Dicer­na scores broad, 'rest of liv­er' deal with No­vo Nordisk, bag­ging $225M in cash to hit some 30 tar­gets with RNAi plat­form

Turns out Dicer­na wasn’t done with deals yet af­ter lock­ing in $200 mil­lion up­front from Roche for a he­pati­tis B cock­tail two weeks ago.

Doug Fam­brough

No­vo Nordisk has signed on as the lat­est part­ner to its GalXC RNAi plat­form, hand­ing over $175 mil­lion in cash to claim any and all tar­gets of in­ter­est in liv­er-re­lat­ed car­dio-meta­bol­ic dis­eases that are not al­ready re­served in pre­vi­ous pacts. The Dan­ish drug­mak­er — which has sig­naled its in­ter­est to ex­pand con­sid­er­ably be­yond its core di­a­betes fran­chise in­to ar­eas like NASH — is al­so pur­chas­ing $50 mil­lion worth of Dicer­na’s eq­ui­ty at a 25% pre­mi­um of $21.93 per share. More re­search pay­ments and mile­stones ex­tend­ing to the bil­lions are on the line.

Dicer­na CEO Doug Fam­brough de­scribes the deal as a “cap­stone” for its part­ner­ing ef­forts in the liv­er space and a fur­ther sign that the biotech has en­tered a more ma­ture phase of part­ner­ing with in­creased scope and val­ue.

In a call with an­a­lysts and in­vestors fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment, he adopt­ed a re­al es­tate anal­o­gy:

If you think of the liv­er as an is­land, there are in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties on the is­land that we have part­nered — com­ple­ment with Alex­ion, a cou­ple of par­tic­u­lar tar­gets in NASH with BI, et cetera. The col­lab­o­ra­tion with No­vo has as its purview the rest of the land on the is­land that is not part­nered in any of the four ex­ist­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions and we will not be sell­ing any ad­di­tion­al re­al es­tates, so to speak, that No­vo could choose to de­vel­op. This al­lows new in­sights that come from hu­man ge­net­ics or frankly any source to in­spire No­vo to in­clude a tar­get in the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Jim Weiss­man

Dicer­na is tasked with dis­cov­ery and pre­clin­i­cal can­di­date se­lec­tion on a num­ber of liv­er cell tar­gets for dis­or­ders span­ning chron­ic liv­er dis­ease, NASH, type 2 di­a­betes, obe­si­ty, and rare dis­eases. No­vo Nordisk has com­mit­ted to $25 mil­lion per year dur­ing the first three years. While the duo hasn’t dis­closed how many years they ex­pect the col­lab­o­ra­tion to run, the plan is to ex­plore around 30 through­out the pe­ri­od.

But Dicer­na’s am­bi­tions here go be­yond start­ing pro­grams for big­ger com­pa­nies to take over. It has ne­go­ti­at­ed an op­tion to opt in­to two drugs for more preva­lent ail­ments af­ter view­ing clin­i­cal da­ta gen­er­at­ed by No­vo — al­low­ing their clin­i­cal team to buy in­to suc­cess­es with­out bear­ing the cost, Fam­brough high­light­ed. Un­der the deal, it can al­so ini­ti­ate the de­vel­op­ment of two or­phan drugs that the big­ger part­ner can opt in to.

The “re­al­ly broad” col­lab­o­ra­tion is de­signed to fo­cus less on in­di­vid­ual genes than the po­ten­tial of dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tion ap­proach­es in a num­ber of liv­er dis­eases, COO Jim Weiss­man said.

Bob Brown

In­ter­nal­ly, Dicer­na has been ap­ply­ing its plat­form rou­tine­ly to ex­am­ine a list of genes as­so­ci­at­ed with dif­fer­ent car­diometa­bol­ic dis­eases, ac­cord­ing to CSO Bob Brown.

“We just rou­tine­ly knock them out and then use the GalXC mol­e­cules we iden­ti­fied there to in­ter­ro­gate the gene func­tion in the rel­e­vant dis­ease mod­els that we run rou­tine­ly in house,” he said on the call. “There’s no di­rect align­ment of lists yet, but we’ve in­ter­ro­gat­ed ap­prox­i­mate­ly 40 genes this way in dif­fer­ent mod­els of car­diometa­bol­ic dis­ease.”

No­vo has yet to iden­ti­fy the genes that they would like to start with, but Fam­brough not­ed that the tar­gets they have ex­pressed in­ter­est in are still “very much avail­able.”

Adding to pre­vi­ous deals with Boehringer In­gel­heim, Alex­ion, Eli Lil­ly and Roche, the in­flux of cap­i­tal from No­vo should keep Dicer­na ful­ly fund­ed for at least a year af­ter the en­vi­sioned com­mer­cial launch of their lead pro­gram in pri­ma­ry hy­per­ox­aluria, the man­age­ment said.

So­cial im­age: AP Im­ages

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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Mark Iwicki, Kala Pharmaceuticals CEO (Merus)

Al­con takes a crack at multi­bil­lion-dol­lar dry eye mar­ket, picks up 2 drugs from Langer spin­out

Kala Pharmaceuticals may have never come close to the blockbuster dreams it had for its dry eye disease treatment, but Alcon wants to see if it can take the drug further.

After giving commercialization its best shot over the past few years, Kala decided the marketing game is not for it after all. Instead, it will sell both of its commercial eye drop products — Eysuvis for dry eye disease, and Inveltys for post-operative inflammation and pain following ocular surgery — to Alcon for $60 million in cash, plus an undisclosed amount of milestones.

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Mihael Polymeropoulos, Vanda Pharmaceuticals CEO

Phar­ma com­pa­ny con­tin­ues its FDA law­suit spree, this time af­ter agency de­nies fast-track des­ig­na­tion

Vanda Pharmaceuticals is making a name for itself, at least in terms of suing the FDA.

The DC-headquartered firm on Monday filed its latest suit against the agency, with the company raising concerns over the FDA’s failure to grant a fast track designation for Vanda’s potential chronic digestive disorder drug tradipitant, which is a neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist.

Specifically, Vanda said FDA’s “essential point” in its one-page denial letter on the designation pointed to “the lack of necessary safety data,” which was “inconsistent with the criteria for … Fast Track designation.”

Mod­er­na seeks to dis­miss Al­ny­lam suit over Covid-19 vac­cine com­po­nent, claim­ing wrong venue

RNAi therapeutics juggernaut Alnylam Pharmaceuticals made a splash in March when it sued and sought money from both Pfizer and Moderna regarding their use of Alnylam’s biodegradable lipids, which Alnylam claims have been integral to the way both companies’ mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines work.

But now, Moderna lawyers are firing back, telling the same Delaware district court that Alnylam’s claims can only proceed against the US government in the Court of Federal Claims because of the way the company’s contract is set up with the US government. The US has spent almost $10 billion on Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine so far.

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(Credit: Shutterstock)

Cracks in the fa­cade: Is phar­ma's pan­dem­ic ‘feel good fac­tor’ wan­ing?

The discordant effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on pharma reputation continues. While the overall industry still retains a respectable halo from its Covid-19 quick response and leadership, a new patient group study reveals a different story emerging in the details.

On one hand, US patient advocacy groups rated the industry higher-than-ever overall. More than two-thirds (67%) of groups gave the industry a thumbs up for 2021, a whopping 10 percentage point increase over the year before, according to the PatientView annual study, now in its 9th year.

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Michael Corbo, Pfizer CDO of inflammation & immunology

UP­DAT­ED: Plan­ning ahead for crowd­ed ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis mar­ket, Pfiz­er spells out PhI­II da­ta on $6.7B Are­na drug

Pfizer has laid out the detailed results behind its boast that etrasimod — the S1P receptor modulator at the center of its $6.7 billion buyout of Arena Pharma — is the winner of the class, potentially leapfrogging an earlier entrant from Bristol Myers Squibb.

Pivotal data from the ELEVATE program in ulcerative colitis — which consists of two Phase III trials, one lasting 52 weeks and the other just 12 weeks — illustrate an “encouraging balance of efficacy and safety,” according to Michael Corbo, chief development officer of inflammation & immunology at Pfizer. The company is presenting the results as a late breaker at Digestive Disease Week.

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Robert Califf (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP Images)

House Re­pub­li­cans at­tack Chi­na-on­ly da­ta in FDA sub­mis­sions, seek new in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to re­search in­spec­tions

Three Republican representatives are calling on the FDA to take a closer look at the applications including only clinical data from China.

The letter to FDA commissioner Rob Califf late last week comes as the agency recently rejected Eli Lilly’s anti-PD-1 antibody, which attempted to bring China-only data but ran into a bruising adcomm that may crush the hopes of any other companies looking to bring cheaper follow-ons based only on Chinese data.

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Amid mon­key­pox fears, biotechs spring to ac­tion; Mod­er­na’s CFO trou­ble; Cuts, cuts every­where; Craft­ing the right pro­teins; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

It’s always a bittersweet moment saying goodbye, but as Josh Sullivan goes off to new adventures we are grateful for the way he’s built up the Endpoints Manufacturing section — which the rest of the team will now carry forward. If you’re not already, this may be a good time to sign up for your weekly dose of drug manufacturing news. Thank you for reading and wish you a restful weekend.

Co­pay coupons gone wrong, again: Pfiz­er pays al­most $300K to set­tle com­plaints in four states

Pfizer has agreed to pay $290,000 to settle allegations of questionable copay coupon practices in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Vermont from 2014 to 2018.

While the company has not admitted any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, Pfizer has agreed to issue restitution checks to about 5,000 consumers.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the company has “enhanced its co-pay coupons to alleviate the concerns raised by states and agreed to a $30,000 payment to each.”