FDA pins an­oth­er 'break­through' badge on Ab­b­Vie's vene­to­clax; Ex­press Scripts bats back at drug­mak­ers on pric­ing

Ab­b­Vie $AB­BV has col­lect­ed a fifth break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion for vene­to­clax as it climbs the block­buster moun­tain with the apop­to­sis drug. The lat­est en­dorse­ment from the FDA cov­ers vene­to­clax’s first-line use, in com­bi­na­tion with obin­u­tuzum­ab, in chron­ic lym­pho­cyt­ic leukemia. Hav­ing just filed its sN­DA, the com­pa­ny is ex­pect­ed to ben­e­fit from an ex­pe­dit­ed re­view soon.

→ Last week, var­i­ous high pro­file, glob­al drug­mak­ers placed the blame for high out-of-pock­et pa­tient costs in the Unit­ed States on the mid­dle­men — phar­ma­cy ben­e­fit man­agers — as­sert­ing that they are forced to hike the prices of pre­scrip­tion drugs in re­sponse to high­er re­bates that all-pow­er­ful PBMs ne­go­ti­ate at a hear­ing with US law­mak­ers. On Wednes­day, the largest US PBM — Ex­press Scripts $ES­RX — shot back, sug­gest­ing the pow­er to low­er drug prices ul­ti­mate­ly lies with the man­u­fac­tur­ers. “We of­ten have asked drug com­pa­nies to sim­ply low­er their prices. In­stead, drug com­pa­nies have elect­ed to in­crease prices and in­crease re­bates. This is the op­tion drug mak­ers have cho­sen for them­selves and for the mar­ket­place,” the com­pa­ny said in a state­ment, prais­ing Lil­ly’s $LLY de­ci­sion ear­li­er this week to re­lease an au­tho­rized gener­ic of its block­buster Hu­ma­log in­sulin, car­ry­ing a 50% dis­count to the brand­ed ver­sion. “We are in dis­cus­sions with Eli Lil­ly about Hu­ma­log au­tho­rized al­ter­na­tive, and if the net cost is low­est for plans, we will add it to our Flex For­mu­la­ry.”

Bio­gen $BI­IB and Ei­sai are ex­pect­ing the fi­nal read­out for their con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer’s drug BAN2401 in 2022, the part­ners dis­closed to­day as they mapped a time­line for the con­fir­ma­to­ry Phase III study. Sure to be close­ly watched af­ter some sketchy tri­al de­tails marred the pos­i­tive Phase II da­ta, the piv­otal study will test the drug in ear­ly Alzheimer’s dis­ease pa­tients, though Ei­sai said it’s ex­plor­ing a po­ten­tial Phase III in­volv­ing pa­tients with amy­loid pathol­o­gy in even ear­li­er stages of the dis­ease.

→ Less than three months in­to Athenex’s li­cens­ing and part­ner­ship pact with Chongqing Jing­dong, the Buf­fa­lo, NY-based biotech $AT­NX has de­cid­ed to pull out and com­mer­cial­ize KX2-391 in Chi­na on its own. An ex­per­i­men­tal drug that Athenex says has passed muster in Phase III, KX2-391 is an oint­ment de­signed for ac­tinic ker­ato­sis and on­col­o­gy in­di­ca­tions. Athenex gave no ex­pla­na­tion for the ter­mi­na­tion, say­ing on­ly that it be­lieves the move is “well po­si­tioned to align our de­vel­op­ment strate­gies in main­land Chi­na.”

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.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

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.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

UP­DAT­ED: With loom­ing ‘apoc­a­lypse of drug re­sis­tance,’ Mer­ck’s com­bi­na­tion an­tibi­ot­ic scores FDA ap­proval on two fronts

Merck — one of the last large biopharmaceuticals companies in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Wednesday said the FDA had sanctioned the approval of its combination antibacterial for the treatment of complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections.

To curb the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and maintain the efficacy of the therapy, Recarbrio (and other antibacterials) — the drug must be used to treat or prevent infections that are proven or strongly suspected to be caused by susceptible gram-negative bacteria, Merck $MRK said.

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