FDA quash­es block­buster dreams at Eli Lil­ly and In­cyte, of­fer­ing a se­vere­ly lim­it­ed ap­proval for Olu­mi­ant

Vi­sions of block­buster sales for the rheuma­toid arthri­tis drug baric­i­tinib were quashed by the FDA’s ap­proval to­day. Reg­u­la­tors came through with an OK for the low, 2 mg dose of the drug, to be mar­ket­ed as Olu­mi­ant, spurn­ing the 4 mg dose that they had been seek­ing and lim­it­ing the pa­tient pop­u­la­tion to TNF re­sis­tant cas­es.

The reg­u­la­to­ry OK al­so comes with a black box warn­ing for the drug’s side ef­fects, which in­cludes a star­tling sig­nal on throm­boem­bolism.

Once tapped as a top fran­chise play­er for Eli Lil­ly $LLY and its part­ners at In­cyte $IN­CY, the FDA hauled the drug back from lim­bo af­ter the ar­rival of Scott Got­tlieb as com­mis­sion­er at the FDA. The agency had ini­tial­ly re­ject­ed the drug, de­mand­ing a new study. But then reg­u­la­tors abrupt­ly re­versed them­selves — with­out ex­pla­na­tion — and let the mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion pro­ceed.

De­spite the com­mer­cial set­back, Lil­ly plans to come out swing­ing for as much mar­ket share as it can grab. The phar­ma gi­ant says it will of­fer Olu­mi­ant at a 60% dis­count to the price of the lead­ing TNF in­hibitor.

“We are pleased to pro­vide RA pa­tients in the U.S. an ef­fec­tive treat­ment op­tion with Olu­mi­ant, as peo­ple with RA who have had an in­ad­e­quate re­sponse to TNF in­hibitors are gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered to be some of the most dif­fi­cult to treat RA pa­tients,” said Christi Shaw, pres­i­dent, Lil­ly Bio-Med­i­cines.

To­day’s de­ci­sion fol­lows an ex­pert pan­el vote which weighed heav­i­ly against the 4 mg dose af­ter agency ex­perts out­lined their con­cerns about the safe­ty pro­file. They al­so gave a thumbs up to the 2 mg dose, which is like­ly to be far less suc­cess­ful and not near­ly as com­mer­cial­ly vi­able as the 4 mg. Some an­a­lysts were al­so shak­ing their heads to­day at the re­stric­tion to pa­tients who were re­sis­tant to TNF in­hibitors.

“The Olu­mi­ant ap­proval was a bit worse than the pan­el’s rec­om­men­da­tion,” Mor­gan Stan­ley an­a­lyst David Risinger said, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from Reuters.

Elim­i­nat­ing the 4 mg dose, notes Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges, gives Pfiz­er’s Xel­janz a big edge with 6 years of safe­ty da­ta. He adds:

Ul­ti­mate­ly this la­bel means that Olu­mi­ant is like­ly to be re­strict­ed to sal­vage ther­a­py on­ly, and ex­pect fore­casts for the prod­uct to de­cline even fur­ther (Lil­ly con­sen­sus re­mains >$1bn). This doesn’t mean that Ab­b­Vie’s upadac­i­tinib and Gilead’s fil­go­tinib will au­to­mat­i­cal­ly get this la­belling. In fact, it is like­ly that one or both of them avoids the throm­bo­sis risk and gets mul­ti­ple dos­es ap­proved with su­pe­ri­or ef­fi­ca­cy. We be­lieve that the best of the JAKs is still fil­go­tinib, un­til proven oth­er­wise, but the class as a whole is like­ly to be sad­dled with much of the lan­guage in to­day’s Olu­mi­ant la­bel.

This marks the sec­ond big set­back for In­cyte this year, af­ter its IDO pro­gram foundered and scut­tled a whole line­up of com­bi­na­tion stud­ies with ma­jor in­dus­try play­ers.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio Therapeutics CEO

An­ti­body leg­end Till­man Gern­gross is el­bow­ing his way in­to the Covid-19 R&D cru­sade: 'I don’t see this end­ing any­time soon'

One of the most influential — and outspoken — scientists at work in the field of antibody discovery is jumping into the frenzied race to create new therapeutics to treat and prevent Covid-19. And he’s operating with the conviction that the current outbreak now once again spreading like wildfire will create plenty of demand for what he has in mind.

Dartmouth professor and Adimab CEO Tillman Gerngross tells me he’s raised $50 million from a group of close VCs to spin out a new company — Adagio Therapeutics — with a full C-suite team assembled to hire up a staff and keep rolling toward the clinic.

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Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (Moderna via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: NI­AID and Mod­er­na spell out a 'ro­bust' im­mune re­sponse in PhI coro­n­avirus vac­cine test — but big ques­tions re­main to be an­swered

The NIAID and Moderna have spelled out positive Phase I safety and efficacy data for their Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 — highlighting the first full, clear sketch of evidence that back-to-back jabs at the dose selected for Phase III routinely produced a swarm of antibodies to the virus that exceeded levels seen in convalescent patients — typically in multiples indicating a protective response.

Moderna execs say plainly that this first stage of research produced exactly the kind of efficacy they hoped to see in humans, with a manageable safety profile.

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Trans­port Sim­u­la­tion Test­ing for Your Ther­a­py is the Best Way to As­sure FDA Ex­pe­dit­ed Pro­gram Ap­proval

Modality Solutions is an ISO:9001-registered biopharmaceutical cold chain engineering firm with unique transport simulation capabilities that support accelerated regulatory approval for biologics and advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMP). Our expertise combines traditional validation engineering approaches with regulatory knowledge into a methodology tailored for the life sciences industry. We provide insight and execution for the challenges faced in your cold chain logistics network.

GSK’s Shin­grix leader Guil­laume Pfe­fer has jumped on board Flag­ship to helm a biotech hy­brid as Afeyan’s lat­est CEO-part­ner

After spending 4 years in a senior post with GlaxoSmithKline’s star team positioning Shingrix for a blockbuster approval, Guillaume Pfefer is headed back to the biotech world — in style.

Pfefer has signed on to join Noubar Afeyan’s busy group of partners at Flagship, and he’s taking the helm of an upstart — which today is being merged with another Flagship startup — with some grand plans of its own. The announcement this morning notes that Pfefer will run Kintai Therapeutics, one of the grads of the Flagship labs.

Mer­ck KGaA takes its I/O op­tion on F-star Ther­a­peu­tics; Nephron spends $215M, eye­ing spot in Covid-19 vac­cine chain

→Merck KGaA has taken an early option on an immuno-oncology program developed at F-star Therapeutics. This is their second option in the collaboration. And they added a pair of preclinical discovery programs to the alliance as well.

Any biotech going public these days wouldn’t feel right if they didn’t upsize the offering. And that’s just what Phase I biotech Pandion Therapeutics did. The autoimmune company is now selling 7 million shares, a 1.5 million share bump, for $16 to $18 a share.

Full Bril­in­ta study re­sults show the blood thin­ner re­duces rate of sec­ondary stroke

AstraZeneca once projected its Brilinta drug to peak at $3.5 billion in sales, and though the blood thinner never reached that lofty goal, it received the latest positive signs in a string of recent good news.

The pharma released full details from its THALES study Thursday morning, which measured the effects of Brilinta and aspirin against aspirin alone in treating patients who had an acute ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack. When taken twice daily with once-a-day aspirin for 30 days, the Brilinta combo reduced the risk of stroke and death by 17 percent, meeting the primary endpoint of the study.

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Who are the women blaz­ing trails in bio­phar­ma R&D and lead­ing the fight against Covid-19? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' spe­cial re­port

One of the many inequalities the pandemic has laid bare is the gender imbalance in biomedical research. A paper examining Covid-19 research authorship wondered out loud: Where are the women?

It’s a question that echoes beyond our current times. In the biopharma world, not only are women under-represented in R&D roles (particularly at higher levels), their achievements and talents could also be undermined by stereotypes and norms of leadership styles. The problem is even more dire for women of color.

Norbert Bischofberger, Kronos CEO

Gilead­'s ex-R&D chief Bischof­berg­er heads back to the biotech gi­ant to pick up a pair of late-stage drugs that had been put aside

Norbert Bischofberger knows entospletinib well.

Back during his long, blockbuster run as head of R&D at Gilead, researchers had once held some high hopes for this drug. But to make it work, he and the team felt it would need a new companion diagnostic to identify patients. There was talk of a combo approach to give it more punch. But the market was small, making them wonder if it would be worth going through a lengthy development cycle to get it through a pivotal.

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The $1B Mer­ck-Bay­er drug that di­vid­ed car­di­ol­o­gists in March gets pri­or­i­ty re­view

Three months after Merck published in the New England Journal of Medicine data that left doctors and investors divided over just how well its experimental heart drug worked, the FDA has handed that drug priority review. A decision is now due by January 20, 2021.

Merck first announced the drug, known as vericiguat, as a Phase III success last November. In 2016, Merck had paid $1 billion upfront for US rights to the Bayer-developed drug. Early projections foresaw a few hundred million a year in sales, but the unspecified late-stage success raised the possibility for far more. After all, Novartis’s flagship heart drug, Entresto, was earning $1.7 billion per year and was expected to reach up to $4 billion in annual sales.