J&J’s stel­lar prostate can­cer da­ta sig­nals the like­li­hood of a broad­er mar­ket ap­proval, as Pfiz­er ri­val strug­gles

CHICA­GO — J&J will be look­ing to ex­pand its block­buster mar­ket for Zyti­ga (abi­raterone) af­ter post­ing stel­lar da­ta at AS­CO show­ing that the drug com­bined with stan­dard hor­mone ther­a­py reg­is­tered a ma­jor im­prove­ment in pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival among new­ly di­ag­nosed pa­tients with metasta­t­ic prostate can­cer.

The LAT­I­TUDE study da­ta demon­strat­ed that the com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py de­liv­ered an av­er­age stretch of 33 months with­out the dis­ease wors­en­ing, com­pared to 14.8 months for stan­dard hor­mone ther­a­py. Zyti­ga plus pred­nisone in com­bi­na­tion with ADT de­creased the risk of pro­gres­sion or death by 53% com­pared to place­bo plus ADT in pa­tients with mH­N­PC. And while over­all sur­vival was not reached yet for the Zyti­ga com­bo, the com­par­i­son arm came in at 34.7 months.

J&J $JNJ has been duk­ing it out with Pfiz­er’s Xtan­di — re­cent­ly ac­quired in the $14 bil­lion Medi­va­tion deal — in the area of prostate can­cer, where both drugs are cred­it­ed with a ma­jor im­prove­ment in the stan­dard of care for prostate can­cer.

The progress for J&J will like­ly be viewed as Pfiz­er’s loss. The phar­ma gi­ant has post­ed shrink­ing sales for Xtan­di since it com­plet­ed the buy­out. And its fol­low-on da­ta hasn’t been good.

Karim Fizazi, Uni­ver­si­ty Paris-Sud

Late last year Pfiz­er and its part­ners at Astel­las con­ced­ed that Xtan­di com­bined with Zyti­ga and pred­nisone failed to bend the curve on pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival for chemo-naïve pa­tients whose dis­ease had pro­gressed fol­low­ing treat­ment with Xtan­di, com­pared with a group of pa­tients treat­ed with Zyti­ga and pred­nisone alone. The in­ves­ti­ga­tors had been look­ing for a ra­tio­nale to con­tin­ue treat­ment with Xtan­di, which would have ex­pand­ed its block­buster mar­ket even fur­ther.

Said J&J’s prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor Dr. Karim Fizazi:

This is im­por­tant new in­for­ma­tion, as not all pa­tients re­spond well to the cur­rent stan­dard of care. LAT­I­TUDE sug­gests that abi­raterone ac­etate plus pred­nisone, in com­bi­na­tion with an­dro­gen de­pri­va­tion ther­a­py, can of­fer a new and much-need­ed op­tion for pa­tients with high-risk new­ly di­ag­nosed mH­N­PC.

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

Bio­gen hands De­nali $1B-plus in cash, $1B-plus in mile­stones to part­ner on late-stage Parkin­son’s drug

Biogen is handing over more than a billion dollars cash to partner with the up-and-coming neurosciences crew at Denali on a new therapy for Parkinson’s. And the big biotech is ready to pile on more than a billion dollars more in milestones — if the alliance is a success.

For Biogen $BIIB, the move on Denali’s small molecule inhibitors of LRRK2 puts them in line to collaborate on a late-stage program for DNL151, which is scheduled to start next year.

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Douglas Fambrough, Dicerna CEO (Boehringer Ingelheim via YouTube)

Roche-backed Dicer­na push­es in­to the pack rac­ing to­ward the block­buster hep B goal line, armed with PhI da­ta

Dicerna has lined up a set of proof-of-concept data from a small cohort of hepatitis B patients in a match-up against some heavyweight rivals which got out in front of this race. And right in the front row you’ll find a team from Roche, which paid $200 million in cash and offered another $1.5 billion in milestones to partner with Dicerna $DRNA on their RNAi program for hep B.

Right now it’s looking competitive, with lots of big challenges ahead.

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Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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Lund­beck sounds taps on an­oth­er CNS drug, re­treat­ing from a mine field still oc­cu­pied by a Mer­ck team

Lundbeck has snipped another clinical-stage branch of its CNS research, dumping a schizophrenia program after determining that their therapy would have no positive influence on the disease.

Designed originally as a 240-patient study, researchers set out in early 2019 to see if a homegrown drug dubbed Lu AF11167 could make it through a proof-of-concept study. The drug is a PDE10Ai inhibitor, targeting an enzyme which it said at the time offered a new pathway to retuning the body’s neurotransmitter dopamine. The big idea was that by hitting their target, the drug would modulate “dopamine D1 and D2 receptor-mediated intraneuronal signaling without binding to these receptors,” influencing negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

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Ab­b­Vie aban­dons a pi­o­neer­ing CRISPR R&D al­liance with Ed­i­tas as Brent Saun­der­s' deal is cast out

A little more than 3 years ago Allergan paid $90 million in a cash upfront to partner with gene editing player Editas on a CRISPR alliance focused on the eye. The lead program centered on LCA10, a rare, inherited retinal degenerative disease that appears in childhood and leads to blindness.

Allergan then went to AbbVie $ABBV in a buyout, and the pharma giant has no interest in moving forward on the gene editing front. The company punted it all back to Editas Thursday, with the biotech $EDIT noting in a statement after the market closed Thursday that it is regaining all rights for its ocular medicines, including EDIT-101.

President Trump speaks with members of the media before boarding Marine One (AP Images)

'Oc­to­ber is com­ing,' and every­one still wants to know if a Covid-19 vac­cine will be whisked through the FDA ahead of the elec­tion

Right on the heels of a lengthy assurance from FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn that the agency will not rush through a quick approval for a Covid-19 vaccine, the President of the United States has some thoughts on timing he’d like to share.

In an exchange with Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera on Thursday, President Trump allowed that a vaccine could be ready to roll “sooner than the end of the year, could be much sooner.”

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Le­vo Ther­a­peu­tics miss­es pri­ma­ry end­point in PhI­II tri­al of Prad­er-Willi drug — the lat­est set­back in a dis­as­ter-prone field

Marking yet another setback in the Prader-Willi Syndrome field, Levo Therapeutics failed to hit its primary endpoint in a Phase III study of intranasal carbetocin. But the biotech is now shifting its focus to the secondary endpoints in an effort to pluck victory out of the jaws of defeat.

The disorder, characterized by a false sense of starvation, is caused by the absence or deletion of a father’s chromosome 15. Illinois-based Levo’s potential therapy involves a selective oxytocin-receptor agonist.

Leonard Schleifer (AP Images)

Re­gen­eron adds more pos­i­tive PhI­II da­ta for its NGF pro­gram — but safe­ty is still a big con­cern

Two years after fasinumab hit its first late-stage bar, Regeneron is standing by its “high-risk, high reward” bet on the NGF antibody. But while new Phase III data solidified the potential reward, the risk is still threatening to blow it all up.

Regeneron execs and analysts alike now have their eyes set on a rival drug from Pfizer and Eli Lilly, whose fate at the FDA will likely set the scene for the class.