Anx­ious to fill Hu­mi­ra-sized rev­enue hole ahead of US patent cliff, Ab­b­Vie hits the ground run­ning with FDA ap­proval for Skyrizi

With the loom­ing cloud of los­ing US patent pro­tec­tion for its mega-block­buster Hu­mi­ra, Ab­b­Vie needs all the help it can get to fill the gap­ing $20 bil­lion hole the flag­ship au­toim­mune dis­ease drug will leave in its cof­fers. On Tues­day, the com­pa­ny se­cured the FDA ap­proval of an IL-23 in­hibitor, Skyrizi, that is ex­pect­ed to go some way in re­plen­ish­ing that rev­enue stream: $4 bil­lion to $5 bil­lion in peak an­nu­al sales by Ab­b­Vie’s es­ti­mate — al­though that may be dif­fi­cult in the in­tense­ly com­pet­i­tive field it is set to en­ter.

Ab­b­Vie paid Boehringer In­gel­heim $595 mil­lion up­front to li­cense rights to the drug, known chem­i­cal­ly as risankizum­ab, in ear­ly 2016. In the fall of 2017, the in­ject­ed drug was eval­u­at­ed against J&J’s Ste­lara and its own Hu­mi­ra in a pso­ri­a­sis study — and emerged vic­to­ri­ous, hand­some­ly out­pac­ing the ri­val drugs in clear­ing pso­ri­a­sis. Japan be­came the first re­gion to sanc­tion the use of Skyrizi last month.

More than 8 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have pso­ri­a­sis — mak­ing it one of the most preva­lent au­toim­mune dis­eases in the Unit­ed States, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al Pso­ri­a­sis Foun­da­tion. The dis­ease is char­ac­ter­ized by an un­bri­dled im­mune sys­tem and wide­spread in­flam­ma­tion that caus­es painful, itchy plaques any­where on the skin.

Set for US launch in ear­ly May, Skyrizi will en­ter a crowd­ed mar­ket. Hu­mi­ra con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate de­spite the in­tro­duc­tion of new­er bi­o­log­ics, in­clud­ing No­var­tis’ $NVS an­ti-IL17 Cosen­tyx, J&J’s $JNJ an­ti-IL23 Trem­fya and an­ti-IL12/23 Ste­lara, as well as Lil­ly’s $LLY an­ti-IL17 Taltz.

Skyrizi is not the first pure IL-23 in­hibitor to be ap­proved — Trem­fya was ap­proved in 2017 and Ilumya in 2018. But the Ab­b­Vie drug has a dos­ing ad­van­tage over Trem­fya — it is ad­min­is­tered every 12 weeks, ver­sus once every two months for Trem­fya, SVB Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges said on Wednes­day, not­ing that oth­er pso­ri­a­sis bi­o­log­ics in ad­di­tion to the oral Ote­zla gen­er­at­ed a com­bined $11.1 bil­lion in 2018 sales.

This does not in­clude sales of an­ti-TN­Fs in pso­ri­a­sis, which should de­crease as pa­tients move to these new, more ef­fi­ca­cious ther­a­pies. These prod­ucts al­so all achieved $500 mil­lion – $1 bil­lion in the sec­ond year of launch, which is like­ly to al­so be achieved by Skyrizi. Over­all bi­o­log­ics are still used in on­ly 30% of the mod­er­ate to se­vere pso­ri­a­sis pop­u­la­tion, (per JNJ in 2017), and Ab­b­Vie’s Skyrizi should ben­e­fit from both best-in-cat­e­go­ry ef­fi­ca­cy (i.e. mar­ket share gains) and the con­tin­ued rapid mar­ket ex­pan­sion.”

The main­te­nance dose for Skyrizi will car­ry a list price of $59,000, which is low­er than the most wide­ly-pre­scribed bi­o­log­ic treat­ments for mod­er­ate-to-se­vere plaque pso­ri­a­sis, an Ab­b­Vie spokesper­son told End­points News.

The drug is ex­pect­ed to win EU ap­proval lat­er this year, and is al­so be­ing eval­u­at­ed for Crohn’s dis­ease, pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis and ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis.

“(D)es­pite be­ing po­si­tioned as a best-in-class op­tion, risankizum­ab failed in a proof-of-con­cept anky­los­ing spondyli­tis study, rais­ing ad­di­tion­al ques­tions over its pro­file” Bar­clays an­a­lysts said in March.

Boehringer will re­ceive undis­closed roy­al­ties on sales of the prod­uct, and in ad­di­tion is el­i­gi­ble to get up to $1.6 bil­lion for de­vel­op­ment and reg­u­la­to­ry mile­stones, a por­tion of which has like­ly been paid al­ready, Porges not­ed.

Eval­u­ate has pegged Skyrizi as the num­ber 3 block­buster on its list of heavy­weight drugs launch­ing in 2019, es­ti­mat­ing the drug could earn more than $2 bil­lion in 2024 — a far cry from Ab­b­Vie’s home­grown es­ti­mate of $4 bil­lion to $5 bil­lion in peak sales. Porges has fore­cast ad­just­ed peak an­nu­al sales of $3 bil­lion.

The oth­er can­di­date ex­pect­ed to fill the Hu­mi­ra gap is Ab­b­Vie’s oral JAK1 in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib for rheuma­toid arthri­tis. The com­pa­ny $AB­BV has high hopes for the treat­ment, pro­ject­ing peak sales of $6.5 bil­lion, which was re­ward­ed pri­or­i­ty re­view by the FDA in Feb­ru­ary. The agency is ex­pect­ed to make its de­ci­sion by the third quar­ter of 2019.

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

Pssst: That big Bio­haven Alzheimer's study? It was a bust. Even the sub­group analy­sis ex­ecs tout­ed was a flop

You know it’s bad when a biopharma player plucks out a subgroup analysis for a positive take — even though it was way off the statistical mark for success, like everything else.

So it was for Biohaven $BHVN on MLK Monday, as the biotech reported on the holiday that their Phase II/III Alzheimer’s study for troriluzole flunked both co-primary endpoints as well as a key biomarker analysis.

The drug — a revised version of the ALS drug riluzole designed to regulate glutamate — did not “statistically differentiate” from placebo on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale 11 (ADAS-cog) and the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB).  The “hippocampal volume” assessment by MRI also failed to distinguish itself from placebo for all patients fitting the mild-to-moderate disease profile they had established for the study.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Hal Barron, GSK R&D chief (GSK via YouTube)

Glax­o­SmithK­line's $4B bis­pe­cif­ic can­cer drug al­liance with Mer­ck KGaA hit by set­back with a PhI­II fail­ure on NSCLC

Close to 2 years ago, GSK’s R&D team eagerly agreed to pay up to $4 billion-plus to ally itself with Merck KGaA on a mid-stage bispecific called bintrafusp alfa, which intrigued them with the combination of a TGF-β trap with the anti-PD-L1 mechanism in one fusion protein.

But today the German pharma company says that their lead study on lung cancer was a bust, as independent monitors said there was no reason to believe that the experimental drug — targeting PD-L1/TGF-Beta — could beat Keytruda.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Artist rendering of the Assembly Square site in Somerville, MA (BioMed Realty)

Bio­Med Re­al­ty snaps up in­no­va­tion cam­pus site with­in earshot of pricey and bustling Boston biotech hub

On the short list of the premier biotech hubs in the world, the Boston area has transformed into a home for innovation — and ridiculously high rent. Now, a real estate firm is seeking tenants for a major site in neighboring Somerville with more than enough elbow room.

Snapped up by BioMed Realty, the land — which consists of an existing 162,000 square-foot office building and a 7.5 acre site — will serve as an “innovation space” for a variety of research, technology and life science tenants, the real estate company said in a press release. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Sanofi protests, AP Images

Paul Hud­son faces down French unions in fight to re­struc­ture Sanofi

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson is facing a familiar adversary in his efforts to cut up to 1,680 jobs from the French pharma giant: French unions.

Around 200 union members staged a one-day strike Tuesday at Sanofi’s main Covid-19 vaccine plant in Marcy-l’Étoile to protest the cuts, The Associated Press reported, with other members joining at other facilities across the country.

France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire, meanwhile, went on French radio twice this week to talk about the company. On Monday, per Reuters, he told RTL that Sanofi would not close any plants or lay off any employees in the restructuring. But on Wednesday morning, he re-emerged on BFM and said he would like three things from the drugmaker, including confirmation that there will be no site closures and layoffs.

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb gets re­view date for Op­di­vo com­bo in gas­tric can­cer, look­ing to over­turn Keytru­da's 3-year lead

The past two months have been tough for Bristol Myers Squibb and its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo after setbacks in lung and brain cancers. But in the battle against Merck’s Keytruda, any success matters — and now Bristol could be looking at a quick approval for Opdivo in an unmatched indication.

The FDA will launch a speedy review of a combination of Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and chemotherapy to treat first-line patients with advanced or metastatic gastric cancer, gastroesophageal junction cancer or esophageal adenocarcinoma, the drugmaker said Wednesday. The agency set an action date of May 25 for the application.

Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

Poll: Should Joshua Sharf­stein or Janet Wood­cock lead the FDA from here?

It’s time for a new FDA commissioner to come on board, a rite of passage for Joe Biden’s administration that should help seal the new president’s rep on seeking out the experts to lead the government over the next 4 years.

As of now, the competition for the top job appears to have narrowed down to 2 people: The longtime CDER chief Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein, the former principal deputy at the FDA under Peggy Hamburg. Both were appointed by Barack Obama.

Covid-19 claims an­oth­er PDU­FA vic­tim as Glax­o­SmithK­line push­es back planned PD-1 roll­out

Bristol Myers Squibb isn’t the only pharma giant that’s been standing in the FDA’s waiting line for site inspections.

GlaxoSmithKline is telling us today that their H2 2020 PDUFA deadline for the PD-1 drug dostarlimab — picked up in its Tesaro buyout — was pushed back due to a delay in the manufacturing site inspection needed for a regulatory decision. And that is forcing the company to revise its timeline.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: BioN­Tech of­fers da­ta show­ing Pfiz­er-part­nered vac­cine pro­tects against vari­ant; No­vavax at­trib­ut­es re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for PhI­II de­lay to OWS

Ugur Sahin and his team at BioNTech have proffered more evidence that their Pfizer-partnered Covid-19 vaccine can protect people from a much-feared variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Colloquially known as the UK variant, the B.1.1.7 lineage triggered alarms because it appeared more transmissible. Among a series of mutations on its spike protein — the key antigen that all frontrunners in the vaccine race targeted — N501Y was of particular concern because it’s located on the receptor-binding site.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.