In­flu­en­tial proxy firms kick back at ac­tivists’ de­mands for Brent Saun­ders to give up his chair­man’s ti­tle at Al­ler­gan

Brent Saun­ders

Af­ter sav­ing Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb last week from the em­bar­rass­ing dis­as­ter of see­ing its $74 bil­lion Cel­gene buy­out go south, the proxy ad­vi­so­ry firms In­sti­tu­tion­al Share­hold­er Ser­vices and Glass Lewis are back at it to­day pro­tect­ing Al­ler­gan CEO Brent Saun­ders in his fight to pre­serve his con­trol of both the CEO and chair­man ti­tles.

Bil­lion­aire and Ap­paloosa chief David Tep­per has been rais­ing a ruckus about the state of af­fairs at Al­ler­gan $AGN, which has pushed Saun­ders to loosen up and add ex-Cel­gene chief Bob Hug­in to the board, with spe­cial in­flu­ence over M&A strat­e­gy. But Saun­ders has drawn the line on his dual roles, say­ing any split with an in­de­pen­dent chair­man can come when he steps down.

David Tep­per

In a state­ment, Al­ler­gan said that ISS had not­ed the re­cent changes and con­clud­ed “there are no sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns re­gard­ing the board’s cur­rent lead­er­ship struc­ture suf­fi­cient to sug­gest that an im­me­di­ate split of the CEO and chair­man roles is war­rant­ed at this time rather than at the next CEO tran­si­tion. As such, sup­port for this pro­pos­al is not war­rant­ed.”

As for Glass Lewis, they’re hap­py with phas­ing in a split be­tween the two ti­tles.

Bob Hug­in

We have yet to hear back from Ap­paloosa, which has dis­missed Saun­ders’ moves as “mean­ing­less” and in­ad­e­quate for a com­pa­ny which has seen its share price suf­fer bad­ly in re­cent months. It’s un­like­ly Tep­per will change his tune now, but with these two in­flu­en­tial firms be­hind him, Saun­ders can count on a con­sid­er­able num­ber of shares in his cor­ner.

The an­nu­al meet­ing is slat­ed for May 1.




Im­age: Richard Drew AP

A New Fron­tier: The In­ner Ear

What happens when a successful biotech venture capitalist is unexpectedly diagnosed with a chronic, life-disrupting vertigo disorder? Innovation in neurotology.

That venture capitalist was Jay Lichter, Ph.D., and after learning there was no FDA-approved drug treatment for his condition, Ménière’s disease, he decided to create a company to bring drug development to neurotology. Otonomy was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to finding new drug treatments for the hugely underserved community living with balance and hearing disorders. Helping patients like Jay has been the driving force behind Otonomy, a company heading into a transformative 2020 with three clinical trial readouts: Phase 3 in Ménière’s disease, Phase 2 in tinnitus, and Phase 1/2 in hearing loss. These catalysts, together with others in the field, highlight the emerging opportunity in neurotology.
Otonomy is leading the way in neurotology
Neurotology, or the treatment of inner ear neurological disorders, is a large and untapped market for drug developers: one in eight individuals in the U.S. have moderate-to-severe hearing loss, tinnitus or vertigo disorders such as Ménière’s disease.1 With no FDA-approved drug treatments available for these conditions, the burden on patients—including social anxiety, lower quality of life, reduced work productivity, and higher rates of depression—can be significant.2, 3, 4

Credit: Shutterstock

Can we make the an­tibi­ot­ic mar­ket great again?

The standard for-profit model in drug development is straightforward. Spend millions, even billions, to develop a medicine from scratch. The return on investment (and ideally a tidy profit) comes via volume and/or price, depending on the disease. But the string of big pharma exits and slew of biotech bankruptcies indicate that the model is sorely flawed when it comes to antibiotics.

The industry players contributing to the arsenal of antimicrobials are fast dwindling, and the pipeline for new antibiotics is embarrassingly sparse, the WHO has warned. Drugmakers are enticed by greener pastures, compared to the long, arduous and expensive path to antibiotic approval that offers little financial gain as treatments are typically priced cheaply, and often lose potency over time as microbes grow resistant to them.

Joe Jimenez, Getty

Ex-No­var­tis CEO Joe Jimenez is tak­ing an­oth­er crack at open­ing a new chap­ter in his ca­reer — and that in­cludes a new board seat and a $250M start­up

Joe Jimenez is back.

The ex-CEO of Novartis has taken a board seat on Century Therapeutics, the Versant and Bayer-backed startup focused on coming up with a brand new twist on cell therapies for cancer — a field where Jimenez made his mark backing the first personalized CAR-T approved for use.

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Pfiz­er ax­es 6 ear­ly to late-stage can­cer stud­ies from the pipeline — with one oth­er cut for sick­le cell dis­ease

Pfizer trimmed a group of 3 R&D programs using their PD-L1 Bavencio — partnered with Merck KGaA — in their latest pipeline cull.

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In­cyte scores much need­ed PhI­II suc­cess — and of course it’s de­liv­ered by rux­oli­tinib

Incyte’s efforts to breathe a second life into ruxolitinib — its JAK inhibitor sold in pill form as Jakafi — has been greeted with clear, if preliminary and unsurprising, Phase III success.

Topline data from the TRuE-AD2 cements ruxolitinib’s foundational importance for Incyte, and gives analysts hope that there might yet be room for growth in a pipeline that’s suffered multiple R&D setbacks.

Stephen Hahn, AP

The FDA un­veils a new reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work to speed along gene ther­a­pies, re­ward­ing the lead­ing play­ers

Bioregnum Opinion Column by John Carroll

The emphasis at the FDA over the past 5 years or so has been on assisting drug developers as much as they can to speed up regulatory reviews and push more drugs into the market. And they are now crafting a final set of regulations aimed at flagging through a whole new generation of gene therapies in clinical testing at a rapid clip.

In a set of 6 prospective guidances posted on the FDA web site Tuesday morning, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn committed the agency to staying flexible in handing out designations that are critical to gaining early approvals for drugs that claim to be once-and-done but don’t have anything close to the data needed to prove it.

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Sanofi/Re­gen­eron Dupix­ent; Alk­er­mes' an­tipsy­chot­ic get dates with the FDA; Con­cert wins re­prieve in In­cyte patent fight

→ Sanofi and Regeneron’s biologic Dupixent, widely considered the best-in-class therapy for atopic dermatitis is now up for FDA approval in children aged 6 to 11. The US regulator has granted its makers priority review for the indication — and a final decision is expected by May 26.

→ Alkermes has also heard back from the US drug regulator. The company’s experimental oral antipsychotic for schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder — ALKS-3831 (olanzapine/samidorphan) —which is designed to offer the efficacy of olanzapine (once sold among others, as Lilly’s Zyprexa) while mitigating olanzapine-associated weight gain is under FDA review. The agency is expected to make its decision by November 15.

The FTC and New York state ac­cuse Mar­tin Shkre­li of run­ning a drug mo­nop­oly. They plan to squash it — and per­ma­nent­ly ex­ile him

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli was jailed, publicly pilloried and forced to confront some lawmakers in Washington riled by his move to take an old generic and move the price from $17.50 per pill to $750. But through 4 years of controversy and public revulsion, his company never backed away from the price — left uncontrolled by a laissez faire federal policy on a drug’s cost.

Now the FTC and the state of New York plan to pry his fingers off the drug once and for all and open it up to some cheap competition. And their lawsuit is asking that Shkreli — with several years left on his prison sentence — be banned permanently from the pharma industry.

UP­DAT­ED: Ac­celeron res­ur­rects block­buster hopes for so­tater­cept with pos­i­tive PhII — and shares rock­et up

Acceleron $XLRN says that its first major trial readout of 2020 is a success.

In a Phase II study of 106 patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), Acceleron’s experimental drug sotatercept hit its primary endpoint: a significant reduction in pulmonary vascular resistance. The drug also met three different secondary endpoints, including the 6-minute walking test.

“We’re thrilled to report such positive topline results from the PULSAR trial,” Acceleron CEO Habib Dable said in a statement. The company said in a conference call they plan on discussing a Phase III trial design with regulators.

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