Fac­ing a pay­er back­lash over stick­er shock, Bio­gen fields pos­i­tive da­ta on Spin­raza for chil­dren 2-12

Fight­ing an up­hill bat­tle to get pay­ers to cov­er its $750,000 first-year price tag on Spin­raza (nusin­ersen), Bio­gen is post­ing an­oth­er round of stel­lar da­ta to back its use among old­er chil­dren with rare cas­es of spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy.

Re­searchers test­ed the drug in 126 SMA pa­tients who were be­tween the ages of 2 and 12 and gen­er­al­ly suf­fered from Type 2 or Type 3 forms of the neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­ease. As we’ve al­ready seen with in­fants un­der 6 months suf­fer­ing ear­ly-on­set dis­ease, there was a clear re­sponse, with a 3.9 point im­prove­ment at month 15 in the Ham­mer­smith Func­tion­al Mo­tor Scale Ex­pand­ed (HFMSE) score, com­pared to a 1.0 point drop in pa­tients in the place­bo arm.

Al San­drock, Bio­gen

“In CHER­ISH, most chil­dren with lat­er-on­set SMA treat­ed with Spin­raza saw im­prove­ments in mo­tor func­tion and sta­bi­liza­tion or slow­ing of dis­ease pro­gres­sion,” said Dr. Richard Finkel, chief of neu­rol­o­gy, Nemours Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, Or­lan­do, Flori­da. “As a physi­cian who has spent 37 years treat­ing chil­dren with SMA, it’s in­cred­i­bly en­cour­ag­ing to see some pa­tients on Spin­raza achieve mile­stones such as crawl­ing and stand­ing with as­sis­tance with­in the clin­i­cal tri­al. These kinds of clin­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful im­prove­ments are un­prece­dent­ed and give new hope to in­di­vid­u­als with SMA and their fam­i­lies.”

But it’s pay­ers that Bio­gen most wants to im­press now.

“We’re hope­ful that when [health plans] see this da­ta, they will up­date their poli­cies” to cov­er the drug for old­er chil­dren, Bio­gen Chief Med­ical Of­fi­cer Al San­drock told the home­town news­pa­per Boston Globe.

Bio­gen, part­nered with Io­n­is, stunned some an­a­lysts with its price, which drops to half that $750,000 in the sec­ond year, or $1.5 mil­lion for the first three years of treat­ment. Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges not­ed re­cent­ly that the price could turn Spin­raza in­to the “So­val­di of rare dis­ease drugs,” com­par­ing it to the Gilead hep C cure that sparked an out­cry over the $1,000-per-pill cost.

Bio­gen bad­ly needs to make a suc­cess of Spin­raza. Its flag­ship drug Tec­fidera has been flag­ging as new com­peti­tors hit the MS mar­ket, and it has a thin pipeline of CNS drugs that most an­a­lysts would like to see fat­tened through new deals. Along those lines Bio­gen lined up a $300 mil­lion up­front deal a few days ago to grab an an­ti-tau drug from Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb. And more deals may be on the way.

“We’re mov­ing, and we’re back in terms of aug­ment­ing the pipeline,” re­search and de­vel­op­ment head Michael Ehlers told Bloomberg on Fri­day.

Pres­i­dent Trump, mean­while, has been cas­ti­gat­ing the in­dus­try for as­tro­nom­i­cal drug prices, though rare dis­ease drugs have gen­er­al­ly avoid­ed the spot­light among all the price con­tro­ver­sies that have erupt­ed in the last cou­ple of years.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.