As­traZeneca cel­e­brates a PhI­II PARP suc­cess for Lyn­parza, putting pres­sure on Tesaro ri­val

As­traZeneca dropped one very big, tan­ta­liz­ing clue this morn­ing that will de­ter­mine the fate of its PARP in­hibitor Lyn­parza (ola­parib). As ri­val PARPs come up the pipeline from Tesaro, Clo­vis and Pfiz­er, the phar­ma gi­ant says that its Phase III ovar­i­an can­cer study came up with sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant re­sults that beat out what we’ve seen so far.

“Im­por­tant­ly, the me­di­an PFS in the Lyn­parza arm of SO­LO-2 sub­stan­tial­ly ex­ceed­ed that ob­served in the Phase II main­te­nance study in pa­tients with plat­inum-sen­si­tive re­lapsed ovar­i­an can­cer (Study 19),” As­traZeneca $AZN said in a re­lease. In­ves­ti­ga­tors test­ed the drug as a main­te­nance monother­a­py com­pared with place­bo in pa­tients with plat­inum-sen­si­tive re­lapsed or re­cur­rent BR­CA-mu­tat­ed (BR­CAm) ovar­i­an can­cer.

And that’s all you’re go­ing to get right now, as in­ves­ti­ga­tors gath­er their da­ta for an up­com­ing sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ence.

Lyn­parza’s ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval with shaky da­ta and a neg­a­tive pan­el vote is one of the best things that has hap­pened to that com­pa­ny since Pas­cal So­ri­ot took over. And they need to do bet­ter than the weak re­sults that got them over the fin­ish line if they ex­pect to pre­serve the win in the mar­ket.

The de­vel­op­ers in the field did not all go af­ter the same pa­tient pop­u­la­tion, which makes com­par­isons dif­fi­cult. How­ev­er, each new da­ta point is be­ing giv­en a care­ful eval­u­a­tion as the ri­val com­pa­nies look to divvy up the mar­ket. In par­tic­u­lar, any­thing that pol­ish­es Lyn­parza’s da­ta will be com­pared close­ly with Tesaro’s ni­ra­parib, al­so be­ing pitched as a sec­ond-line main­te­nance ther­a­py.

Jef­feries notes that the da­ta is like­ly to set up a head-to-head ri­val­ry be­tween As­traZeneca and Tesaro.

We await full re­sults SO­LO-2 at an as-yet-to-be-dis­closed med­ical meet­ing to com­pare the re­sults to those seen with TSRO’s (OP) ni­ra­parib in the gBR­CA­mut co­hort of the Phase 3 NO­VA tri­al. We ex­pect the ben­e­fit of the two drugs to be broad­ly sim­i­lar and as­sume this in our mod­el. While we cur­rent­ly ex­pect Lyn­parza and ni­ra­parib to split the mar­ket in gBR­CA­mut pa­tients, ni­ra­parib is like­ly to ben­e­fit from an ex­pand­ed in­di­ca­tion in­clud­ing ho­mol­o­gous re­com­bi­na­tion de­fi­cient (HRD) pos­i­tive pa­tients, and we al­so be­lieve like­ly HRD-neg­a­tive pa­tients as well.

Tesaro’s shares are down 3% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing.

It’s like­ly to be quite a dust­up. Pfiz­er spent $14 bil­lion to buy Medi­va­tion with its prostate can­cer drug as well as an ex­per­i­men­tal PARP, ta­la­zoparib. Clo­vis $CLVS had to grap­ple with con­sid­er­able skep­ti­cism over its re­cent batch of mixed da­ta for ru­ca­parib. And Tesaro $TSRO is al­so hunt­ing an ap­proval of ni­ra­parib for a broad sec­ond-line main­te­nance group, with­out the use of a di­ag­nos­tic.

As­traZeneca CMO Sean Bo­hen not­ed:

Sean Bo­hen

“We are pleased with the ro­bust im­prove­ment in pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival demon­strat­ed by Lyn­parza in the SO­LO-2 tri­al. We will work with reg­u­la­to­ry au­thor­i­ties to make Lyn­parza tablets avail­able as quick­ly as pos­si­ble to pa­tients with ovar­i­an can­cer. We re­main com­mit­ted to in­ves­ti­gat­ing the full po­ten­tial of Lyn­parza, both as monother­a­py and in com­bi­na­tions, and to iden­ti­fy­ing all pa­tients who may ben­e­fit from this im­por­tant med­i­cine.”

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.

FDA de­lays de­ci­sion on No­var­tis’ po­ten­tial block­buster MS drug, wip­ing away pri­or­i­ty re­view

So much for a speedy review.

In February, Novartis announced that an application for their much-touted multiple sclerosis drug ofatumumab had been accepted and, with the drug company cashing in on one of their priority review vouchers, the agency was due for a decision by June.

But with June less than 48 hours old, Novartis announced the agency has extended their review, pushing back the timeline for approval or rejection to September. The Swiss pharma filed the application in December, meaning their new schedule will be nearly in line with the standard 10-month window period had they not used the priority voucher.

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President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

Credit: AP Images

Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA sup­ports Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed with big $628M con­tract to ser­vice Amer­i­ca's vac­cine pro­duc­tion needs

Another BARDA contract designed to service America’s Covid-19 vaccine needs has been deployed.

The White House-led initiative designed to bankroll development to bring a vaccine to the American public by this fall — Operation Warp Speed — has via BARDA handed a meaty contract to the maker of an FDA-licensed anthrax vaccine to open up its manufacturing apparatus to shore up production of Covid-19 vaccines.

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Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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