Es­pe­ri­on strikes Japan deal for 'goldilock­s' cho­les­terol drug, bags $60M cash as pan­dem­ic forces vir­tu­al US roll­out

Es­pe­ri­on has forged its first re­gion­al deal for Nexle­tol and Nexl­izet since win­ning US and EU ap­provals for the cho­les­terol fight­ing drugs, bag­ging $60 mil­lion up­front while se­cur­ing a phar­ma part­ner in Japan.

Not on­ly is Ot­su­ka promis­ing $450 mil­lion in to­tal mile­stones and 15% to 30% roy­al­ties, it’s al­so pick­ing up the tab for all de­vel­op­ment, reg­u­la­to­ry and sales in Japan — which Es­pe­ri­on es­ti­mates would amount to $100 mil­lion over the next few years.

“We had orig­i­nal­ly set our­selves a goal to get some­thing done by the end of last year,” Es­pe­ri­on CEO Tim Mayleben told End­points News. “Then as the ap­provals were com­ing in­to fo­cus and we knew from our dis­cus­sions with reg­u­la­tors that those were like­ly to hap­pen in the first part of this year, we were hear­ing from po­ten­tial part­ners at the same time that our ne­go­ti­a­tions would im­prove once we had the ap­provals in hand. So we again made the ex­plic­it de­ci­sion to push this out a few months and so that def­i­nite­ly paid off.”

By their count, there’s nev­er been a Japan deal with that big of an up­front. Their new Japan­ese part­ner al­so brings es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ships with health­care providers to its long his­to­ry of com­mer­cial­iz­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar med­i­cines.

Tim Mayleben

By hit­ting the goldilocks zone be­tween old statins and ex­pen­sive an­ti-PC­SK9 ther­a­pies — with all the prop­er­ties that re­sem­ble “the old com­fort­able shoe” as chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer Mark Glick­man de­scribes it — Es­pe­ri­on promised to serve hy­per­c­ho­les­terolemia pa­tients who are ei­ther in­tol­er­ant to statins or need fur­ther cho­les­terol re­duc­tion, but are priced out of the new gen­er­a­tion of treat­ments.

Their main prod­uct, be­mpe­doic acid, is a pro­drug that in­hibits adeno­sine triphos­phate cit­rate lyase (ACL) in the liv­er. Since that en­zyme plays a role in cho­les­terol syn­the­sis with­in the cell, block­ing it re­sults in less in­tra­cel­lu­lar cho­les­terol and more LDL re­cep­tors to cap­ture cho­les­terol in the blood.

Nexle­tol is a tablet con­sist­ing just of be­mpe­doic acid. With Nexl­izet, they add in the cho­les­terol ab­sorp­tion in­hibitor eze­tim­ibe to boost the po­ten­cy.

An oral, once-dai­ly non-statin ther­a­py would be a wel­come ad­di­tion to any com­pa­ny with a car­dio­vas­cu­lar fo­cus, Mayleben said, hint­ing that they are in the fi­nal stages of clos­ing a “true rest of world” deal, in­clud­ing Chi­na, with a multi­na­tion­al phar­ma com­pa­ny. That would give Es­pe­ri­on three part­ners, a num­ber that he be­lieves is man­age­able for his biotech.

“Those trav­el ex­tra­or­di­nar­i­ly well across dif­fer­ent ge­o­gra­phies,” he said. “Some of these new fanci­er tech­nolo­gies don’t trav­el as well — mon­o­clon­als and what not, be­cause there’s an even greater aver­sion to in­jectable ther­a­pies or just be­cause of the cost.”

Dai­ichi Sankyo signed up for Eu­rope and Switzer­land rights back in Jan­u­ary 2019, a year be­fore the EMA gave the green­light, with $150 mil­lion up­front in a deal worth $900 mil­lion. The Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion ce­ment­ed that with a fi­nal OK un­der the brand names Nilem­do and Nus­ten­di. The first sale would yield an­oth­er $150 mil­lion in mile­stones.

Mean­while in the US, Es­pe­ri­on has al­ready launched Nexle­tol to a pan­dem­ic-strick­en coun­try, set­ting up a re­mote cam­paign to en­cour­age adop­tion of its $10 per day reg­i­men. The Nexl­izet roll­out is sched­uled for Ju­ly.

“In re­sponse to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, our com­mer­cial and med­ical or­ga­ni­za­tions have sus­pend­ed per­son­al in­ter­ac­tions with physi­cians and cus­tomers and will be con­duct­ing ac­tiv­i­ties vir­tu­al­ly,” it wrote in a re­cent SEC fil­ing.

Hav­ing com­plet­ed two and a half weeks of in­ten­sive train­ing in both the new dig­i­tal tools and vir­tu­al ways of mar­ket­ing, the field team has just be­gun mak­ing calls last Thurs­day — with ex­tra sen­si­tiv­i­ty to lo­cal sit­u­a­tions.

“None of our sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives are call­ing any­body in the New York area,” Mayleben said. But places like Flori­da, where he is based, of­fer a lit­tle more room to be­gin push­ing a new drug. “We’ll start to see the re­sults of that in our script da­ta per­haps by the end of the month.”

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.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 157,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 157,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Credit: Shutterstock

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.

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.

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.

Charles Riv­er se­cures $50M ac­qui­si­tion of drug dis­cov­ery tech com­pa­ny

Over the past several years, Massachusetts-based contractor Charles River Laboratories has been busy on the M&A front, with the latest, $50 million buyout coming Monday for a provider of high-throughput screening solutions for discovery research.

Chicago-based SAMDI Tech will now be folded into Charles River’s discovery and safety assessment division, Charles River announced.

The $50 million in cash is for the 80% of SAMDI that Charles River didn’t previously own. Other financial details on the deal were not disclosed.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 157,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.