Am­gen scores pos­i­tive PhI­II car­dio out­comes for its PC­SK9 fran­chise drug Repatha

Sean Harp­er, Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent, Re­search and De­vel­op­ment

Am­gen got an­oth­er round of good news for its PC­SK9 fran­chise drug Repatha. Hot on the heels of a ma­jor patent fight vic­to­ry over Sanofi and Re­gen­eron, the big phar­ma com­pa­ny says in­ves­ti­ga­tors gar­nered pos­i­tive top-line car­dio out­comes da­ta from their crit­i­cal FOURI­ER tri­al.

There’s no da­ta avail­able yet, but the com­pa­ny re­ports that Repatha proved to sig­nif­i­cant­ly re­duce the risk of car­dio events in pa­tients with clin­i­cal­ly ev­i­dent ath­er­o­scle­rot­ic car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. The drug al­so hit on an end­point for cog­ni­tive func­tion.

Am­gen shares surged 3.4% in af­ter-mar­ket trad­ing.

Am­gen has had high hopes for Repatha, but sales have lagged well be­hind ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tions — Q3 2016 sales were on­ly $40 mil­lion — as pay­ers proved re­luc­tant to cov­er the drug with­out some clear ev­i­dence of a car­dio ben­e­fit. The ques­tion now is whether Am­gen can trans­late its da­ta, what­ev­er they are, in­to greater cov­er­age.

The lev­el of ben­e­fits that Am­gen was look­ing to achieve in Fouri­er, though “are rel­a­tive­ly mod­est, and thus, im­pact on sales may not be ‘trans­for­ma­tion­al,’” Baird’s Bri­an Sko­r­ney re­cent­ly not­ed. An­a­lysts will get a look at the de­tails in March, dur­ing the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Car­di­ol­o­gy an­nu­al meet­ing.

Not­ed Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges:

In­vestors will con­tin­ue to pon­der the im­pact of mod­est ben­e­fit (ie 15-20% risk re­duc­tion), com­pared to what con­sen­sus con­sid­ers a more sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit (20-25%) re­duc­tion, and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the com­pa­ny achieved a ma­te­ri­al­ly bet­ter than con­sen­sus out­comes ben­e­fit (>25% risk re­duc­tion).

Am­gen re­cruit­ed 27,500 pa­tients for this study, an in­di­ca­tion of what they’re will­ing to in­vest to make this drug a block­buster. The pri­ma­ry end­point was the time to car­dio­vas­cu­lar death, my­ocar­dial in­farc­tion, stroke, hos­pi­tal­iza­tion for un­sta­ble angi­na, or coro­nary revas­cu­lar­iza­tion. The key sec­ondary end­point was the time to car­dio­vas­cu­lar death, my­ocar­dial in­farc­tion or stroke.

Just a few weeks ago Am­gen scored a stun­ning court­room win over Sanofi and Re­gen­eron when a fed­er­al judge banned sales of the ri­val PC­SK9 drug Pralu­ent. The rul­ing, now be­ing ap­pealed, said that Am­gen would suf­fer “ir­repara­ble harm” if the com­pe­ti­tion was al­lowed to con­tin­ue af­ter the two com­pa­nies vi­o­lat­ed the patents used to pro­tect Repatha.

Sanofi and Re­gen­eron have their own out­comes study un­der­way, with da­ta due to­ward the end of the year.

“In the GLAGOV study, we demon­strat­ed that Repatha has an ef­fect on ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, the un­der­ly­ing cause of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. These FOURI­ER re­sults show un­equiv­o­cal­ly the con­nec­tion be­tween low­er­ing LDL cho­les­terol with Repatha and car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk re­duc­tion, even in a pop­u­la­tion al­ready treat­ed with op­ti­mized statin ther­a­py,” said Sean E. Harp­er, M.D., ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Re­search and De­vel­op­ment at Am­gen. “Car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease re­mains the num­ber one health bur­den in the world, and we look for­ward to shar­ing these out­comes da­ta with the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty at the ACC 66th An­nu­al Sci­en­tif­ic Ses­sion.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data is messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data is exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Lockhart, ReCode Therapeutics CEO

Pfiz­er throws its weight be­hind LNP play­er eye­ing mR­NA treat­ments for CF, PCD

David Lockhart did not see the meteoric rise of messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles coming.

Thanks to the worldwide fight against Covid-19, mRNA — the genetic code that can be engineered to turn the body into a mini protein factory — and LNPs, those tiny bubbles of fat carrying those instructions, have found their way into hundreds of millions of people. Within the biotech world, pioneers like Alnylam and Intellia have demonstrated just how versatile LNPs can be as a delivery vehicle for anything from siRNA to CRISPR/Cas9.

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No­vo CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen on R&D risk, the deal strat­e­gy and tar­gets for gen­der di­ver­si­ty


I kicked off our European R&D summit last week with a conversation involving Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo is aiming to launch a new era of obesity management with a new approval for semaglutide. And Jørgensen had a lot to say about what comes next in R&D, how they manage risk and gender diversity targets at the trendsetting European pharma giant.

John Carroll: I’m here with Lars Jørgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk. Lars, it’s been a really interesting year so far with Novo Nordisk, right? You’ve projected a new era of growing sales. You’ve been able to expand on the GLP-1 franchise that was already well established in diabetes now going into obesity. And I think a tremendous number of people are really interested in how that’s working out. You have forecast a growing amount of sales. We don’t know specifically how that might play out. I know a lot of the analysts have different ideas, how those numbers might play out, but that we are in fact embarking on a new era for Novo Nordisk in terms of what the company’s capable of doing and what it’s able to do and what it wants to do. And I wanted to start off by asking you about obesity in particular. Semaglutide has been approved in the United States for obesity. It’s an area of R&D that’s been very troubled for decades. There have been weight loss drugs that have come along. They’ve attracted a lot of attention, but they haven’t actually ever gained traction in the market. My first question is what’s different this time about obesity? What is different about this drug and why do you expect it to work now whereas previous drugs haven’t?

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Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (via Getty images)

UP­DAT­ED: FDA slaps As­traZeneca's MCL-1 can­cer drug with a hold af­ter safe­ty is­sue — 2 years af­ter Am­gen axed a trou­bled ri­val

There are new questions being posed about a class of cancer drugs in the wake of the second FDA-enforced clinical hold in the field.

Two years after the FDA hit Amgen with a clinical hold on its MCL-1 inhibitor AMG 397 following signs of cardiac toxicity, AstraZeneca says that regulators hit them with a hold on their rival therapy of the same class.

The pharma giant noted on that its Phase I/II study for the MCL-1 drug AZD5991 “has been put on hold to allow further evaluation of safety related information.”

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Sur­geons suc­cess­ful­ly at­tach pig kid­ney to a hu­man for the first time, us­ing tech from Unit­ed's Re­vivi­cor

In a first, researchers reportedly successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human without triggering an immediate immune response this week. And the technology came from the biotech United Therapeutics.

Surgeons spent three days attaching the kidney to the patient’s blood vessels, but when all was said and done, the kidney appeared to be functioning normally in early testing, Reuters and the New York Times were among those to report. The kidney came from a genetically altered pig developed through United’s Revivicor unit.

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Leen Kawas (L) has resigned as CEO of Athira and will be replaced by COO Mark Litton

Ex­clu­sive: Athi­ra CEO Leen Kawas re­signs af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion finds she ma­nip­u­lat­ed da­ta

Leen Kawas, CEO and founder of the Alzheimer’s upstart Athira Pharma, has resigned after an internal investigation found she altered images in her doctoral thesis and four other papers that were foundational to establishing the company.

Mark Litton, the company’s COO since June 2019 and a longtime biotech executive, has been named full-time CEO. Kawas, meanwhile, will no longer have ties to the company except for owning a few hundred thousand shares.

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Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL, foreground) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

Sen­a­tors back FDA's plan to re­quire manda­to­ry pre­scriber ed­u­ca­tion for opi­oids

Three Senate Democrats are backing an FDA plan to require mandatory prescriber education for opioids as overdose deaths have risen sharply over the past decade, with almost 97,000 American opioid-related overdose deaths in the past year alone.

While acknowledging a decline in overall opioid analgesic dispensing in recent years, the FDA said it’s reconsidering the need for mandatory prescriber training through a REMS given the current situation with overdoses, and is seeking input on the aspects of the opioid crisis that mandatory training could potentially mitigate.

Bris­tol My­ers pledges to sell its Ac­celeron shares as ac­tivist in­vestors cir­cle Mer­ck­'s $11.5B buy­out — re­port

Just as Avoro Capital’s campaign to derail Merck’s proposed $11.5 billion buyout of Acceleron gains steam, Bristol Myers Squibb is leaning in with some hefty counterweight.

The pharma giant is planning to tender its Acceleron shares, Bloomberg reported, which add up to a sizable 11.5% stake. Based on the offer price, the sale would net Bristol Myers around $1.3 billion.

To complete its deal, Merck needs a majority of shareholders to agree to sell their shares.