Alk­er­mes claims a suc­cess in PhI­II schiz­o­phre­nia head-to-head, but where’s the ben­e­fit for pa­tients?

Richard Pops

Alk­er­mes $ALKS has one shot at mak­ing ALKS-3831 a stand­out in the schiz­o­phre­nia field. For years now, in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­pect­ed to be able to show that the drug per­forms pret­ty much the same as the gener­ic olan­za­p­ine in terms of ef­fi­ca­cy, but sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter in terms of pre­vent­ing the weight gain — and all the risks that come with it — that af­flicts pa­tients on the old drug.

But in the first of two Phase III read­outs on Thurs­day evening, in­ves­ti­ga­tors were on­ly able to point to a sim­i­lar ef­fi­ca­cy with olan­za­p­ine with­out the ben­e­fit on weight gain.

El­liot Ehrich

Alk­er­mes CEO Richard Pops and R&D chief El­liot Ehrich were stick­ing with the top line and her­ald­ed the da­ta as a suc­cess. But in a wrap on side ef­fects the com­pa­ny al­so not­ed that weight gain was sim­i­lar for both drugs.

The stock dropped 5% as the da­ta hit Thurs­day evening, carv­ing out more than a bil­lion dol­lars in mar­ket cap.

“Those rates were sim­i­lar,” not­ed Ehrich dur­ing the Q&A with an­a­lysts Thurs­day evening.

The two ex­ecs, though, in­sist­ed that the 4-week study was sim­ply too short to ex­pect a sep­a­ra­tion on weight gain. That key ques­tion, they say, will have to wait for a 6-month study where pa­tients will have a chance to bal­ance the scale in fa­vor of the Alk­er­mes drug.

Based on its ear­li­er work, says Pops, it clear­ly takes time – three to six months — for the weight gain ad­van­tage to demon­strate it­self.

“Many physi­cians rec­og­nize the pow­er­ful ef­fi­ca­cy pro­file of olan­za­p­ine, but are hes­i­tant to pre­scribe it giv­en the se­vere weight gain and meta­bol­ic side ef­fects com­mon­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with its use,” said Christoph Cor­rell, M.D., pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try and Mol­e­c­u­lar Med­i­cine at Hof­s­tra North­well School of Med­i­cine. “A new an­tipsy­chot­ic with ro­bust ef­fi­ca­cy and a fa­vor­able weight and meta­bol­ic pro­file com­pared to olan­za­p­ine would be a wel­come ad­di­tion to the schiz­o­phre­nia treat­ment land­scape. This study con­firms a key el­e­ment of this pro­file, with a clear demon­stra­tion of ef­fi­ca­cy in a large, well-con­duct­ed clin­i­cal tri­al.”

As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Fabrice Chouraqui, Cellarity CEO-partner (LinkedIn)

Drug de­vel­op­er, Big Phar­ma com­mer­cial ex­ec, now an up­start biotech chief — Fab­rice Chouraqui is ready to try some­thing new as a ‘CEO-part­ner’ at Flag­ship

Fabrice Chouraqui’s career has taken some big twists along his life journey. He got his PharmD at Université Paris Descartes and jumped into the drug development game for a bit. Then he took a sharp turn and went back to school to get his MBA at Insead before returning to pharma on the commercial side.

Twenty years later, after steadily rising through the ranks and journeying the globe to nab a top job as president of US pharma for the Basel-based Novartis, Chouraqui exited in another career switch. And now he’s headed into a hybrid position as a CEO-partner at Flagship, where he’ll take a shot at leading Cellarity — one of the VC’s latest paradigm-changing companies of the groundbreaking model that aspires to deliver a new platform to the world of drug R&D.

David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Head­ed to PhII: Al­lo­gene CEO David Chang com­pletes a pos­i­tive ear­ly snap­shot of their off-the-shelf CAR-T pi­o­neer

Allogene CEO David Chang has completed the upbeat first portrait of the biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T contender ALLO-501 at virtual ASCO today, keeping all eyes on a drug that will now try to go on to replace the first-wave personalized pioneers he helped create.

The overall response rate outlined in Allogene’s abstract for treatment-resistant patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma slipped a little from the leadup, but if you narrow the patient profile to treatment-naïve patients — removing the 3 who had previous CAR-T therapy who didn’t respond, leaving 16 — the ORR lands at 75% with a 44% complete response rate. And 9 of the 12 responders remained in response at the data cutoff, offering a glimpse on durability that still has a long way to go before it can be completely nailed down.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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Bryan Roberts, Venrock

Ven­rock sur­vey shows grow­ing recog­ni­tion of coro­n­avirus toll, wan­ing con­fi­dence in ar­rival of vac­cines and treat­ments

When Venrock partner Bryan Roberts went to check the results from their annual survey of healthcare leaders, what he found was an imprint of the pandemic’s slow arrival in America.

The venture firm had sent their form out to hundreds of insurance and health tech executives, investors, officials and academics on February 24 and gave them two weeks to fill it out. No Americans had died at that point but the coronavirus had become enough of a global crisis that they included two questions about the virus, including “Total U.S. deaths in 2020 from the novel coronavirus will be:”.

As­traZeneca’s $7B ADC suc­ceeds where Roche failed, im­prov­ing sur­vival in gas­tric can­cer

Another day, another win for Enhertu.

The antibody-drug conjugate AstraZeneca promised up-to $7 billion to partner on has had a quite a few months, beginning with splashy results in a Phase II breast cancer trial, a rapid approval and, earlier this month, breakthrough designations in both non-small cell lung cancer and gastric cancer.

Now, at ASCO, the British pharma and their Japanese partner, Daiichi Sankyo, have shown off the data that led to the gastric cancer designation, which they’ll take back to the FDA. In a pivotal, 187-person Phase II trial, Enhertu shrunk tumors in 42.9% of third-line patients with HER2-positive stomach cancer, compared with 12.5% in a control arm where doctors prescribed their choice of therapy. Progression-free survival was 5.4 months for Enhertu compared to 3.5 months for the control.