GSK sets the stage for a toe-to-toe mar­ket show­down with Gilead­'s HIV cham­pi­on Tru­va­da

Vi­iV Health­care and ma­jor­i­ty own­er Glax­o­SmithK­line have cleared an­oth­er im­por­tant hur­dle on a long-run­ning quest to chal­lenge Gilead’s dom­i­nance in pre­ven­ta­tive HIV treat­ments.

The fi­nal analy­sis of a new study shows the GSK sub­sidiary’s long-last­ing in­jec­tion, cabote­gravir, proved 66% more ef­fec­tive in HIV pre­ven­tion than Gilead’s break­through Tru­va­da pill. And they now in­tend to carve away some of the block­buster rev­enue that Gilead has en­joyed for years.

The study, re­leased Tues­day, com­pared the ef­fects of pa­tients tak­ing cabote­gravir ver­sus those tak­ing dai­ly oral pills. With­in the in­jec­tion arm of the test, re­searchers doc­u­ment­ed on­ly 13 cas­es of HIV, or an in­ci­dence rate of 0.41%. In the pill arm, 39 cas­es were found, amount­ing to a rate of 1.22%. The study al­so not­ed high lev­els of ad­her­ence to dai­ly oral ther­a­py.

Due to the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, the blind­ed phase of the study was halt­ed in May. Af­ter a fi­nal analy­sis and re­view, Vi­iV was able to con­firm the in­jec­tions proved more ef­fec­tive than dai­ly pills at the high­light­ed 66 per­cent rate.

Kim­ber­ly Smith

“This ad­vance­ment has the po­ten­tial to be a game-chang­er for HIV pre­ven­tion, of­fer­ing … the con­ve­nience of re­duced dos­ing from dai­ly to just six times per year,” Kim­ber­ly Smith, R&D chief at Vi­iV, told Reuters.

The re­sults of the study come as gener­ic ver­sions of Tru­va­da, a once-dai­ly pill that re­duces the risk of con­tract­ing HIV through sex by about 99 per­cent, are about to hit the mar­ket. Tru­va­da and De­scovy, an­oth­er Gilead HIV treat­ment, have al­lowed the com­pa­ny to es­sen­tial­ly own the en­tire drug sec­tor ever since Tru­va­da was green-lit by the FDA in 2012 as the first pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure for HIV.

How­ev­er, Gilead is fac­ing a law­suit from ac­tivists claim­ing the com­pa­ny ex­tend­ed its mo­nop­oly by il­le­gal­ly al­ter­ing de­vel­op­ment times, and a law­suit from the US gov­ern­ment al­leg­ing im­prop­er patent prac­tices. Gilead has al­so faced heavy crit­i­cism of price goug­ing, as Tru­va­da treat­ment can cost around $20,000 per year.

Tru­va­da net­ted Gilead $2.8 bil­lion in sales last year in both HIV pre­ven­tion and treat­ment.

Though Tru­va­da and De­scovy are al­ready high­ly ef­fec­tive treat­ments, GSK hopes it can sell the idea of in­creased com­pli­ance with its new drug. Be­cause cabote­gravir on­ly re­quires one in­jec­tion every two months, pa­tients are less like­ly to for­get to take it, as op­posed to the risk of miss­ing a dai­ly Tru­va­da pill.

Cabote­gravir has had its own share of road bumps as well. Back in De­cem­ber, the FDA is­sued a com­plete re­sponse let­ter to Vi­iV and re­ject­ed its ap­pli­ca­tion for month­ly cabote­gravir in­jec­tions, cit­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­trol con­cerns. As a re­sult, the NDA for the bi­month­ly reg­i­men was pushed back from the first quar­ter of 2020.

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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Lund­beck sounds taps on an­oth­er CNS drug, re­treat­ing from a mine field still oc­cu­pied by a Mer­ck team

Lundbeck has snipped another clinical-stage branch of its CNS research, dumping a schizophrenia program after determining that their therapy would have no positive influence on the disease.

Designed originally as a 240-patient study, researchers set out in early 2019 to see if a homegrown drug dubbed Lu AF11167 could make it through a proof-of-concept study. The drug is a PDE10Ai inhibitor, targeting an enzyme which it said at the time offered a new pathway to retuning the body’s neurotransmitter dopamine. The big idea was that by hitting their target, the drug would modulate “dopamine D1 and D2 receptor-mediated intraneuronal signaling without binding to these receptors,” influencing negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

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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.