As scruti­ny in­to drug prices in­ten­si­fies, Lil­ly launch­es half price Hu­ma­log; BioX­cel, Nek­tar ex­pand col­lab to in­clude Baven­cio in com­bo pan­cre­at­ic can­cer ther­a­py

→ Bi­par­ti­san furor against drug prices in the Unit­ed States is hav­ing a grow­ing im­pact on phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny de­ci­sions. Fol­low­ing Am­gen $AMGN and part­ners Re­gen­eron $REGN and Sanofi $SNY move to slash the price of their re­spec­tive PC­SK9 cho­les­terol drugs by 60%, Lil­ly $LLY on Mon­day made its own pledge: to of­fer a half-price gener­ic of its pop­u­lar in­sulin Hu­ma­log (which gen­er­at­ed near­ly $3 bil­lion in 2018 sales), at a time when anec­do­tal re­ports of US di­a­bet­ics ra­tioning and in cer­tain cas­es fore­go­ing in­sulin are do­ing the rounds.

“The sig­nif­i­cant re­bates we pay on in­sulins do not di­rect­ly ben­e­fit all pa­tients. This needs to change,” Lil­ly chief David Ricks said in a state­ment, adding that one vial of the Hu­ma­log copy­cat would be sold for $137.35 in the Unit­ed States. In a probe an­nounced last month by Sena­tors Chuck Grass­ley and Ron Wyden, the law­mak­ers sought in­for­ma­tion on how drug­mak­ers come up with list prices for in­sulin and called out Lil­ly for rais­ing the price of Hu­ma­log from $35 to $234 be­tween 2001 and 2015 — a 585% in­crease. At a US con­gres­sion­al hear­ing con­vened last week to dis­cuss soar­ing US pre­scrip­tion drug prices, ex­ec­u­tives from sev­en large phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies (Lil­ly was no­tably not ex­tend­ed an in­vi­ta­tion)  square­ly put the blame on the mid­dle­men (PBMs and in­sur­ers) for ris­ing pre­scrip­tion drug costs, sug­gest­ing that they had in­creased the size of re­bates of­fered, but that ben­e­fit was not be­ing passed on to pa­tients.

BioX­cel Ther­a­peu­tics $BTAI and Nek­tar Ther­a­peu­tics $NK­TR are ex­pand­ing their col­lab­o­ra­tion to in­clude Pfiz­er and Ger­many’s Mer­ck. Un­der the new deal, BioX­cel’s BX­CL701 and Nek­tar’s NK­TR-214 will be com­bined with Pfiz­er $PFE/Mer­ck’s PD-L1 Baven­cio for use in pan­cre­at­ic can­cer, a no­to­ri­ous­ly hard-to-treat dis­ease. “ (It) is es­sen­tial to tar­get mul­ti­ple di­men­sions of the im­mune sys­tem in par­al­lel to ad­dress the mul­ti-faceted eti­olo­gies un­der­ly­ing can­cer cell growth in dif­fi­cult-to-treat tu­mors such as pan­cre­at­ic can­cer,” Nek­tar CSO Jonathan Za­levsky said in a state­ment.

MyoKar­dia $MYOK got a boost to­day from its post on pos­i­tive da­ta from an ex­ten­sion study of its Phase II tri­al for mava­camten. Its shares are up 3% on the news. The ex­ten­sion study has a small group of 13 pa­tients.

→ Biotech bil­lion­aire Patrick Soon-Sh­iong‘s Nan­tK­west $NK has in-li­censed a BC­MA tar­get­ed an­ti­body se­quence for mul­ti­ple myelo­ma from a Cal­i­for­nia-based CRO ProMab Biotech­nolo­gies, in a deal that al­so of­fers Nan­tK­west the op­tion to ac­cess up to five undis­closed tar­get­ing se­quences for ex­clu­sive use in the de­vel­op­ment of chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tor (CAR) based NK cell ther­a­pies. The fi­nan­cial terms of the deal were not dis­closed.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.