J&J re­grets pay­ing for study that in­ject­ed in­car­cer­at­ed Black men with as­bestos — re­port

New­ly un­sealed court doc­u­ments re­veal that John­son & John­son paid for a study that in­ject­ed 10 in­car­cer­at­ed Black men with as­bestos, as part of the com­pa­ny’s ear­ly tal­cum pow­der tri­als, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port in Bloomberg News.

Al­bert Klig­man

While news of the 50-year-old study it­self isn’t new, as it first came to light decades ago, J&J’s in­volve­ment in the hun­dreds of ex­per­i­ments con­duct­ed by a UPenn der­ma­tol­o­gist Al­bert Klig­man over two decades at Holmes­burg Prison in Penn­syl­va­nia is new, and will like­ly make a se­ri­ous dent in the Big Phar­ma’s rep­u­ta­tion.

The test­ing regime, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, was al­so fund­ed by Dow Chem­i­cal and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, and it sought to look in­to how as­bestos, a known car­cino­gen in the 1950s, com­pared with talc.

J&J didn’t dis­pute hir­ing Klig­man in the 1960s to do the ba­by pow­der tests, Bloomberg found, but J&J of­fi­cials said they re­gret­ted the firm’s in­volve­ment with the der­ma­tol­o­gist.

“We deeply re­gret the con­di­tions un­der which these stud­ies were con­duct­ed, and in no way do they re­flect the val­ues or prac­tices we em­ploy to­day,” Kim Mon­tagni­no, a com­pa­ny spokes­woman, said in an emailed state­ment to Bloomberg.

Ac­cord­ing to the un­sealed files, Klig­man re­cruit­ed 10 pris­on­ers in 1971 to get in­jec­tions of tremo­lite and chrysotile as­bestos, along with a talc shot in their low­er backs.

Mean­while, J&J late last month cel­e­brat­ed a win in bank­rupt­cy court, with a US judge rul­ing in fa­vor of its con­tro­ver­sial Chap­ter 11 fil­ing meant to set­tle thou­sands of law­suits al­leg­ing its talc-based prod­ucts caused can­cer.

J&J con­tin­ues to claim that its talc prod­ucts are safe, while the 38,000 law­suits claim that the wide­ly used ba­by pow­der and oth­er com­mer­cial talc prod­ucts con­tained as­bestos and caused mesothe­lioma and ovar­i­an can­cer.

Klig­man, mean­while, died in 2010, and ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, nev­er ac­knowl­edged any wrong­do­ing. “My use of paid pris­on­ers as re­search sub­jects in the 1950s and 1960s was in keep­ing with this na­tion’s stan­dard pro­to­col for con­duct­ing sci­en­tif­ic in­ves­ti­ga­tions at the time,” Klig­man told the Bal­ti­more Sun in 1998.

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

Clay Siegall, Morphimmune CEO

Up­dat­ed: Ex-Seagen chief Clay Sie­gall emerges as CEO of pri­vate biotech

Clay Siegall will be back in the CEO seat, taking the helm of a private startup working on targeted cancer therapies.

It’s been almost a year since Siegall resigned from Seagen, the biotech he co-founded and led for more than 20 years, in the wake of domestic violence allegations by his then-wife. His eventual successor, David Epstein, sold the company to Pfizer in a $43 billion deal unveiled last week.

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FDA ad­vi­sors unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for Bio­gen's ALS drug

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA unanimously recommended that the agency grant accelerated approval to Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen despite the drug failing the primary goal of its Phase III study, an endorsement that could pave a path forward for the treatment.

By a 9-0 vote, members of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee said there was sufficient evidence that tofersen’s effect on a certain protein associated with ALS is reasonably likely to predict a benefit for patients. But panelists stopped short of advocating for a full approval, voting 3-5 against (with one abstention) and largely citing the failed pivotal study.

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In­cyte hit by CRL on ex­tend­ed-re­lease JAK tablets, mud­dy­ing plans for Jakafi fran­chise ex­pan­sion

The FDA has rejected Incyte’s extended-release formulation of ruxolitinib tablets, in a surprise setback for the company’s plans to build on its blockbuster Jakafi franchise.

The ruxolitinib XR tablets are designed to be taken once a day, whereas Jakafi is indicated for twice daily dosage (although some patients can take it once daily).

According to Incyte, the FDA acknowledged in its complete response letter that the study submitted in the NDA “met its objective of bioequivalence based on area under the curve (AUC) parameters but identified additional requirements for approval.”

Zhi Hong, Brii Biosciences CEO

Brii Bio­sciences stops man­u­fac­tur­ing Covid-19 an­ti­body com­bo, plans to with­draw EUA re­quest

Brii Biosciences said it will stop manufacturing its Covid-19 antibody combination, sold in China, and is working to withdraw its emergency use authorization request in the US, which it started in October 2021.

The Beijing and North Carolina biotech commercially launched the treatment in China last July but is now axing the work and reverting resources to other “high-priority programs,” per a Friday update. The focus now is namely hepatitis B viral infection, postpartum depression and major depressive disorders.

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Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion de­lays pro­pos­al for ma­jor changes to phar­ma leg­is­la­tion

The European Commission has once again delayed the release of its proposal for an overhaul of the continent’s pharmaceutical legislation.

The release, previously anticipated on March 29, will occur “slightly later” than expected due to the “very busy College agendas of the last few weeks,” a Commission spokesperson told Endpoints News via email.

While the agency hasn’t provided an updated timeline, the spokesperson said the agenda is “always indicative and adoption dates of Commission proposals may change any time, especially when these proposals concern reforms of complex legislations of major importance.”

Sergio Traversa, Relmada Therapeutics CEO

Rel­ma­da makes 'crit­i­cal changes' to PhI­II tri­al to try and save de­pres­sion drug

Relmada Therapeutics is making changes to its Phase III study of its lead drug for major depressive disorder, in an attempt to avoid problems with a prior trial that showed little difference between the drug and a placebo.

That failure in October wiped 80% from Relmada’s stock price, and was followed by another negative readout a few months later. In both cases, the company said that there had been trial sites that were associated with what it called surprising placebo effects that skewed the results compared with the drug, REL-1017.

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Paul Song, NKGen Biotech CEO

NK cell ther­a­py-fo­cused biotech eyes SPAC deal

A small, Santa Ana-based biotech created in 2017 is looking to enter a SPAC deal as it lays out plans to begin trials in its lead cell therapy candidates and bring on new executives.

Graf Acquisition Corp. IV and NKGen Biotech announced Thursday, with few other details, that the two companies signed a non-binding letter of intent to “pursue a business combination.” Graf Acquisition II and III withdrew their IPOs last year.

Peter Hecht, Cyclerion Therapeutics CEO

Hard pressed for cash, Cy­cle­ri­on looks for help fund­ing rare dis­ease drug

Cyclerion Therapeutics may have the design of a Phase IIb study ready to go, but it’s scrambling for a way to fund it.

The company said in a press release that it’s “actively evaluating the best combination of capital, capabilities, and transactions available to it to advance the development of zagociguat,” its lead candidate for a rare, genetic mitochondrial disease known as MELAS.

In a separate SEC filing, Cyclerion once again flagged “substantial doubt about (its) ability to continue as a going concern.” As of the end of 2022, it had cash and cash equivalents of only $13.4 million.