President Biden at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

Biden bud­get wants to more than dou­ble num­ber of ne­go­ti­at­ed drugs un­der Medicare, and elim­i­nate he­pati­tis C

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden on Thurs­day un­veiled his 2024 bud­get, which is packed with lofty goals that may nev­er see the light of day be­cause Con­gress con­trols the fed­er­al purse strings and Re­pub­li­cans con­trol the House.

Even still, the wide-rang­ing bud­get looks to im­me­di­ate­ly build off the In­fla­tion Re­duc­tion Act by rapid­ly ex­pand­ing the num­ber of drugs that will be ne­go­ti­at­ed and de­creas­ing the amount of time that small and large mol­e­cule drugs will go with­out ne­go­ti­a­tions, from 10 years for small mol­e­cules and 13 years for bi­o­log­ics to just five years for both small and large mol­e­cule drugs.

The shift would have a much more sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on bio­phar­ma R&D than the orig­i­nal IRA, which the Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Of­fice pro­ject­ed would cut on­ly about 10 drugs over 30 years.

HHS of­fi­cial­ly de­clined to com­ment on the up­dat­ed ne­go­ti­a­tion num­bers, but then leaked them to re­porters from Bloomberg and Politi­co, who not­ed on Twit­ter that the num­ber of drugs to be ne­go­ti­at­ed will al­so in­crease from 140 drugs to 300 drugs from 2024 to 2033. CMS did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Al­to­geth­er, those tweaks are es­ti­mat­ed to amount to $160 bil­lion in sav­ings over 10 years.

Mean­while, Biden al­so in­clud­ed an­oth­er $11 bil­lion over the next 10 years on a plan to elim­i­nate he­pati­tis C na­tion­wide over five years, as for­mer NIH Di­rec­tor Fran­cis Collins in­di­cat­ed was com­ing ear­li­er this week.

In a JA­MA View­point pub­lished to­day, Collins and the White House’s Rachael Fleurence wrote, “The pro­gram aims to sig­nif­i­cant­ly ex­pand screen­ing, test­ing, treat­ment, pre­ven­tion, and mon­i­tor­ing of he­pati­tis C in­fec­tions in the Unit­ed States, with a spe­cif­ic fo­cus on pop­u­la­tions at the great­est risk for in­fec­tion.”

They al­so not­ed that al­though the price tag might seem steep, the sav­ings from such a pro­gram would be mon­u­men­tal over time.

The costs of this out­reach ef­fort will reach sev­er­al bil­lion dol­lars over 5 years — a siz­able in­vest­ment, but less than the sav­ings that econ­o­mists project would be gen­er­at­ed in the fu­ture by pre­vent­ing tens of thou­sands of ex­pen­sive cas­es of liv­er fail­ure and liv­er can­cer. Re­cent da­ta al­so showed that the ben­e­fits of treat­ing he­pati­tis C ex­tend be­yond liv­er dis­ease to di­a­betes and kid­ney dis­ease, mak­ing the sav­ings from cures like­ly to be even greater.

Oth­er no­table fund­ing in­creas­es and pro­vi­sions in Biden’s bud­get in­clude:

  • $1.4 bil­lion over 10 years to cap in­sulin cost-shar­ing at $35 in com­mer­cial plans, build­ing on the IRA’s out-of-pock­et cap for those in Medicare.
  • $670 mil­lion over five years to ex­pand and mod­ern­ize reg­u­la­to­ry ca­pac­i­ty and in­fra­struc­ture to re­spond to any fu­ture pan­dem­ic or bi­o­log­i­cal threat.
  • $521 mil­lion in ad­di­tion­al bud­get for FDA.
  • $50 mil­lion to the FDA to ad­vance the pres­i­dent’s Can­cer Moon­shot goals, with new funds to ex­pand re­sources and col­lab­o­ra­tions around di­ag­nos­tic and ther­a­peu­tic prod­ucts to treat rare can­cers, and oth­er ef­forts to ad­dress can­cer mor­bid­i­ty and mor­tal­i­ty.
  • $10 mil­lion more to sup­port a range of med­ical prod­uct safe­ty ac­tiv­i­ties.
  • Ex­pand drug short­age no­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ments to in­clude sit­u­a­tions when a man­u­fac­tur­er is un­like­ly to be able to meet an in­creased de­mand.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

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Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bacteria are ruthless.

Some soil bacteria have evolved tiny, but deadly injection systems that attach to insect cells, perforate them and release toxins inside — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Scientists, on the other hand, want to leverage that system to deliver medicines.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, MIT CRISPR researcher Feng Zhang and his lab describe how they engineered these syringes made by bacteria to deliver potential therapies like toxins that kill cancer cells and gene editors. With the help of an AI program, they developed syringes that can load proteins of their choice and selectively target human cells.

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Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

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Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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See­los Ther­a­peu­tics 'tem­porar­i­ly' stops study in rare neu­ro dis­or­der for busi­ness rea­sons

Microcap biotech Seelos Therapeutics is halting enrollment of its study in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (also known as Machado-Joseph disease) because of “financial considerations,” and in order to focus on other studies, the company said today, adding that the pause would be temporary.

The study will continue with the patients who have already enrolled, and the data from them will be used to decide whether to continue enrolling others in the future.

FDA ap­proves Nar­can opi­oid over­dose re­ver­sal spray for over-the-counter sale

The FDA today approved Emergent BioSolutions’ Narcan brand naloxone nasal spray for over-the-counter sales. The nod was expected and comes on the heels of a unanimous 19-0 advisory committee vote in favor of approval last month.

The move to OTC means the opioid overdose reversal agent will now be available on grocery, convenience and gas stations shelves, as well as potentially for purchase online.

CSL CEO Paul McKenzie (L) and CMO Bill Mezzanotte

Q&A: New­ly-mint­ed CSL chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul McKen­zie and chief med­ical of­fi­cer Bill Mez­zan­otte

Paul McKenzie took over as CEO of Australian pharma giant CSL this month, following in the footsteps of long-time CSL vet Paul Perreault.

With an eye on mRNA, and quickly commercializing its new, $3.5 million-per-shot gene therapy for hemophilia B, McKenzie and chief medical officer Bill Mezzanotte answered some questions from Endpoints News this afternoon about where McKenzie is going to take the company and what advances may be coming to market from CSL’s pipeline. Below is a lightly edited transcript.

Boehringer re­ports ro­bust sales led by type 2 di­a­betes and pul­monary drugs, promis­es more to come high­light­ing obe­si­ty

Boehringer Ingelheim reported human pharma sales of €18.5 billion on Wednesday, led by type 2 diabetes and heart failure drug Jardiance and pulmonary fibrosis med Ofev. Jardiance sales reached €5.8 billion, growing 39% year over year, while Ofev took in €3.2 billion, notching its own 20.6% annual jump.

However, Boehringer is also looking ahead with its pipeline, estimating “In the next seven years the company expects about 20 regulatory approvals in human pharma.”

Blue­bird to miss Q1 dead­line for lo­vo-cel fil­ing, shares sliced

Bluebird bio had expected to submit a BLA for its sickle cell disease gene therapy lovotibeglogene autotemcel, or lovo-cel, by Friday. Now, that deadline is getting punted for at least a couple of weeks.

CEO Andrew Obenshain detailed the update during the company’s full-year earnings call Wednesday morning after the gene therapy specialist reported the development in its Q4 and 2022 report.

“We will likely miss the Q1 2023 submission goal,” Obenshain said, noting the application is fully written and ready to go. But bluebird is still waiting on FDA feedback for the company’s CMC module submitted in early March.