FDA OKs first cannabi­noid, gives green light to GW Phar­ma’s Epid­i­olex for rare seizures

GW Phar­ma $GW­PH fin­ished its layup at the FDA to­day with Epid­i­olex, grab­bing its first ever mar­ket­ing OK for one of its cannabi­noid drugs and set­ting up the biotech for a ma­jor shift to­ward com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

Justin Grover, GW Phar­ma CEO

Two months af­ter a unan­i­mous rec­om­men­da­tion by an out­side group of FDA ex­perts and some glow­ing rec­om­men­da­tions in the in­ter­nal re­view, GW will now set out to open up a new class of meds af­ter demon­strat­ing the drug’s abil­i­ty to pre­vent seizures in chil­dren suf­fer­ing from rare cas­es of Lennox-Gas­taut syn­drome and Dravet syn­drome. 

The ap­proval was record­ed on the FDA’s web­site and word spread quick­ly through Twit­ter.

Clar­i­vate has pegged 2022 sales at a block­buster sized $1.2 bil­lion, mak­ing this roll­out a huge­ly im­por­tant event for the UK-based com­pa­ny.

The FDA’s Scott Got­tlieb did the hon­ors in the state­ment to­day, cel­e­brat­ing GW for the work they did, and warn­ing any­one else against try­ing to mar­ket cannabis-re­lat­ed prod­ucts with du­bi­ous sup­port for their claims.

Scott Got­tlieb

“This ap­proval serves as a re­minder that ad­vanc­ing sound de­vel­op­ment pro­grams that prop­er­ly eval­u­ate ac­tive in­gre­di­ents con­tained in mar­i­jua­na can lead to im­por­tant med­ical ther­a­pies. And, the FDA is com­mit­ted to this kind of care­ful sci­en­tif­ic re­search and drug de­vel­op­ment,” said Got­tlieb. “Con­trolled clin­i­cal tri­als test­ing the safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy of a drug, along with care­ful re­view through the FDA’s drug ap­proval process, is the most ap­pro­pri­ate way to bring mar­i­jua­na-de­rived treat­ments to pa­tients. Be­cause of the ad­e­quate and well-con­trolled clin­i­cal stud­ies that sup­port­ed this ap­proval, pre­scribers can have con­fi­dence in the drug’s uni­form strength and con­sis­tent de­liv­ery that sup­port ap­pro­pri­ate dos­ing need­ed for treat­ing pa­tients with these com­plex and se­ri­ous epilep­sy syn­dromes. We’ll con­tin­ue to sup­port rig­or­ous sci­en­tif­ic re­search on the po­ten­tial med­ical us­es of mar­i­jua­na-de­rived prod­ucts and work with prod­uct de­vel­op­ers who are in­ter­est­ed in bring­ing pa­tients safe and ef­fec­tive, high qual­i­ty prod­ucts. But, at the same time, we are pre­pared to take ac­tion when we see the il­le­gal mar­ket­ing of CBD-con­tain­ing prod­ucts with se­ri­ous, un­proven med­ical claims. Mar­ket­ing un­ap­proved prod­ucts, with un­cer­tain dosages and for­mu­la­tions can keep pa­tients from ac­cess­ing ap­pro­pri­ate, rec­og­nized ther­a­pies to treat se­ri­ous and even fa­tal dis­eases.”

GW CEO Justin Gov­er told the Fi­nan­cial Times over the week­end that it had tak­en “an aw­ful long time to get to where we are . . . but we’ve re­al­ly built a huge lead. We’re the world-lead­ers in cannabi­noid sci­ence, and I think we ex­pect to stay there for quite some time.”

From GW’s per­spec­tive this is just the be­gin­ning, with plans to pur­sue more re­search work in a va­ri­ety of ail­ments.

UP­DAT­ED: A small, ob­scure biotech just won big with their IPO. In this mar­ket. Are you kid­ding me?

How could a small, largely unknown biotech that emerged from stealth mode just months ago with early-stage cancer programs jump onto Wall Street in the middle of a Category 6 financial hurricane and sail through with a $165 million IPO?

And what does that mean for the rest of the industry waiting to see just how much damage global lockdowns will wreak on clinical development?

The biotech is a company called Zentalis. The crew there nabbed an $85 million crossover round late last year — notably waiting 5 years before waving the numbers around to attract attention, according to my read of a FierceBiotech story. Perceptive joined in, but the syndicate was not in general the kind of marquee affair that gets tongues wagging.

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Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day attends a meeting with the President and other biopharma leaders at the White House on March 2, 2020 (AP Photo)

Ramp­ing up glob­al pro­duc­tion of remde­sivir, Gilead CEO Dan O’Day de­tails plans to dis­trib­ute 1.5M dos­es to fight Covid-19 — for free

Gilead is still some days away from turning the card on its first round of data on remdesivir’s ability to fight severe cases of Covid-19, but the big biotech is ramping up an emergency supply of a million courses of therapy as it starts free distribution of the drug to tens of thousands of patients under their compassionate use and expanded access program as well as clinical trials.

In his latest open letter posted over the weekend, Gilead CEO Dan O’Day outlined how the company has been successful in cutting production time on remdesivir while repurposing some of their own facilities and turning to contract manufacturers to build a near-term supply of 1.5 million doses. They are still working on efficacy and dosing, but that supply could cover 140,000 courses of treatment. That supply, he added, would be more widely available following a potential approval.

Bob Nelsen at the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH chief Bob Nelsen has $1.5B to prove 2 sim­ple points: ‘We’re in the most in­no­v­a­tive time ever’ and in­vestors are stay­ing

ARCH co-founder and managing director Bob Nelsen has a well known yen for the home run swing, betting big on potentially transformative meds and tech and the biotech teams he helps bring together. He thrives and bleeds on the cutting edge. And now Nelsen and the ARCH group have debuted 2 big funds to prove that this is the time for the best of biotech to shine — deadly pandemic be damned.

Two new funds, ARCH Venture Fund X and ARCH Venture Fund X Overage, gathered a combined $1.46 billion. And that’s a record. ARCH Venture Fund IX and ARCH Venture Fund IX Overage closed in 2016 with a combined $1.1 billion. ARCH Venture Fund VIII and ARCH Venture Fund VIII Overage closed in 2014 with a combined $560 million.

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Have a new drug that promis­es to fight Covid-19? The FDA promis­es fast ac­tion but some de­vel­op­ers aren't hap­py

After providing an emergency approval to use malaria drugs against coronavirus with little actual evidence of their efficacy or safety in that setting, the FDA has already proven that it has set aside the gold standard when it comes to the pandemic. And now regulators have spelled out a new approach to speeding development that promises immediate responses in no uncertain terms — promising a program offering the ultimate high-speed pathway to Covid-19 drug approvals.

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Once fu­ri­ous over No­var­tis’ da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion scan­dal, the FDA now says it’s noth­ing they need to take ac­tion on

Back in the BP era — Before Pandemic — the FDA ripped Novartis for its decision to keep the agency in the dark about manipulated data used in its application for Zolgensma while its marketing application for the gene therapy was under review.

Civil and criminal sanctions were being discussed, the agency noted in a rare broadside at one of the world’s largest pharma companies. Notable lawmakers cheered the angry regulators on, urging the FDA to make an example of Novartis, which fielded Zolgensma at $2.1 million — the current record for a one-off therapy.

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Covid-19 roundup: GSK, Am­gen tai­lor R&D work to fit the coro­n­avirus age; Doud­na's ge­nomics crew launch­es di­ag­nos­tic lab

You can add Amgen and GSK to the list of deep-pocket drug R&D players who are tailoring their pipeline work to fit a new age of coronavirus.

Following in the footsteps of a lineup of big players like Eli Lilly — which has suspended patient recruitment for drug studies — Amgen and GSK have opted to take a more tailored approach. Amgen is intent on circling the wagons around key studies that are already fully enrolled, and GSK has the red light on new studies while the pandemic plays out.

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In a stun­ning set­back, Amarin los­es big patent fight over Vas­cepa IP. And its high-fly­ing stock crash­es to earth

Amarin’s shares $AMRN were blitzed Monday evening, losing billions in value as reports spread that the company had lost its high-profile effort to keep its Vascepa patents protected from generic drugmakers.

Amarin had been fighting to keep key patents under lock and key — and away from generic rivals — for another 10 years, but District Court Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas ruled against the biotech. She ruled that:
(A)ll the Asserted Claims are invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C.§ 103. Thus, the Court finds in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s remaining infringementclaim, and in their favor on their counterclaims asserting the invalidity of the AssertedClaims under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

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Aaron Royston, venBio

In­vest­ing in the time of coro­n­avirus: the good, the bad and the hope­ful, as biotech VC firms close funds worth $3B

Apart from disrupting biopharma R&D and regulatory timelines, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably ravaged financial markets and eroded investor risk appetite. Investing in the time of coronavirus feels reckless, but if biotech venture funds are any indication, the time is ripe.

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Drug dis­cov­ery in the age of coro­n­avirus

Developing new drugs is incredibly hard. That’s why, despite superhuman efforts from the industry, we’re still looking at 12-18 months minimum before we can realistically hope for a vaccine for Covid-19, and probably months before there’s a proven viable drug treatment.

But our increasing ability to begin to industrialize the drug discovery and development process through an engineering approach means that we have more hope for speeding up this process than ever before — and not just to defeat coronavirus, but to benefit the development of all new medicines in the future.