Press review

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Property tycoon turns to biotech investing

LONDON, 8 Feb (APM) - Property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz has rapidly built up a $200 million technology venture capital portfolio as he shifts focus beyond the sector in which he made his name, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
Tchenguiz, who is best known for the multi-billion real estate portfolio he built up with his brother, Robert, before the financial crisis, has stepped up his technology investments in the past three years with a focus on biotech, the paper said.
His Consensus Business Group plans to commit another $100 million to the sector. He said his technology holdings are equity-based. His portfolio invests in early-stage companies, of most them in Israel through a series of incubator funds, as well as directly.
Biotech accounts for almost two thirds of his portfolio, the FT added.

No-deal Brexit could block plans for fake medicine checks

Plans to stop fake medicines entering Britain introduced this week could be scrapped in the event of a no-deal Brexit, just seven weeks after their launch, The Telegraph quotes pharmaceutical leaders as saying on Friday.
The new Europe-wide Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) goes live this weekend. It means that every person in the medicines supply chain is able to check each drug's authenticity, and ensure counterfeit medication is found, the paper reports.
It will include provisions for new tamper-proof packaging, the introduction of packaging serialisation from pharmaceutical manufacturers and importers which is uploaded to a European database, and the ability for parties throughout the supply chain to scan the data into specifically designed software which can verify its authenticity.
However, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has warned that Britain will drop out of the new system if it exits the EU without a deal, The Telegraph says.
Patients in Britain would be left “more exposed to the dangers of fake medicines than other patients in the EU,” the trade body warned.
Dr Rick Greville, director of supply chain at the ABPI, said: "It would be an absolute travesty if NHS patients aren't part of a system specifically designed to protect them.
"But that's exactly what could happen in a no deal Brexit. It is just another reason why we urgently need a Brexit deal."

Indivior's shares slump

The FT on Tuesday reported that Indivior's shares fell sharply after it warned that it faces rapid losses in market share "in the immediate future" to generic versions of its blockbuster drug Suboxone, after losing the latest leg of its battle to delay the launch of competitors in a U.S. court. (APMHE 61731)

Indivior to offload Chinese opioid treatment drug

On Monday, the paper covered Indivior selling its rights to opioid addiction treatment drug Sai Bo Song tablet in China to privately-owned Zhejiang Pukang Biotechnology Co, which focuses on vaccines, for up to $122.5 million. (APMHE 61709)

Chinese biotech feels chill in harsh winter for venture capital

The Chinese biotech sector, which secured more than $17 billion investment last year, is struggling to afford fresh funding as tightened domestic liquidity chills a once-flourishing venture capital market, the FT reported on Monday.
The $17.2 billion of venture capital invested in Chinese companies developing original medicines last year represented a 50% increase, according to consultancy ChinaBio.
But most of the funding came in the first half of the year, with deals falling by a third in the following six months to $6.9 billion. China healthcare-focused funds raised $19.4 billion in the second half of the year, a third less than in the same period a year before, according to ChinaBio.
“The poor performance of global stock markets, the Sino-U.S. trade war and the depreciation of the renminbi led a lot of investors to change their attitude in the past few months,” said Wang Jian, a partner at OrbiMed, a healthcare fund.

GSK's earnings, more deals likely

GSK's fourth-quarter and full-year earnings, as well as a tie-up worth up to €3.7 billion with Germany's Merck KGaA to jointly develop immunotherapy M7824 (bintrafusp alfa) for multiple cancers (APMHE 61742), were covered in the FT on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The paper reported that GSK has been preparing for all Brexit outcomes, including a no-deal exit, although the company said some elements were outside its control.
The Times on Thursday reported that chief executive Emma Walmsley is considering “asset collaborations or technology platforms”, developing new assets and “out-licensing” products, following the deal with Merck KGaA worth up to £3.2 billion (APMHE 61742) and the $5.1 billion Tesaro acquisition earlier this year (APMHE 60877).

Sanofi expects new drug launches to drive growth

Olivier Brandicourt, the chief executive of Sanofi, said on Thursday that its recent restructuring had "brought fruit this year" and promised to increase 2019 profits with new launches, the FT reported on Thursday.
He was speaking with journalists as he outlined Sanofi's full year 2018 results (APMHE 61765). At constant exchange rates, earnings per share increased 5.1%, which the FT said is at the upper end of the company’s target. It said it expects net income to increase by 3% to 5% this year.
Sanofi's hopes its new drug launches will offset pressure from declining revenues at its diabetes franchise, especially in the U.S., the paper noted. Sales in its diabetes and cardiovascular division were down 7.9% in 2018.
The drugmaker said there was robust demand for its eczema treatment Dupixent (dupilumab), which recently launched in the U.S.. On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it had approved the group’s Cablivi (caplacizumab) to treat a rare blood-clotting disorder in adults (APMHE 59522).

Diabetes pill could inject insulin directly into stomach wall

U.S. researchers at Novo Nordisk and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing a pill that injects insulin directly into the stomach wall as an alternative for diabetics currently injecting themselves through the skin, the FT reported on Thursday.
The oral insulin's shape is based on the steeply domed shell of the leopard tortoise, which allows the animal to right itself if it rolls on to its back, the paper said. The pill orients itself after being swallowed, then inserts a tiny needle of compressed insulin into the stomach tissue wall.
Researchers have tested a prototype in pigs, and will next develop a version for human patients.
Scientists have been trying and failing for decades to develop an oral insulin to save the inconvenience of daily injections. The difficulty is that the harshly acid environment of the stomach quickly destroys insulin, a large protein molecule, before it can enter the bloodstream, the FT noted.

Critics slam UK plans to sell genomics tests to healthy people

An opinion piece in The Guardian on Thursday slammed the UK government's plans to offer genetic testing on the NHS to healthy patients who will pay for the service.
The plans were announced last week by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock. The idea is that the "genomics volunteers” will pay for the sequencing and for its interpretation, while agreeing to donate the results in anonymous form to the Genomics England databank, The Guardian noted.
However, the writer of the opinion piece, Dr David King, a former molecular biologist and director of public interest watchdog group Human Genetics Alert, said: "The fact that the volunteers are being asked to pay for test results, delivered by a healthcare provider rather than a private genetic-testing company, must give them the impression that there are personal health benefits to be gained.
"And that is the flaw: as Prof Anneke Lucassen, the chairwoman of the British Society for Genetic Medicine, pointed out, the predictive value of genomic sequence results for healthy people is extremely dubious. Thus far, Genomics England’s 100,000 Genomes project sensibly focused on people who could genuinely benefit from the data, such as those with undiagnosed rare genetic diseases and those with certain tumours where knowledge of precisely which genetic mutations are present can guide treatment."
He also cited an open letter in The Times last week from the head of research at the UK's Alzheimer's Society, Dr James Pickett, who said offering a paid-for service in this manner would "create two-tier access to services, where people who can pay are able to access services that are denied to those who cannot”.
King added that the service is likely to result in mass confusion and anxiety by presenting participants with vast quantities of data which require training to understand, and that it could create extra pressure on GPs from “worried well” patients coming to them with DNA test results.
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