA manufacturing capability (Pharmaceutical Technology)

RNA vaccine developer VaxEquity announced that it, along with Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), has secured an USD 868k (GBP 700m) grant from Innovate UK. The grant will fund a collaborative project to advance the manufacturing process for RNA vaccines and therapeutics.

With this funding, VaxEquity will scale up manufacturing for its proprietary self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) platform, as per a 5 June announcement. It will test optimised conditions for scalability, with a plan to rapidly progress a candidate influenza vaccine into clinical trials.


AstraZeneca signs USD 2 billion agreement with Quell to develop cell therapies (Reuters)

AstraZeneca said it had signed an agreement with Quell Therapeutics potentially worth more than USD 2 billion to develop cell therapies that could cure autoimmune diseases.

The agreement includes developing, manufacturing and commercialising cell therapies that have the potential to be curative in type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease indications, the drugmaker said in a statement.

UK-based Quell will receive USD 85 million upfront from AstraZeneca, and is also eligible to receive over USD 2 billion for further development and commercialisation milestones, the company added.

UK biotech investment increases amidst progress in City of London to unlock new capital (Clarivate)

The second quarter of 2023 has seen steady growth in financing activity for the UK’s life sciences sector, as revealed by new data released by the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Clarivate. The positive news comes soon after industry figures welcomed recent announcements to unlock new sources of capital in the City of London.

Despite the prevailing global market downturn, UK-headquartered life science and biotech companies secured a total of GBP 382 million in venture and public financing, up 29 percent from the previous quarter’s £295 million. This growth was largely driven by venture capital investment.


UK’s high rate of avoidable deaths linked to NHS woes (BBC)

People in the UK are less likely to survive treatable conditions, such as breast cancer and stroke, than those in other rich nations, a study has found.

The review, by the King’s Fund think tank, said the problem may be directly linked to the performance of the NHS.

It said below-average spending on the UK health service led to fewer staff and equipment than systems elsewhere.


GSK coughs up $2B to buy Bellus (Fierce Pharma)

Merck & Co. has a new challenger for the chronic cough market: GSK. The British Big Pharma is set to pay $2 billion to buy Bellus Health, securing a late-phase rival to Merck’s stuttering gefapixant program and completing a remarkable, 16-year turnaround for the biotech.

Bellus’ lead candidate is camlipixant, a molecule with the same mechanism of action as gefapixant. Both drugs are antagonists of P2X3, a peripheral nervous system receptor that triggers neuronal hypersensitization and is linked to the urge to cough. By preventing the stimulation of P2X3, molecules such as camlipixant and gefapixant may reduce the severity and frequency of cough.


More lab and manufacturing space coming to the UK’s ‘Golden Triangle’ (Endpoints)

A new life science campus has been approved to start construction in the UK. According to a release, UBS Asset Management and the Reef Group, a UK-based developer of life science facilities, have gotten approval to start construction on a new £900 million ($1.1 billion) life sciences hub at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. The new site is also inside the “golden triangle,” which is described as the area between the biotech and research hubs of London, Cambridge and Oxford. This facility is set to be built alongside GSK’s existing global R&D facility in the catalyst.

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