Eli Lil­ly sweeps the rest of the BACE work out of the pipeline fol­low­ing their lat­est ma­jor set­back on Alzheimer’s

Eli Lil­ly has suf­fered through the biggest set­backs in late-stage drug de­vel­op­ment work for Alzheimer’s — pil­ing up high-pro­file fail­ures for sema­gace­s­tat, solanezum­ab and just months ago lan­abece­s­tat af­ter it be­came ap­par­ent that the BACE ap­proach was a non-starter in symp­to­matic pa­tients. To­day, it’s sig­nal­ing that the com­pa­ny is now ready to fold their hand ear­ly if it doesn’t look like they have a rea­son­able chance to go on to win the pot.

Out in the quar­ter­ly cleanup went a Phase II BACE com­bo in­clud­ing an an­ti­body for N3PG. And the com­pa­ny al­so axed what was termed an SEL BACE 1 Phase I study. N3PG will con­tin­ue on its own.

“There are many vari­abil­i­ties at play with the BACE class and re­cent find­ings from Lil­ly and oth­ers have chal­lenged the BACE hy­poth­e­sis,” notes a spokesper­son from Eli Lil­ly in an email fol­lowup with me. “As a field we are still eval­u­at­ing the class and will con­tin­ue to have ro­bust sci­en­tif­ic dis­cus­sions about its vi­a­bil­i­ty.”

Mer­ck dealt a de­ci­sive blow to BACE with back-to-back Phase III stud­ies in which the drug did what was ex­pect­ed in terms of turn­ing the tap off on amy­loid be­ta, the long­time cul­prit for a dis­ease that wipes out mem­o­ry. With clear ev­i­dence that the strat­e­gy is a non-starter, Lil­ly and its part­ners at As­traZeneca agreed to kill off their late-stage pro­gram for lan­abece­s­tat af­ter re­view­ing the re­sults to date.

But BACE isn’t quite fin­ished yet. 

Back in ear­ly June, Ei­sai and Bio­gen claimed a sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess for their BACE drug, elen­be­ce­s­tat. But while the bio­mark­er for amy­loid be­ta re­duc­tion was hit, the re­searchers failed to see a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in the de­cline of cog­ni­tion. That didn’t stop them from main­tain­ing that they had tracked a re­sponse “sug­gest­ing a de­lay of clin­i­cal symp­tom de­cline in ex­plorato­ry end­points.”

It wasn’t ex­act­ly a big win, rais­ing fresh doubts for two com­pa­nies that con­tin­ue to have a big stake in the amy­loid be­ta the­o­ry.

Ei­sai and Bio­gen have had their hands full de­fend­ing their da­ta on a dif­fer­ent drug, BAN2401, af­ter a change­up in the study de­sign drew a host of crit­ics sug­gest­ing that they had tilt­ed the tri­al to­ward a pos­i­tive out­come. And the crit­ics haven’t backed off af­ter a re­cent at­tempt to de­fend those re­sults.

Am­gen lays off about 300 work­ers, cit­ing 'in­dus­try head­wind­s'

Amgen has laid off about 300 employees, a company spokesperson confirmed to Endpoints News via email Sunday night.

Employees posted to LinkedIn in recent days about layoffs hitting Amgen last week. The Thousand Oaks, CA-based biopharma, which employs about 24,000 people, said the reduction “mainly” impacted US-based workers on its commercial team.

Drug developers of all sizes, including small upstarts and pharma giants, have let employees go in recent months as the biopharma market drags through a quarters-long winter doldrum.

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New York City in­vests $20M in­to biotech 'in­no­va­tion space' at the Brook­lyn Navy Yard

New York City is investing $20 million in biotech this year in the form of a 50,000-square-foot “innovation space” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, complete with offices, research laboratories and events and programming space to grow biotech startups and companies.

Mayor Eric Adams said during his State of The City Address last Thursday that there will be an “emphasis” on making more opportunities for women and people of color to further diversify the industry. The City first reported the news.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Am­gen launch­es the first US Hu­mi­ra biosim­i­lar at two dif­fer­ent list prices

The bizarre dynamics of the US prescription drug market were on full display once again this morning as Amgen announced that it would launch the first US biosimilar for Humira, the best-selling drug of all time, at two completely different list prices.

One price for Amgen’s Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) will be 55% below the current Humira list price, which is about $84,000 per year, and another at a list price 5% below the current Humira list price, but presumably (pharma companies don’t disclose rebates) with high rebates to attract PBMs and payers.

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Boehringer In­gel­heim touts pre­ven­tion re­sults in rarest form of pso­ri­a­sis

Boehringer Ingelheim uncorked some positive results suggesting that Spevigo can help prevent flare-ups in patients with a severe form of psoriasis, months after the drug was approved to treat existing flares.

Spevigo, an IL-36R antibody also known as spesolimab, met its primary and a key secondary endpoint in the Phase IIb EFFISAYIL 2 trial in patients with generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP), Boehringer announced on Monday. While the company is keeping the hard numbers under wraps until later this year, it said in a news release that it anticipates sharing the results with regulators.

Chad Mirkin, Flashpoint co-founder

‘The field is at a flash­point’: New Chad Mirkin-found­ed biotech hopes to make more ef­fec­tive can­cer vac­cines

Following the success of the mRNA Covid vaccines, cancer vaccines are seeing renewed interest after years of middling results. But a group of researchers suggests that more attention needs to be paid not to what goes into those vaccines, but how the parts are put together.

In a recent paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers led by Northwestern University’s Chad Mirkin describe how the placement of different antigens in a cancer vaccine impacts its efficacy. The paper builds on past work done by Mirkin’s lab that suggests the structure, or how the parts of a vaccine are arranged, impact a vaccine’s efficacy, not just its components.

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Dirk Thye, Quince Therapeutics CEO

Af­ter piv­ot­ing from Alzheimer's to bone con­di­tions, biotech piv­ots again — and halves its head­count

When troubled public biotech Cortexyme bought a private startup named Novosteo and handed the keys to its executive team, the company — which changed its name to Quince Therapeutics — said it would shift its focus from an unorthodox Alzheimer’s approach to Novosteo’s bone-targeting drug platform.

Less than a year later, Quince is pivoting again.

The biotech has decided to out-license its bone-targeting drug platform and its lead drug, NOV004, and instead look for clinical-stage programs to in-license or acquire, according to a press release.

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As­traZeneca, No­vo Nordisk and Sanofi score 340B-re­lat­ed ap­peals court win over HHS

AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi won an appeals court win on Monday, as the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the companies cannot be forced to provide 340B-discounted drugs purchased by hospitals from an unlimited number of community and specialty pharmacies.

“Legal duties do not spring from silence,” the decision says as the court makes clear that the federal government’s interpretation of the “supposed requirement” that the 340B program compels drugmakers to supply their discounted drugs to an unlimited number of contract pharmacies is not correct, noting:

Ap­peals court toss­es J&J's con­tro­ver­sial 'Texas two-step' bank­rupt­cy case

A US appeals court has ruled against Johnson & Johnson’s use of bankruptcy to deal with mounting talc lawsuits, deciding that doing so would “create a legal blind spot.”

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous bankruptcy court decision on Monday, calling for the dismissal of a Chapter 11 filing by J&J’s subsidiary LTL Management.

Faced with more than 38,000 lawsuits alleging its talc-based products caused cancer, J&J spun its talc liabilities into a separate company called LTL Management back in October 2021 and filed for bankruptcy, a controversial move colloquially referred to as a “Texas two-step” bankruptcy. Claimants argued that the strategy is a misuse of the US bankruptcy code — and on Monday, a panel of judges agreed.

#JPM23: Reg­u­la­to­ry un­cer­tain­ty? What about M&A? Da­ta rule? Alessan­dro Masel­li and John Car­roll take out their crys­tal balls

Endpoints editor and founder John Carroll sat down the Catalent CEO Alessandro Maselli to talk about what’s ahead in 2023. Right or wrong, this covers all the big issues faced by biopharma. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

John Carroll:

I think 2022 had to be one of the worst years ever for crystal balls. You went into 2022 thinking all sorts of nice things about what was ahead, not thinking about a European land war, maybe not thinking that the Federal Reserve was going to be jacking up interest rates as fast as they could to get ahead of inflation. Just a tremendous number of macroeconomic issues that were out there. The sudden and complete collapse of support on the markets in Nasdaq for biotech. A lot of darlings in the industry that had been out there for a while suddenly found themselves moving from a really hot market to a really cold market all of a sudden and had to make a lot of different changes in terms of strategizing.

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