It took a 3-year strug­gle, but No­var­tis fi­nal­ly gets a green light on their copy­cat to Am­gen's big block­buster

Over three years af­ter the first re­jec­tion and less than three months af­ter the last one, No­var­tis has fi­nal­ly earned FDA ap­proval for its biosim­i­lar to Am­gen’s $4 bil­lion can­cer drug Neu­las­ta. And they’re call­ing it Ziex­ten­zo.

Un­like the 2016 and 2019 re­jec­tions — both of which the Swiss gi­ant tucked in as a line item on a quar­ter­ly re­port — No­var­tis an­nounced the ap­proval in a state­ment Tues­day morn­ing.

“The ap­proval of Ziex­ten­zo ex­pands our on­col­o­gy port­fo­lio, pro­vid­ing physi­cians with a long-act­ing sup­port­ive on­col­o­gy biosim­i­lar op­tion,” Car­ol Lynch, pres­i­dent of No­var­tis’s San­doz gener­ics di­vi­sion, said in a state­ment.

The ap­proval is a sig­nif­i­cant vic­to­ry in No­var­tis’ long-run­ning bat­tle to churn out copy­cats to some of its ri­vals’ biggest drugs. In 2016, the com­pa­ny un­veiled an am­bi­tious plan to launch 11 biosim­i­lars by 2020. They sin­gled out as top tar­gets Am­gen and Pfiz­er’s En­brel, Ab­b­Vie’s Hu­mi­ra, Am­gen’s Neu­las­ta, J&J and Mer­ck’s Rem­i­cade, and Roche’s Rit­ux­an.

Three years lat­er and with 2020 two months away, the Neu­las­ta biosim­i­lar is the sec­ond of those 5 tar­gets that ap­pears set to hit the US mar­ket. (Three have been FDA ap­proved but Erelzi, their ri­val to En­brel, has been held up in a le­gal bat­tle with Am­gen). And they were beat­en to Neu­las­ta by com­par­a­tive­ly far small­er firms. Last year, Co­herus and My­lan each put out an FDA-ap­proved copy­cat to Am­gen’s block­buster.

The holdup on this and oth­er drugs, though, has at times had less to do with de­vel­op­ment than with the shift­ing le­gal and reg­u­la­to­ry land­scape, es­pe­cial­ly in the US. No­var­tis has eight biosim­i­lars ap­proved in Eu­rope,  but on­ly four in the US.

There’s no word yet on pric­ing from No­var­tis but My­lan and Co­herus each launched their biosim­i­lars at a 33% dis­count on Am­gen’s Neu­las­ta.  The drugs are used to stave off in­fec­tion by boost­ing white blood cell counts dec­i­mat­ed by chemother­a­py.

Grow­ing ac­cep­tance of ac­cel­er­at­ed path­ways for nov­el treat­ments: but does reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proval lead to com­mer­cial suc­cess?

By Mwango Kashoki, MD, MPH, Vice President-Technical, and Richard Macaulay, Senior Director, of Parexel Regulatory & Access

In recent years, we’ve seen a significant uptake in the use of regulatory options by companies looking to accelerate the journey of life-saving drugs to market. In 2018, 73% of the novel drugs approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) were designated under one or more expedited development program categories (Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, Priority Review, and Accelerated Approval).ᶦ

Sanofi out­lines big API plans as coro­n­avirus out­break re­port­ed­ly threat­ens short­age of 150 drugs

As the world becomes increasingly dependant on Asia for the ingredients of its medicines, Sanofi sees business to be done in Europe.

The French drugmaker said it’s creating the world’s second largest active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) manufacturer by spinning out its six current sites into a standalone company: Brindisi (Italy), Frankfurt Chemistry (Germany), Haverhill (UK), St Aubin les Elbeuf (France), Újpest (Hungary) and Vertolaye (France). They have mapped out €1 billion in expected sales by 2022 and 3,100 employees for the new operations headquartered in France.

Bio­gen touts new ev­i­dence from the gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny it wa­gered $800M on

A year ago, Biogen made a big bet on a small gene therapy company. Now they have new evidence one of their therapies could work.

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Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: NIH-part­nered Mod­er­na ships off its PhI-ready coro­n­avirus vac­cine can­di­date to a sea of un­cer­tain­ty

Off it goes.

Moderna has shipped the first batch of its mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 from its manufacturing facility in Norwood, Massachusetts, to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, for a pioneering Phase I study.

It’s a hectic race against time. In the 42 days since Moderna selected the sequence they would use to develop their vaccine — a record time, no less — the number of confirmed cases around the world has surged astronomically from a few dozen to over 80,000, per WHO and Johns Hopkins estimates.

The candidate that they came up with, mRNA-1273, encodes for a prefusion stabilized form of the spike protein, which gives the virus its crown shape and plays a key role in transmission. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Oslo-based group better known as CEPI, funded the manufacture of this batch.

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In fi­nal re­port, ICER ap­pears to have a change of heart on new acute mi­graine ther­a­pies

ICER appears to have reversed course on the fresh crop of acute migraine therapies.

The cost-effectiveness watchdog in November issued a draft report suggesting that existing generic medicines are more effective and cheaper than Allergan’s December-approved CGRP ubrogepant, Biohaven rival molecule, rimegepant (which is under FDA review), and Lilly’s October-sanctioned lasmiditan, which binds to 5-HT1F receptors.

Bi­cy­cle Ther­a­peu­tics takes Roche's Genen­tech on an up to $2B im­muno-on­col­o­gy ride

Bicycle Therapeutics — which is developing a new class of chemically synthesized drugs designed to be pharmacologically as active as biologics, yet manufactured as small molecules —  has scored another big partner: Roche’s Genentech.

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When drug val­ue as­sess­ment meets re­al-world ev­i­dence: ICER en­lists Ae­tion in pric­ing eval­u­a­tion

In a union of two of the hottest trends in the US biopharma world, ICER is teaming up with a high-profile company to integrate real-world evidence in their assessment of treatment value.

The drug pricing watchdog — formally the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review — said it will utilize Aetion’s evidence platform in “select upcoming assessments” and their new 24-month re-evaluations of drugs granted accelerated approval by the FDA.

Anthony Fauci, AP Images

First US Covid-19 tri­als set to get un­der­way in Ne­bras­ka and Wash­ing­ton, backed by NIH

The first US clinical trials on the novel coronavirus are scheduled to get underway next month at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where American passengers were taken after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. Both trials are sponsored by the NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which has led the US’s medical response to the outbreak.

UP­DAT­ED: NGM Bio takes leap for­ward in crowd­ed NASH field

South San Francisco-based NGM Bio may have underwhelmed with its interim analysis of a key cohort from a mid-stage NASH study last fall — but stellar topline data unveiled on Monday showed the compound induced significant signs of antifibrotic activity, NASH resolution and liver fat reduction, sending the company’s stock soaring.

There are an estimated 50+ companies focused on developing drugs for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a common liver disease that has long flummoxed researchers. The first wave of NASH drug developers struggled with efficacy as well as safety — and companies big and small have crashed and burned.

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