Jean-Jacques Bienaimé. BioMarin via YouTube

Bil­lions on the line: Bio­Marin bus­tles past en­thused ri­val, plan­ning to launch world’s first he­mo­phil­ia A gene ther­a­py

Bio­Marin isn’t go­ing to let a ri­val’s suc­cess over the week­end get in the way of mak­ing a bee-line to the FDA with an im­per­fect, but pre­sentable, gene ther­a­py for he­mo­phil­ia A.

On Mon­day the biotech $BM­RN re­port­ed that its talks with the FDA and the EMA con­vinced ex­ecs to make a leap for an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval with da­ta on just a hand­ful of pa­tients. And they’re hand­ing over Phase I/II and in­ter­im Phase III re­sults in Q4 to make their case.

That de­ci­sion was made de­spite a con­sid­er­able back­lash against the lat­est snap­shot of the da­ta, with wors­en­ing ef­fi­ca­cy over time and a low­er ini­tial re­sponse in their piv­otal tri­al — but ex­cel­lent bleed rates, so far. Bio­Marin says that with a break­through drug des­ig­na­tion in the USA and Eu­rope’s prime sta­tus, they have good rea­son to be­lieve they are on track to field the world’s first gene ther­a­py.

In­vestors ap­pear some­what skep­ti­cal though, with Bio­Marin shares down 2.4% in Mon­day af­ter­noon trad­ing.

Here’s the bet they’re mak­ing, out­lined in their lat­est state­ment:

Fac­tor VI­II lev­els sus­tained over a three-year pe­ri­od were suf­fi­cient to achieve strik­ing he­mo­sta­t­ic ef­fi­ca­cy. Fac­tor VI­II ex­pres­sion has en­tered a plateau phase where the rate of de­cline has sub­stan­tial­ly slowed, which could be in­dica­tive of durable, long-term ex­pres­sion.

Leerink’s Joseph Schwartz of­fers a bull­ish as­sess­ment of Bio­Marin’s gam­ble:

Based on BM­RN’s Ph.3 da­ta, the com­pa­ny met their pre-spec­i­fied cri­te­ria for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval – 8 pts achiev­ing mean fac­tor VI­II/FVI­II lev­els above 40 IU/dL. With on­ly 17 pts (out of 20 pts) eval­u­at­ed so far, it is pos­si­ble that the re­main­ing 3 could pro­vide more con­fi­dence in Val­rox al­though it is not re­quired for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval since BM­RN has al­ready met the bar. The com­pa­ny is fo­cused on get­ting Val­rox to mar­ket as soon as pos­si­ble by sub­mit­ting their fil­ing in 4Q19 based on their Ph.3 in­ter­im analy­sis and aims to com­plete GEN­Er8-1 (6E13 vg/kg) en­roll­ment in ear­ly fall 2019. As­sum­ing BM­RN could in­crease and op­ti­mize ef­fi­ca­cy — re­call, chro­mogenic mea­sures were high­er in Ph.1/2 at weeks 23-26 than Ph.3 (68 IU/dL mean/57 IU/dL me­di­an in Ph.1/2 vs 36 IU/dL mean/33 IU/dL me­di­an Ph.3) — we be­lieve that po­ten­tial stud­ies BM­RN may con­duct lat­er could fur­ther boost sales and in­crease Val­rox’s at­trac­tive­ness among he­mo­phil­ia A pts, es­pe­cial­ly as com­pet­ing pro­grams (i.e., SG­MO/PFE) ap­pear to be de­liv­er­ing com­pet­i­tive ef­fi­ca­cy.

Spark Ther­a­peu­tics $ONCE is wide­ly viewed as the run­ner up for now, while Roche strug­gles to com­plete its $4.3 bil­lion buy­out as soon as pos­si­ble. But Sang­amo/Pfiz­er gar­nered some care­ful sec­ond looks a few days ago as they post­ed bet­ter ef­fi­ca­cy and a fast re­sponse among 4 evalu­able pa­tients. That team al­so out­lined plans to make a leap for­ward on an ac­cel­er­at­ed path­way as they sought to catch up with the two fron­trun­ners.

Any stum­ble at this point could prove a set­back, but if they stay on track Sang­amo and Pfiz­er may set up a sit­u­a­tion where pa­tients can choose an im­per­fect gene ther­a­py or wait for a bet­ter one. And Bio­Marin has out­lined plans to charge in the range of $2 mil­lion to $3 mil­lion per treat­ment — with the ca­pa­bil­i­ty of earn­ing $10 bil­lion to $15 bil­lion a year — adding stick­er shock for pay­ers to the list of chal­lenges.

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors. 

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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