As­traZeneca re­searchers plumb pos­i­tive da­ta to back ex­tend­ed use of Bril­in­ta

Af­ter suf­fer­ing back-to-back clin­i­cal fail­ures last year that forced As­traZeneca to fi­nal­ly back off its pro­jec­tion of a bril­liant megablock­buster fu­ture for Bril­in­ta, the strug­gling phar­ma gi­ant has come up with a pos­i­tive batch of da­ta that could per­suade physi­cians to ex­tend its use among high-risk heart pa­tients.

Run­ning a sub-analy­sis of its 2015 PE­GA­SUS-TI­MI study, the re­searchers found a ma­jor 29% re­duc­tion in the risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar death among high-risk pa­tients who con­tin­ued to take the clot-fight­ing drug past the first full year of ther­a­py. The pa­tient pop­u­la­tion had con­tin­ued tak­ing as­pirin and the drug group was com­pared with a place­bo plus as­pirin arm.

The new da­ta al­so showed a risk re­duc­tion of 20% in all caus­es of death and a 20% in the com­pos­ite of car­dio death, my­ocar­dial in­farc­tion or stroke. Ma­jor bleed­ing rates were “con­sis­tent with the known safe­ty pro­file of Bril­in­ta,” the com­pa­ny re­port­ed.

Mikael Dell­borg

Any in­creased use of Bril­in­ta would be cheered at As­traZeneca. Last fall the com­pa­ny had to start edg­ing away from its $3.5 bil­lion pro­jec­tion of peak rev­enue for the drug, de­liv­er­ing an­oth­er ma­jor blow to CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot’s promise to spur an­nu­al sales to $45 bil­lion by 2023 — close to twice last year’s to­tal.

Last Oc­to­ber Bril­in­ta failed a study for pe­riph­er­al artery dis­ease, prov­ing no bet­ter than as­pirin in re­duc­ing the risk of death, stroke or heart at­tack, and that came just 6 months af­ter an ear­li­er flub. There is an­oth­er ma­jor Bril­in­ta tri­al un­der­way among di­a­bet­ics, with da­ta ex­pect­ed next year.

Mikael Dell­borg, pro­fes­sor of car­di­ol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Gothen­burg and mem­ber of the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee of the PE­GA­SUS-TI­MI 54 tri­al, said:

“The con­clu­sion for both clin­i­cians and pa­tients at high-risk of CV death post-MI is clear: Treat­ment with Bril­in­ta 60mg, ei­ther as con­tin­u­a­tion ther­a­py af­ter the ini­tial 12 month post-event pe­ri­od, or with as lim­it­ed in­ter­rup­tion as pos­si­ble, is as­so­ci­at­ed with a clear and favourable ben­e­fit-risk ra­tio for this pop­u­la­tion of pa­tients. This new in­sight is po­ten­tial­ly prac­tice-chang­ing, as while more than sev­en mil­lion peo­ple world­wide suf­fer a heart at­tack each year, we know that few­er than half re­ceive ad­e­quate long-term treat­ment to re­duce their risk of fur­ther CV events.”

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA.