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.

Ad­di­tion­al­ly, the Bril­in­ta and as­pirin com­bo met the study’s first sec­ondary end­point — re­duc­ing the rate of is­chemic stroke by 21 per­cent com­pared to as­pirin alone. Side ef­fects were al­so with­in the com­bi­na­tion’s known safe­ty pro­file, with se­vere bleed­ing events oc­cur­ring in 0.5 per­cent of pa­tients in the tri­al arm com­pared to 0.1 per­cent in the con­trol.

About one in four stroke sur­vivors ex­pe­ri­ence a sec­ond stroke, ac­cord­ing to THALES lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor Clay John­ston, with a high­er risk of re­cur­rence with­in the first month.

Just last week, the FDA ac­cept­ed the sN­DA for Bril­in­ta and grant­ed it a pri­or­i­ty re­view for this treat­ment area. And in May, US reg­u­la­tors ap­proved a la­bel up­date for Bril­in­ta to in­clude the risk re­duc­tion of a first heart at­tack or stroke in high-risk pa­tients with coro­nary artery dis­ease.

The agency will de­cide whether or not to ac­cept the sN­DA some­time in the fourth quar­ter of 2020.

In 2019, Bril­in­ta net­ted As­traZeneca over $1.5 bil­lion, in­clud­ing more than $400 mil­lion each in the third and fourth quar­ters.

Bril­in­ta has faced a long and wind­ing road fol­low­ing As­traZeneca’s ini­tial $3.5 bil­lion fore­cast, flop­ping in two big tri­als in 2016. The drug failed to show any dif­fer­ence from as­pirin in treat­ing acute is­chemic stroke or tran­sient is­chemic at­tack or from Plav­ix for pe­riph­er­al artery dis­ease.

For­tunes re­bound­ed in 2017 when the drug il­lus­trat­ed a re­duc­tion in CV death in pa­tients who had pre­vi­ous­ly suf­fered a heart at­tack, and again in 2019 when the Bril­in­ta-as­pirin cock­tail re­duced ma­jor ad­verse CV events in di­a­bet­ics with no pri­or heart at­tack or stroke. The lat­ter study, how­ev­er, was ac­com­pa­nied with a sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er risk of ma­jor bleed­ing events.

Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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Sean Nolan and RA Session II

Less than 3 months af­ter launch, the AveX­is crew’s Taysha rais­es $95M Se­ries B. Is an IPO next?

The old AveXis team is moving quickly in Dallas.

Three months ago, they launched Taysha with $30 million in Series A funding and a pipeline of gene therapies out of UT Southwestern. Now, they’ve announced an oversubscribed $95 million Series B. And the biotech is declining all interview requests on the news, the kind of broad silence that can indicate an IPO is in the pipeline.

Biotechs, including those relatively fresh off launch, have been going public at a frenzy since the pandemic began. Investors have showed a willingness to put upwards of $200 million to companies that have yet to bring a drug into the clinic. Still, if Taysha were to go public in the near future, it would be perhaps the shortest path from launch to IPO in recent biotech memory.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Mod­er­na CEO Stéphane Ban­cel out­lines a prospec­tive moth­er­lode of Covid-19 vac­cine rev­enue — will a back­lash fol­low?

Moderna shows no sign of slowing down, or turning charitable when it comes to pricing supplies of its Covid-19 vaccine.

One of the leaders in the Phase III race to get a Covid-19 vaccine across the finish line in record time, Moderna says it’s on track to complete enrollment in one of the most avidly watched studies in the world next month. And the biotech has already banked some $400 million in deposits for vaccine supply as it works through negotiations with countries around the world — as CEO Stéphane Bancel sets out to hire a commercial team.

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Covid-19 roundup: J&J and BAR­DA agree to $1 bil­lion for 100 mil­lion dos­es; Plas­ma re­duces mor­tal­i­ty by 50% — re­ports

J&J has become the latest vaccine developer to agree to supply BARDA with doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, signing an agreement that will give the government 100 million doses in exchange for $1 billion in funding.

The agreement, similar to those signed by Novavax, Sanofi and AstraZeneca-Oxford, provides funding not only for individual doses but to help J&J ramp up manufacturing. Pfizer, by contrast, received $1.95 billion for the doses alone. Still, if one looked at each agreement as purchase amounts, J&J’s deal would be $10 per dose, slotting in between Novavax’s $16 per dose and AstraZeneca’s $4 per dose.

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RA, No­var­tis back Gen­tiBio's seed round, plans to launch de­vel­op­ment of En­gTreg ther­a­pies

Boston, MA-based startup GentiBio landed a $20 million seed fund from three investors to dive into engineered regulatory T cell (EngTreg) development.

Marquee investors OrbiMed, Novartis Venture Fund and RA Capital Management have backed GentiBio’s mission to develop EngTregs for the treatment of autoimmune, alloimmune, autoinflammatory, and allergic diseases. Unlike other companies studying treatments using a patient’s own Tregs, GentiBio plans to make use of CD4+ immune cells, found in the blood.

Paul Laikind, ViaCyte CEO

Stem cell play­er Vi­a­Cyte ex­pands col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gore to de­vel­op sub­cu­ta­neous di­a­betes treat­ment

Longtime stem cell player ViaCyte has teamed up with a materials science company in an effort to solve immunosuppression challenges and advance its type 1 diabetes treatments.

Expanding on an existing collaboration, ViaCyte and W.L. Gore have agreed to combine the biotech’s PEC-Encap candidate with a Gore-produced membrane in what they hope will eliminate the need for immunosuppressive drugs. Such treatments have created foreign body responses in the past, and stamping these reactions out is the main goal, ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind said.

My­ovant lands a fresh $200M loan as FDA mar­ket­ing de­ci­sion looms; Amarin goes it alone in Eu­rope

Myovant is getting ready to roll out its commercial operations to back relugolix, now under FDA review for prostate cancer.

The startup has added a fresh $200 million in support from Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, which controls a majority of the stock $MYOV. Sumitomo is handing the cash over as a loan, bringing its total to $600 million. Myovant — which is gearing up for a showdown with AbbVie — has also filed an NDA to sell relugolix for uterine fibroids and recently posted positive late-stage data for endometriosis.