Tim Van Hauwermeiren, argenx CEO

Ar­genx pur­chas­es $100M+ FDA pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er from blue­bird bio

Ar­genx’s Vyv­gart is due for a speedy re­view at the FDA, thanks to a $102 mil­lion pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er (PRV).

The Nether­land-based biotech picked up the PRV from blue­bird bio, the com­pa­nies an­nounced on Wednes­day. PRVs short­en a drug’s FDA re­view pe­ri­od from 10 months to 6 months, though they of­ten sell on the open mar­ket for around $100 mil­lion each.

Ar­genx plans on us­ing the ex­press tick­et on ef­gar­tigi­mod, its neona­tal Fc re­cep­tor (FcRn) block­er mar­ket­ed as Vyv­gart for adults with gen­er­al­ized myas­the­nia gravis (gMG). While Vyv­gart won its first ap­proval last De­cem­ber for the chron­ic neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­ease — which is char­ac­ter­ized by dif­fi­cul­ties with fa­cial ex­pres­sion, speech, swal­low­ing and breath­ing — CEO Tim Van Hauw­er­meiren said in a news re­lease that he plans to “be ac­tive in fif­teen dis­ease tar­gets by 2025.”

“With a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er avail­able, we hope to ex­pe­dite the ap­proval process for one of our cur­rent or fu­ture in­di­ca­tions to more quick­ly reach the pa­tients who are in se­ri­ous need of a new treat­ment op­tion,” he added.

Just last week, ar­genx filed for ap­proval of a sub­cu­ta­neous ver­sion of Vyv­gart (the orig­i­nal is ad­min­is­tered by IV) in gMG. The FDA has al­ready grant­ed the drug a pri­or­i­ty re­view, though, with an ex­pect­ed de­ci­sion date of March 20.

An­drew Oben­shain

Blue­bird won two PRVs this year from its ap­provals of Zyn­te­glo in be­ta-tha­lassemia and Skysona in ear­ly, ac­tive cere­bral adrenoleukody­s­tro­phy. While the first sale has yet to be fi­nal­ized, CEO An­drew Oben­shain is al­ready con­sid­er­ing sell­ing the sec­ond PRV.

“As mo­men­tum builds across our busi­ness, this non-di­lu­tive cap­i­tal fur­ther bol­sters the on­go­ing launch­es of our two re­cent­ly ap­proved gene ther­a­pies and the ex­e­cu­tion of near-term, val­ue-cre­at­ing mile­stones, in­clud­ing the planned sub­mis­sion and sub­se­quent FDA re­view of our bi­o­log­ics li­cens­ing ap­pli­ca­tion for lo­vo-cel for sick­le cell dis­ease,” he said.

This isn’t ar­genx’s first time around the PRV block. The com­pa­ny bought one from Bay­er in 2020 for $98 bil­lion, which Bay­er had won for its ap­proval of Lampit in pe­di­atric Cha­gas dis­ease.

Late Fri­day ap­proval; Trio of biotechs wind down; Stem cell pi­o­neer finds new fron­tier; Biotech icon to re­tire; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

I hope your weekend is off to a nice start, wherever you are reading this email. As for me, I’m trying to catch the tail of the Lunar New Year festivities.

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Pfiz­er lays off em­ploy­ees at Cal­i­for­nia and Con­necti­cut sites

Pfizer has laid off employees at its La Jolla, CA, and Groton, CT sites, according to multiple LinkedIn posts from former employees.

The Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News it has let go of some employees, but a spokesperson declined to specify how many workers were impacted and the exact locations affected. Earlier this month, the drug developer had confirmed to Endpoints it was sharpening its focus and doing away with some early research on areas such as rare disease, oncology and gene therapies.

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Filip Dubovsky, Novavax CMO

No­vavax gets ready to take an­oth­er shot at Covid vac­cine mar­ket with next sea­son plans

While mRNA took center stage at yesterday’s FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting, Novavax announced its plans to deliver an updated protein-based vaccine based on new guidance.

Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) members voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all future vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

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Jake Van Naarden, Loxo@Lilly CEO

Lil­ly en­ters ripe BTK field with quick FDA nod in man­tle cell lym­phoma

Eli Lilly has succeeded in its attempt to get the first non-covalent version of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, or BTK, inhibitors to market, pushing it past rival Merck.

The FDA gave an accelerated nod to Lilly’s daily oral med, to be sold as Jaypirca, for patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.

The agency’s green light, disclosed by the Indianapolis Big Pharma on Friday afternoon, catapults Lilly into a field dominated by covalent BTK inhibitors, which includes AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica, AstraZeneca’s Calquence and BeiGene’s Brukinsa.

CBER Director Peter Marks (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

FDA ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee votes unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of bi­va­lent Covid shots re­plac­ing pri­ma­ry se­ries

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all current vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

The vote marks an effort to clear up confusion around varying formulations and dosing schedules for current primary series and booster vaccines, as well as “get closer to the strains that are circulating,” according to committee member Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

FDA re­ports ini­tial 'no sig­nal' for stroke risk with Pfiz­er boost­ers, launch­es con­comi­tant flu shot study

The FDA hasn’t detected any potential safety signals, including for stroke, in people aged 65 years and older who have received Pfizer’s bivalent Covid booster, one senior official told members of the agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Thursday.

The update comes as the FDA and CDC investigate a “preliminary signal” that may indicate an increased risk of ischemic stroke in older Americans who received Pfizer’s updated shot.

FDA cuts off use for As­traZeneca’s Covid-19 ther­a­py Evusheld

The FDA has stopped use of another drug as a result of the new coronavirus variants. On Thursday, the agency announced that AstraZeneca’s antibody combo Evusheld, which was an important prevention option for many immunocompromised people and others, is no longer authorized.

The FDA said it made its decision based on the fact that Evusheld works on fewer than 10% of circulating variants.

Evusheld was initially given emergency authorization at the end of 2021. However, as Omicron emerged, so did studies that showed Evusheld might not work against the dominant Omicron strain. In October, the FDA warned healthcare providers that Evusheld was useless against the Omicron subvariant BA.4.6. It followed that up with another announcement earlier this month that it did not think Evusheld would work against the latest Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

Post-hoc analy­sis: EMA's CHMP re­jects Ipsen's po­ten­tial drug for rare ge­net­ic dis­ease

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use on Friday rejected Ipsen Pharma’s potential treatment for a rare genetic disease known as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), which causes extra bone to form outside the skeleton.

The EMA said on its website that it could not draw any firm conclusions on the benefits of the French biopharma’s Sohonos (palovarotene), which selectively targets the retinoic-acid receptor gamma (RARγ), “as the applicant’s conclusion was based on a post-hoc analysis which was neither scientifically nor clinically justified and pre-specified study objectives were not met.”

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FDA ap­proves an­oth­er in­di­ca­tion for Keytru­da, this time in the ad­ju­vant NSCLC set­ting

Merck’s blockbuster cancer treatment Keytruda has been handed another indication by the FDA.

The US regulator announced on Thursday that it has approved Keytruda to serve as an adjuvant treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is its fifth indication in NSCLC and 34th indication overall.

According to a Merck release, the approval is based on data from a Phase III trial, dubbed Keynote-091, which measured disease-free survival in patients who received chemotherapy following surgery. The data from Merck displayed that Keytruda cut down on the risk of disease recurrence or death by 27% versus placebo.