Covid-19 roundup: Pfiz­er li­cens­es its pill to the Med­i­cines Patent Pool; NYC joins states in au­tho­riz­ing boost­ers for all adults ahead of FDA

Fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar deal forged by Mer­ck for its Covid-19 drug mol­nupi­ravir, Pfiz­er on Tues­day agreed to al­low the UN-backed Med­i­cines Patent Pool to li­cense the com­pa­ny’s po­ten­tial treat­ment Paxlovid to make it more read­i­ly avail­able in 95 low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries.

The agree­ment al­lows MPP to grant sub-li­cens­es to qual­i­fied gener­ic drug man­u­fac­tur­ers to fa­cil­i­tate ad­di­tion­al pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al an­tivi­ral, which has yet to be au­tho­rized.

Pfiz­er has not dis­closed a price for its treat­ment but ex­ec­u­tives have said they will price it sim­i­lar­ly to Mer­ck’s mol­nupi­ravir, which costs about $700 per treat­ment course in high-in­come coun­tries.

While the move to li­cense its drug, even be­fore its au­tho­riza­tion, may be viewed as a no­ble ef­fort, Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders said in a state­ment, “Li­cens­ing deals by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal cor­po­ra­tions that cre­ate un­cer­tain­ties and seg­men­ta­tion for gener­ic pro­duc­tion and sup­ply con­tin­ue to be part of the prob­lem rather than part of a re­al so­lu­tion. There is no patent yet on the ex­per­i­men­tal can­di­date PF-07321332, and ri­ton­avir has been off patent since last year. In the ab­sence of patents on both com­pounds, able man­u­fac­tur­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly those based in coun­tries ex­clud­ed from this li­cense, have an op­por­tu­ni­ty to ex­plore gener­ic pro­duc­tion di­rect­ly.”

NYC joins states in au­tho­riz­ing Covid-19 boost­ers for all adults ahead of FDA au­tho­riza­tion

New York City is join­ing Cal­i­for­nia, Col­orado, Arkansas, and New Mex­i­co in al­low­ing any adult to ac­cess a Covid-19 boost­er shot. Some, like car­di­ol­o­gist Er­ic Topol, called the de­ci­sion “ful­ly backed by the da­ta,” as Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech main­tain that the wan­ing im­mu­ni­ty from the ini­tial 2-dose se­ries needs the boost to get back in­to the 90%+ range for pro­tec­tion.

Oth­ers seem con­cerned that such a de­ci­sion isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly backed by ro­bust da­ta, or that such dos­es should be shipped abroad as ini­tial dos­es. Oth­ers still ques­tion the need for states to over­ride the FDA’s de­ci­sion to on­ly au­tho­rize the boost­ers so far for cer­tain groups of peo­ple, in­clud­ing those old­er than 65.

The FDA, how­ev­er, wasn’t keen to dis­cuss the is­sue. An agency spokesper­son told End­points News to con­tact the CDC for as­sis­tance with any ques­tions, adding, “It is im­por­tant to note that FDA does not make im­mu­niza­tion or clin­i­cal rec­om­men­da­tions.”

On whether states should be au­tho­riz­ing boost­ers ahead of an FDA de­ci­sion for the same age group, or if this was more an is­sue of off-la­bel use (be­cause Pfiz­er’s vac­cine is FDA ap­proved), the agency spokesper­son said, “We do not have any­thing ad­di­tion­al to add to our pre­vi­ous re­sponse.”

Twist Bio­science re­veals an an­ti­body off­shoot with a start in Covid-19

Twist Bio­science un­veiled an off­shoot biotech this morn­ing — Rev­e­lar Bio­ther­a­peu­tics, which is work­ing on a po­ten­tial Covid-19 an­ti­body.

Ac­cord­ing to Twist, the in­de­pen­dent new biotech will be de­vel­op­ing and com­mer­cial­iz­ing an an­ti­body that has neu­tral­ized all known vari­ants of SARS-Cov-2 in pre­clin­i­cal tri­als.

That said, Rev­e­lar can lever­age Twist’s an­ti­body plat­form and li­cense ad­di­tion­al an­ti­bod­ies — up to five more tar­gets over the next four years, each of which will be sub­ject to ad­di­tion­al up­front, mile­stone and roy­al­ty pay­ments to Twist.

Twist CEO Emi­ly Lep­roust said in a state­ment that she hopes the an­ti­body will en­ter clin­i­cal stud­ies in 2022.

Twist is start­ing out with a $10 mil­lion seed in­vest­ment, based on Rev­e­lar’s de­vel­op­ment of the first an­ti­body and the po­ten­tial for suc­cess-based mile­stone pay­ments to­tal­ing over $100 mil­lion. In ex­change for the in­vest­ment and an­ti­body li­cens­ing, Twist got mi­nor­i­ty own­er­ship in Rev­e­lar — but at an un­spec­i­fied per­cent­age.

Rev­e­lar’s ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship team in­cludes Boehringer vet Glenn Ma­ri­na as CEO. Lep­roust and Twist CCO Patrick Finn are al­so part of the board of di­rec­tors.

“We look for­ward to com­plet­ing pre­clin­i­cal and CMC de­vel­op­ment in sup­port of fil­ing an IND,” said Ma­ri­na in a state­ment. — Paul Schloess­er

EU and EEA coun­tries agreed to do­nate 70+ mil­lion dos­es of Mod­er­na vax to low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries by year’s end

Mod­er­na to­day an­nounced an agree­ment that en­ables the EU and EEA coun­tries to do­nate dos­es of their Covid-19 vac­cine pur­chased un­der the EU Vac­cines Strat­e­gy to CO­V­AX for low and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries for the rest of the year.

The vac­cine dos­es will be head­ed to 92 coun­tries con­sid­ered as low- and mid­dle-in­come.

Ac­cord­ing to a Mod­er­na state­ment, the com­pa­ny ex­pects to see more than 70 mil­lion dos­es giv­en away by year’s end as part of the ini­tia­tive spear­head­ed by France, Swe­den and Nor­way. Ini­tial do­na­tions have in­clud­ed 15 mil­lion from France and 40 mil­lion from Ger­many.

“We be­lieve that dose shar­ing, among oth­er strate­gies, will help en­sure an eq­ui­table glob­al dis­tri­b­u­tion of COVID-19 vac­cines,” said Mod­er­na’s CEO Stéphane Ban­cel, who has come un­der fire re­cent­ly from the Biden ad­min­is­tra­tion for not help­ing enough on the in­ter­na­tion­al stage. — Paul Schloess­er

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO

'This is not go­ing to be good': Mod­er­na CEO Ban­cel warns of a 'ma­te­r­i­al drop' in vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy as Omi­cron spreads

Even as public health officials remain guarded about their comments on the likelihood Omicron will escape the reach of the currently approved Covid-19 vaccines, there’s growing scientific consensus that we’re facing a variant that threatens to overwhelm the vaccine barricades that have been erected.

Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, one of the leading mRNA players whose quick vault into the markets with a highly effective vaccine created an instant multibillion-dollar market, added his voice to the rising chorus early Tuesday. According to Bancel, there will be a significant drop in efficacy when the average immune system is confronted by Omicron. The only question now is: How much?

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As first Omi­cron case in US crops up, re­searchers won­der: which an­ti­bod­ies, vac­cines will hold up?

As Covid-19 drug and vaccine developers race to figure out which of their products might be hampered by the new variant, the CDC on Wednesday afternoon announced the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) in the US, found in San Francisco.

The unidentified individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22, 2021, was fully vaccinated, and had mild symptoms that the CDC described as improving. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative, the centers said.

Mod­er­na los­es lat­est bat­tle in key vac­cine de­liv­ery patent fight as fed­er­al ap­peal falls flat

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Wednesday rejected Moderna’s attempt to overturn key patents related to the delivery vehicle for its Covid-19 vaccine after the biotech sought to preempt a potentially risky infringement lawsuit.

For years, Moderna has been battling a tiny Pennsylvania biotech known as Arbutus over patents for a technology required to deliver its mRNA drugs and vaccines, known as lipid nanoparticles or LNP. Moderna is concerned there’s a substantial risk that Arbutus will assert the ’069 patent in an infringement suit targeting Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, particularly as Arbutus has boasted of its patent protection and refused to grant a covenant not to sue Moderna.

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Philip Dormitzer, new GSK global head of vaccines R&D

Glax­o­SmithK­line poach­es Pfiz­er's vi­ral vac­cines lead in rush to cap­i­tal­ize on fu­ture of mR­NA

GlaxoSmithKline has appointed Philip Dormitzer, formerly chief scientific officer of Pfizer’s viral vaccines unit, as its newest global head of vaccines R&D, looking to leverage one of the leading minds behind Pfizer and BioNTech’s RNA collaboration that led to Covid-19 jab Comirnaty, the British drug giant said Tuesday.

Dormitzer had been with Pfizer for a little more than six years, joining up after a seven-year stint with Novartis, where he reached the role of US head of research and head of global virology for the company’s vaccines and diagnostics unit.

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In­tro­duc­ing End­points Stu­dio, a new way to ad­ver­tise with End­points-craft­ed brand­ing cam­paigns

Since our start in 2016, Endpoints has grown fast while executing our mission to cover biopharma’s most critical developments for industry pros worldwide. As readership has grown, our advertising business has too. Endpoints advertising partners support the mission and engage their desired audiences through announcements on our email and web platforms, brand recognition in our event coverage and sponsorships of Endpoints daily and weekly reports.

Lan Huang, BeyondSpring CEO

Months af­ter shock­ing in­vestors with lung can­cer win, Be­yond­Spring's lead drug hits road­block at the FDA

BeyondSpring shocked investors in early August after its once-marginal lead drug suddenly showed a lot of promise in a common form of lung cancer. With hopes high, the FDA has now slammed the door on that drug in another indication — does that spell bad news for BeyondSpring’s Cinderella story?

The FDA issued BeyondSpring a complete response letter for its plinabulin in combination with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, effectively shutting down the drug’s immediate chances at a marketing approval, the biotech said Wednesday.

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With on­ly burns to show in gene ther­a­py, Astel­las inks deal with AAV spe­cial­ist Dyno in push for a bet­ter cap­sid

On the hunt for a better AAV capsid for gene therapy, Eric Kelsic’s Dyno Therapeutics has set itself apart with its focus on machine learning to help speed discovery. Now, Japanese drugmaker Astellas — fresh off a slate of gene therapy burns — is taking a bet on Dyno as it looks to the future.

Astellas and Dyno will work together as part of an R&D pact to develop next-gen AAV vectors for gene therapy using Dyno’s CapsidMap platform directed at skeletal and cardiac muscle, the companies said Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal, Dyno will design AAV capsids for gene therapy, while Astellas will be responsible for conducting preclinical, clinical and commercialization activities for gene therapy product candidates using the capsids.

J&J and Sanofi's mul­ti­ple myelo­ma tit-for-tat con­tin­ues, as sub­cu­ta­neous Darza­lex wins com­bo ap­proval

J&J and Sanofi have gone back and forth in their multiple myeloma tug-of-war. Earlier this year, Sanofi notched an approval of Sarclisa in combination with Amgen’s Kyprolis to try to outflank the big conglomerate, but J&J is clapping back.

Wednesday afternoon, Amgen announced that the subcutaneous version of J&J’s blockbuster Darzalex is also now approved as a combo with Kyprolis and dexamethasone. The green light came through for adults with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma who had progressed on one to three earlier lines of therapy.