Gilead scores a TKO with PhI­II fil­go­tinib da­ta, but still faces some big bouts — and doubts — ahead

Gilead’s new Phase III rheuma­toid arthri­tis da­ta on its JAK1 in­hibitor fil­go­tinib have sparked a huz­zah from the cheer­ing sec­tion of Wall Street an­a­lysts, but there re­main plen­ty of unan­swered ques­tions about the fu­ture of this ther­a­py.

Thurs­day night the big biotech post­ed pos­i­tive da­ta from 2 Phase III stud­ies out­lin­ing a new batch of pos­i­tive ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty scores need­ed for an ap­proval of this drug — its oth­er and now even more close­ly watched big late-stage drug in the wake of their selon­sert­ib mis­fire in NASH. But while the drug beat out place­bo hand­i­ly, Gilead has a much high­er mark to hit in a fast-chang­ing field.

The news was a sol­id pos­i­tive for Gilead’s part­ners at Gala­pa­gos $GLPG, though, which saw its stock shoot up 13% on the re­leas­es. Gilead shares were up 2.7% af­ter the bell.

At this point, the more cau­tious ob­servers be­lieve that Gilead may well have a com­pet­i­tive play­er in the field, but the back-to-back pos­i­tive Phase II­Is are no clear-the-bases home run.

A num­ber of an­a­lysts spot­light­ed the new FINCH 1 and FINCH 3 re­sults, with ACR20/50/70 re­sults that over­shad­owed the sug­ar pill re­sponse lev­els as well as a methotrex­ate arm. But their low 100 mg da­ta were al­so gen­er­al­ly in line with Ab­b­Vie’s Hu­mi­ra, set to lose patent pro­tec­tion no lat­er than 2023. And the 200 mg da­ta, while out­per­form­ing Hu­mi­ra, is al­so go­ing to be heav­i­ly scru­ti­nized by reg­u­la­tors alarmed by the se­ri­ous safe­ty is­sues posed by high­er dos­es of the JAK in­hibitors on the mar­ket.

The FDA and EMA both is­sued stark warn­ings re­cent­ly about the dan­gers posed by 10 mg Xel­janz, and Eli Lil­ly was de­nied an ap­proval on the high dose of Olu­mi­ant — af­ter the drug was ini­tial­ly re­ject­ed out­right. And while Gilead re­searchers helped ad­dress the most im­me­di­ate con­cerns about safe­ty with new late-stage da­ta to sup­port the drug’s safe­ty pro­file, the ju­ry will like­ly re­main out on that score.

Bri­an Sko­r­ney

Baird’s Bri­an Sko­r­ney was gen­er­al­ly pleased, but not quite ready to call this an out­right win.

Da­ta re­leased from the FINCH 1 and 3 tri­als of fil­go­tinib in RA show that the med­ica­tion has sim­i­lar ef­fi­ca­cy to Ab­b­Vie’s up­atic­i­tinib. Clean safe­ty should help al­le­vi­ate in­vestor con­cerns sur­round­ing pri­or hic­cups seen with oth­er JAK in­hibitors, as fil­go­tinib was shown to have nu­mer­i­cal­ly low­er rates of CV events as com­pared to place­bo. 

Sko­r­ney is re­serv­ing fi­nal judg­ment un­til he sees da­ta from the MAN­TA study. But the com­pa­ny re­mains in the game for com­pet­ing with Ab­b­Vie, which has dom­i­nat­ed the space for years with its $20 bil­lion drug and next-gen ap­proach.

Jef­feries’ Michael Yee was en­thu­si­as­tic, but al­so con­ced­ed:

We ac­knowl­edge that a key over­hang is the on­go­ing male tox­i­c­i­ty study (MAN­TA), but it could have in­ter­im da­ta in Q3:19 and lead to a faster-than-ex­pect­ed fil­ing short­ly there­after (e.g. file on in­ter­im rather than tri­al com­ple­tion in 2020). Fil­ings are pend­ing post dis­cus­sions with FDA.

Tyler Van Bu­ren

Piper Jaf­fray’s Tyler Van Bu­ren wasn’t call­ing this a best-in-class drug, but he still sees block­buster po­ten­tial in a huge mar­ket.

The mag­ni­tude of the var­i­ous ACR20 treat­ment ben­e­fits ob­served in FINCH1 and FINCH3…are nu­mer­i­cal­ly low­er than tri­al re­sults from com­pet­i­tive agents. How­ev­er, we note that these cross-tri­al com­par­isons are fraught with er­ror and like­ly af­fect­ed by the rel­a­tive high place­bo/MTX rates in the FINCH tri­als. With re­spect to safe­ty, the in­ci­dence of SAEs – in­clud­ing DVTs – ap­pears rel­a­tive­ly low when com­par­ing the events/100 pa­tient years to the reg­is­tra­tional Xel­janz da­ta. All in all, fil­go­tinib ap­pears to be an ef­fec­tive, safe, and com­pet­i­tive oral JAK in­hibitor and we con­tin­ue to mod­el a launch in 2021 with sales sur­pass­ing $1.5B by 2028. Our big­ger con­cerns are (1) if a fil­go­tinib launch can re­al­ly oc­cur in 2021 (giv­en that Man­ta study com­ple­tion is re­quired and tim­ing is un­cer­tain) and (2) the com­pet­i­tive dy­nam­ics when launched as it is the fourth oral JAK to mar­ket.

Gilead still has lots of work to do on this pro­gram, and suc­cess won’t come eas­i­ly.

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.