Senior Correspondent, London
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Jun 10, 2015

AstraZeneca R&D boss Morrison leaves to head private drugmaker

LONDON, June 10 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s chief
medical officer and head of global late-stage drug development
Briggs Morrison is to leave the company, creating a gap at the
top of the group’s research operations.

A spokeswoman said on Wednesday Morrison was departing to
become chief executive of an unlisted venture capital-backed
drugmaker in the United States, adding there had been no
disagreement with other top managers at AstraZeneca.

Jun 9, 2015

China’s big biotech bet starting to pay off

SHANGHAI/LONDON, June 10 (Reuters) – Years of pouring money
into its laboratories, wooing scientists home from overseas and
urging researchers to publish and patent is starting to give
China a competitive edge in biotechnology, a strategic field it
sees as ripe for “indigenous innovation.”

The vast resources China can throw at research and
development – overall funding more than quadrupled to $191
billion in 2005-13 and the Thousand Talents Program has
repatriated scientists – allow China to jump
quickly on promising new technologies, often first developed

Jun 9, 2015

Canadians hope $250 mln trial can revive failed Roche heart drug

June 9 (Reuters) – A Canadian team hopes to revive a heart
drug ditched by Roche three years ago by running a
major clinical trial targeting only those patients with the
right genetic profile to benefit from its ability to boost
“good” cholesterol.

The Swiss drugmaker, which has licensed rights to
dalcetrapib to Quebec-based DalCor Pharmaceuticals, said on
Tuesday it would provide a companion diagnostic for use in the
Phase III study.

Jun 8, 2015

Novartis places big, broad bet on cancer immunotherapy

June 8 (Reuters) – Novartis is well placed in the
hot field of cancer immunotherapy, despite being behind rivals
in developing immune system-boosting drugs known as checkpoint
inhibitors, a top executive at the Swiss drugmaker said on

“We will play an important role in this in the future and we
believe we are well-positioned for that,” Bill Hinshaw, U.S.
head of Novartis Oncology, told a webcast media briefing in New

Jun 8, 2015

Swiss biotech Actelion hits record high on potential Shire bid

LONDON (Reuters) – Shares in Actelion (ATLN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Europe’s biggest biotech company, jumped 10 percent to a record high on Monday after a report Shire (SHP.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) was considering a $19 billion takeover of the Swiss group to boost its rare diseases business.

Shire, which is based in Ireland but has most operations in the United States, is a serial acquirer in a consolidating healthcare sector, which has seen a record $253 billion of deals so far this year.

May 27, 2015

Exclusive: Greece owes drugmakers $1.2 billion – and counting

LONDON (Reuters) – Cash-strapped Greece has racked up mounting debts with international drugmakers and now owes the industry more than 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), a leading industry official said on Wednesday.

The rising unpaid bill reflects the growing struggle by the nearly bankrupt country to muster cash, and creates a dilemma for companies under moral pressure not to cut off supplies of life-saving medicines.

May 27, 2015

Novartis digs into health tech with bet on ‘robotic pill’

LONDON (Reuters) – Swiss drugmaker Novartis is raising its bet on smart technology by collaborating with U.S. start-up Rani Therapeutics on a “robotic pill” for complex biotech drugs that would normally have to be given by injection.

Rani said it would run feasibility studies over the next 18-24 months to evaluate how selected Novartis biologic medicines can be delivered into the bloodstream using its unique device.

May 26, 2015

AstraZeneca hit after psoriasis drug linked to suicide fears

LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s hopes of
topping $45 billion in revenue by 2023 have been dealt a blow by
a problem with an experimental psoriasis drug that the drugmaker
had viewed as a potential billion-dollar plus seller.

Amgen, its partner on the project, announced late
on Friday it was ending a collaboration to develop brodalumab
after suicidal thoughts were observed in patients taking the

May 26, 2015

What’s hot? Life sciences challenge tech in global innovation

LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) – The life sciences industry is
increasingly taking over from the tech sector in driving global
innovation, according to a Thomson Reuters analysis of global

With more patents applied for or granted in 2014 than in any
other year in history, humankind has never been more inventive,
whether in designing driverless cars, discovering new drugs for
cancer or building bionic limbs.

May 19, 2015

Amgen cholesterol drug could get EU green light this week

LONDON, May 19 (Reuters) – Amgen’s new cholesterol
drug Repatha could be recommended for approval in Europe as
early as this week, putting it ahead in a race with a rival
product from Sanofi.

Repatha, or evolocumab, belongs to a new class of
cholesterol-lowering drugs known as PCSK9 inhibitors that
clinical trials suggest may slash the risks of heart attacks
compared to standard treatment alone.

    • About Ben

      "Ben Hirschler is European pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and healthcare correspondent, based in London. Previously, he was in charge of British company news and before that was posted to Johannesburg, covering the economic challenges facing post-apartheid South Africa."
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