Eli Lil­ly touts some mixed PhI­II re­sults for clus­ter headaches as Am­gen, No­var­tis prep a mar­ket-bust­ing move in mi­graine

With Am­gen and No­var­tis ea­ger­ly await­ing their PDU­FA date for the lead­ing CGRP mi­graine drug Aimovig lat­er this week, Eli Lil­ly is step­ping up with some mixed Phase III re­sults for its own con­tender in the field.

Christi Shaw

In a hit and a miss, Lil­ly re­searchers say that gal­canezum­ab scored on the pri­ma­ry end­point in a Phase III study of pa­tients suf­fer­ing from episod­ic, week­ly clus­ter headaches. Placed up against a place­bo, their drug achieved a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in clus­ter at­tacks — though the p val­ue of 0.036 was a long way from a stand­out grade. 

Lil­ly al­so not­ed that an­oth­er Phase III for chron­ic clus­ter headaches failed — though you can be sure the phar­ma gi­ant was far more ea­ger to high­light the pos­i­tive re­sults in its re­lease. And now Lil­ly ex­ecs are set­ting up talks with reg­u­la­tors about the way for­ward to the mar­ket.

Lil­ly has al­ready post­ed its pos­i­tive late-stage da­ta for this drug in suc­cess­ful­ly re­duc­ing mi­graines. CGRP drugs are wide­ly viewed as the up­com­ing stan­dard of care for this cat­e­go­ry of dis­ease, and Am­gen and No­var­tis aim to push hard to cap­i­tal­ize on their fron­trun­ner sta­tus — pro­vid­ed the FDA comes through as ex­pect­ed with an ap­proval with­in a cou­ple of days.

An­a­lysts have of­fered a $1.2 bil­lion peak sales es­ti­mate for Aimovig — mak­ing it a top-12 drug for this year — which il­lus­trates just how im­por­tant a ground­break­ing po­si­tion can be in drug de­vel­op­ment.

Lil­ly is in a fa­mil­iar po­si­tion fur­ther back in the field, as it awaits an FDA de­ci­sion some­time in the third quar­ter. But they should be next in line be­hind the Am­gen/No­var­tis team. Te­va’s ri­val fre­manezum­ab had been in line for a June de­ci­sion, then ear­li­er this month con­ced­ed that man­u­fac­tur­ing prob­lems would tem­porar­i­ly de­rail its pro­gram and push any ap­proval and mar­ket­ing launch fur­ther back in the year. And in March lit­tle Alder, which al­so has a con­tender in the mix, oust­ed its CEO and be­gan to re­struc­ture af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers.

Eli Lil­ly has been scram­bling to beef up its on­col­o­gy pipeline with bolt-on deals this year. The phar­ma gi­ant has gained a num­ber of new ap­provals in re­cent years, but was se­ri­ous­ly de­layed on baric­i­tinib last year, be­fore the FDA abrupt­ly de­cid­ed to al­low their mar­ket­ing pitch to move through a re­view with­out a re­quired safe­ty tri­al.

“Clus­ter headache can be dif­fi­cult to eval­u­ate in clin­i­cal stud­ies, which has con­tributed to few avail­able treat­ment op­tions for clus­ter headache, of­ten con­sid­ered the most se­vere pain one can ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Christi Shaw, pres­i­dent of Lil­ly Bio-Med­i­cines. “The pos­i­tive re­sults in episod­ic clus­ter headache are tru­ly a land­mark mo­ment—both for peo­ple liv­ing with clus­ter headache and for our re­searchers at Lil­ly, many of whom have spent more than two decades re­search­ing and de­vel­op­ing in­no­v­a­tive, non-opi­oid treat­ment op­tions for dis­eases like mi­graine and clus­ter headache.”

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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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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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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Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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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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Joseph Kim, Inovio CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

Pos­i­tive Covid-19 vac­cine da­ta? New mouse study? OWS in­clu­sion? Yep, but some­how, the usu­al tid­bits from In­ovio back­fire

You don’t go more than 40 years in biotech without ever getting a product to market unless you can learn the art of writing a promotional press release. And Inovio captures the prize in baiting the hook.

Tuesday morning Inovio, which has been struggling to get its Covid-19 vaccine lined up for mass manufacturing, put out a release that touched on virtually every hot button in pandemic PR.

There was, first and foremost, an interim snapshot of efficacy from their Phase I program for INO-4800.

Jan van de Winkel, Genmab CEO

Seat­tle Ge­net­ics, Gen­mab turn on TV for a high­light reel in cer­vi­cal can­cer — but a ri­val biotech promis­es a bet­ter show

Seattle Genetics $SGEN and their partners at Genmab $GMAB polished up some positive Phase II numbers for their antibody drug conjugate tisotumab vedotin — you can call it TV — for recurrent cervical cancer. And while they mapped out a shortcut to a potential quick approval, the big challenge for this team is being presented by a rival biotech which muscled its way into the spotlight for the same indication a year ago.

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Dan Gold, MEI Pharma CEO

De­vel­op­ment part­ners at MEI, Helsinn dump a high-risk PhI­II AML study af­ter con­clud­ing it would fail sur­vival goal

Four years after Switzerland’s Helsinn put $25 million of cash on the table for an upfront and near-term milestone to take MEI Pharma’s drug pracinostat into a long-running Phase III trial for acute myeloid leukemia, the partners are walking away from a clinical pileup.

The drug — an HDAC inhibitor — failed to pass muster during a futility analysis, as researchers concluded that pracinostat combined with azacitidine wasn’t going to outperform the control group in the pivotal.