3 Things In Biotech, June 27: The Cat Pounces, And You Might Still Have Time! Also, Google Gets Into Healthcare?

by: Zach Hartman

AbbVie and Google-backed early biotech look to continue anti-aging research.

Puma shocks with surprise turnaround in Europe.

Pluristem debuts more preclinical data in acute radiation syndrome.

Welcome to another edition of "3 Things In Biotech You Should Learn Today," a daily digest dedicated to helping you keep pace with the fast-moving world of pharmaceutical and biotechnology research.

AbbVie and Google-backed early biotech look to continue anti-aging research

Company: AbbVie (ABBV) and Calico, a subsidiary of Google (GOOG)

Therapy: Various

Disease: Various

News: ABBV announced that they will extend their collaboration with GOOG-backed biotech Calico, a company focused on discovering new therapies to combat aging. Calico focuses on the discovery research, and ABBV would then take and develop these findings into clinical-stage products. Each company is pitching in a total of $1 billion to take their activities to at least phase 2a, ensuring cooperation through 2027.

Looking forward: This is a very interesting extension for both companies. With the challenges that ABBV has had in extending its oncology pipeline, it would be an important gain if they can get access to promising anti-aging therapies. For the long term, this deal has the potential to empower both companies, and we may be seeing an important foray for the computing titan into healthcare.

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Puma shocks with surprise turnaround in Europe

Company: Puma Biotechnology (PBYI)

Therapy: Neratinib

Disease: HER2-positive breast cancer

News: PBYI announced that the EMA's CHMP has adopted a positive opinion on their submission of approval relating to their pan-EGFR inhibitor neratinib for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer. This comes after a dramatic negative opinion, which PBYI appealed. Now, European patients will have access to this therapy that has been approved in the same setting since last July.

Looking forward: I am a little surprised that the appeal worked, but it feels like I shouldn't be. The major challenge that the regulators had against neratinib was the side effects, particularly diarrhea. But PBYI has long since instituted preventative measures for diarrhea as part of the treatment protocol, and patients have largely managed to get this symptom under control. Now, CHMP positive opinion doesn't guarantee approval for the drug, but it is usually a clear way forward, and I expect it will be in Puma's case, as well.

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Pluristem debuts more preclinical data in acute radiation syndrome

Company: Pluristem (PSTI)

Therapy: PLX-R18

Disease: Acute radiation syndrome

News: PSTI reported findings from preclinical animal models on the ability of PLX-R18 to treat radiation-induced damage to the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. PLX-R18 was able to induce strong protection of the bone marrow, in particular, and treatment was associated with significantly improved survival rates following lethal doses of radiation.

Looking forward: For preclinical results, these are quite impressive. Considering the animals were exposed to a dose of radiation that is nearly 3x the dose needed to kill a human, PLX-R18 would seem to have some compelling protective effects. Of course, we don't know how this will translate into humans. Still, comments from shareholders on my PSTI article suggested that this therapy has the potential to be a big early win for the company, and these data do not disagree with that.

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Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.