Al­ler­gan and its Mo­hawk al­lies pitch their sov­er­eign im­mu­ni­ty case to SCO­TUS. And the tim­ing could­n't be worse

Al­ler­gan {AGN} is tak­ing its case against in­ter partes re­view all the way to the Supreme Court — pro­vid­ed SCO­TUS agrees to hear their at­tor­neys.

Bioreg­num Opin­ion Col­umn by John Car­roll

The biotech com­pa­ny made its pitch to the Supreme Court along­side the Mo­hawk tribe that took the patents on Resta­sis, Al­ler­gan’s big block­buster, as the com­pa­ny tried to wall it­self off from gener­ic man­u­fac­tur­ers. But the courts, in­clud­ing a fed­er­al ap­peals court, have ruled against the com­pa­ny and the tribe.

That leaves one last stop to see if the high­est court in the land will back them up.

There’s no guar­an­tee­ing that Al­ler­gan will get its day in the Supreme Court. The court still has sev­er­al weeks to de­ter­mine if they want to put it on the cal­en­dar. But its at­tor­neys are giv­ing it their best shot, ar­gu­ing that the fed­er­al ap­peals court over­looked key de­ci­sions by the Supreme Court that they be­lieve back their case. They al­so asked the court to pro­vide some clar­i­ty on the ex­tent of sov­er­eign im­mu­ni­ty that In­di­an tribes ppos­sess, which the Mo­hawks used in their le­gal gam­bit to ward off the gener­ic ri­vals.

Al­ler­gan and the Mo­hawks have made lit­tle progress in their heat­ed quest against IPRs, which they be­lieve cre­ates a kind of dou­ble jeop­ardy for drug de­vel­op­ers try­ing to pro­tect their drugs. Their ar­gu­ment in­volv­ing the Mo­hawks — that the tribe con­trols the patents and they are im­mune to the IPR process — has been ridiculed by law­mak­ers who back the no­tion that Al­ler­gan CEO Brent Saun­ders was sim­ply leas­ing out sov­er­eign im­mu­ni­ty to guard its biggest drug fran­chise.

In the pitch to the Supreme Court, though, Al­ler­gan as­sert­ed that the trans­ac­tion — pay­ing $13.75 mil­lion up­front for the deal with $15 mil­lion a year due in quar­ter­ly in­stall­ments — isn’t a sham. The tribe, for ex­am­ple, has the re­al au­thor­i­ty to con­duct tri­als of its own us­ing this drug for oth­er in­di­ca­tions out­side the patent. But this pitch along with many of their oth­er ar­gu­ments have test­ed the creduli­ty of long­time ob­servers — as well as judges — watch­ing the case pro­ceed.

The tim­ing couldn’t be worse for the in­dus­try.

Right now there’s grow­ing ev­i­dence that the phar­ma in­dus­try is one of the least-liked groups in the coun­try. Ar­gu­ing to SCO­TUS about deals with In­di­an tribes to pro­tect brand­ed drugs, while boost­ing the price of their top ther­a­pies by 9.5%, is ex­act­ly the kind of event phar­ma would like­ly pre­fer to live with­out in 2019.

For the in­dus­try, the on­ly thing worse about mak­ing this case would be win­ning it.


Im­age: Brent Saun­ders. AP IM­AGES

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

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In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

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Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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Joseph Kim, Inovio CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

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Tuesday morning Inovio, which has been struggling to get its Covid-19 vaccine lined up for mass manufacturing, put out a release that touched on virtually every hot button in pandemic PR.

There was, first and foremost, an interim snapshot of efficacy from their Phase I program for INO-4800.

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Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

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The PD-L1 drug is now sanctioned as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, applicable in cases where cancer hasn’t progressed after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Petros Grivas, the principal investigator of the supporting Phase III JAVELIN Bladder 100, called the approval “one of the most significant advances in the treatment paradigm in this setting in 30 years.”

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The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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On a roll, Mer­ck blazes through a new seg­ment of the bio­mark­er trail

Merck has notched an approval for using Keytruda to treat a biomarker-based subset of first-line colorectal cancer patients with unresectable or metastatic tumors, as the pharma giant continues to find new niches for its blockbuster PD-1 star.

The OK is significant in a number of ways. Not only does it build on an accelerated approval for all tumors characterized as microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR); it also marks the first single treatment for colorectal cancer that doesn’t contain chemotherapy.