For­get Bris­tol-My­ers: Re­gen­eron takes on Mer­ck for the heavy­weight ti­tle in non-small cell lung can­cer

Re­gen­eron may have been the 6th bio­phar­ma com­pa­ny to land an ini­tial ap­proval for a PD-1/L1 ther­a­py, but they’re clear­ly not set­tling for any­thing close to a last-place fin­ish in the amaz­ing race for mar­ket dom­i­nance in the mega-block­buster field.

In their Q4 call with an­a­lysts on Thurs­day, Re­gen­eron’s not-shy R&D chief George Yan­copou­los tout­ed their cap­ture of the lead role among check­points in treat­ing ad­vanced cu­ta­neous squa­mous cell car­ci­no­ma. In an in­ter­view with End­points News last month, Yan­copou­los made so se­cret of his opin­ions about the PD-L1s on the mar­ket, slam­ming them all as sec­ond-rate and as­sign­ing worst-in-class sta­tus to Baven­cio from Pfiz­er and Mer­ck KGaA. But they’re al­so mov­ing to chal­lenge gi­ant Mer­ck’s Keytru­da — an­oth­er PD-1 — on one of its ma­jor achieve­ments: win­ning an OK as a monother­a­py for front­line use in non-small cell lung can­cer.

Here’s Yan­copou­los from the call on his I/O strat­e­gy:

(W)e have dou­bled the size of our tri­al com­par­ing Lib­tayo monother­a­py to chemother­a­py in PD-L1-high pa­tients. Re­gard­ing com­bi­na­tions, we’ll be fo­cus­ing our ef­forts in first-line treat­ing and com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py of Lib­tayo with chemother­a­py. The on­go­ing Phase III com­bi­na­tion study is be­ing aug­ment­ed to en­roll non-small cell lung can­cer pa­tients ir­re­spec­tive of his­tol­ogy and the lev­els of PD-L1 ex­pres­sion and to ran­dom­ize to Lib­tayo plus chemother­a­py or chemother­a­py alone.

Amaz­ing­ly enough de­spite the years of ef­fort in many piv­otal tri­als there’s on­ly one PD-1 or PD-L1 an­ti­body ap­proved as monother­a­py in first-line metasta­t­ic non-small cell lung can­cer (Keytru­da). If our on­go­ing tri­als suc­ceed, we have the po­ten­tial to be the sec­ond.

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb — which so far has pro­vid­ed Keytru­da its biggest chal­lenge with Op­di­vo — has been work­ing hard to over­come Mer­ck’s move to the top of the mar­ket, fo­cus­ing on a tu­mor mu­ta­tion­al bur­den ap­proach that has failed to gain much trac­tion.

Yan­copou­los was al­so quick to tout Re­gen­eron’s bis­pe­cif­ic strat­e­gy, fo­cus­ing on: “the CD3 bis­pecifics and the cos­tim­u­la­to­ry bis­pecifics. We be­lieve that these bis­pecifics may have im­por­tant an­ti­cancer ac­tiv­i­ty on their own and in com­bi­na­tions that can in­clude Lib­tayo.… Many of our CD3 bis­pecifics are al­ready in the clin­ic with one of them show­ing im­pres­sive ini­tial re­sults as a monother­a­py in very-ad­vanced late-stage pa­tients.”

“REGN1979 our CD20xCD3 bis­pe­cif­ic for B-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lym­phoma or NHL” has achieved im­pres­sive re­sults, he not­ed, adding:

(O)ur BC­MAx­CD3 bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­body has just en­tered clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment for the treat­ment of mul­ti­ple myelo­ma. We’re en­cour­aged by pre­lim­i­nary re­sults of both CAR-T as well as BiTEs tar­get­ing BC­MA in mul­ti­ple myelo­ma and be­lieve that our BC­MAx­CD3 bis­pe­cif­ic has a po­ten­tial of be­ing an im­por­tant ad­di­tion in this new area.

“It’s us against the world,” Yan­copou­los told me in a meet­ing at JP Mor­gan. And the Re­gen­eron re­search chief gives the com­pa­ny good odds at win­ning, cit­ing his clear be­lief that the com­pa­ny has the best tech­nol­o­gy and drugs in hand to slam dunk the com­pe­ti­tion.

Im­age: George Yan­copou­los. GET­TY IM­AGES

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group under José Baselga keeps churning out hits.

Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.