J&J pitch­es its top 11 drugs in the pipeline — with a peak sales promise of $1B-plus

Joaquin Du­a­to at an End­points News event in San Fran­cis­co on Jan­u­ary 10, 2017


Over the last six years, J&J has nailed 11 new drug ap­provals. Look­ing for­ward over the next five years, the phar­ma gi­ant is fore­cast­ing that it can dou­ble that, with more than 10 new ap­provals for block­buster meds out of its late-stage pipeline. And it needs them all to keep up with an am­bi­tious growth fore­cast for its phar­ma di­vi­sion rev­enue.

Joaquin Du­a­to, J&J’s world­wide chair­man for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, com­mit­ted to see­ing J&J’s brand­ed drug mar­ket main­tain a clip of 5% an­nu­al growth through 2020, de­spite some stiff “head­winds” on prices — “where price growth is flat­ten­ing” — with three ap­provals slat­ed for 2017 and four more which the phar­ma gi­ant ex­pects to ush­er in­to the mar­ket in 2018.

These new drugs are one leg of the com­pa­ny’s three-leg strat­e­gy for grow­ing rev­enue, with a promise that it can im­prove sig­nif­i­cant­ly on ex­ist­ing drugs — like Ste­lara, In­vokana and Xarel­to — while beef­ing up on a new core fo­cus on pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion through the Acte­lion buy­out.

Bill Hait, glob­al head of R&D, said he ex­pects 14 new meds to ar­rive in next five years, with 50 line ex­ten­sions on al­ready ap­proved ther­a­pies.

Bill Hait

First up, the two new im­munol­o­gy drugs al­ready filed for ap­proval and well known to in­vestors: guselkum­ab for pso­ri­a­sis; and sirukum­ab for rheuma­toid arthri­tis.

The next nine po­ten­tial block­busters cov­er a range of core fo­cus­es, with a ma­jor con­cen­tra­tion on on­col­o­gy. They are:

  • Apa­lu­tamide (ARN-509) for pre-metasta­t­ic prostate can­cer. J&J picked up this drug with its $1 bil­lion deal for Aragon.
  • Es­ke­t­a­mine for treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion. This is an in­tranasal ver­sion of ke­t­a­mine, a horse tran­quil­iz­er and well known par­ty drug (Spe­cial K) known for rapid on­set with a host of side ef­fects.
  • Ta­la­co­tuzum­ab (JNJ-56022473/CSL362) for acute myeloid leukemia. This drug, orig­i­nal­ly from CSL, us­es Xen­cor’s an­ti­body tech.
  • Erdafi­tinib (an FGFR In­hibitor) for sol­id tu­mors.
  • Ni­ra­parib for prostate can­cer. Al­ready ap­proved in the US ear­li­er this year as Ze­ju­la, J&J picked up com­mer­cial rights on this PARP in­hibitor in a $500 mil­lion deal.
  • Ime­tel­stat for myelofi­bro­sis. Geron re­vealed a few weeks ago that J&J’s re­view of the da­ta from two stud­ies of its drug ime­tel­stat war­rant­ed con­tin­ued work in myelodys­plas­tic syn­dromes and myelofi­bro­sis. But the phar­ma gi­ant $JNJ is still re­serv­ing the right to quit if the da­ta doesn’t hold up lat­er in the year. That’s not a big vote of con­fi­dence.
  • Pi­modi­vir (JNJ-3872) for in­fluen­za A. J&J picked up this one from Ver­tex in 2014. Not much has been heard about it since then.
  • Lu­mic­itabine (JNJ-1575) for res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­cy­tial virus (RSV) in­fec­tion. J&J got this in their $1.75 bil­lion buy­out of Alios in 2014, which al­so net­ted drugs for hep C — a mar­ket that is be­ing flat­tened by some very ef­fec­tive cures.
  • JNJ-7922 (orex­in-2 an­tag­o­nist) for ad­junc­tive treat­ment for ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der. This is a new one on me.

Ge­off Meacham at Bar­clays gave J&J’s pre­sen­ta­tion to­day sol­id marks for the longterm, but he sees an up­hill strug­gle at the phar­ma gi­ant as it wres­tles with some dis­ap­point­ing rev­enue num­bers. His note:

JNJ’s in­creas­ing em­pha­sis on on­col­o­gy (Darza­lex, apa­lu­tamide, ni­ra­parib, ta­la­co­tuzum­ab for AML) is a pos­i­tive step, which should of­fer bet­ter pric­ing pro­tec­tion vs. oth­er ther­a­peu­tic cat­e­gories such as im­munol­o­gy (biosim­i­lars) and di­a­betes (SGLT-2s).  JNJ is tar­get­ing above-mar­ket growth over the next decade, which we think is like­ly achiev­able, but our sense is that in­vestor con­vic­tion is low in con­vert­ing the port­fo­lio from lega­cy as­sets to new launch­es (e.g. apa­lu­tamide for Zyti­ga, guselkum­ab/sirukum­ab for Rem­i­cade). In­deed, while there is like­ly a sus­tained pe­ri­od of ac­cel­er­a­tion of in­ter­nal­ly dri­ven, or­gan­ic growth in the in­ter­me­di­ate-to-longer term, the next 1-2 years may be tough with the pend­ing Acte­lion deal pro­vid­ing a fix but not one that is like­ly to dri­ve mul­ti­ple ex­pan­sion.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the suc­cess rate for Phase III drugs is about 50%, and pay­ers have been rad­i­cal­ly al­ter­ing the land­scape for new drug prices. That all presents J&J with some big po­ten­tial pit­falls along the way to achiev­ing its goals. But with a $7 bil­lion an­nu­al bud­get for R&D, Du­a­to and Hait want in­vestors to know what they can ex­pect for the mon­ey.

2019 Trin­i­ty Drug In­dex Eval­u­ates Ac­tu­al Com­mer­cial Per­for­mance of Nov­el Drugs Ap­proved in 2016

Fewer Approvals, but Neurology Rivals Oncology and Sees Major Innovations

This report, the fourth in our Trinity Drug Index series, outlines key themes and emerging trends in the industry as we progress towards a new world of targeted and innovative products. It provides a comprehensive evaluation of the performance of novel drugs approved by the FDA in 2016, scoring each on its commercial performance, therapeutic value, and R&D investment (Table 1: Drug ranking – Ratings on a 1-5 scale).

How to cap­i­talise on a lean launch

For start-up biotechnology companies and resource stretched pharmaceutical organisations, launching a novel product can be challenging. Lean teams can make setting a launch strategy and achieving your commercial goals seem like a colossal undertaking, but can these barriers be transformed into opportunities that work to your brand’s advantage?
We spoke to Managing Consultant Frances Hendry to find out how Blue Latitude Health partnered with a fledgling subsidiary of a pharmaceutical organisation to launch an innovative product in a
complex market.
What does the launch environment look like for this product?
FH: We started working on the product at Phase II and now we’re going into Phase III trials. There is a significant unmet need in this disease area, and everyone is excited about the launch. However, the organisation is still evolving and the team is quite small – naturally this causes a little turbulence.

UP­DAT­ED: FDA’s golodirsen CRL: Sarep­ta’s Duchenne drugs are dan­ger­ous to pa­tients, of­fer­ing on­ly a small ben­e­fit. And where's that con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al?

Back last summer, Sarepta CEO Doug Ingram told Duchenne MD families and investors that the FDA’s shock rejection of their second Duchenne MD drug golodirsen was due to some concerns regulators raised about the risk of infection and the possibility of kidney toxicity. But when pressed to release the letter for all to see, he declined, according to a report from BioPharmaDive, saying that kind of move “might not look like we’re being as respectful as we’d like to be.”

He went on to assure everyone that he hadn’t misrepresented the CRL.

But Ingram’s public remarks didn’t include everything in the letter, which — following the FDA’s surprise about-face and unexplained approval — has now been posted on the FDA’s website and broadly circulated on Twitter early Wednesday.

The CRL raises plenty of fresh questions about why the FDA abruptly decided to reverse itself and hand out an OK for a drug a senior regulator at the FDA believed — 5 months ago, when he wrote the letter — is dangerous to patients. It also puts the spotlight back on Sarepta $SRPT, which failed to launch a confirmatory study of eteplirsen, which was only approved after a heated internal controversy at the FDA. Ellis Unger, director of CDER’s Office of Drug Evaluation I, notes that study could have clarified quite a lot about the benefit and risks associated with their drugs — which can cost as much as a million dollars per patient per year, depending on weight.

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UP­DAT­ED: Eli Lil­ly’s $1.6B can­cer drug failed to spark even the slight­est pos­i­tive gain for pa­tients in its 1st PhI­II

Eli Lilly had high hopes for its pegylated IL-10 drug pegilodecakin when it bought Armo last year for $1.6 billion in cash. But after reporting a few months ago that it had failed a Phase III in pancreatic cancer, without the data, its likely value has plunged. And now we’re getting some exact data that underscore just how little positive effect it had.

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Stephen Hahn, AP

The FDA has de­val­ued the gold stan­dard on R&D. And that threat­ens every­one in drug de­vel­op­ment

Bioregnum Opinion Column by John Carroll

A few weeks ago, when Stephen Hahn was being lightly queried by Senators in his confirmation hearing as the new commissioner of the FDA, he made the usual vow to maintain the gold standard in drug development.

Neatly summarized, that standard requires the agency to sign off on clinical data — usually from two, well-controlled human studies — that prove a drug’s benefit outweighs any risks.

Over the last few years, biopharma has enjoyed an unprecedented loosening over just what it takes to clear that bar. Regulators are more willing to drop the second trial requirement ahead of an accelerated approval — particularly if they have an unmet medical need where patients are clamoring for a therapy.

That confirmatory trial the FDA demands can wait a few years. And most everyone in biopharma would tell you that’s the right thing for patients. They know its a tonic for everyone in the industry faced with pushing a drug through clinical development. And it’s helped inspire a global biotech boom.

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UP­DAT­ED: New play­ers are jump­ing in­to the scram­ble to de­vel­op a vac­cine as pan­dem­ic pan­ic spreads fast

When the CNN news crew in Wuhan caught wind of the Chinese government’s plan to quarantine the city of 11 million people, they made a run for one of the last trains out — their Atlanta colleagues urging them on. On the way to the train station, they were forced to skirt the local seafood market, where the coronavirus at the heart of a brewing outbreak may have taken root.

And they breathlessly reported every moment of the early morning dash.

In shuttering the city, triggering an exodus of masked residents who caught wind of the quarantine ahead of time, China signaled that they were prepared to take extreme actions to stop the spread of a virus that has claimed 17 lives, sickened many more and panicked people around the globe.

CNN helped illustrate how hard all that can be.

The early reaction in the biotech industry has been classic, with small-cap companies scrambling to headline efforts to step in fast. But there are also new players in the field with new tech that has been introduced since the last of a series of pandemic panics that could change the usual storylines. And they’re volunteering for a crash course in speeding up vaccine development — a field where overnight solutions have been impossible to prove.

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Wuhan virus out­break trig­gers in­evitable small-biotech ral­ly

Every few years, a public health crisis (think Ebola, Zika) spurred by a rogue pathogen triggers a small-biotech rally, as drugmakers emerge from the woodwork with ambitious plans to treat the mounting outbreak. In most cases, that enthusiasm never quite delivers.

Things are no different, as the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China takes hold. There have been close to 300 confirmed human infections in China, and at least four deaths. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, which include MERS and SARS. On Tuesday, the CDC reported the virus was detected in a US traveler returning from Wuhan.

Mer­ck KGaA spin­out gets first fund­ing to bring dual-act­ing can­cer mol­e­cules in­to the clin­ic

Two and a half years after launch, Merck KGaA spinout iOnctura is getting its first major round of funding.

The oncology startup raised €15 million ($16.6 million) to put its lead drug into the clinic and get its second drug past IND-enabling tests. INKEF Capital and VI Partners co-led the round and were joined by the biotech’s longtime backer M Ventures, an arm of Merck KGaA, and Schroder Adveq.

Am­gen aug­ments Asia foothold by tak­ing over Astel­las joint ven­ture in Japan

California-based Amgen, which does the bulk of its business in the United States, made its ambition to reinvigorate its growth prospects by expanding its presence in Asia clear at the sidelines of the JP Morgan healthcare conference in San Francisco earlier this month.

The Thousand Oaks-based company on Thursday executed its plan to dissolve the joint venture with Astellas — created in 2013 — to operate the unit independently in Japan. With its rapidly aging population, the region represents an appealing market for Amgen’s osteoporosis treatments Prolia and Evenity as well as a cholesterol-lowering injection Repatha.