Press review

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Italy ready to offer rent free office space in Milan as part of bid to host EMA

MILAN, Sep 22 (APM) - Italy is ready to offer rent free office space in Milan as part of its bid to host the European Medicines Agency, according to Tuesday’s Corriere della Sera.
Roberto Maroni, governor of the Lombardy region, said the regulator will initially only pay for maintenance of the Pirelli tower where it will be sited if Italy’s candidacy is successful. However, he also said the government would need to help to cover the costs of the proposal if it is to go ahead.
Italy will kick off its European roadshow for Milan's candidacy in Brussels on Saturday. In addition to Maroni, health minister Beatrice Lorenzin, Milan’s mayor Beppe Sala and the prime minister’s special EMA envoy Enzo Moavero Milanesi, are tipped to be part of the tour to sell Italy’s bid.
A cross party parliamentary group has been set up to provide further support. However, some, including the former Milan mayor Gabriele Albertini, have accused the prime minister Paolo Gentiloni of not doing enough, highlighting the absence of Italian EU parliamentarians on the roadshow.
Corriere della Sera warned that it is anything but a done deal for Milan. It faces fierce opposition from cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and Vienna as well as the threat of an “under-the-table” deal in the EU to support a politically expedient candidate, the paper said.

MolMed bases gene therapy strategy on partnerships

MolMed plans to expand its gene therapy business through partnerships, the company’s chief executive said in an interview published in Saturday’s Milano Finanza.
The Milan-based biotech formed an alliance with Cellectis in July aimed at the development of chimeric antigen receptors (CAR-T) to target tumour cells. The same month, it licensed the conditionally authorised cell therapy Zalmoxis, which is used to treat blood cancer transplant patients, to fellow Italian biotech Dompé.
Riccardo Palmisano, who took over as chief executive of MolMed in December 2015, said the company is looking to balance R&D alliances with marketing partnerships.
He said that MolMed is planning to have a second laboratory authorised for the manufacture of gene therapies so that it can meet the production demands of other companies.
Last year, the company generated 20 million euros of sales from contract manufacturing of gene therapies. The company will also look for new partnerships to strengthen its proprietary pipeline especially in the U.S.
Asked about pricing of cell therapies, Palmisano said both companies and regulators can help make the costs sustainable. He said the industry needs to reduce R&D costs by having more efficient development processes.
Payers, on the other hand, need to ensure that the clinical benefits of therapies are not looked at in isolation. An assessment of the total costs of treating the patient needs to be made to include the future expenditure which is avoided by using the therapy, Palmisano added.

Innovative drugs funding to continue as new products multiply

Italy’s special funding for innovative drugs will continue for at least the next three years, the head of medicines agency AIFA told Il Sole 24 Ore in an interview published on Monday.
Mario Melazzini pointed to the arrival of costly advanced cell therapies as the main reason revealing that a product to treat spinal muscular atrophy in children has just been approved.
He noted that Novartis’ Car-T therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) has been approved in the U.S. and said it will not be long before it arrives in Italy. “These are very costly therapies which, fortunately, are only used for certain type of patients,” he said.

Therapeutic cannabis difficult to find

Therapeutic cannabis has become difficult to find in some parts of Italy, La Stampa reported on Saturday.
One of the reasons is that pharmacies continue to snub the drug because of the limited amount they can earn for dispensing it. But there are also shortages because Italy’s cannabis production site does not make enough to keep up with demand, the paper said.

10 Italian start-ups presented at life sciences event

A total of 10 Italian life sciences and healthcare start-ups were presented to potential investors at an event organised by Intesa Sanpaolo in London this week, MF reports on Friday.
The bank’s chief innovation officer, Maurizio Montagnese, highlighted how increasing numbers of specialist investors has led to more opportunities for small biotech to raise finance.
The companies on show included Cellply, whose platform is aimed at personalising cancer treatments by monitoring the immune system’s response, and Chemicare, which is developing therapies for patients with genetic diseases linked to calcium deficiencies.
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