Frus­trat­ed Eli Lil­ly may have to set­tle for a lone­ly last-place fin­ish in the block­buster CDK 4/6 race

A frus­trat­ed Eli Lil­ly will have to wait pa­tient­ly for its close­ly-watched Phase III study of the CDK 4/6 breast can­cer drug abe­maci­clib to wrap up next year be­fore it gets the fi­nal read out on its ef­fect on sur­vival rates. The phar­ma gi­ant re­port­ed that the piv­otal tri­al will have to con­tin­ue “as the in­ter­im ef­fi­ca­cy cri­te­ria were not met.”

Fi­nal re­sults are now ex­pect­ed some­time in the first half of 2017, which could de­lay a launch in­to 2018.

The ex­ec­u­tive crew at Lil­ly had raised hopes that abe­maci­clib, a des­ig­nat­ed “break­through” drug at the FDA, could be prepped for a mar­ket launch on the in­ter­im da­ta. And that had fol­lowed some dis­cus­sion on whether the mid-stage re­sults would be suf­fi­cient. Dis­ap­point­ed in­vestors drove Lil­ly’s shares down 1.5% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing Wednes­day morn­ing.

The de­lay puts Lil­ly well be­hind No­var­tis in the com­pe­ti­tion to hus­tle a com­peti­tor to Pfiz­er’s Ibrance to the mar­ket­place for breast can­cer pa­tients. Just days ago No­var­tis gained a break­through drug des­ig­na­tion for LEE011 (ri­bo­ci­clib) in com­bi­na­tion with letro­zole for the treat­ment of hor­mone re­cep­tor pos­i­tive, hu­man epi­der­mal growth fac­tor re­cep­tor 2-neg­a­tive (HR+/HER2-) ad­vanced or metasta­t­ic breast can­cer. The BTD came through af­ter the phar­ma gi­ant end­ed the MONALEESA-2 study among pre­vi­ous­ly un­treat­ed breast can­cer pa­tients ear­ly, con­clud­ing that it had clear ev­i­dence of ef­fi­ca­cy that could be used for a near-term ap­pli­ca­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the tri­al de­sign on clin­i­cal­tri­, Lil­ly’s drug was re­strict­ed to pa­tients who have not pre­vi­ous­ly been treat­ed with a CDK 4/6 drug. If that makes its way to the la­bel, Lil­ly’s treat­ment would not be al­lowed for any pa­tient who had been treat­ed with ei­ther Pfiz­er’s Ibrance or No­var­tis’s LEE011. And with both of those drugs on the mar­ket ahead of Lil­ly, that could sig­nif­i­cant­ly shrink its mar­ket reach.

“It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that ri­bo will com­pete with pal­bo up­front in 1L mBC in ER+/HER2- and abe­ma will be 4th or 5th line with around 20% RR, ap­prox com­pa­ra­ble to oth­er drugs in that same sit­u­a­tion,” notes Sal­ly Church, who cov­ers the on­col­o­gy field in her Biotech Strat­e­gy Blog, in an email mes­sage.  “Will the FDA want more ef­fi­ca­cy or equiv­a­lent?  I think Lil­ly are in a risky po­si­tion.  Look up the past noise on ix­abepi­lone and eribu­lin in that set­ting – they did not get an easy ride from FDA at all.”

Lil­ly ex­pe­ri­enced one of the most painful droughts in pipeline pro­duc­tiv­i­ty over the past decade, but re­cent­ly has made a come­back with a slate of late-stage pro­grams like this with block­buster po­ten­tial. Any fresh ev­i­dence that the com­pa­ny con­tin­ues to have trou­ble ac­cel­er­at­ing pipeline ef­forts, though, won’t help its rep in the drug de­vel­op­ment field.

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.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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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.