FDA names new No. 2 to re­place re­tir­ing Sher­man

The US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) an­nounced Mon­day that Dr. Amy Aber­nethy will re­place Rachel Sher­man as Prin­ci­pal Deputy com­mis­sion­er of Food and Drugs – the high­est po­si­tion at the agency that is not a po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee.

Amy Aber­nathy

Aber­nethy is the for­mer chief med­ical of­fi­cer, chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer and se­nior vice pres­i­dent, on­col­o­gy, at Flat­iron Health, which is a unit of Roche. Pri­or to that she was a pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine and ran the Cen­ter for Learn­ing Health Care in the Duke Clin­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute and Duke Can­cer Care Re­search Pro­gram in the Duke Can­cer In­sti­tute.

FDA Com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb wrote in a memo to FDA staff an­nounc­ing Aber­nethy’s ap­point­ment “She’s a high­ly re­gard­ed thought leader who has held nu­mer­ous po­si­tions of lead­er­ship in her fields of in­ter­est and dis­tin­guished her­self for her in­tel­lect, her pas­sion for pa­tient care and sci­ence, and her col­le­gial­i­ty.”

Ellen Si­gal, Chair and Founder of Friends of Can­cer Re­search, added: “As a treat­ing physi­cian, not on­ly does she know first-hand the im­por­tance and pow­er of the im­pact the FDA has on pa­tients every day, but she has shown in her many lead­er­ship ca­pac­i­ties that in or­der to make true ad­vances, and save lives, you must al­ways in­no­vate with the pa­tient at the fore­front. This ap­point­ment, in many ways, is a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion from the piv­otal work that Rachel Sher­man has paved the way for since her re­turn to FDA in 2015.”

Dr. Sher­man is re­tir­ing from FDA in Jan­u­ary af­ter serv­ing at the agency since 1989. Af­ter 15 years of in­creas­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ty in CDER, in 2005, Dr. Sher­man moved to FDA’s Of­fice of the Com­mis­sion­er, be­com­ing As­so­ci­ate Com­mis­sion­er for Clin­i­cal Pro­grams and di­rect­ing FDA’s Crit­i­cal Path Ini­tia­tive.

She lat­er re­turned to CDER in 2009 and served as CDER’s As­so­ci­ate Cen­ter Di­rec­tor for Med­ical Pol­i­cy and Di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Med­ical Pol­i­cy, be­fore tak­ing over in her cur­rent po­si­tion af­ter a brief re­tire­ment in 2015.


First pub­lished here. Reg­u­la­to­ry Fo­cus is the flag­ship on­line pub­li­ca­tion of the Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs Pro­fes­sion­als So­ci­ety (RAPS), the largest glob­al or­ga­ni­za­tion of and for those in­volved with the reg­u­la­tion of health­care and re­lat­ed prod­ucts, in­clud­ing med­ical de­vices, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, bi­o­log­ics and nu­tri­tion­al prod­ucts. Email news@raps.org for more in­for­ma­tion.

No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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Demis Hassabis, DeepMind CEO (Qianlong/Imaginechina via AP Images)

Google's Deep­Mind opens its pro­tein data­base to sci­ence — po­ten­tial­ly crack­ing drug R&D wide open

Nearly a year ago, Google’s AI outfit DeepMind announced they had cracked one of the oldest problems in biology: predicting a protein’s structure from its sequence alone. Now they’ve turned that software on nearly every human protein and hundreds of thousands of additional proteins from organisms important to medical research, such as fruit flies, mice and malaria parasite.

The new database of roughly 350,000 protein sequences and structures represents a potentially monumental achievement for the life sciences, one that could hasten new biological insights and the development of new drugs. DeepMind said it will be free and accessible to all researchers and companies.

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In­side Bio­gen's scram­ble to sell Aduhelm: Pro­ject 'Javelin' and pres­sure to ID as many pa­tients as pos­si­ble

In anticipation of Aduhelm’s approval for Alzheimer’s in June, Biogen employees were directed to identify and guarantee treatment centers would administer the drug through a program called “Javelin,” a senior Biogen employee told Endpoints News.

The program identified about 800 centers for use, he said, and Biogen now pays for the use of bioassays to identify beta amyloid in potential patients having undergone a lumbar puncture procedure, the employee said — and one center preparing to administer the drug confirmed its participation in the bioassay program.

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EMA re­jects FDA-ap­proved Parkin­son's drug, signs off on Mod­er­na vac­cine use in ado­les­cents ahead of FDA

The European Medicines Agency on Friday rejected Kyowa Kirin’s Parkinson’s disease drug Nouryant (istradefylline), which the US FDA approved in 2019 under the brand name Nourianz.

EMA said it considered that the results of the clinical studies used to support the application “were inconsistent and did not satisfactorily show that Nouryant was effective at reducing the ‘off’ time. Only four out of the eight studies showed a reduction in ‘off’ time, and the effect did not increase with an increased dose of Nouryant.”

6 top drug­mak­ers of­fer per­spec­tives on FDA's new co­vari­ates in RCTs guid­ance

Back in May, the FDA revised and expanded a 2019 draft guidance that spells out how to adjust for covariates in the statistical analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Building on the ICH’s E9 guideline on the statistical principles for clinical trials, the 3-page draft was transformed into an 8-page draft, with more detailed recommendations on linear and nonlinear models to analyze the efficacy endpoints in RCTs.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis dis­cards one of its ‘wild card’ drugs af­ter it flops in key study. But it takes one more for the hand

Always remember just how risky it is to gamble big on small studies.

A little more than 4 years ago, Novartis reportedly put up a package worth up to $1 billion for the dry eye drug ECF843 after a small biotech called Lubris put it through its paces in a tiny study of 40 moderate to severe patients, tracking some statistically significant markers of efficacy.

By last fall, the program had risen up to become one of CEO Vas Narasimhan’s top “wild card” programs in line for a potential breakthrough year in 2021. These drugs were all considered high-risk, high-reward efforts. And in this case, risk won.

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No­var­tis to pay near­ly $178M in law­suit over BRAF drug — and will be on the hook for roy­al­ty

After a four-year battle over a cancer drug patent, Novartis has been ordered by a California judge to pay a Daiichi Sankyo subsidiary $177.8 million.

Plexxikon filed a lawsuit against the pharma giant in 2017, alledging that Tafinlar, a rival to its melanoma drug Zelboraf that was brought to market in collaboration with Roche, has stepped on its intellectual property. The jury ruled in its favor, adding that the infringement is in fact willful.

Al Sandrock, Biogen R&D chief (Biogen via YouTube)

Bio­gen has a shaky end to H1 with a $542M write-off adding to its woes — but an­a­lysts see big rev­enue ahead for Aduhelm

All eyes at Biogen’s Q2 earnings call Thursday were on Aduhelm, but investors also got a glimpse of what Biogen would have faced had the FDA not opted to approve their controversial Alzheimer’s drug.

That glimpse, revealing a combination of declining sales, growing competition and failed medicines, underscores the stakes of the big biotech’s Aduhelm efforts, as execs punch back at the criticism they’ve engendered in the political and medical world and vigorously pushes its sales staff to roll out the drug as fast as possible.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (Credit: World Economic Forum/Valeriano Di Domenico)

Bio­gen de­fends slow roll­out of new Alzheimer's drug, crit­i­cizes neg­a­tive me­dia at­ten­tion

As Biogen execs bemoaned the negative media coverage around Aduhelm’s approval a month ago, the biotech isn’t gaining much traction yet in using its new drug, largely due to a lack of insurance coverage, according to an earnings call Thursday.

Management indicated that of the nearly 900 sites that were prepped and ready following Aduhelm’s approval, 325 of those, or about 35%, have completed a positive pharmacy and therapeutics (P&T) review or won’t require one. The review is a step some hospitals or health systems take prior to using a new drug. Some major sites, however, have said they won’t participate.