As­traZeneca sells off heart fail­ure and hy­per­ten­sion drugs to Chep­lapharm for $400M

Out with the old and in with the new: As­traZeneca is sell­ing off two heart fail­ure and hy­per­ten­sion drugs to Ger­many-based Chep­lapharm, bag­ging $400 mil­lion and mak­ing way for de­vel­op­ment in oth­er ar­eas.

Chep­lapharm paid $200 mil­lion for the Eu­ro­pean rights to At­a­cand (can­desar­tan cilex­etil) and At­a­cand Plus (can­desar­tan cilex­etil and hy­drochloroth­iazide) back in 2018. They’re now dou­bling that amount for com­mer­cial con­trol in more than 70 coun­tries.

Pas­cal So­ri­ot As­traZeneca

Mean­while, As­traZeneca said the sale will al­low them to fo­cus on three main ther­a­py ar­eas: on­col­o­gy, car­dio­vas­cu­lar, re­nal and me­tab­o­lism, and res­pi­ra­to­ry and im­munol­o­gy. Last year, As­traZeneca swept away the brand name Med­Im­mune and brought in José Basel­ga to run can­cer R&D op­er­a­tions in a ma­jor re­struc­tur­ing. On­col­o­gy has been a main fo­cus as CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot builds out the com­pa­ny’s port­fo­lio.

Not to men­tion, the phar­ma is one of the lead­ers in the race for a Covid-19 vac­cine. Ear­li­er this month, the EMA grant­ed a rolling re­view for its can­di­date in de­vel­op­ment with Ox­ford Uni­ver­si­ty.

“This agree­ment forms part of our strat­e­gy to care­ful­ly man­age the ma­ture med­i­cines, en­abling rein­vest­ment in our main ther­a­py ar­eas to bring in­no­v­a­tive new med­i­cines to pa­tients,” Ru­ud Dob­ber, EVP of As­traZeneca’s bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals busi­ness unit, said in a state­ment.

As­traZeneca will man­u­fac­ture and sell At­a­cand for the next three years as the com­pa­nies tran­si­tion. The drug, de­vel­oped with Take­da, was first ap­proved in 1998, and is now in­di­cat­ed to treat hy­per­ten­sion in adults and chil­dren, and heart fail­ure in adults. At­a­cand Plus is ap­proved for the treat­ment of hy­per­ten­sion when can­desar­tan or hy­drochloroth­iazide monother­a­py is “not suf­fi­cient­ly ef­fec­tive,” ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny.

Last year, At­a­cand earned $221 mil­lion in glob­al sales, ac­cord­ing to As­traZeneca’s Q4 re­sults. Chep­lapharm agreed to pay $250 mil­lion once the deal clos­es, and the rest in the first half of 2021. As­traZeneca said the sale will “not im­pact the com­pa­ny’s fi­nan­cial guid­ance for 2020.”

Cap­ping Pas­cal So­ri­ot’s big turn­around, the an­a­lysts at Cowen say As­traZeneca is poised for a stel­lar year

Big Pharmas typically don’t get a lot of respect for R&D efforts. Their ROI is bad on a massive annual bill, there’s too much late-stage failure, analysts fret about the endurance of big franchises and the impact of generic competition.

Even as Pascal Soriot is staunching the bleeding around a badly handled Phase III readout for their Covid-19 vaccine, though, the AstraZeneca CEO is taking a bow today as Cowen lavishes praise on the pipeline and near-term prospects for the multinational — for the second year in a row.

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Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

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The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

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Y-mAbs, which flew mostly under the radar until a few years ago, snagged approval for naxitamab-gqgk as a second-line treatment in combination with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Patients older than 1 year old can take the drug for relapsed or refractory high-risk neuroblastoma in the bone or bone marrow. The good news cushioned last month’s blow, sending the company’s stock $YMAB — which sank more than 18% upon news of the RTF — up 10.15% as of Monday morning.

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FDA gives Rhythm the green light for set­melan­otide, a drug aimed at re­duc­ing obe­si­ty in cer­tain ge­net­ic dis­or­ders

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Pascal Soriot (Getty)

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AstraZeneca and its partners at Oxford had initially touted high-level results from two studies conducted in the UK and Brazil as positive. But the enthusiasm was soon shadowed by confusion as observers probed into how the highest, 90% efficacy was seen in a dosing regimen given to a small group of volunteers due to an error. Among a larger cohort given the intended shots, the vaccine was only 62% effective, a rate that would’ve been respectable had Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna not posted efficacy rates of 94%, 95% for their mRNA candidates. And many weren’t sure what to make of the average 70% number that AstraZeneca ran in headlines.

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Robert Clarke (Kinaset)

Ki­naset launch­es with $40M and a JAK in­hibitor from Vec­tura's old pipeline

Kinaset Therapeutics is joining the search for a better severe asthma treatment, picking up where Vectura left off when it decided to clear house last year.

UK-based Vectura — which took a big hit when its most advanced candidate flopped in a Phase III asthma trial back in 2018 — recently shifted to a CDMO model, offloading all of its R&D programs. Robert Clarke, who’s worked on inhalable therapeutics for 21-plus years, had close contacts at the company and took a look at what they were offering. After doing some research, he was attracted by VR475, a pan-JAK inhibitor.

Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

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