$60M in, Ab­b­Vie is trig­ger­ing a $625M-plus plan to de­vel­op a new im­muno-on­col­o­gy drug that is go­ing af­ter GARP

Ab­b­Vie $AB­BV has de­cid­ed to jump in­to clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment work with a new im­muno-on­col­o­gy drug for its on­col­o­gy pipeline. 

Two years af­ter the com­pa­ny com­mit­ted $60 mil­lion in an up­front and near-term pre­clin­i­cal mile­stones to its part­ner ar­genx (Eu­ronext Brus­sels: ARGX), re­searchers are com­ing back for the com­mer­cial rights to a ther­a­py dubbed ARGX-115. And Ab­b­Vie — which has fin­ished pay­ing the full $20 mil­lion in ear­ly goal pay­ments — is down for up to $625 mil­lion in mile­stones if it can make the drug work as hoped.

So­phie Lu­cas

You may not rec­og­nize the tar­get: gly­co­pro­tein A rep­e­ti­tions pre­dom­i­nant, or GARP. GARP sits on the sur­face of reg­u­la­to­ry T cells — Tregs — which has be­come a pipeline of its own as drug de­vel­op­ers go all out in track­ing the next-gen I/O drugs that they hope to add be­hind the first wave of check­point in­hibitors. Tregs blunt an im­mune at­tack on can­cer cells, so mas­ter­ing them has be­come a big deal in bio­phar­ma.

Ar­genx got in­to the game in 2015, at­tract­ed to the lab work be­ing done by So­phie Lu­cas at the de Duve In­sti­tute at the Catholic Uni­ver­si­ty in Bel­gium. Her team was look­ing at the role of GARP in pro­duc­ing TGF-ß, which ap­plies the brakes to the im­mune sys­tem.

Anil Sing­hal

“The abil­i­ty to mod­u­late the body’s own im­mune sys­tem to fight can­cer is one of the most promis­ing sci­en­tif­ic ad­vance­ments over the past decade,” Anil Sing­hal, for­mer ear­ly on­col­o­gy re­search at Ab­b­Vie, said at the time. “We be­lieve that the ARGX-115 pro­gram is a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty to ex­plore the po­ten­tial to block cer­tain im­mune-sup­pres­sive path­ways that al­low can­cers to grow.”

Sing­hal’s group is al­so sup­port­ing new re­search work at ar­genx that takes it all one step fur­ther, putting them in a po­si­tion to lock up any new GARP-re­lat­ed mol­e­cules they find.

Tim van Hauw­er­meiren, the CEO at ar­genx, al­so is hang­ing on to co-pro­mo­tion rights in Eu­rope.

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

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Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

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FDA spells out the rules and re­stric­tions for states seek­ing to im­port drugs from Cana­da

The FDA is offering more of an explanation of the guardrails around its program that may soon allow states to import prescription drugs in some select circumstances from Canada, but only if such imports will result in significant cost reductions for consumers.

While the agency has yet to sign off on any of the 5 state plans in the works so far, and PhRMA’s suit to block the Trump-era rule allowing such imports is stalled, the new Q&A guidance spells out the various restrictions that states will have to abide by, potentially signaling that a state approval is coming.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at the World Economic Forum (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP Images)

All about ac­cess: Pfiz­er moves to a non-prof­it mod­el for drug sales in 45 low­er-in­come coun­tries

Leading the way to increase access to cheaper drugs worldwide, Pfizer said Wednesday it will provide all current and future patent-protected medicines and vaccines available in the US or EU on a not-for-profit basis to about 1.2 billion people in 45 lower-income countries.

Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda are the first five countries to sign on to this accord, which will also seek to blaze new paths for quick and efficient regulatory and procurement processes to reduce the usual delays in making new medicines and vaccines available in these countries.

US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Te­va, Al­ler­gan reach yet an­oth­er opi­oid set­tle­ment — ef­fec­tive­ly end­ing WV tri­al

Teva and Allergan have reached settlements with multiple states over their involvement in the opioid crisis. Their latest is worth 9 figures.

West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey announced the newest settlement, worth $161.5 million, at a press conference on Wednesday. The deal would resolve claims that the companies helped fuel the state’s opioid epidemic. If it goes through, it could become the largest state-negotiated settlement in West Virginia’s history, according to Reuters.

Roche un­veils three new mon­key­pox tests as cas­es rise

Health experts maintain that the current monkeypox situation is a stark contrast to Covid. Even so, a handful of biotechs have sprung to action, including Roche, who quickly developed a set of three tests to detect the virus.

Roche and subsidiary TIB Molbiol unveiled their Lightmix Modular Virus test kits on Wednesday — three unique test kits that can help track the spread of monkeypox.

The first kit detects orthopoxviruses, including all monkeypox viruses originating from the West African and Central African forms of the virus. The second kit is a specific test that detects monkeypox viruses only, while the third simultaneously tests for both orthopoxviruses and monkeypox viruses.

New law­suit ac­cus­es GSK of 'de­vice hop­ping' to block gener­ic in­haler com­pe­ti­tion

Despite inhalers being on the market for decades, many patients still can’t afford them. A new lawsuit filed in Missouri federal court puts the blame on GSK.

Last week, plaintiff Elliot Conrad Dale — who’s paid for GSK’s Ventolin and Arnuity Ellipta inhalers — filed a class-action lawsuit against the pharma giant, accusing it of scheming to block generic versions of its brand-name inhalers.