Failed again: Sanofi's Abl­ynx re­ports PhII lu­pus flop

Af­ter los­ing its high-pro­file rheuma­toid arthri­tis part­ner­ship just two years ear­li­er, Sanofi’s Bel­gium-based biotech Abl­ynx could once again put an Ab­b­Vie pact on the chop­ping block af­ter post­ing a Phase II flop this morn­ing.

Abl­ynx re­port­ed out bad news that vo­bar­il­izum­ab dis­ap­point­ed yet again, fail­ing to meet its pri­ma­ry end­points in a Phase II lu­pus study. It’s the same drug that fiz­zled in RA, which Ab­b­Vie punt­ed back in 2016.

The drug was the sub­ject of a glob­al li­cens­ing agree­ment inked with Ab­b­Vie back in 2013, which came with an up­front pay­ment of $175 mil­lion and mile­stones up to $665 mil­lion. The deal gave Ab­b­Vie the op­tion to li­cense vo­bar­il­izum­ab in RA and in lu­pus. It’s un­clear what Ab­b­Vie will choose, but the fu­ture isn’t look­ing good for vo­bar­il­izum­ab.

Robert Zeldin

“Ab­b­Vie will re­view the com­plete da­ta set when avail­able from the Phase II Steady SLE study to de­ter­mine whether to ex­er­cise its op­tion to li­cense vo­bar­il­izum­ab,” Abl­ynx said in a state­ment. “Should Ab­b­Vie ex­er­cise the op­tion, it would trig­ger a pay­ment to Abl­ynx. If the op­tion is not ex­er­cised, Abl­ynx’s agree­ment with Ab­b­Vie would ter­mi­nate.”

Abl­ynx, which has a nanobody plat­form tech and sev­er­al drugs in its pipeline, was snatched up by Sanofi for $4.8 bil­lion in Jan­u­ary. That was af­ter shoot­ing down two pre­vi­ous bids from No­vo Nordisk. The deal got Sanofi Abl­ynx’s lead drug capla­cizum­ab, which has shown con­sid­er­able promise in treat­ing the ul­tra-rare blood clot­ting dis­or­der ac­quired throm­bot­ic throm­bo­cy­topenic pur­pu­ra (aTTP).

Still, the vo­bar­il­izum­ab fail­ure will like­ly sting. The failed Phase II study en­rolled 312 pa­tients with lu­pus across five treat­ment arms. Ad­verse events that led to study drug dis­con­tin­u­a­tion were re­port­ed in 12.4% of all vo­bar­il­izum­ab treat­ed pa­tients com­pared to 6.5% in the place­bo group. Two deaths were re­port­ed in the vo­bar­il­izum­ab group.

“We are dis­ap­point­ed that vo­bar­il­izum­ab didn’t show a dose re­sponse in the analy­sis of the study’s pri­ma­ry end­point, how­ev­er, vo­bar­il­izum­ab was well tol­er­at­ed in all test­ed dose groups, con­firm­ing its fa­vor­able safe­ty pro­file,” said Abl­ynx CMO Robert Zeldin in a state­ment. “We will con­tin­ue to an­a­lyze the full da­ta set and thank the study par­tic­i­pants and their fam­i­lies as well as the in­ves­ti­ga­tors and staff who con­tributed to this study.”

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

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At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

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But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

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Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.