A new com­pa­ny en­ters the Tec­fidera fight, of­fer­ing to kill two birds

The rem­e­dy for the most com­mon side ef­fect for one of the most com­mon mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis drugs is sim­ple: as­pirin.

Tak­ing as­pirin with Bio­gen’s Tec­fidera will re­duce the flush, a some­times painful form of red skin ir­ri­ta­tion, many pa­tients ex­pe­ri­ence. The prob­lem is that the as­pirin has to be tak­en at least 30 min­utes be­fore Tec­fidera, turn­ing a sim­ple twice-a-day, one-dose oral drug in­to a stag­gered two-drug reg­i­men.

Joseph Hab­boushe

Joseph Hab­boushe watched his fa­ther strug­gle with the same is­sue for high-dose niacin, a cho­les­terol treat­ment that al­so caused a flush that could be pre­vent­ed if you on­ly took as­pirin 30 min­utes to an hour be­fore.

“Most pa­tients, they just won’t do that,” Hab­boushe told End­points News. “It’s re­al­ly hard.”

So Hab­boushe, an ER doc, en­tre­pre­neur and aca­d­e­m­ic be­gan work­ing on a way to in­te­grate the two and come up with some­thing that would give as­pirin’s an­ti-flush ef­fect at the same time a pa­tient took the main med­i­cine. He filed his first patent in 2012, and to­day he’s of­fi­cial­ly an­nounc­ing the com­pa­ny: Vi­tal­is Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

In­for­ma­tion is scant on Vi­tal­is. The com­pa­ny has not dis­closed its in­vestors or how much mon­ey they have, and aside from an 18-per­son pi­lot study that found a 63% flush re­duc­tion, there’s lit­tle da­ta to back them up. De­spite that, they’re aim­ing to hit the mar­ket in 2021.

They have sev­er­al can­di­dates — in­clud­ing ones for non-opi­oid pain and dys­lipi­demia — but their main pitch is around Tec­fidera, the pill that earned Bio­gen over $4 bil­lion last year. Hab­boushe said that while he be­gan by try­ing to find a way of ward­ing off flush, he emerged with a pill he claims can not on­ly re­duce flush but al­so has bet­ter phar­ma­co­ki­net­ic prop­er­ties and can get around Bio­gen’s patents.

The fu­ture of Tec­fidera — which fast beaome the num­ber-one sell­ing MS pill in the US af­ter its ap­proval in 2013 — is cloud­ed by com­peti­tors and a heat­ed patent dis­pute.

Bio­gen’s patents are slat­ed to ful­ly ex­pire in 2028, but sev­er­al com­pa­nies have al­ready chal­lenged that, hop­ing to void it ear­li­er. Most no­tably, My­lan is in the midst of a court case to void the patent on the ba­sis of ob­vi­ous­ness, and in 2017, Bio­gen paid $28 mil­lion and promised more in mile­stones to Alk­er­mes to buy­out their chal­lenge.

Any change in the patent out­look would be con­se­quen­tial — both for Bio­gen and for any de­vel­op­er able to then en­ter the mar­ket. Af­ter Bio­gen dis­closed the My­lan threat in Feb­ru­ary, Leerink an­a­lyst Ge­of­frey Porges wrote that a 2020 patent ex­pi­ra­tion would be worth 10-15% Bio­gen’s val­ue.

So­cial im­age: Joseph Hab­boushe, NYU Lan­gone Health

 

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

John Leonard, Intellia CEO

In­tel­li­a's CRISPR pro­gram that ed­its genes di­rect­ly in pa­tients shows dura­bil­i­ty in AT­TR amy­loi­do­sis

The first in vivo CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing program has some new durability data showing sustained reduction of a toxic protein in ATTR amyloidosis at all four dose levels in a small 15-patient study.

Intellia Therapeutics presented the much-anticipated data for its Regeneron-collaborated NTLA-2001 Friday morning, adding to the initial Phase I results it first delivered almost a year ago to the day.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images)

Phar­ma-friend­ly sen­a­tor calls on FDA for a third time to show patent pro­tec­tions should­n't be blamed for high drug prices

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis made a name for himself in the 2020 election cycle as the darling of the pharma industry, accepting hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions, even from the likes of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Those contributions have led Tillis to attempt to re-write patent laws in pharma’s favor, a move which failed to gain steam in 2019, and request for a third time since January that the FDA should help stop “the false narrative that patent protections are to blame for high drug prices.”