J&J dis­putes re­port it’s drop­ping JLabs plans for UK; Take­da takes Zi­ka vac­cine in­to PhI

→ The Tele­graph re­port­ed that J&J is plan­ning to pull the plug on its plans to open a JLabs fa­cil­i­ty in the UK, cit­ing the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic un­cer­tain­ty around Brex­it. But a com­pa­ny spokesper­son tells me it’s all tosh: “This sto­ry is com­plete­ly un­found­ed and we have ac­tu­al­ly asked for a re­trac­tion.”

→ Take­da has pushed its Zi­ka virus vac­cine can­di­date (TAK-426) in­to a Phase I clin­i­cal tri­al 15 months af­ter the bio­phar­ma com­pa­ny re­ceived a con­tract to de­vel­op a Zi­ka vac­cine from the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices; Of­fice of the As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for Pre­pared­ness and Re­sponse; and Bio­med­ical Ad­vanced Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­i­ty (BAR­DA).

→ Af­ter demon­strat­ing ZX008’s im­pres­sive ef­fects on Dravet syn­drome, Zo­genix $ZGNX is mov­ing on to the sec­ond study of the lead drug’s Phase III tri­al, this time tar­get­ing Lennox-Gas­taut syn­drome — an­oth­er form of rare but se­vere epilep­sy that af­fects both chil­dren and adults. The Emeryville, CA-based biotech an­nounced the en­roll­ment of the first child pa­tient to­day. The glob­al study, for which Zog­nix plans to treat 225 pa­tients across three arms, will con­sist of a 18-week dou­ble-blind first part and 12-month open-la­bel sec­ond part. De­spite the num­ber of ex­ist­ing ther­a­peu­tic op­tions, says US prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor Kel­ly Knupp, “(t)there is a sig­nif­i­cant need for new med­i­cines that can sub­stan­tial­ly re­duce seizure ac­tiv­i­ty in LGS, and I am hope­ful that this Phase III tri­al of ZX008 may of­fer hope to the chil­dren and adults liv­ing with this de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion.”

Phase­Bio has se­cured a to­tal of $15.6 mil­lion to fund its ex­pand­ed or­phan dis­ease pipeline, which fea­tures a lead drug, PB1046, that treats pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion. The mon­ey comes through two chan­nels: the biotech is tak­ing out a $7.5 mil­lion loan from Sil­i­con Val­ley Bank, to be with­drawn in three tranch­es; it is al­so draw­ing $8.1 mil­lion from the sec­ond tranche of a pre­vi­ous fi­nanc­ing agree­ment. As­traZeneca, J&J In­no­va­tion and Hat­teras Ven­ture Part­ners are among the in­vestors in that fi­nanc­ing deal.

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.

The key dates for KRAS watch­ers through the end of the year — the trail is nar­row and risks are ex­treme

There’s nothing quite like a big patent win when it comes to burnishing your prospects in the pipeline. And for Amgen, which seems to have rescued Enbrel for a run to 2029, the cheering section on Wall Street is now fixed on AMG 510 and a key rival.

And it didn’t take much data to do it. 

There was the first snapshot of a handful of patients, with a 50% response rate. Then came word that Amgen researchers are also tracking responses in different cancers, at least one in colorectal cancer and appendiceal too. 

UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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