Am­gen buries the last big CETP drug, mark­ing the bit­ter end of a block­buster quest

Am­gen used its Q3 re­port to­day to quick­ly bury the last broad­ly fo­cused CETP drug in the clin­ic, clos­ing the fi­nal chap­ter in an R&D sto­ry that con­sumed bil­lions of dol­lars in a fruit­less chase by some of the biggest de­vel­op­ers in the busi­ness for a ma­jor new heart drug.

Sean Harp­er

Two years ago, when Am­gen $AMGN R&D chief Sean Harp­er un­veiled a $1.55 bil­lion deal to buy Dez­i­ma — front­ed with $300 mil­lion in cash— he hap­pi­ly spec­u­lat­ed on the po­ten­tial of adding an­oth­er block­buster to the car­dio port­fo­lio. The right CETP in­hi­bi­tion ther­a­py, he felt, could have a big fu­ture by low­er­ing LDL and rais­ing HDL. And he was hope­ful the new mid-stage drug he had just pur­chased could fit the bill.

With­in weeks of the deal, though, Eli Lil­ly threw in the tow­el on its mas­sive Phase III for its own CETP drug, evace­trapib. That fol­lowed a bil­lion-dol­lar write-off for Pfiz­er’s ri­val Phase III, which al­so flopped. And Roche had al­ready walked away.

It looked so bad that for­mer Pfiz­er R&D chief John LaMat­ti­na sug­gest­ed that Am­gen might be bet­ter off cut­ting its loss­es just weeks af­ter the deal was done.

The ex­e­cu­tion no­tice, though, didn’t ar­rive un­til to­day, not long af­ter Mer­ck had writ­ten off its own big Phase III for anace­trapib. Mer­ck stunned the car­dio field with the news that the drug had ac­tu­al­ly reg­is­tered pos­i­tive re­sults, but the lev­el of im­prove­ment was so mar­gin­al, the phar­ma gi­ant end­ed up walk­ing away af­ter test­ing it in more than 30,000 pa­tients.

There is, though, still one CETP drug in the clin­ic called dal­cetrapib, from a Lon­don-based com­pa­ny called Dal­Cor. Af­ter fail­ing a ma­jor Roche study, the drug was scrapped — then in­ves­ti­ga­tors linked the ther­a­py to a strong ben­e­fit for a sub­group of pa­tients with a cer­tain geno­type. Now Dal­Cor is pur­su­ing Phase III with 5,000 pa­tients, look­ing for a tar­get­ed ef­fect that could sal­vage val­ue yet.

Am­gen’s de­ci­sion vir­tu­al­ly elim­i­nates rais­ing HDL as a key to cut­ting car­dio risks for a big mar­ket, though. The field now is fo­cused pri­mar­i­ly on slash­ing LDL, where Am­gen has been push­ing hard in search­ing for a big new mar­ket for the PC­SK9 drug Repatha.

The Price of Re­lief: Ex­plor­ing So­lu­tions to the Ris­ing Costs of On­col­o­gy Drugs

In 2020, The National Cancer Institute estimated about 1.8 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States, while the costs associated with treatment therapies continued to escalate. Given the current legislative climate on drug pricing, it’s never been more important to look at the evolution of drug pricing globally and control concerns of sustainable and affordable treatments in oncology.

Lat­est news on Pfiz­er's $3B+ JAK1 win; Pacts over M&A at #JPM22; 2021 by the num­bers; Bio­gen's Aduhelm reck­on­ing; The sto­ry of sotro­vimab; and more

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For those of you who attended #JPM22 in any shape or form, we hope you had a fruitful time. Regardless of how you spent the past hectic week, may your weekend be just what you need it to be.

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Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, Oncology R&D

Can­cer pow­er­house As­traZeneca rolls the dice on a $75M cash bet on a buzzy up­start in the on­col­o­gy field

After establishing itself in the front ranks of cancer drug developers and marketers, AstraZeneca is putting its scientific shoulder — and a significant amount of cash — behind the wheel of a brash new upstart in the biotech world.

The pharma giant trumpeted news this morning that it is handing over $75 million upfront to ally itself with Scorpion Therapeutics, one of those biotechs that was newly birthed by some top scientific, venture and executive talent and bequeathed with a fortune by way of a bankroll to advance an only hazily explained drug platform. And they are still very much in the discovery and preclinical phase.

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A $3B+ peak sales win? Pfiz­er thinks so, as FDA of­fers a tardy green light to its JAK1 drug abroc­i­tinib

Back in the fall of 2020, newly crowned Pfizer chief Albert Bourla confidently put their JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib at the top of the list of blockbuster drugs in the late-stage pipeline with a $3 billion-plus peak sales estimate.

Since then it’s been subjected to serious criticism for the safety warnings associated with the class, held back by a cautious FDA and questioned when researchers rolled out a top-line boast that their heavyweight contender had beaten the champ in the field of atopic dermatitis — Dupixent — in a head-to-head study.

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Robert Califf, FDA commissioner nominee (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Rob Califf ad­vances as Biden's FDA nom­i­nee, with a close com­mit­tee vote

Rob Califf’s second confirmation process as FDA commissioner is already much more difficult than his near unanimous confirmation under the Obama administration.

The Senate Health Committee on Thursday voted 13-8 in favor of advancing Califf’s nomination to a full Senate vote. Several Democrats voted against Califf, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Maggie Hassan. Several other Democrats who aren’t on the committee, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, also said Thursday that they would not vote for Califf. Markey, Hassan and Manchin all previously expressed reservations about the prospect of Janet Woodcock as an FDA commissioner nominee too.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

Bio­gen vows to fight CM­S' draft cov­er­age de­ci­sion for Aduhelm be­fore April fi­nal­iza­tion

Biogen executives made clear in an investor call Thursday they are not preparing to run a new CMS-approved clinical trial for their controversial Alzheimer’s drug anytime soon.

As requested in a draft national coverage decision from CMS earlier this week, Biogen and other anti-amyloid drugs will need to show “a meaningful improvement in health outcomes” for Alzheimer’s patients in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to get paid for their drugs, rather than just the reduction in amyloid plaques that won Aduhelm its accelerated approval in June.

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CRO own­er pleads guilty to ob­struct­ing FDA in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to fal­si­fied clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta

The co-owner of a Florida-based clinical research site pleaded guilty to lying to an FDA investigator during a 2017 inspection, revealing that she falsely portrayed part of a GlaxoSmithKline pediatric asthma study as legitimate, when in fact she knew that certain data had been falsified, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Three other employees — Yvelice Villaman Bencosme, Lisett Raventos and Maytee Lledo — previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with falsifying data associated with the trial at the CRO Unlimited Medical Research.

‘Skin­ny la­bels’ on gener­ics can save pa­tients mon­ey, re­search shows, but re­cent court de­ci­sions cloud fu­ture

New research shows how generic drug companies can successfully market a limited number of approved indications for a brand name drug, prior to coming to market for all of the indications. But several recent court decisions have created a layer of uncertainty around these so-called “skinny” labels.

While courts have generally allowed generic manufacturers to use their statutorily permitted skinny-label approvals, last summer, a federal circuit court found that Teva Pharmaceuticals was liable for inducing prescribers and patients to infringe GlaxoSmithKline’s patents through advertising and marketing practices that suggested Teva’s generic, with its skinny label, could be employed for the patented uses.

A patient in Alaska receiving an antibody infusion to prevent Covid hospitalizations in September. All but one of these treatments has been rendered useless by Omicron (Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

How a tiny Swiss lab and two old blood sam­ples cre­at­ed one of the on­ly ef­fec­tive drugs against Omi­cron (and why we have so lit­tle of it)

Exactly a decade before a novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Davide Corti — a newly-minted immunologist with frameless glasses and a quick laugh — walked into a cramped lab on the top floor of an office building two hours outside Zurich. He had only enough money for two technicians and the ceiling was so low in parts that short stature was a job requirement, but Corti believed it’d be enough to test an idea he thought could change medicine.

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