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.

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

UP­DAT­ED: Pan­el of neu­ro­science ex­perts lays out the com­pli­ca­tions with us­ing Bio­gen's new Alzheimer's drug

Treatment of early Alzheimer’s patients with Biogen’s new drug Aduhelm should closely resemble how the drug was studied in its pivotal clinical trials, according to new recommendations from a panel of neuroscience experts led by UNLV’s Jeffrey Cummings.

“Those considering aducanumab therapy should understand that the expected benefit is slowing of cognitive and functional decline; improvement of the current clinical state is not anticipated,” they wrote Tuesday in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, noting that some of their recommendations are more specific or more restrictive than the information provided in the FDA’s prescribing information.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Kyodo via AP Images)

Take­da flesh­es out CNS pact with pep­tide drug­mak­er, set­ting aside $3.5B in fu­ture mile­stones

One of a suite of drugmakers looking to reinvest in the neuroscience space, Takeda has been aggressive in signing on new partners to help build up its pipeline in that space. But sometimes the best partner is the one you already have.

Takeda will set aside $3.5 billion in future milestones and an undisclosed upfront payment to build out its drug discovery deal with Japanese peptide conjugate maker PeptiDream, adding neurodegeneration to the partnership’s list of CNS targets, the companies said Tuesday.

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George Yancopoulos, Regeneron

Re­gen­eron's lat­est ge­net­ics dis­cov­ery hooks As­traZeneca — now all-in on de­vel­op­ing small mol­e­cules for obe­si­ty

Just weeks after its widely lauded genetics research arm tagged a promising new target for obesity, Regeneron has signed up an industry heavyweight to collaborate with on developing new drugs that can potentially act as a game-changer in what has proven to be a tough field for developers.

The Regeneron Genetics Center published a paper in Science at the beginning of this month highlighting how their work sequencing the genomes of 650,000 people highlighted how people with at least 1 inactive copy of the GPR75 gene weighed on average 12 pounds less than the rest of the population with a 54% reduction in risk of obesity.

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