Sim­mer­ing feud be­tween blue­bird and a ri­val con­tin­ues with al­le­ga­tions of patent fraud

Blue­bird bio was hit with a patent in­fringe­ment law­suit last week from a Chica­go-based biotech it has had an on­go­ing beef with call­ing for $2 bil­lion to help cure the “ir­repara­ble harm” caused by al­leged will­ful in­fringe­ment.

Blue­bird bio is fac­ing a law­suit from Er­rant Gene Ther­a­peu­tics for vi­o­lat­ing patent law in two in­stances, the com­pa­ny says.

The suit al­leges that blue­bird in­fringed the rights of EGT’s re­com­bi­nant vec­tors used in the gene ther­a­py treat­ment of rare dis­eases such as sick­le cell dis­ease and be­ta tha­lassemia for its drugs Zyn­te­glo and Lenti­Glo­bin. EGT has an ex­clu­sive li­cense from the Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter to patents ti­tled “vec­tor en­cod­ing hu­man glob­al gene and use there­of in treat­ment of He­mo­glo­binopathies.”

Nick Leschly

In 2016, Er­rant said that blue­bird and Third Rock, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm co-found­ed by blue­bird CEO Nick Leschly, blocked their gene ther­a­py from reach­ing the mar­ket. In 2010, Er­rant was set to start clin­i­cal tri­als with MSK and NIH, and Third Rock met with MSK and “ad­mit­ted” that the Er­rant vec­tor was bet­ter than blue­bird’s.

That, Er­rant al­leges, led to a se­cret agree­ment to stall the de­vel­op­ment of Er­rant’s vec­tor. MSK de­mand­ed that Er­rant find a com­mer­cial part­ner as a con­di­tion be­fore start­ing clin­i­cal tri­als — but de­spite Er­rant ful­fill­ing that con­di­tion, MSK re­ject­ed the con­tract and in­stead ini­ti­at­ed ar­bi­tra­tion against Er­rant, the drug de­vel­op­er claimed in the law­suit.

EGT, which changed its name to San Roc­co Ther­a­peu­tics in May, was es­tab­lished in 1993 by CEO Patrick Giron­di af­ter his son Roc­co was di­ag­nosed with be­ta tha­lassemia, an in­her­it­ed blood dis­or­der. Er­rant de­vel­oped the vi­ral vec­tor along­side MSK in 2000. Er­rant con­tact­ed MSK sci­en­tist Michel Sade­lain, who pub­lished a pa­per show­ing the po­ten­tial of the gene ther­a­py in mice, and start­ed to fund his re­search. Five years lat­er, Er­rant bought ex­clu­sive rights of the tech for blood dis­or­ders, and the com­pa­ny patent­ed the vec­tor in 2009.

MSK grant­ed Er­rant an ex­clu­sive com­mer­cial li­cense in 2005, the law­suit states.

The lat­est suit al­leges that blue­bird will­ful­ly in­fringed on two of Er­rant’s patents. In Sep­tem­ber, blue­bird was grant­ed break­through des­ig­na­tion for its gene ther­a­py for be­ta tha­lassemia.

“Blue­bird has en­gaged and con­tin­ues to en­gage in non-reg­u­la­to­ry con­duct and post-FDA sub­mis­sion ac­tiv­i­ties re­lat­ed to the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the BB305 vec­tor, which in­fringes on the ‘179 and ‘061 patents,” the law­suit states.

This cur­rent law­suit high­lights blue­bird’s ramp-up of com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US for the BB305 vec­tor, as well as stock­pil­ing and oth­er com­mer­cial­iza­tion ac­tiv­i­ties for the vec­tor that Er­rant says “are not rea­son­ably re­lat­ed to ob­tain­ing FDA ap­proval.”

Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, EGT claims it has suf­fered ir­repara­ble harm, and asks for $2 bil­lion. It says that its own gene ther­a­py is slat­ed to cost more than $1 mil­lion less than blue­bird’s, which is pro­ject­ed to cost $2 mil­lion per pa­tient. Leschly caused jaws to drop in 2019 when he an­nounced that it would have a price tag of $1.8 mil­lion per pa­tient, just be­hind No­var­tis’ spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy ther­a­py treat­ment Zol­gens­ma for the crown of most ex­pen­sive treat­ment.

The law­suit has been a long time com­ing. In Au­gust 2019, the New York Supreme Court sanc­tioned blue­bird for $25,000, and re­ject­ed its ef­forts to pre­vent EGT from pro­ceed­ing with a law­suit by hold­ing the com­pa­ny in con­tempt.

Spe­cial re­port: Meet 20 ex­tra­or­di­nary women who are su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D

Even though many biopharma leaders have come together in recent years to address its gender gap, the consensus is clear: We still have a long way to go.

Companies this year were 2.5 times more likely than last year to have a diversity and inclusion program in place, according to a recent BIO survey, but women are still largely absent from executive roles. Getting women to enter the industry isn’t the problem — studies show that they represent just under half of all biotech employees around the world. But climbing through the ranks can be challenging, as women still report facing stereotypes, and, unfortunately, harassment.

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Op­ti­miz­ing Oral Drug De­liv­ery us­ing Zy­dis® Oral­ly Dis­in­te­grat­ing Tablet Tech­nol­o­gy to Ad­dress Pa­tient Chal­lenges

KEY POINTS

Patients prefer oral dosing, but swallowing tablets can be a challenge for many patients.
The Zydis® orally disintegrating tablet (ODT) platform addresses challenges associated with oral dosing, expanding benefits for patients and options for healthcare providers.
A strong growth trajectory is expected for ODTs given therapeutic innovation and continued technology development.

Many patients prefer conventional tablets for the administration of medications, but some geriatric and pediatric patients and those with altered mental status and physical impairments find swallowing tablets to be difficult. Orally disintegrating tablets (ODTs), which dissolve completely without chewing or sucking, offer a patient-friendly dosage form for the administration of small-molecule drugs, peptides and proteins. With the potential for multiple sites of drug absorption, often faster onset action for the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), and potentially greater bioavailability, ODTs are an attractive option for drug developers considering first-to-market formulations or product line extensions of existing drugs with compatible API. In this report, we look at how innovation in the industry-leading Zydis ODT platform is expanding oral formulation options and bringing benefits to patients.

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Geoffrey Porges (SVB Leerink)

The 2022 wave com­ing? Top an­a­lyst says Big Phar­ma will have more than $1T avail­able to sat­is­fy its grow­ing ap­petite for biotech M&A

All through this year you could practically feel the frustration of the biotech investor class as M&A activity continued to drag behind expectations — or desires. Buyouts of public companies provide the essential juice for keeping stocks lively, and there’s been a notable lack of juice in 2021.

So is all that about to change, big time?

SVB Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges, a longtime student of biotech M&A, thinks so. In a lengthy analysis he put out last week, Porges totted up the cash flow of the major pharmas and determined that there was a good long list of industry buyers who would have around a half trillion dollars of cash to play with in 2022. Leverage that up with added debt and you could get that deal cache to $1.6 trillion.

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Mar­ket­ingRx Matchup: How Ab­b­Vie and Bio­haven ads rank in head-to-head mi­graine chal­lenge

Are you ready to rumble? DTC brands that is. MarketingRx is launching a new monthly feature today called MarketingRx Matchup. We’re pitting two pharma brands’ DTC advertising in the same therapeutic category against each other to find out what consumers and patients really think.

Market research company Leger is handling the polling and analysis each month, and I’ll be writing up the results — along with my own take — inside MRx on the first Tuesday of the month.

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Wendy Lund, Organon chief communications officer

Q&A: Organon chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer Wendy Lund talks about the Mer­ck spin­off, women’s health and why it mat­ters

One of Wendy Lund’s earliest jobs was head of marketing at Planned Parenthood. As the youngest person on its management team, she introduced them to emerging new technologies, and in return, she learned the importance of fighting for what you believe in.

Now as chief communications officer at Organon, the women’s health company recently spun off by Merck, Lund is keeping that point top of mind. That’s in part because women’s health hasn’t been a spotlight therapy area for Big Pharma in years. Several companies have spun off, sold or at least considered selling women’s health assets to focus on “core” products.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Pfiz­er re-ups pneu­mo­nia ads as Mer­ck threat looms; Re­al Chem­istry founder CEO Jim Weiss steps back

Every autumn, leaves fall from the trees and people start holiday shopping – and for the last few years Pfizer debuts a new “Know Pneumonia” awareness TV ad. This year the commercial, launched a week ago, features different people who talk about why they got vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia. Actors portray a young female firefighter with asthma, a mechanic with heart disease and an older woman with her grandchild. A Pfizer spokesperson declined comment on the latest iteration of the long-running campaign.

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James Sabry

'We're in': Roche and Genen­tech join forces on a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar dis­cov­ery pact with a brash AI up­start

Over the past couple of years, the top execs at Roche and Genentech have inked a flurry of deals aligning the global pair with several of the new players that have emerged in the booming AI and machine learning world. That strategy was supercharged in the spring of 2020 by their decision to recruit Aviv Regev out of the computational world she occupied at the Broad. And today they’re taking that computational approach in R&D to a whole new level.

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Klick Health agency employees appear in its annual holiday greeting video with this year's theme to #SpreadJoy (via Klick Health)

Klick Health hands out $100 bills in an­nu­al hol­i­day greet­ing that’s turned in­to de­fault re­cruit­ing tool

Editor’s Note: For more news, analysis and exclusive coverage from the marketing beat, subscribe to the Endpoints MarketingRx weekly report in your reader profile.

What would you do with $100 and the simple instruction to “spread joy?” That’s what pharma and healthcare agency Klick Health asked its employees as part of its annual holiday greeting for clients, friends and future recruits.

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Warren Huff, Reata CEO

FDA slams Reata's kid­ney drug as in­ef­fec­tive ahead of ad­comm meet­ing

The FDA on Monday offered an overwhelmingly negative opinion on Reata Pharmaceuticals’ potential drug to slow the loss of kidney function in those with the rare disease Alport syndrome, according to briefing documents released ahead of an advisory committee meeting Wednesday.

The agency’s review team said it “does not believe the submitted data demonstrate that bardoxolone is effective in slowing the loss of kidney function in patients with AS and reducing the risk of progression to kidney failure.” Originally developed as a cancer drug, bardoxolone was later scuttled by Reata almost a decade ago as a chronic kidney disease drug due to deaths in a Phase III trial.

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