Merck abandons $7M in grants for long-term IT hiring plan in Austin

fiercepharma | July 03, 2019

When Merck moseyed into the Lone Star State as part of a global IT restructuring, it pitched a robust hiring plan in exchange for nearly $7 million in tax breaks and grants. Now, after Merck pulled back the reins on its Austin plans, those incentives have dried up. Merck is walking away from incentive agreements with the state of Texas and the city of Austin after trotting back plans to invest $28.7 million and hire 600 full-time employees by 2023 at a new IT office at the University of Texas’ Dell Medical School. The pharma giant decided to abandon its long-term hiring plans due to “internal priorities and events over the last two years,” but it still plans to maintain the company’s location in Austin, according to Merck spokeswoman Pam Eisele. "I do not have any further details beyond this but can confirm that we continue to maintain an IT office in Austin," Eisele said in an emailed statement. Austin was one of four global cities targeted by Merck for a complete overhaul of the New Jersey-based drugmaker’s IT operations in an attempt to align its digital operations with drug development and research. In its pitch to the city of Austin in summer 2017, Merck said the new office would help Merck staffers collect metadata and design “solution-based platforms for personalized, proactive and preventative healthcare,” according to a summary (PDF) of the project. Merck has produced the only FDA-approved app for diabetes patients. Other drugmakers are integrating monitoring systems, smart delivery devices and other tech products into clinical trials and pay-for-performance deals with payers.

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Federal prosecutors charged executives of the Rochester Drug Cooperative Tuesday, the first criminal charges against a drug distributor in the nation's ongoing opioid crisis.

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Federal prosecutors charged executives of the Rochester Drug Cooperative Tuesday, the first criminal charges against a drug distributor in the nation's ongoing opioid crisis.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

Silo Pharma Issues Letter to Shareholders Detailing Progress on Pipeline Assets Combining Traditional Therapeutics with Psychedelic Medicine

Silo Pharma, Inc. | December 02, 2022

Silo Pharma, Inc. a developmental stage biopharmaceutical company focused on merging traditional therapeutics with psychedelic research, today issued a letter to shareholders highlighting the Company’s progress and potential for its portfolio of novel, IP-protected technologies and assets developed in collaboration with world-class medical research partners. The letter, in its entirety, is reprinted below. Dear fellow Silo Pharma shareholders, The healthcare market continues to build momentum as science and technology lead to new developments for therapeutics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the growing body of scientific research supporting the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. More than ever, alternative new therapies for numerous diseases and mental health disorders are needed to address the health challenges of today. Our Company, Silo Pharma, Inc. is working diligently to make further advances in the medical and psychedelic space. To date, the research conducted has shown encouraging promise in the delivery, efficacy, and safety of our pipeline therapeutics and technologies. This has been an exciting year where we have achieved numerous milestones and anticipate upcoming updates as our pipeline progresses. The purpose of this letter is to provide shareholders with an update on our current business. With over $12 million in cash, we are prepared to advance our pipeline, and believe, with our strong balance sheet, no debt, and recent listing on Nasdaq, that we are in a position to further advance the Company and create shareholder value. Valuable Intellectual Property and Collaboration We are focused on advancing traditional therapeutics with psychedelic research to treat underserved large markets. We believe that our novel IP-protected technologies and assets, developed in collaboration with world-class medical research partners, offer disruptive market potential. The unique assets in our portfolio are well protected with issued and numerous provisional patents pending. We obtained these assets through exclusive drug development collaborations, including a joint venture with Zylö Therapeutics, Inc.; a license and option agreement and an investigator-sponsored study agreement with the University of Maryland, Baltimore; a sponsored study agreement and a licensing option agreement with Columbia University; and a sponsored research agreement with the University of California, San Francisco. About Ketamine Ketamine is an FDA-approved fast-acting general anesthetic administered through intravenous injection or nasal spray. Scientific research has shown that ketamine’s interactions with certain brain chemicals may be connected to its pain management, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant effects. Since 2000, increasing research on ketamine has demonstrated significant results as a treatment for pain conditions including chronic neuro-inflammatory disorders and for mood disorders including depression, PTSD, and anxiety. About Psilocybin Considered a serotonergic hallucinogen, this substance is an active ingredient in some species of mushrooms. While classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act there is an accumulating body of evidence that psilocybin may have beneficial effects on depression and other mental health conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency have permitted the use of psilocybin in clinical studies for a range of psychiatric conditions. About Silo Pharma Silo Pharma. Inc. is a development-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on merging traditional therapeutics with psychedelic research for people suffering from indications such as PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, and other rare neurological disorders. Silo’s mission is to identify assets to license and fund the research which we believe will be transformative to the well-being of patients and the healthcare industry.

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PHARMA TECH

Advaxis and Ayala Pharmaceuticals Enter into Merger Agreement

Advaxis and Ayala Pharmaceuticals | October 20, 2022

Ayala Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a clinical-stage oncology company focused on developing and commercializing small molecule therapeutics for patients suffering from rare tumors and aggressive cancers and Advaxis, Inc. a biotechnology company devoted to the discovery, development and commercialization of immunotherapies based on a technology which uses engineered Listeria monocytogenes, today announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement. The merger would result in a combined company that will focus predominantly on the development and commercialization of Ayala’s lead program AL102 for the treatment of desmoid tumors and Advaxis’s candidate ADXS-504 in development for prostate cancer. Kenneth A. Berlin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Advaxis, said, “Advaxis took a thorough approach in our quest to find the right partner with the right products. This merger is expected to enhance Advaxis’s portfolio of clinical assets, with Ayala’s proprietary gamma secretase inhibitors that are being developed as targeted therapies for rare and aggressive tumors. Ayala’s lead candidate, AL102, is currently being investigated in the Phase 2/3 RINGSIDE study in desmoid tumors, which we believe will accelerate the stage of product development for the combined company dramatically. We are particularly excited about very promising interim data from RINGSIDE, which showed that AL102 monotherapy had meaningful anti-tumor activity with tumor shrinkage in the majority of patients that appeared to be deepening over time. The combined management team has extensive commercial and R&D experience, and we believe we have the cash to advance the combined portfolio through key milestones in 2023, including longerterm data from Part A of RINGSIDE, clarity on the registration path for AL101 in recurrent/metastatic adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) and initial clinical and PSA data from the Phase 1 trial of ADXS-504 in prostate cancer. We believe that this transaction will also help drive our efforts to return to a Nasdaq listing and enhance our ability to access capital.” “We are pleased to announce the proposed merger with Advaxis, which is expected to provide our pipeline and AL102 with additional financial resources as well as additional infrastructure in the U.S. The two companies have a shared mission to develop innovative therapies to improve the lives of patients with cancer and I believe we have found a good partner to advance our pipeline and create value for our stakeholders.” Roni Mamluk, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Ayala Consummation of the merger is subject to certain closing conditions, including, among other things, approval by the stockholders of Ayala. At the closing of the merger, Ayala will be delisted from The Nasdaq Global Market. The combined company’s common stock is expected to begin trading on the OTCQX at the effective time of the merger, subject to Advaxis’ planned efforts to have the stock of the combined company listed on Nasdaq, as to which no assurances can be made. About Ayala Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Ayala Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a clinical-stage oncology company focused on developing and commercializing small molecule therapeutics for patients suffering from rare tumors and aggressive cancers. Ayala’s approach is focused on predicting, identifying and addressing tumorigenic drivers of cancer through a combination of its bioinformatics platform and next-generation sequencing to deliver targeted therapies to underserved patient populations. The company has two product candidates under development, AL101 and AL102, targeting the aberrant activation of the Notch pathway with gamma secretase inhibitors to treat a variety of tumors, including adenoid cystic carcinoma and desmoid tumors. AL102 has received Fast Track Designation from the U.S. FDA and is currently in the Phase 3 portion of a pivotal study for patients with desmoid tumors. AL101 has received Fast Track Designation and Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. FDA and is currently in a Phase 2 clinical trial for patients with ACC bearing Notch activating mutations. About Advaxis, Inc. Advaxis, Inc. is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of proprietary Lm-based antigen delivery products. These off-the-shelf immunotherapies are a significant advancement in immunotherapy as they integrate multiple functions into a single therapy by directing antigen presenting cells to stimulate T-cells and other components of the immune system, while reducing tumor protection in the tumor microenvironment, facilitating the elimination of tumors. The company has two programs in the clinic: ADXS-503 for late-stage lung cancer and ADXS-504 for early-stage prostate cancer.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

Athira Pharma Advances Phase 2/3 LIFT-AD Clinical Study of Fosgonimeton in Mild-to-Moderate Alzheimer’s Patients

Athira Pharma, Inc. | October 18, 2022

Athira Pharma, Inc. a late clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing small molecules to restore neuronal health and slow neurodegeneration, today announced that following an unblinded interim efficacy and futility analysis, an independent data monitoring committee recommended continuation of the LIFT-AD study of fosgonimeton in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The committee also determined that, with the additional enrollment of fewer than 150 patients for a total enrollment of less than 300 patients without background therapy the study will be well powered for the primary endpoint given the preliminary effect size observed. The primary endpoint of LIFT-AD is the Global Statistical Test, an unweighted composite score comprising measures of cognition and function. Results from the completed exploratory ACT-AD Phase 2 study showed a favorable safety profile and suggested positive effects on measures of cognition function and neurodegeneration in patients taking fosgonimeton without background therapy. Guided by these results, the Company proactively amended LIFT-AD to focus on patients not on background therapy. The unblinded interim analysis was then conducted in approximately 100 patients not on background therapy to corroborate observations from ACT-AD and ensure LIFT-AD is well powered to determine the effect of fosgonimeton on clinically meaningful and commercially relevant endpoints. “The results from the data monitoring committee’s unblinded analysis give us confidence in a potentially positive outcome for LIFT-AD, as stringent evaluation criteria were applied based on validated and clinically meaningful cognitive and functional outcomes. This analysis supports the potential clinical benefits of fosgonimeton treatment and underscores the rationale for continued development of this promising new therapy.” Hans Moebius, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer of Athira “We are very excited by the results of this independent review as we believe they mitigate the risk of the fosgonimeton development plan, support the potential clinical benefit of fosgonimeton and inform the sample size needed to achieve success with LIFT-AD,” said Mark Litton, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Athira. “We are now targeting to complete enrollment in mid-2023 and report topline data in early 2024. Importantly, we have a strong balance sheet to execute our plans through key data readouts and beyond. Moving forward, we remain keenly focused on advancing this novel investigational therapy with the hope of positively impacting the lives of millions of Alzheimer’s patients. “Our goal with fosgonimeton is to demonstrate its ability to improve cognition and function and to ultimately provide neuroprotection. The ACT-AD study suggested these benefits, and the results of the LIFT-AD interim analysis corroborate those findings,” added Dr. Litton. “We believe any drug that can demonstrate neuroprotection could become a treatment of choice for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s patients.” About the LIFT-AD Clinical Study LIFT-AD is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of fosgonimeton for patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Patients are randomized across two dose groups and one placebo group on a 1:1:1 basis to receive a subcutaneous injection of fosgonimeton or placebo once daily over a treatment course of 26 weeks. The primary endpoint for LIFT-AD is the Global Statistical Test, an unweighted composite score comprising measures of cognition (Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale and function. Additional information on the LIFT-AD study can be found at: NCT04488419. About Fosgonimeton Fosgonimeton is a small molecule designed to enhance the activity of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its receptor, MET, to impact neurodegeneration and regenerate brain tissue. The function of the HGF/MET receptor system may be impaired in the brain under conditions of neurodegeneration. In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, fosgonimeton has the potential to address the broader dementia population, including Parkinson’s disease dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies, as the mode of action focuses on network recovery and synaptic signal transmission in the brain. The ACT-AD trial was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AG06268. The information presented in this press release is solely the responsibility of Athira and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. About Athira Pharma, Inc. Athira Pharma, Inc., headquartered in the Seattle, Washington area, is a late clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing small molecules to restore neuronal health and slow neurodegeneration. Athira aims to provide rapid cognitive improvement and alter the course of neurological diseases with its novel mechanism of action. Athira is currently advancing its pipeline of therapeutic candidates targeting the HGF/MET neurotrophic system for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease dementia, Dementia with Lewy bodies and neuropsychiatric indications.

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