Martin Landray (Steve Parsons/Press Association via AP Images)

A new non­prof­it wants to de­sign cheap drug tri­als, aim­ing to build on mas­sive­ly suc­cess­ful Covid-19 study

The UK’s RE­COV­ERY tri­al, a plat­form study eval­u­at­ing sev­er­al po­ten­tial treat­ments for Covid-19 us­ing the NHS’ net­work of hos­pi­tals, has proven one of the most suc­cess­ful pan­dem­ic en­deav­ors, like­ly sav­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives. Its cre­ators want to tack­le oth­er dis­eases in a sim­i­lar man­ner, and they’ve se­cured some Big Phar­ma cash to get start­ed.

Led by RE­COV­ERY mas­ter­mind Mar­tin Lan­dray, the non­prof­it Pro­tas launched Mon­day with $6.8 mil­lion from Sanofi. The goal is to de­sign and de­vel­op cost-ef­fec­tive large scale clin­i­cal tri­als across a wide range of dis­eases, part­ner­ing with phar­ma com­pa­nies, clin­i­cal sites, aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions and pa­tient groups along the way.

“As we have seen dur­ing the re­cent pan­dem­ic, large ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­als are crit­i­cal for the prop­er as­sess­ment of pos­si­ble treat­ments,” Lan­dray said in a state­ment. “The sit­u­a­tion is not [unique] to the pan­dem­ic; there are many oth­er com­mon and oth­er life-threat­en­ing dis­eases… where bet­ter treat­ments are need­ed to re­duce the huge bur­den on pa­tients and the NHS.”

In ad­di­tion to the Sanofi part­ner­ship, Pro­tas has al­so won an NHS grant for an undis­closed sum. The non­prof­it ex­pects to be­gin de­sign­ing its first tri­als in 2023.

RE­COV­ERY is large­ly cred­it­ed with dis­cov­er­ing how dex­am­etha­sone, a cheap cor­ti­cos­teroid, can lessen the risk of death in hos­pi­tal­ized Covid-19 pa­tients. Lan­dray and his team de­liv­ered the re­sult ear­ly on in the pan­dem­ic, launch­ing the study back in March 2020, giv­ing hos­pi­tals a tool to fight the most se­vere Covid-19 cas­es.

The tri­al al­so showed the Re­gen­eron/Sanofi mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body and the rheuma­toid arthri­tis drug Actem­ra worked in the same pa­tients, while find­ing oth­er treat­ments like hy­drox­y­chloro­quine and con­va­les­cent plas­ma were not ef­fec­tive.

Giv­en the bal­loon­ing costs of con­duct­ing clin­i­cal stud­ies, Pro­tas now wants to ex­pand the method­ol­o­gy to oth­er com­mon dis­ease ar­eas — its launch state­ment lists heart, lung and res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease, arthri­tis, can­cer, de­pres­sion and de­men­tia as ar­eas of in­ter­est. Lan­dray and his team plan to de­sign their own stud­ies from scratch, fo­cus­ing on clin­i­cal tri­als’ most es­sen­tial as­pects.

Some phar­ma com­pa­nies can even spend hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars on a sin­gle drug can­di­date, but Pro­tas hopes its ef­forts to stream­line R&D will lead to more drugs be­ing de­vel­oped at a frac­tion of their cur­rent costs. And work­ing as a non­prof­it will make the stud­ies both more af­ford­able and im­prove their qual­i­ty, Pro­tas says.

Mak­ing plat­form stud­ies the norm is an idea that has been float­ed be­fore, par­tic­u­lar­ly by Lan­dray him­self. In a Feb­ru­ary 2020 ar­ti­cle in NE­JM, Lan­dray wrote how phar­ma com­pa­nies were in­creas­ing­ly turn­ing to re­al-world ev­i­dence to cut costs, re­ly­ing on that “myth” in­stead of ran­dom­ized stud­ies.

But by fo­cus­ing on­ly on the es­sen­tials, Pro­tas is hop­ing to re­verse the trend and re­mind the in­dus­try of the “mag­ic” be­hind ran­dom­iza­tion.

Bio­mark­er 'roadmap­s' and the fu­ture of can­cer R&D; Cur­tain rais­es on #AS­CO22; Pfiz­er, No­var­tis tack­le drug ac­cess; 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.

While this was not a week for earth-shattering news, there were certainly a lot of interesting tidbits. If you found this recap helpful, please recommend it to your friends and colleagues. We’ll see you on the other side of the long weekend.

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Keep­ing pres­sure on Am­gen, Mi­rati draws mixed re­views on lat­est cut of KRAS da­ta

As the close runner-up to Amgen’s Lumakras in the KRAS race, any data cut from Mirati’s adagrasib continues to draw scrutiny from analysts. And the latest batch of numbers from ASCO is a decidedly mixed bag.

While a quick comparison suggests that adagrasib spurred slightly more responses and led to a longer overall survival than Lumakras among a group of non-small cell lung cancer patients, its duration of response appears shorter and the safety profile continues to spark concern.

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Ann is one of ViiV Healthcare's newest spokespeople as the retired school administrator speaks up about her HIV status.

GSK's Vi­iV de­buts next evo­lu­tion in HIV med Dova­to cam­paign with new spokes­peo­ple and new mes­sage

When Ann saw the first TV commercials for HIV medicine Dovato, she didn’t see herself represented. So the 74-year-old retired school administrator who’s been living with HIV since 1998, reached out to GSK’s ViiV Healthcare and asked why not?

Now Ann is one of three people starring in ViiV’s latest Dovato campaign called “Detect This.” The next-step evolution in the branded campaign plays on the word “detect” — often used in describing HIV status under control as undetectable — but in this case, uses the word as a directive for people to understand they can use fewer medicines.

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Switzer­land to de­stroy over 600,000 ex­pired dos­es of Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine

As concerns related to uptake and distribution continue to linger, Switzerland is among the first countries that plans to destroy hundreds of thousands of expired and unused Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The European country said it plans to destroy more than 600,000 doses of Moderna’s Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine as the doses have reached their expiration date.

However, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he’s in the process of throwing 30 million doses in the garbage, exclaiming, “We have a big demand problem.”

Lina Khan, FTC chair (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP Images)

Pile-on over PBMs con­tin­ues with FTC com­ments and a new bi­par­ti­san Sen­ate bill

More than 500 stakeholders sent comments to the FTC on whether the commission should look further into pharma middlemen, known as PBMs, with many of the commenters calling for more federal oversight.

Similar to the critical open comment period in a deadlocked FTC session last February, pharmacies and pharmacy groups are continuing to call out the lack of transparency among the top 3 PBMs, which control about 80% of the market.

Pharma brands are losing their shine with US consumers who are now thinking about the economy and inflation instead of Covid. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Phar­ma brands fade in an­nu­al Har­ris con­sumer vis­i­bil­i­ty poll: Mod­er­na drops off and Pfiz­er dips

As Covid-19 concerns are fading in the US, so is biopharma visibility. The annual Axios Harris Poll survey to determine and rank the 100 most top-of-mind brands in the US finds Moderna, which was No. 3 last year, not on the list at all for 2022, and Pfizer sinking 37 spots.

However, it’s not that Moderna or Pfizer did anything wrong, it’s just that Americans have moved on to other worries beyond Covid.

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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)

HHS fin­ish­es off Trump-era rule that would've erased ba­sic FDA regs with­out fre­quent re­views

HHS on Thursday finalized its decision to withdraw a rule, proposed just before former President Donald Trump left office, that would’ve caused thousands of HHS and FDA regulations to automatically expire if they weren’t reviewed within two years, and every 10 years thereafter.

The decision follows the filing of a lawsuit last March, in which several nonprofits alleged that the outgoing administration planted “a ticking timebomb” for HHS, essentially forcing it to devote an enormous amount of resources to the unprecedented and infeasible task of reviewing thousands of regulations regularly.

Tran­si­tion to new Eu­ro­pean clin­i­cal tri­als in­fo sys­tem starts slow­ly

At the end of January, the European Medicines Agency officially launched its new clinical trials info system (CTIS), although the migration to the new platform has only really just begun, and sponsors have until the end of January 2023 before all initial trial applications must be submitted through CTIS.

Overall, 56 clinical trial applications have been submitted in CTIS during the first 3 months since the launch of the system on Jan. 31, according to new data posted by the EMA. By comparison, about 4,000 new trials are authorized each year across Europe.

Vi­iV Health­care looks to make long-act­ing HIV pre­ven­tion shot ac­ces­si­ble in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS set a lofty goal back in 2019 to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. But according to the World Health Organization, infection rates are not falling rapidly enough to meet that target.

GSK’s ViiV Healthcare thinks it can help change that.

On Friday, ViiV announced that it’s in talks with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) for patent rights to its cabotegravir long-acting HIV injectable for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in low- and middle-income countries.