Anthony Fauci (2nd to left), NIAID director, discusses early results of testing remdesivir during a meeting with President Trump and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (2nd to right) in the Oval Office of the White House, April 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Doug Mills/The New York Times/Pool/Getty Images)

Da­ta on Gilead­'s an­tivi­ral bring hope for first Covid-19 drug ap­proval

Hours after Gilead announced that an NIH trial testing their antiviral drug remdesivir in Covid-19 patients had succeeded, NIAID director Anthony Fauci sat on a couch in the Oval Office and gave the world the top-line readout.

The drug induced a 31% improvement on the primary endpoint of time to recovery: 11 days in the drug arm compared to 15 days in the placebo arm, he said, adding that patients taking the drug appeared less likely to die, with an 8% mortality rate in the drug arm compared to 11% in patients given the placebo.

The mortality data were not yet statistically significant, he cautioned but were trending in the right direction. Fauci, surrounded by President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and several other advisors, said the news was a “very optimistic” sign in the hunt for treatments to fight the virus.

”Although a 31% improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100%, it is a very important proof of concept,” he said. “Because what it has proven, is that a drug has blocked this virus.”

Fauci said more details would come and that the study would be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Trump, who deferred to Fauci in giving the readout, echoed Fauci’s commentary.

“It’s a beginning, that means you build on it,” Trump said. “But it’s a very positive event.”

Shortly after the briefing, the New York Times reported that the FDA was preparing to issue an emergency use authorization for the drug’s use in Covid-19. In an email to Endpoints News, the FDA did not confirm or deny the Times’ report, but a spokesperson said the agency has “been engaged in sustained and ongoing discussions with Gilead Sciences regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate.”

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Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine -- so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

OWS' Mon­cef Slaoui lam­basts ‘in­sult­ing’ me­dia cov­er­age: 'How are you help­ing in this pan­dem­ic?'

Ten weeks into his job as the chief advisor of Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui has found a new hurdle to the challenge of bringing a Covid-19 vaccine unprecedented speed: the media.

In an official podcast by the Department of Health and Human Services, Slaoui — a veteran of GlaxoSmithKline who came out of his retirement to take on the role, relinquishing several board directorships and selling shares in the process — counted himself naive in assuming that the press was aiming to inform.

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No­var­tis says Kym­ri­ah reach­es pri­ma­ry end­point in new PhII, al­though num­bers still to come

The race to develop CAR-T therapies has died down since Novartis’ Kymriah and Gilead’s Yescarta first crossed the finish line, though Tecartus also recently received approval. But the companies continue to expand their drugs’ applications, with Novartis preparing to conclude a new Phase II.

Interim data announced by the Swiss pharma show that Kymriah met its primary endpoint of complete response rate in treating patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma, the second-most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Based on preliminary trial findings, Kymriah had received RMAT designation from the FDA in April for r/r follicular lymphoma.

Covid-19 roundup: Eli Lil­ly retro­fits RVs for first-of-its-kind an­ti­body tri­al with NIH; Am­gen, Ab­b­Vie, Take­da team on a drug

Eli Lilly and the NIH are about to start a first-of-its-kind trial that researchers and developers have talked about for months as a way of providing temporary immunity to the most at-risk populations.

Lilly announced this morning that it will start a 2,400-person trial with the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases to test whether its experimental Covid-19 neutralizing antibody can prevent people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities from developing the disease. The idea, known as passive immunity, is that rather than waiting on a vaccine to induce people to develop antibodies, doctors can give them lab-grown antibodies. Ideally, those antibodies will either attack the new SARS-CoV-2 infection, if the patient has recently been exposed, or persist in the blood for several weeks and prevent infection or disease for that period.

FDA hands Mor­phoSys and In­cyte a quick OK on their po­ten­tial block­buster CAR-T al­ter­na­tive

Nearly three years after okaying the CAR-Ts Yescarta and Kymriah, the FDA has approved a new CD19 therapy.

MorphoSys’ Monjuvi, or tafasitamab-cxix, was cleared Friday for use in refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DBLCL). The approval sets up both MorphoSys and their commercial partner Incyte to compete with Gilead and Novartis in the ultra-competitive indication, where similar trial results and far easier delivery could allow them to cut a fair share of the market.

So Covid-19 leader BioN­Tech has a can­cer vac­cine in de­vel­op­ment? Yes, and Re­gen­eron just jumped in for the PhII com­bo study

Before the coronavirus global emergency stole the R&D show in biopharma, the leaders in the race to develop new mRNA therapies had a big interest in determining if their tech could be used to create an effective cancer vaccine after all the first-gen tries had failed to impress. So perhaps it’s not surprising that an early cut of the data at frontrunner BioNTech went largely unnoticed.

Unless you were at Regeneron.

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Scott Gottlieb (Getty Images)

Covid-19 roundup: FDA com­mis­sion­ers call for more ‘con­cert­ed ef­fort’ on con­va­les­cent plas­ma R&D; Re­gen­eron boosts case for an­ti­body cock­tail with new an­i­mal da­ta

Four former FDA commissioners have coalesced around a century-old treatment they believe can give the best weapon against Covid-19: Convalescent plasma.

Writing in The Washington Postformer FDA commissioners Mark McClellan, Margaret Hamburg, Robert Califf and Scott Gottlieb said that while more work needs to be done to prove it’s safe and effective, convalescent plasma was a “promising treatment” that “could help millions of patients with the novel coronavirus both here and abroad.” They warned, though, that for it to become an effective tool in the US’ Covid-19 response, a more “concerted effort” is needed to recruit donors and run trials.