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

 

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Two wild weeks for Grail end in $8B Il­lu­mi­na buy­out

Grail’s whirlwind two weeks have ended in the wealthy arms of its former founder and benefactors.

Illumina has shelled out $8 billion to reacquire the closely-watched liquid biopsy startup they spun out just 5 years ago and fully exited just 3 years ago. The deal comes nearly two weeks after the well-heeled startup filed for a potentially massive IPO — one that was disrupted just a week later when Bloomberg reported that Illumina was in talks to buy their former spinout for up to $8 billion.

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Roche vaults to the front of the NL­RP3 clin­i­cal race, pay­ing $448M up­front to bag In­fla­zome

Roche is going all in on NLRP3.

The pharma giant is putting down $448 million (€380 million) upfront to snatch Novartis-backed Inflazome, which makes it a clinical player in the space overnight.

Dublin and Cambridge, UK-based Inflazome is the second NLRP3-focused biotech Roche has acquired in less than two years, and although no numbers were disclosed in the Jecure buyout, this is almost certainly a much larger deal.

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As­traZeneca pub­lish­es Covid-19 vac­cine PhI­II pro­to­cols in lock­step with Mod­er­na and Pfiz­er. How are they dif­fer­ent?

Following in the steps of Moderna and Pfizer, the other two American drugmakers currently in Phase III trials for their Covid-19 vaccines, AstraZeneca posted its own study protocols over the weekend. The move is the latest in a series of rare peeks behind the curtain, as such blueprints are typically shared once such trials are completed.

“Given the unprecedented global impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need for public information, AstraZeneca has published the detailed protocol and design of our AZD1222 clinical trial. As with most clinical development, protocols are not typically shared publicly due to the importance of maintaining confidentiality and integrity of trials. AstraZeneca continues to work with industry peers to ensure a consistent approach to sharing timely clinical trial information,” the company said in a statement.

Eli Lilly CSO Dan Skovronsky (file photo)

UP­DAT­ED: #ES­MO20: Eli Lil­ly shows off the da­ta for its Verzenio suc­cess. Was it worth $18 bil­lion?

The press release alone, devoid of any number except for the size of the trial, added nearly $20 billion to Eli Lilly’s market cap back in June. Now investors and oncologists will get to see if the data live up to the hype.

On Sunday at ESMO, Eli Lilly announced the full results for its Phase III MonarchE trial of Verzenio, showing that across over 5,000 women who had had HR+, HER2- breast cancer, the drug reduced the odds of recurrence by 25%. That meant 7.8% of the patients on the drug arm saw their cancers return within 2 years, compared with 11.3% on the placebo arm.

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Greg Friberg (File photo)

#ES­MO20: Am­gen team nails down sol­id ear­ly ev­i­dence of AMG 510’s po­ten­tial for NSCLC, un­lock­ing the door to a wave of KRAS pro­grams

The first time I sat down with Amgen’s Greg Friberg to talk about the pharma giant’s KRAS G12C program for sotorasib (AMG 510) at ASCO a little more than a year ago, there was high excitement about the first glimpse of efficacy from their Phase I study, with 5 of 10 evaluable non-small cell lung cancer patients demonstrating a response to the drug.

After decades of failure targeting KRAS, sotorasib offered the first positive look at a new approach that promised to open a door to a whole new approach by targeting a particular mutation to a big target that had remained “undruggable” for decades.

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#ES­MO20: Out to beat Tagris­so, J&J touts 100% ORR for EGFR bis­pe­cif­ic/TKI com­bo — fu­el­ing a quick leap to PhI­II

J&J’s one-two punch on EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer has turned up some promising — although decidedly early — results, fueling the idea that there’s yet room to one up on third-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Twenty out of 20 advanced NSCLC patients had a response after taking a combination of an in-house TKI dubbed lazertinib and amivantamab, a bispecific antibody targeting both EGFR and cMET engineered on partner Genmab’s platform, J&J reported at ESMO. All were treatment-naïve, and none has seen their cancer progress at a median follow-up of seven months.

Sebastian Nijman (file photo)

Roche looks to ge­net­ic mod­i­fiers for new drug tar­gets, team­ing up with Dutch biotech in $375M deal

Roche is gambling on a new way of discovering drug targets and, ultimately, promising to infuse more than $375 million into a small biotech if all goes well.

A spinout of the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Oxford University, Scenic Biotech set out to pioneer a field that’s gaining some traction among top VCs in the US: to harness the natural protecting powers of genetic modifiers — specific genes that suppress a disease phenotype.

Exelixis CEO Michael Morrissey (file photo)

#ES­MO20: Look out Mer­ck. Bris­tol My­ers and Ex­elix­is stake out their com­bo’s claim to best-in-class sta­tus for front­line kid­ney can­cer

Now that the PD-(L)1 checkpoints are deeply entrenched in the oncology market, it’s time to welcome a wave of combination therapies — beyond chemo — looking to extend their benefit to larger numbers of patients. Bristol Myers Squibb ($BMY} and Exelixis {EXEL} are close to the front of that line.

Today at ESMO the collaborators pulled the curtain back on some stellar data for their combination of Opdivo (the PD-1) and Cabometyx (the TKI), marking a significant advance for the blockbuster Bristol Myers franchise while offering a big leg up for the team at Exelixis.

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