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.

Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

Daniel O'Day [via AP Images]

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead un­leash­es a $5B late-stage cash al­liance with Gala­pa­gos — lay­ing out O'­Day's R&D strat­e­gy

Daniel O’Day is executing his first major development deal since taking over as CEO of Gilead $GILD. And he’s going in deep to ally himself with a longstanding partner.

O’Day announced today that he is spending $5 billion in cash to add new late-stage drugs to Gilead’s pipeline, picking up rights to Galapagos’ $GLPG Phase III IPF drug GLPG1690 alongside adoption of the biotech’s Phase IIb drug GLPG1972 for osteoarthritis. And Gilead is also putting billions more on the table for milestones, gaining options for everything else in Galapagos’ pipeline, with a shot at all rights outside of Europe.

Altogether, Gilead is gaining rights to 6 clinical-stage assets, 20 preclinical programs and everything else being hatched in translation.

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Billing it­self as the first AI biotech to launch hu­man tri­als, Re­cur­sion adds $121M C round

Billing itself as the first AI biotech with programs in the clinic, Salt Lake City-based Recursion now has a $121 million bankroll to start gathering human data to see if it’s on the right track. 

“We’re trying to build this discovery engine,” Recursion CEO Chris Gibson tells me ahead of the C round news. “We now have the first two programs in the clinic.” And that, he adds, qualifies as a first for any AI establishment “that actually have something in the clinic.”

Hal Barron [File photo]

Hal Bar­ron's team at GSK scores a win with pos­i­tive Ze­ju­la PhI­II front­line study — now comes the hard part

Score one for Hal Barron and the new R&D team steering GlaxoSmithKline’s pipeline.

The pharma giant reported this morning that its recently acquired PARP, Zejula (niraparib), hit the primary endpoint on progression-free survival in a frontline maintenance setting for women suffering ovarian cancer — following chemo and regardless of their BRCA status.

GSK bet $5 billion on the Tesaro buyout primarily to get this drug, drawing the shaking heads of biopharma. Why pay a big premium for a drug like this when AstraZeneca was going from strength to strength with Lynparza, ran the argument, having won a hugely important accelerated approval to jump out ahead — way ahead — of the rest of the PARP players? Lynparza — now co-owned by a powerhouse cancer team at Merck — won the first approval in frontline maintenance in ovarian cancer.

FDA bats back As­traZeneca's SGLT di­a­betes drug for Type 1 di­a­betes — block­ing a class on safe­ty fears

The FDA has just fired its latest salvo at the SGLT class of diabetes drugs, blowing up some commercial opportunity at AstraZeneca as part of the collateral damage.

The pharma giant reported early Monday that the FDA has rejected its blockbuster drug Farxiga for Type 1 diabetes that can’t be controlled by insulin. And while the pharma giant maintained its usual grim silence in the face of a setback, this one should be easy to interpret.

Jonathan Symonds [via HSBC]

GSK to tap Jonathan Symonds as chair­man, lever­ag­ing Big Phar­ma ex­pe­ri­ence for con­sumer biz deal

Six months into its search for a new board chairman, GlaxoSmithKline has apparently found the perfect candidate in a seasoned executive groomed at AstraZeneca and Novartis. Jonathan Symonds is in the final stages of being appointed, Bloomberg reports.

In January Sir Philip Hampton announced his intention to step down and make way for a new leader to oversee the consumer health joint venture GSK is setting up with Pfizer. The deal — announced a month prior — would spin out the unit formerly headed by GSK CEO Emma Walmsley and merge it with the equivalent division at Pfizer to create a new entity to be listed separately.

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen, No­var­tis scrap Alzheimer's stud­ies — is BACE fi­nal­ly dead or will Bio­gen and Ei­sai car­ry on?

The BACE theory of controlling Alzheimer’s died with failed pivotal projects at Merck, Eli Lilly and their partners at AstraZeneca. Now Amgen and Novartis have come along to bulldoze it under a mound of safety threats — leaving only Biogen and Eisai to carry on with a less than zero chance of success — with the notable addition that they may actually be doing harm to patients.

After the market closed Thursday, Amgen and Novartis announced that they were dumping two pivotal programs underway with the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute on their BACE drug CNP520 (umibecestat) after an independent review of the data indicated that patients’ cognitive abilities were actually worsening at a faster pace than the placebo arm.

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Christi Shaw at JP Morgan 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Fresh out of Eli Lil­ly, Christi Shaw sur­faces as Daniel O'­Day's new CEO at CAR-T pi­o­neer Kite

Well, that didn’t take long. 

We found out Thursday evening that Christi Shaw has given up her top post as the head of the Bio-Medicines group at Eli Lilly for the helm at CAR-T pioneer Kite. New Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day, a Roche veteran, had made finding a Kite CEO a top priority on his arrival at Gilead. And he went right for a headliner.

O’Day was clearly excited about the coup.

“We conducted an extensive search for a new leader at Kite and we believe that Christi’s unique set of skills will allow us to continue to build on our leadership position in cell therapy,” he said in a prepared statement. “Christi’s vast experience across complex therapeutic areas, and particularly in oncology, will serve Kite very well. She is clearly a leader who will bring teams and individuals together and I am confident she will build upon the entrepreneurial spirit at Kite as we seek to help more people with cancer around the world.”

Christi Shaw at JP Morgan 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Eli Lil­ly's Christi Shaw bows out of top post at the Bio-Med­i­cines unit

Less than 3 years after Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks recruited Novartis vet Christi Shaw to run their big Bio-Medicines business, she’s out.

In a statement put out Thursday morning, Lilly said that Shaw’s last day will come at the end of August. Patrik Jonsson, currently president and general manager of Lilly Japan, will succeed Shaw once he gets the paperwork sorted out.

Lilly’s shares dropped 4% on the news.