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.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.

Ex­elix­is pulls a sur­prise win in thy­roid can­cer just days ahead of fi­nal Cabome­tyx read­out

Exelixis added a thyroid cancer indication to its super-seller Cabometyx’s label on Friday — months before the FDA was expected to make a decision, and days before the company was set to unveil the final data at #ESMO21.

At a median follow-up of 10.1 months, differentiated thyroid cancer patients treated with Cabometyx (cabozantinib) lived a median of 11 months without their disease worsening, compared to just 1.9 months for patients given a placebo, Exelixis said on Monday.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi Sanky­o's ADC En­her­tu blows away Roche's Kad­cy­la in sec­ond-line ad­vanced breast can­cer

AstraZeneca and Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo think they’ve struck gold with their next-gen ADC drug Enhertu, which has shown some striking data in late-stage breast cancer trials and early solid tumor tests. Getting into earlier patients is now the goal, starting with Enhertu’s complete walkover of a Roche drug in second-line breast cancer revealed Saturday.

Enhertu cut the risk of disease progression or death by a whopping 72% (p=<0.0001) compared with Roche’s ADC Kadcyla in second-line unresectable and/or metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer patients who had previously undergone treatment with a Herceptin-chemo combo, according to interim data from the Phase III DESTINY-Breast03 head-to-head study presented at this weekend’s #ESMO21.

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Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.