House com­mit­tee wants to know a lot more about the cy­ber­at­tack that dam­aged Mer­ck

Up to now, Mer­ck has been re­luc­tant to go in­to much de­tail re­gard­ing just how dam­ag­ing a re­cent cy­ber­at­tack has been to op­er­a­tions. Now, though, it’s go­ing to have to as the House Com­mit­tee on En­er­gy and Com­merce has raised the mat­ter to an is­sue in­volv­ing na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty.

Mer­ck has ac­knowl­edged that the at­tack on June 27 roiled its man­u­fac­tur­ing, sales and R&D ops. Drug and vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­ing was crimped weeks af­ter the at­tack and Mer­ck con­ced­ed that it would ham­per an­nu­al rev­enue as the com­pa­ny con­tin­ued to scram­ble to re­pair the crip­pling af­ter­ef­fects.

Ken Fra­zier, the CEO of Mer­ck, at the White House on Ju­ly 20, 2017, one month pri­or to re­sign­ing from the Pres­i­dent’s man­u­fac­tur­ing coun­cil AFP PHO­TO / SAUL LOEB

But the com­pa­ny has al­so been re­luc­tant to spell out ex­act­ly how hard it was hit and where, leav­ing law­mak­ers look­ing to learn more about the im­pact and how a more ef­fec­tive cy­ber­at­tack could wal­lop the en­tire health­care sec­tor.

The com­mit­tee wrote:

While there is no ev­i­dence, to date, that Mer­ck’s man­u­fac­tur­ing dis­rup­tion has cre­at­ed a risk to pa­tients, it cer­tain­ly rais­es con­cerns. For ex­am­ple, in a re­cent up­date on na­tion­al vac­cine sup­ply, the CDC re­port­ed that Mer­ck would not be dis­trib­ut­ing cer­tain for­mu­la­tions of the He­pati­tis B vac­cine. While it is un­clear if this is re­lat­ed to the Not­Petya dis­rup­tion, and much of the sup­ply can be filled by oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers, it does raise ques­tions about how the na­tion is pre­pared to ad­dress a sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tion to crit­i­cal med­ical sup­plies.

In a state­ment to End­points News, Mer­ck says sup­ply is­sues with Re­com­bivax HB are not re­lat­ed to the cy­ber­at­tack and adds:

Mer­ck is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing con­straints in 2017 re­lat­ed to the grow­ing glob­al de­mand for our vac­cines and un­ex­pect­ed de­mand due to lack of com­pet­i­tive sup­ply. Sup­ply in­ter­rup­tions for the adult for­mu­la­tion of RE­COM­BIVAX­HB be­gan in the first quar­ter of 2017. Mer­ck does not ex­pect to be dis­trib­ut­ing RE­COM­BIVAX­HB in the Unit­ed States be­tween now and the end of 2018. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, Mer­ck ex­pects its pe­di­atric for­mu­la­tion of RE­COM­BIVAX­HB will be un­avail­able in the Unit­ed States be­tween ear­ly Au­gust 2017 un­til ear­ly 2018. The dial­y­sis for­mu­la­tion of  RE­COM­BIVAX­HB in the Unit­ed States is not af­fect­ed.

Law­mak­ers’ let­ter to Mer­ck CEO Ken Fra­zier asks for a for­mal pre­sen­ta­tion de­tail­ing the cy­ber­at­tack’s im­pact by Oc­to­ber 4. The com­pa­ny says they’re in touch with the com­mit­tee.

Not­Petya was based on stolen NSA tech­nol­o­gy. Mi­crosoft first en­coun­tered the virus with “worm ca­pa­bil­i­ties” in 12,500 com­put­ers in Ukraine, which then spread lat­er­al­ly to an­oth­er 64 coun­ties in­clud­ing the Unit­ed States, in­fect­ing com­put­ers that were not patched with crit­i­cal up­dates.

Mer­ck claims the patch­es were in­stalled. At the time they said, “gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties work­ing with us have con­firmed that the mal­ware re­spon­si­ble for the at­tack con­tained a unique com­bi­na­tion of char­ac­ter­is­tics that en­abled it to in­fect com­pa­ny sys­tems de­spite in­stal­la­tion of re­cent soft­ware patch­es.”

 

Con­quer­ing a silent killer: HDV and Eiger Bio­Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals

Hepatitis delta, also known as hepatitis D, is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) that results in the most severe form of human viral hepatitis for which there is no approved therapy.

HDV is a single-stranded, circular RNA virus that requires the envelope protein (HBsAg) of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) for its own assembly. As a result, hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection occurs only as a co-infection in individuals infected with HBV. However, HDV/HBV co-infections lead to more serious liver disease than HBV infection alone. HDV is associated with faster progression to liver fibrosis (progressing to cirrhosis in about 80% of individuals in 5-10 years), increased risk of liver cancer, and early decompensated cirrhosis and liver failure.
HDV is the most severe form of viral hepatitis with no approved treatment.
Approved nucleos(t)ide treatments for HBV only suppress HBV DNA, do not appreciably impact HBsAg and have no impact on HDV. Investigational agents in development for HBV target multiple new mechanisms. Aspirations are high, but a functional cure for HBV has not been achieved nor is one anticipated in the forseeable future. Without clearance of HBsAg, anti-HBV investigational treatments are not expected to impact the deadly course of HDV infection anytime soon.

UP­DAT­ED: In a land­mark first glimpse of hu­man da­ta from Ver­tex, CRISPR/Cas9 gene ther­a­py sig­nals ear­ly ben­e­fit

Preliminary data on two patients with blood disorders that have been administered with Vertex and partner CRISPR Therapeutics’ gene-editing therapy suggest the technology is safe and effective, marking the first instance of the benefit of the use of CRISPR/Cas9 technology in humans suffering from disease.

Patients in these phase I/II studies give up peripheral blood from which hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells are isolated. The cells are tinkered with using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, and the edited cells — CTX001 — are infused back into the patient via a stem cell transplant. The objective of CTX001 is to fix the errant hemoglobin gene in patents with two blood disorders: beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease, by unleashing the production of fetal hemoglobin.

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UP­DAT­ED: Make that 2 ap­proved RNAi drugs at Al­ny­lam af­ter the FDA of­fers a speedy OK on ul­tra-rare dis­ease drug

Seventeen years into the game, Alnylam’s pivot into commercial operations is picking up speed.
The bellwether biotech $ALNY has nabbed their second FDA OK for an RNAi drug, this time for givosiran, the only therapy now approved for acute hepatic porphyria. This second approval came months ahead of the February deadline — even after winning priority review following their ‘breakthrough’ title earlier.
AHP is an extremely rare disease, with some 3,000 patients in Europe and the US, not all diagnosed, and analysts have projected peak revenue of $600 million to $700 million a year. The drug will be sold as Givlaari.

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David Ricks. Eli Lilly

Eli Lil­ly touts $400M man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­pan­sion, 100 new jobs to much fan­fare in In­di­anapo­lis — even though it's been chop­ping staff

Eli Lilly is pouring in $400 million to beef up manufacturing facilities at its home base of Indianapolis. The investment, which was lauded by the city’s mayor, is expected to create 100 new jobs.

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Am­gen chops 172 more staffers in R&D, op­er­a­tions and sales amid neu­ro­science ex­it, rev­enue down­turn

Neuroscience wasn’t the only unit that’s being hit by a reorganization underway at Amgen. As well as axing 149 employees in its Cambridge office, the company has disclosed that 172 others nationwide, including some from its Thousand Oaks, CA headquarters, are being let go.

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Stephen Hahn (via Senate HELP Committee)

Stephen Hahn gets through Sen­ate’s soft­ball job in­ter­view — but most­ly plays dodge­ball on the is­sues fac­ing the FDA

Anyone looking for fresh insights on what kind of FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn will be got precious few clues during Wednesday’s Senate hearing on the nomination.

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Op­di­vo/Yer­voy com­bo for melanoma fails in key pa­tient pop­u­la­tion

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s efforts to expand their checkpoint inhibitor combination have run into another recalcitrant cancer.

The NJ-based pharma announced that a combination of Yervoy and Opdivo didn’t beat out Opdivo alone in patients with resected high-risk melanoma who had very low levels of PD-L1. The drug combo couldn’t improve recurrence-free survival in these post-surgery patients.

Ver­tex's stel­lar quar­ter car­ries on with French re­im­burse­ment deal

Vertex’s golden quarter just got brighter. About a month after the US drugmaker finally clinched a deal with UK authorities to cover its slate of cystic fibrosis (CF) drugs following years of protracted negotiations, the company on Wednesday secured a deal with France for its CF therapy, Orkambi.

After the UK, France has one of the largest CF populations outside the United States. Achieving French reimbursement unlocks an ~7000-patient CF population, around ~2500-3000 of which will likely be eligible to receive (and be reimbursed for) Orkambi, Stifel’s Paul Matteis wrote in a note.

Nello Mainolfi, Kymera via Youtube

Kymera hands the helm to No­var­tis vet — and found­ing CSO — Nel­lo Main­olfi

Kymera Therapeutics is turning to a co-founder to run the company.
The protein degradation specialist with a deep-pocket syndicate behind them has opted to give the helm officially to Nello Mainolfi. The new CEO is a veteran of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. He joined Atlas Venture in their entrepreneur-in-residence program and helped launch Kymera as the CSO three years ago with Atlas’ Bruce Booth.
The boast at Kymera is that they’re angling to create a new class of protein degraders, a popular field where there’s been a variety of startups. One of its chief advocates is NIBR head Jay Bradner, who launched C4 just ahead of joining Novartis, where he’s also been doing new work in the field.