Brent Saun­ders’ team gets hit with a PhI­II dis­as­ter — and a grow­ing mob of Al­ler­gan crit­ics seizes the mo­ment

Usu­al­ly when a large cap bio­phar­ma com­pa­ny has a big Phase III dis­as­ter, the top ex­ecs give it a quick mid­night bur­ial, is­sue a brief press re­lease, put up with a few head­lines, watch the mar­ket cap erode a bit and move on down the pipeline.

For Al­ler­gan $AGN, it’s a lot more com­pli­cat­ed than that.

Al­ready un­der pres­sure from the hedge fund Ap­paloosa to split the roles of CEO and chair­man in Brent Saun­ders’ shop, the ac­tivists point­ed to the de­ba­cle with ra­pastinel — Saun­ders’ $560 mil­lion de­pres­sion drug that flat failed a full slate of piv­otal tri­als — as an­oth­er sign that some­one needs to set things right at the com­pa­ny. And that no longer stops with a new chair­man to help steer a bet­ter course. Ap­paloosa wants to put a re­vamp of the man­age­ment team on the ta­ble, along with a sale, breakup or merg­er.

The Board’s mis­placed fear of “dis­rupt­ing” Al­ler­gan is wear­ing thin as an ex­cuse for in­ac­tion and can on­ly per­pet­u­ate fur­ther ero­sion in the share­hold­ers’ in­vest­ment. In fact, dis­rup­tive ac­tion is en­tire­ly war­rant­ed un­der these cir­cum­stances.” (Their em­pha­sis.)

But that’s not all. Af­ter steer­ing in­to the red on the set­back — the nor­mal, ra­tio­nal mar­ket re­sponse — Al­ler­gan’s shares are up 5% mid-day Thurs­day. And that’s be­cause the calls for ma­jor change at Al­ler­gan could gain re­al steam now. 

Ever­core ISI’s Umer Raf­fat spot­light­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a break in­to the green ear­ly to­day.

It seems that in­vestors seem ex­treme­ly fo­cused on un­lock­ing the val­ue of aes­thet­ics busi­ness amidst the phar­ma busi­ness (which has had a few years of un­der­per­for­mance: on the patent side on base biz and on pipeline pro­duc­tiv­i­ty).

RBC’s Ran­dall Stan­icky has been ad­vo­cat­ing a breakup for more than a year. So count him in on the crowd of­fer­ing a thumbs up to fail­ure, which will just dri­ve more calls for quick change.

And SVB Leerink’s Marc Good­man al­so pre­dict­ed the switch to green to­day:

Re­gard­ing the stock, in­vestors have in­di­cat­ed to us that if ra­pastinel fails there could be (and should be) in­creased pres­sure on man­age­ment and/or the Board to im­ple­ment some type of change.

There’s al­so been some spec­u­la­tion that the man­age­ment team may have held back the first fail­ures to get an­oth­er read­out on the drug. Some­thing like that would on­ly fur­ther fu­el the al­ready blis­ter­ing feed­back Saun­ders’ been get­ting from some quar­ters.

Saun­ders may find the lat­est roast­ing was just a mod­est pre­lude to what comes next.


Im­age: Brent Saun­ders.

Jim Mellon [via YouTube]

Health­i­er, longer lifes­pans will be a re­al­i­ty soon­er than you think, Ju­ve­nes­cence promis­es as it clos­es $100M round

Earlier this year, an executive from Juvenescence-backed AgeX predicted the field of longevity will eventually “dwarf the dotcom boom.” Greg Bailey, the UK-based anti-aging biotech’s CEO, certainly hopes so.

On Monday, Juvenescence completed its $100 million series B round of financing. The company is backed by British billionaire Jim Mellon — who wrote his 400-page guide to investing in the field of longevity shortly after launching the company in 2017.  Bailey, who served as a board director for seven years at Medivation before Pfizer swallowed the biotech for $14 billion, is joined by Declan Doogan, an industry veteran with stints at Pfizer and Amarin.

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group under José Baselga keeps churning out hits.

Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

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