Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has land­ed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever con­tract for malar­ia vac­cines, worth up to $170 mil­lion for 18 mil­lion vac­cine dos­es dis­trib­uted over the next three years.

The vac­cine, known as Mosquir­ix or RTS,S, won WHO’s back­ing last Oc­to­ber af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial start, but UNICEF said these dos­es will po­ten­tial­ly save thou­sands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the be­gin­ning,” Etl­e­va Kadil­li, di­rec­tor of UNICEF’s sup­ply di­vi­sion, said. “Con­tin­ued in­no­va­tion is need­ed to de­vel­op new and next-gen­er­a­tion vac­cines to in­crease avail­able sup­ply, and en­able a health­i­er vac­cine mar­ket. This is a gi­ant step for­ward in our col­lec­tive ef­forts to save chil­dren’s lives and re­duce the bur­den of malar­ia as part of wider malar­ia pre­ven­tion and con­trol pro­grammes.”

GSK’s vac­cine was first ap­proved by the EMA in 2015, but con­cerns arose over the shot’s ef­fi­ca­cy, which in clin­i­cal tri­als reached 50% against se­vere malar­ia af­ter the first year, but fell in sub­se­quent years. Some ex­perts al­so ques­tioned the shot’s abil­i­ty to pre­vent death, giv­en that stud­ies did not di­rect­ly mea­sure mor­tal­i­ty.

But a WHO 2019 pi­lot pro­gram in three coun­tries — Ghana, Kenya and Malawi — in­formed WHO’s rec­om­men­da­tion in Oc­to­ber 2021 and showed that more than two-thirds of chil­dren in the three coun­tries who are not sleep­ing un­der a bed net are ben­e­fit­ing from the vac­cine, lin­ing up wider use of the vac­cine in coun­tries with mod­er­ate to high P. fal­ci­parum malar­ia trans­mis­sion. Two months lat­er, Gavi, the Vac­cine Al­liance said it would pro­vide fund­ing for malar­ia vac­cine pro­grams in el­i­gi­ble coun­tries.

UNICEF al­so said it sup­ports the re­gion­al di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of vac­cine pro­duc­tion and en­cour­ages GSK and oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers to con­sid­er part­ner­ing with African com­pa­nies.

Ac­cord­ing to WHO da­ta, more than 30 coun­tries have ar­eas with mod­er­ate to high malar­ia trans­mis­sion, and in 2020, near­ly 500,000 chil­dren died from malar­ia in Africa at a rate of one child death per minute.

“Lives are at stake, every day. WHO wel­comes the progress to se­cure sup­ply and time­ly ac­cess to vac­cine so that more coun­tries can be­gin to in­tro­duce this ad­di­tion­al malar­ia pre­ven­tion tool as rapid­ly as pos­si­ble,” said Kate O’Brien, WHO di­rec­tor of the de­part­ment of im­mu­niza­tion, vac­cines and bi­o­log­i­cals. ”Giv­en the ini­tial lim­it­ed sup­ply, it is cru­cial that chil­dren liv­ing in ar­eas where the risk of dis­ease and need is high­est are pri­or­i­tized first.”

One hitch is that the shot must be ad­min­is­tered in four dos­es, be­gin­ning when chil­dren reach five months of age un­til they turn three years old. Oth­er­wise, some of the best tools to fight malar­ia have been spray­ing in­sec­ti­cides in the home and wrap­ping mat­tress­es with spe­cial nets to ward off the mos­qui­toes that car­ry the par­a­site.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Justin Klee (L) and Joshua Cohen, Amylyx co-CEOs (Cody O'Loughlin/The New York Times; courtesy Amylyx)

Ad­vo­cates, ex­perts cry foul over Amy­lyx's new ALS drug, cit­ing is­sues with price, PhI­II com­mit­ment

Not 24 hours after earning the first ALS drug approval in five years, Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ Relyvrio is already drawing scrutiny. And it’s coming from multiple fronts.

In an investor call Friday morning, Amylyx revealed that it would charge about $158,000 per year, a price point that immediately drew backlash from ALS advocates and some outside observers. The cost reveal had been highly anticipated in the immediate hours after Thursday evening’s approval, though Amylyx only teased Relyvrio would cost less than previously approved drugs.

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Land­mark Amy­lyx OK spurs de­bate; Some... pos­i­tive? Alzheimer's da­ta; Can­cer tri­al bot­tle­neck; Sanofi's CRISPR bet; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

After brief stops in Paris and Boston, John Carroll and the Endpoints crew are staying on the road in October with their return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London. The hybrid event fireside chats and panels on mRNA, oncology and the crazy public market. We hope you can join him there.

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Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

Up­dat­ed: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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Bo Cumbo, new Solid Bio CEO

Sol­id Bio gets a new CEO, $75M cash and drops lead drug as big in­vestors ju­ry-rig a merg­er deal

Three months after Endpoints News broke the story that gene therapy outfit AavantiBio had gutted its CMC group in a reorganization, the biotech’s CEO has helped engineer a merger with struggling penny stock player Solid Bio. And he’s going to remain in charge of the combined operation, as Solid founder Ilan Ganot steps aside.

The merger news this morning features some high-profile investors.

Perceptive Advisors, RA Capital Management and Bain Capital Life Sciences are leading a $75 million raise to add to the pool of cash Solid will have after the tie-up. That will leave Solid $215 million in cash as Bain’s Adam Koppel jumps on the board — enough to pay for ops and get through some key data milestones on their way into 2025.

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Up­dat­ed: Al­ny­lam re­in­forces APOL­LO-B patisir­an da­ta be­fore head­ing to the FDA

Weeks after uncorking some mostly positive data for patisiran in transthyretin-mediated (ATTR) amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, Alnylam is bolstering its package with new exploratory and subgroup data before shipping it off to regulators.

The RNAi drug maintained “generally consistent” benefits in efficacy and quality of life across several prespecified subgroups at month 12, Alnylam announced on Friday afternoon, including age, baseline tafamidis use, ATTR amyloidosis type, baseline six-minute walk test score and others.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

#AAO22: J&J’s first look at com­mon eye dis­ease port­fo­lio pads the case for PhII of gene ther­a­py

CHICAGO — While the later-stage drug developers in the geographic atrophy field are near the finish line, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen is taking a more deliberate route, with a treatment that it hopes to be a one-time fix.

The Big Pharma will take its Hemera Biosciences-acquired gene therapy into a Phase II study later this year in patients with GA, a common form of age-related macular degeneration that impacts about five million people worldwide. To get there, Janssen touted early-stage safety data at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference Saturday morning, half a day after competitors Apellis and Iveric Bio revealed their own more-detailed Phase III analyses.

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Jerome Durso, Intercept Pharmaceuticals CEO

In­ter­cep­t's OCA fails a PhI­II NASH tri­al, rais­ing fresh doubts about its years­long quest for an OK

Intercept Pharmaceuticals has run into another big setback in its yearslong quest to win an approval for OCA in NASH. The biotech put out word Friday morning that its Phase III REVERSE study failed the primary endpoint for the liver disease, sending its share price into a tailspin.

There was no significant improvement in fibrosis among the patients suffering from cirrhosis who were treated with obeticholic acid, with investigators hunting for a minimum 1-stage histological improvement in the disease after 18 months of therapy.

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