Bris­tol My­ers launch­es pro­gram to make clin­i­cal tri­als more ac­ces­si­ble for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties

About a fourth of US adults live with some type of dis­abil­i­ty, ac­cord­ing to the CDC. On Wednes­day, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb launched a new ini­tia­tive to en­sure those pa­tients get ac­cess to clin­i­cal tri­als.

The phar­ma gi­ant is team­ing up with the non­prof­it Dis­abil­i­ty So­lu­tions to cre­ate the Dis­abil­i­ty Di­ver­si­ty in Clin­i­cal Tri­als (DDiCT) Ini­tia­tive, a pro­gram that’s ini­tial­ly fo­cus­ing on com­ing up with a set of rec­om­men­da­tions for im­prov­ing ac­cess, speed of en­roll­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in tri­als.

“We col­lect da­ta around oth­er un­der­rep­re­sent­ed groups in clin­i­cal tri­als,” Julie Sowash, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Dis­abil­i­ty So­lu­tions, told End­points News. “Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties are al­most al­ways ex­clud­ed from that de­mo­graph­ic col­lec­tion.”

The news comes as phar­ma com­pa­nies face mount­ing pres­sure to make clin­i­cal tri­als more in­clu­sive. A slate of phar­ma com­pa­nies has set eq­ui­ty goals, in­clud­ing Gilead, which to­day an­nounced an $85 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion to the Gilead Foun­da­tion to sup­port health eq­ui­ty.

A re­cent re­view of stud­ies in the UK’s Na­tion­al In­sti­tute for Health and Care Re­search port­fo­lio found that 60% ex­clud­ed learn­ing dis­abil­i­ty groups — and re­searchers have not­ed sim­i­lar ex­clu­sion in the US. Ac­cord­ing to a JA­MA re­view of Phase III and IV stud­ies, ex­plic­it ex­clu­sion cri­te­ria pre­vent­ed a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tu­al, de­vel­op­men­tal or phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties from par­tic­i­pat­ing in tri­als.

Oth­er bar­ri­ers to par­tic­i­pa­tion in­clude in­ac­ces­si­ble tri­al sites, med­ical equip­ment and “ableist bi­as­es which de­ter this com­mu­ni­ty from re­ceiv­ing po­ten­tial­ly life-sav­ing treat­ments,” BMS said in a state­ment. Sowash cit­ed in­formed con­sent as one spe­cif­ic ex­am­ple of this.

“There are a lot of reg­u­la­tions around can a per­son with a dis­abil­i­ty con­sent, who can con­sent for them?” she said. “And we need to just see, are those med­ical­ly nec­es­sary? Are they med­ical­ly rel­e­vant to the re­search process?”

Samit Hi­rawat

The ini­tia­tive aligns with BMS’ broad­er di­ver­si­ty goals, in­clud­ing a com­mit­ment to lo­cate a quar­ter of its clin­i­cal tri­al sites in “high­ly di­verse com­mu­ni­ties” this year. It was ini­ti­at­ed by BMS’ Dis­abil­i­ty Ad­vance­ment Work­place Net­work (DAWN), and will be co-led by the com­pa­ny’s glob­al drug de­vel­op­ment team.

While Sowash hopes the ini­tia­tive will even­tu­al­ly help set a new in­dus­try stan­dard for clin­i­cal tri­al pro­to­cols, she ac­knowl­edged that they’re still in the “knowl­edge-gath­er­ing stage,” which in­volves col­lect­ing da­ta, iden­ti­fy­ing bar­ri­ers and un­der­stand­ing how to make tri­als more ac­ces­si­ble.

“We’re go­ing to start to see what those gaps and op­por­tu­ni­ties are to make what could be dra­mat­ic im­prove­ments to ac­cess for health­care for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties,” she said.

“Through this work, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb can set the stan­dard and stage for ac­cess to life-chang­ing and life-sav­ing med­i­cines for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties,” BMS CMO Samit Hi­rawat said in a state­ment. “The long-term goal of our DDiCT pro­gram is to de­vel­op and pi­lot tri­als that are ac­ces­si­ble to the widest va­ri­ety of pa­tients.”

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.