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.

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Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
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Elektroki Boston, MA
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Elektroki Boston, MA
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Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT

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