Eye­ing Eylea's $5B sales, No­var­tis touts sol­id 12-week dos­ing da­ta for its ri­val RTH258

No­var­tis is rolling out new da­ta that build on its case for the com­pa­ny’s block­buster hope­ful RTH258, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al ther­a­py that might carve away a con­sid­er­able chunk of Re­gen­eron’s $5 bil­lion Eylea fran­chise if ap­proved.

Vas Narasimhan

The new da­ta, which came from a sec­ondary analy­sis of two Phase III tri­als, show a com­pelling case for the drug as a treat­ment for wet age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion. The drug al­ready showed im­pres­sive suc­cess in those tri­als last fall, when it per­formed well in a head-to-head com­par­i­son to Eylea. Sim­ply put, No­var­tis’ CEO Vas Narasimhan said the drug was “con­sis­tent­ly su­pe­ri­or” to its Re­gen­eron ri­val.

Now, No­var­tis is call­ing at­ten­tion to RTH258’s con­ve­nience fac­tor com­pared to Eylea and oth­er ther­a­pies.

Dirk Sauer

“Ever since Lu­cen­tis was first in­tro­duced more than 10 years ago as a month­ly in­jec­tion, physi­cians have been try­ing to find a way to space out treat­ments,” said Dirk Sauer, head of No­var­tis’ oph­thal­mol­o­gy unit. “They’re try­ing to find a way to re­duce the bur­den for the pa­tient, but al­so to re­duce the bur­den for the physi­cian — they have lots of pa­tients com­ing back every month for in­jec­tions.”

Re­gen­eron’s Eylea can be tak­en once every 8 weeks, which is nicer for pa­tients and docs, but No­var­tis plans to go a step fur­ther. The com­pa­ny is bet­ting that its 12-week reg­i­men will win over a big slice of the mar­ket. In the da­ta rolled out to­day, No­var­tis said pa­tients in the tri­als had an 87% and 83% prob­a­bil­i­ty of suc­cess­ful­ly con­tin­u­ing a 12-week in­ter­val through week 48.

That’s big, Sauer said, con­sid­er­ing Re­gen­eron and oth­ers’ ap­par­ent dif­fi­cul­ty with this dos­ing sched­ule. Not to be out­done, Re­gen­eron told End­points News back in No­vem­ber that it was test­ing its own 12-week treat­ment cy­cle with Eylea. I checked back with Re­gen­eron last week, and a com­pa­ny spokesper­son said Re­gen­eron’s sBLA for its 12-week Eylea treat­ment was ac­cept­ed by the FDA and has a PDU­FA date of Au­gust 11.

But Sauer said that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly steal No­var­tis’ edge.

“I can’t spec­u­late on the FDA la­bel for Eylea or for ours, but the da­ta are not the same,” Sauer said. “We did a prospec­tive analy­sis, while they went back and did a ret­ro­spec­tive analy­sis. Ret­ro­spec­tive analy­ses, from an an­a­lyt­i­cal and sta­tis­ti­cal point of view, are weak­er.”

Plus, Sauer said, Re­gen­eron doesn’t have 12-week treat­ment da­ta from its first year, on­ly its sec­ond. In the third year, the com­pa­ny went back to an 8-week reg­i­men, Sauer said, which might mean pa­tients lost vi­su­al acu­ity.

Still, Re­gen­eron may be slight­ly ahead in the race for ap­proval. Sauer said RTH258 should be filed with the FDA lat­er this year. But it could take a year to 18 months for the drug ac­tu­al­ly reach­es the mar­ket.

Gilead baits new al­liance with $45M up­front, div­ing in­to the busy pro­tein degra­da­tion field

Gilead is jump­ing on board the pro­tein degra­da­tion band­wag­on. And they’re turn­ing to a low-pro­file Third Rock start­up for the ex­per­tise. But if you were look­ing for a trans­for­ma­tion­al deal to kick up fresh en­thu­si­asm for Gilead, you’ll have to re­main pa­tient.

 

This one will have a long way to go be­fore they get in­to the clin­ic.

The big biotech said Wednes­day morn­ing that it is pay­ing $45 mil­lion up­front and re­serv­ing a whop­ping $2.3 bil­lion in biotech bucks if San Fran­cis­co-based Nurix can point the way to new can­cer ther­a­pies, as well as drugs for oth­er, un­spec­i­fied dis­eases.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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A new num­ber 1 drug? Keytru­da tapped to top the 10 biggest block­busters on the world stage by 2024

Analysts may be fretting about Keytruda’s longterm prospects as a host of rival therapies elbow their way to the market. But the folks at Evaluate Pharma are confident that last year’s $7 billion earner is headed for glory, tapping it to beat out the current #1 therapy Humira as AbbVie watches that franchise swoon over the next 5 years.

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In­vestor day prep at Mer­ck in­cludes a new strat­e­gy to pick up the pace on M&A — re­port

Mer­ck’s re­cent deals to buy up two bolt-on biotechs — Ti­los and Pelo­ton — weren’t an aber­ra­tion. In­stead, both ac­qui­si­tions mark a new strat­e­gy to beef up its dom­i­nant can­cer drug op­er­a­tions cen­tered on Keytru­da while look­ing to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns that too many of its eggs are in the one I/O bas­ket for their PD-1 pro­gram. And Mer­ck is go­ing af­ter more small- and mid-sized buy­outs to calm those fears.

John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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Dave Barrett, Brian Chee, Amir Nashat, Amy Schulman. Polaris

Bob Langer's first port of call — Po­laris Part­ners — maps $400M for ninth fund

Health and tech ven­ture group Po­laris Part­ners, which counts Alec­tor, Al­ny­lam and Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine as part of its port­fo­lio, is set­ting up its ninth fund, rough­ly two years af­ter it closed Po­laris VI­II with $435 mil­lion in the bank, sur­pass­ing its tar­get by $35 mil­lion.

The Boston-based firm, in an SEC fil­ing, said it in­tends to raise $400 mil­lion for the fund. Po­laris — which rou­tine­ly backs com­pa­nies mold­ed out of the work done in the lab of pro­lif­ic sci­en­tist Bob Langer of MIT  — typ­i­cal­ly in­vests ear­ly, and sticks around till com­pa­nies are in the green. Like its peers at Flag­ship and Third Rock, Po­laris is all about cham­pi­oning the lo­cal biotech scene with a steady flow of start­up cash.

Partners Innovation Fund

David de Graaf now has his $28.5M launch round in place, build­ing a coen­zyme A plat­form in his lat­est start­up

Long­time biotech ex­ec David de Graaf has the cash he needs to set up the pre­clin­i­cal foun­da­tion for his coen­zyme A me­tab­o­lism com­pa­ny Comet. A few high-pro­file in­vestors joined the ven­ture syn­di­cate to sup­ply Comet with $28.5 mil­lion in launch mon­ey — enough to get it two years in­to the plat­form-build­ing game, with­in knock­ing dis­tance of the clin­ic.

Canaan jumped in along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestor Sofinno­va Part­ners to co-lead the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tion by ex­ist­ing in­vestor INKEF Cap­i­tal and new in­vestor BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal.

Right back at you, Pfiz­er: BeiGene and a Pfiz­er spin­out launch a new­co to de­vel­op a MEK/BRAF in­hibitor that could ri­val $11.4B com­bo

A day af­ter Pfiz­er bought Ar­ray and its ap­proved can­cer com­bo, BeiGene and Pfiz­er spin­out Spring­Works have part­nered in launch­ing a new biotech that has an eye on the very same mar­ket the phar­ma gi­ant just paid bil­lions for. And they’re plan­ning on us­ing an ex-Pfiz­er drug to do it.

In a nut­shell, Chi­na’s BeiGene is toss­ing in a pre­clin­i­cal BRAF in­hibitor — BGB-3245, which cov­ers both V600 and non-V600 BRAF mu­ta­tions — for a big stake in a new, joint­ly con­trolled biotech called Map­Kure with Bain-backed Spring­Works.

Sanofi aligns it­self with Google to stream­line drug de­vel­op­ment

Tech­nol­o­gy is bleed­ing in­to health­care, and big phar­ma is rid­ing the wave. Sanofi $SNY ap­point­ed its first chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer this Feb­ru­ary, fol­low­ing the foot­steps of its peers. By May, the French drug­mak­er and some of its big phar­ma com­pa­tri­ots joined forces with Google par­ent Al­pha­bet’s Ver­i­ly unit to aug­ment clin­i­cal tri­al re­search. On Tues­day, the Parisian com­pa­ny tied up with Google to ac­cess its cloud com­put­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech to spur the de­vel­op­ment of new ther­a­pies.