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.

The part­ners are set­ting the WAC, or whole­sale ac­qui­si­tion cost, of both drugs 15% low­er than their ref­er­ence prod­ucts: $677.40 / 100 mg and $2,709.60 / 400 mg for Mvasi and $3,697.26 / 420 mg for Kan­jin­ti. The WAC, of course, rarely ends up be­ing the fi­nal price; re­bates, dis­counts and as­sis­tance pro­grams of­ten cut a big slice off be­fore mon­ey ex­changes hands. Am­gen and Al­ler­gan at­tempt­ed to take that in­to ac­count by look­ing at the av­er­age sell­ing price (ASP); on that front Mvasi is still 12% cheap­er than Avastin and Kan­jin­ti 13% be­low Her­ceptin.

“We note that the launch of these prod­ucts is slight­ly ahead of our 2020 as­sump­tion for both prod­ucts,” Cred­it Su­isse an­a­lyst Evan Seiger­man wrote in a note. “Still de­spite some un­knowns about the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of these as­sets, we are en­cour­aged with this progress and see >$500M across these two prod­ucts alone in the US.”

Bil­lions more are on the line. An­oth­er biosim­i­lar for Rit­ux­an, the fi­nal of Roche’s block­buster can­cer trio, is com­ing; Cred­it Su­isse fore­cast more than $3 bil­lion in to­tal sales at peak, much of which will go to Am­gen while Al­ler­gan — soon to be swal­lowed by Ab­b­Vie — col­lects roy­al­ties and mile­stones.

If they can con­vince physi­cians and pay­ers to switch, that is. No­tably, while Kan­jin­ti is ap­proved to treat every dis­ease on Her­ceptin’s la­bel, Mvasi is on­ly ap­proved for five of Avastin’s sev­en in­di­ca­tions.

Aside from the dis­counts, Seiger­man notes that the com­pa­nies will like­ly adopt oth­er strate­gies to com­pete with the brand-name prod­ucts:

We note that Am­gen ap­pears to be of­fer­ing pa­tient as­sis­tance pro­grams for these as­sets, es­sen­tial­ly sell­ing them more like a brand­ed prod­uct vs. a tra­di­tion­al gener­ic. We think that con­tract­ing/ ac­cess in ad­di­tion to pol­i­cy around J-codes (will dif­fer­ent biosim­i­lars to a spe­cif­ic prod­uct have one J-code or mul­ti­ple) and in­ter­change­abil­i­ty will al­so im­pact up­take curves.

It won’t be fast, com­ment­ed Scott Got­tlieb, who cheered on Mvasi’s ap­proval dur­ing his tenure at the FDA.

So­cial im­age cred­it: Am­gen

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

No, sci­en­tists are not any clos­er to pig-to-hu­man trans­plants than they were last week

Steve Holtzman was awoken by a 1 a.m. call from a doctor at Duke University asking if he could put some pigs on a plane and fly them from Ohio to North Carolina that day. A motorcyclist had gotten into a horrific crash, the doctor explained. He believed the pigs’ livers, sutured onto the patient’s skin like an external filter, might be able to tide the young man over until a donor liver became available.

UP­DAT­ED: Agenus calls out FDA for play­ing fa­vorites with Mer­ck, pulls cer­vi­cal can­cer BLA at agen­cy's re­quest

While criticizing the FDA for what may be some favoritism towards Merck, Agenus on Friday officially pulled its accelerated BLA for its anti-PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab as a potential second-line treatment for cervical cancer because of the recent full approval for Merck’s Keytruda in the same indication.

The company said the BLA, which was due for an FDA decision by Dec. 16, was withdrawn “when the window for accelerated approval of balstilimab closed,” thanks to the conversion of Keytruda’s accelerated approval to a full approval four months prior to its PDUFA date.

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Marty Duvall, Oncopeptides CEO

On­copep­tides stock craters as it pulls can­cer drug Pepax­to from the mar­ket

Shares of Oncopeptides crashed more than 70% in early Friday trading after the company said it’s pulling its multiple myeloma drug Pepaxto (melphalan flufenamide) from the US market after failing a confirmatory trial. The move will force the company to close its US and EU business units and enact significant layoffs.

The FDA had scheduled an adcomm meeting next Thursday to discuss Pepaxto, which first won accelerated approval in February and costs about $19,000 per course of treatment. The committee was to weigh in on whether the confirmatory trial demonstrated a worse overall survival in the treatment arm compared to the control arm.

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How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data are messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data are exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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Pfiz­er pitch­es its Covid-19 vac­cine for younger chil­dren ahead of ad­comm next week

Pfizer will present its case to the FDA’s vaccine adcomm next week, seeking authorization for a lower-dose version of its Covid-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 through 12, which the Biden administration said will likely begin rolling out early next month.

Two primary doses of the 10 µg vaccine (the dose for those ages 12 and up is 30 μg) given 3 weeks apart in this group of children “have shown a favorable safety and tolerability profile, robust immune responses against all variants of concern including Delta, and vaccine efficacy of 90.7% against laboratory-confirmed symptomatic COVID-19,” the company said in briefing documents ahead of next Tuesday’s meeting of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.

Jay Flatley, new Zymergen CEO

Fol­low­ing Au­gust melt­down, Zymer­gen hints at sal­vage plans — cut­ting jobs and rene­go­ti­at­ing loans

Two months after a spectacular implosion that saw its founding CEO leave his post amid customer reports its only product didn’t work, Zymergen provided the first peek behind the curtain for its plans moving forward.

In an SEC filing Wednesday, Zymergen told regulators it would slash about 100 jobs and had renegotiated a $100 million loan from Perceptive that loomed like a storm cloud over the company, moving up the maturity date 18 months to June 30, 2022. Jed Dean, one of Zymergen’s three co-founders and VP of operations, will also step down at the end of the month.

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Sanofi, Re­gen­eron etch out an­oth­er PhI­II vic­to­ry for Dupix­ent, eas­ing se­vere itch and clear­ing le­sions

Sanofi and Regeneron can boast of another inflammatory disease where Dupixent has proven effective.

The best-selling drug, which targets both IL-4 and IL-13, has delivered a clean sweep in a Phase III trial for prurigo nodularis, a chronic disease characterized by itch so intense that it can affect patients’ sleep and psychology. Thick skin lesions can cover most of the body.

On the primary endpoint, 37% of patients taking Dupixent saw a clinically meaningful reduction in itch compared to 22% of those on placebo (p=0.0216) at week 12. All secondary endpoints were also met, including clearance of skin lesions and improvement in quality of life.

David Lockhart, ReCode Therapeutics CEO

Pfiz­er throws its weight be­hind LNP play­er eye­ing mR­NA treat­ments for CF, PCD

David Lockhart did not see the meteoric rise of messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles coming.

Thanks to the worldwide fight against Covid-19, mRNA — the genetic code that can be engineered to turn the body into a mini protein factory — and LNPs, those tiny bubbles of fat carrying those instructions, have found their way into hundreds of millions of people. Within the biotech world, pioneers like Alnylam and Intellia have demonstrated just how versatile LNPs can be as a delivery vehicle for anything from siRNA to CRISPR/Cas9.

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