Sanofi out­lines big API plans as coro­n­avirus out­break re­port­ed­ly threat­ens short­age of 150 drugs

As the world be­comes in­creas­ing­ly de­pen­dant on Asia for the in­gre­di­ents of its med­i­cines, Sanofi sees busi­ness to be done in Eu­rope.

The French drug­mak­er said it’s cre­at­ing the world’s sec­ond largest ac­tive phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­gre­di­ents (API) man­u­fac­tur­er by spin­ning out its six cur­rent sites in­to a stand­alone com­pa­ny: Brin­disi (Italy), Frank­furt Chem­istry (Ger­many), Haver­hill (UK), St Aubin les El­beuf (France), Újpest (Hun­gary) and Ver­to­laye (France). They have mapped out €1 bil­lion in ex­pect­ed sales by 2022 and 3,100 em­ploy­ees for the new op­er­a­tions head­quar­tered in France.

An IPO on Eu­ronext Paris is al­so in the works, with a de­ci­sion by 2022.

The an­nounce­ment came short­ly af­ter Ax­ios re­port­ed that 150 pre­scrip­tion drugs are now at risk of short­age in the US, span­ning an­tibi­otics, gener­ics and some brand­ed drugs with­out al­ter­na­tives.

Sanofi cites “in­creas­ing med­i­cine short­ages that crit­i­cal­ly im­pact pa­tient care” as im­pe­tus for the new ven­ture, which will sup­port API man­u­fac­tur­ing for “Eu­rope and be­yond.” As a drug­mak­er, it plans to en­list the new en­ti­ty as a long-term sup­pli­er while hold­ing around 30% of its stake.

Al­though fac­to­ries in Chi­na are grad­u­al­ly re­open­ing, re­stric­tions in trav­el and dis­rup­tions at tran­sit hubs are still slow­ing down pro­duc­tion. An In­di­an com­pa­ny that re­lies on ac­tive phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­gre­di­ents (API) from Chi­na told Bloomberg last week that it’s see­ing prices of com­mon­ly used drugs jump by 40% to 70%.

Chi­na ac­counts for 13% of all man­u­fac­tur­ing sites of API for the US mar­ket, fol­low­ing the US (28%), EU (26%) and In­dia (18%), ac­cord­ing to agency da­ta. But the share by vol­ume of in­gre­di­ents from Chi­na that end up reach­ing Amer­i­can pa­tients could be high­er, STAT pre­vi­ous­ly re­port­ed.

The drug sup­ply chain has be­come “longer, more com­plex and frag­ment­ed as com­pa­nies have lo­cat­ed more pro­duc­tion over­seas” and used con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers more fre­quent­ly, the FDA’s drug short­ages task force wrote in a re­port up­dat­ed a few days ago.

“Al­though typ­i­cal mar­kets would re­spond to a short­age by in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion, lo­gis­ti­cal and reg­u­la­to­ry chal­lenges, es­pe­cial­ly the com­plex­i­ty of the sup­ply chain, can lim­it the abil­i­ty of drug man­u­fac­tur­ers to in­crease pro­duc­tion,” the re­port read.

The US bio­phar­ma in­dus­try has grown re­liant on Chi­na in more ways than one. There have al­so been con­cerns about both pre­clin­i­cal re­search and clin­i­cal stud­ies get­ting de­layed, due to con­tract ser­vice providers’ lim­it­ed work­ing ca­pac­i­ties and strained med­ical sys­tems.

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Look­ing for 'ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion,' Boehringer In­gel­heim re­serves $500M+ for new Shang­hai hub

Now that Boehringer Ingelheim’s bet on contract manufacturing in China has paid off, the German drugmaker is anteing up more to get into the research game.

Boehringer has set aside $507.9 million (€451 million) for a new External Innovation Hub to be built in Shanghai over five years. The site will become one of its “strategic pillars” as the team strives to get 71 approvals — either for new products or indications — by 2030, said Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim China.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Patrick Straub/​EPA-EFE/​Shutterstock)

No­var­tis pays $678M for kick­back scheme as Vas Narasimhan tries to dis­tance phar­ma gi­ant from shady be­hav­ior

Novartis has reached another large settlement to resolve misconduct allegations, agreeing to pay more than $678 million to settle claims that it had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lavish dinners, so-called speaking fees and expensive alcohol “that were nothing more than bribes” to get doctors to prescribe Novartis medications.

The top-shelf alcohol and lavish meals included a $3,250 per person night at Nobu in Dallas, a $672-per person dinner at Washington DC’s Smith & Wollensky and a $314 per person meal at Sushi Roku in Pasadena, according to the Justice Department complaint. There were at least 7 trips to Hooters and fishing trips in Alaska and off the Florida coast. Each of these events were supposed to be “speaker programs” where doctors educated other doctors on a drug, but the DOJ alleged many were “bogus” wine-and-dine events where the drug was barely mentioned, if at all.  (“Nobody presented slides on the fishing trips,” the complaint says.)

No­var­tis los­es biosim­i­lar ap­peal as court up­holds a 31-year mo­nop­oly by Am­gen's En­brel

A new court ruling has strengthened Amgen’s grip on the IP estate around Enbrel, keeping biosimilars of the autoimmune and inflammatory drug at bay until 2029.

Novartis, the patent challenger, isn’t throwing in the towel yet. In a statement noting the failed appeal, its generics division Sandoz noted its reviewing options, “including potential appeal to US Supreme Court.”

It’s been almost four years since the FDA approved Erelzi, Sandoz’s copycat version of Enbrel. While sales of the Pfizer-partnered drug in the US — the market Amgen is in charge of — have dipped slightly during that time, it remains a solid megablockbuster with 2019 revenue slightly above $5 billion.

Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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New stan­dard of care? FDA hands Pfiz­er, Mer­ck KGaA an OK for Baven­cio in blad­der can­cer

The breakthrough therapy designation Pfizer and Merck KGaA notched for Bavencio in bladder cancer has quickly paved way for a full approval.

The PD-L1 drug is now sanctioned as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, applicable in cases where cancer hasn’t progressed after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Petros Grivas, the principal investigator of the supporting Phase III JAVELIN Bladder 100, called the approval “one of the most significant advances in the treatment paradigm in this setting in 30 years.”