King can­cer: The top 10 ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas in bio­phar­ma R&D

It’s not go­ing to come as a sur­prise to any­one who’s been pay­ing at­ten­tion to drug R&D trends that can­cer is the num­ber 1 dis­ease in terms of new drug de­vel­op­ment projects. But it is amaz­ing to see ex­act­ly how much on­col­o­gy dom­i­nates the in­dus­try as nev­er be­fore.

At a time the first CAR-T looks to be on the thresh­old of a pi­o­neer­ing ap­proval and the first wave of PD-(L)1 drugs are spurring hun­dreds of com­bi­na­tion stud­ies, can­cer ac­count­ed for 8,651 of the to­tal num­ber of pipeline projects count­ed by the Analy­sis Group, crunch­ing the num­bers in a new re­port com­mis­sioned by PhRMA. That’s more than a third of the 24,389 pre­clin­i­cal through Phase III pro­grams tracked by Eval­u­atePhar­ma, which pro­vid­ed the data­base for this re­view.

That’s al­so more than the next 5 dis­ease fields com­bined, start­ing with num­ber 2, neu­rol­o­gy — a field that in­cludes Parkin­son’s and Alzheimer’s. Psy­chi­a­try, once a ma­jor fo­cus for phar­ma R&D, didn’t even make the top 10, with 468 projects.

Mov­ing down­stream, can­cer stud­ies are over­whelm­ing­ly in the lead. Sin­gling out Phase I projects, can­cer ac­count­ed for 1,757 out of a to­tal of 3,723 ini­tia­tives, close to half. In Phase II it’s the fo­cus of 1,920 of 4,424 projects. On­ly in late-stage stud­ies does can­cer start to lose its over­whelm­ing dom­i­nance, falling to 329 of 1,257 projects.

PhRMA com­mis­sioned this re­port to un­der­score just how much the in­dus­try is com­mit­ted to R&D and sig­nif­i­cant new drug de­vel­op­ment, a sub­ject that rou­tine­ly comes in­to ques­tion as an­a­lysts eval­u­ate how much mon­ey is de­vot­ed to de­vel­op­ing new drugs in­stead of, say, mar­ket­ing or share buy­backs.

The re­port makes a few oth­er points to un­der­score the na­ture of the work these days.

— Three out of four projects in the clin­ic were an­gling for first-in-class sta­tus, spot­light­ing the em­pha­sis on ad­vanc­ing new med­i­cines that can make a dif­fer­ence for pa­tients. Me-too drugs are com­plete­ly out of fash­ion, un­like­ly to com­mand much weight with pay­ers.

— Of all the projects in clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, 822 were for or­phan drugs look­ing to serve a mar­ket of 200,000 or less. Or­phan drugs have per­formed well, able to com­mand high prices and ben­e­fit­ing from in­cen­tives un­der fed­er­al law.

— There were 731 cell and gene ther­a­py projects in the clin­ic, with bio­phar­ma look­ing at pi­o­neer­ing ap­provals in CAR-T, with No­var­tis and Kite, as well as the first US OK for a gene ther­a­py, with the first ap­pli­ca­tion ac­cept­ed this week for a pri­or­i­ty re­view of a new ther­a­py from Spark Ther­a­peu­tics.


Dis­tri­b­u­tion of prod­ucts and projects by ther­a­peu­tic area and phase


Source: Analy­sis Group, us­ing Eval­u­atePhar­ma da­ta


Unique NMEs in de­vel­op­ment by stage (Au­gust 2016)

A new chap­ter in the de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal tri­al ap­proach

Despite the promised decentralized trial revolution, we haven’t yet moved the needle in a significant way, although we are seeing far bolder commitments to this as we continue to experience the pandemic restrictions for some time to come. The vision of grandeur is one thing, but operationalizing and execution are another and recognising that change, particularly mid-flight on studies, is worthy of thorough evaluation and consideration in order to achieve success. Here we will discuss one of the critical building blocks of a Decentralized and Remote Trial strategy: TeleConsent; more than paper under glass, it is a paradigm change and key digital enabler.

Su­per-se­cre­tive an­ti-ag­ing biotech Cal­i­co tees up the first vis­i­ble clin­i­cal tri­al of an ex­per­i­men­tal drug. And it’s for can­cer?

Over the past 7 years, Calico has been so much more than your average, run-of-the-mill secretive biotech players. It’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, to repurpose an old Winston Churchill line dating from the time he confronted the Iron Curtain surrounding Stalin’s thoughts.

Launched by industry legend Art Levinson of Genentech fame, with the infinitely deep pockets of Google for support, one of the few big headlines the anti-aging biotech has sparked focused on a major alliance with AbbVie — a giant outfit that conversely likes to show off its drug prospects whenever it can. Together, they’ve been focused on diseases that limit life span — quite an arc of ailments.

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RBC's Bri­an Abra­hams holds a mock ad­comm on Bio­gen's iffy ad­u­canum­ab da­ta — and most of these ex­perts don't see a path to an ap­proval

As catalysts go, few loom larger than the aducanumab adcomm slated for Nov. 6.

With its big franchise under assault, Biogen is betting the ranch that its mixed late-stage Alzheimer’s data can squeak past the experts and regulators and get onto the market. And the topic — after a decade of Alzheimer’s R&D disasters in what still represents the El Dorado of drug markets — remains in the center ring of discussions around late-stage pipeline prospects.

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Derek Chalmers, Cara Ther

Cara lines up a $440M deal for US rights to its late-stage drug for se­vere itch, with $150M cash on the ta­ble

With plans afoot to file an NDA for what could be its first approved drug, Cara Therapeutics is pivoting its focus to commercialization. And Swiss company Vifor Pharma is willing to surrender up to $440 million to market the candidate in the US.

Cara $CARA CEO Derek Chalmers said an NDA submission is coming this quarter for their intravenous drug Korsuva in chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus (CKD-aP), a severe itching condition. The Stamford, CT-based biotech read out positive topline data from a Phase III pivotal study back in April, and announced plans to approach EMA regulators shortly after filing with the FDA.

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Daniel O'Day, Gilead CEO (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Gilead feels the heat as close al­ly Gala­pa­gos re­ports a big set­back on one of their top ex­per­i­men­tal drugs

The bad news keeps stacking up at Galapagos — which quite likely just lost control of a billion-dollar deal — and by extension their close partners at Gilead.

The biotech $GLPG reported after the bell Thursday that GLPG1972, one of their top development programs, flat failed a mid-stage study for osteoarthritis, flunking the primary and all secondary endpoints.

Testing 3 different doses of their drug, which relies on ADAMTS-5 inhibition, investigators concluded that none of them triggered a statistically significant response — as measured by cartilage thickness.

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Covid-19 roundup: Pars­ing Bourla, a top an­a­lyst sees im­proved chances for Pfiz­er vac­cine; Fau­ci: No sur­prise that Trump was hit by Covid-19

With a medley of adverse events hobbling the late-stage development of vaccines and drugs, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s latest — extended — timeline for the mRNA approach they’re working on with BioNTech is giving some top analysts added confidence that the pharma giant can come up with the regulatory goods next month.

Parsing Bourla’s language in his comments last week, SVB Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges notes that Bourla’s decision to say they “may” be able to nail down the positive efficacy of their vaccine in a matter of days — a big change from his earlier certainty — may also indicate a delay on that to early November.

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Mer­ck touts new da­ta for Keytru­da com­bos in NSCLC at North Amer­i­can con­fer­ence

Merck marched out new data from two studies on Friday to back king Keytruda — the drug that made the Big Pharma $11.1 billion last year — in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

At the IASLC 2020 North America Conference on Lung Cancer, Merck read out long-term data from Cohort G of its Keynote-021 study, which assessed Keytruda in combination with chemotherapy. It also touted results from a Phase I/II study testing Keytruda and quavonlimab, its anti-CTLA-4 therapy, as a first-line therapy.

IN8bio CEO William Ho (IN8bio)

Bring­ing their ge­net­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied gam­ma delta T cells to Nas­daq, IN8bio files for $86M IPO

The biotech IPO parade continues marching forward as 2020 turns toward the fourth quarter.

IN8bio, a New York-based company focused on genetically modified gamma delta T cell therapies, filed to go public Friday seeking an $86 million raise. The company has two clinical-stage candidates being studied in glioblastoma and leukemia, respectively.

By any stretch of the imagination, 2020 has already been a huge year for biotech, and nowhere does it appear more obvious than the vast amounts of companies hitting the public market.

News brief­ing: Ab­b­Vie and Roche's Ven­clex­ta scores an­oth­er FDA OK; Im­muno­Gen nabs Chi­na deal with $40M cash

AbbVie and Roche’s Venclexta has gotten a new FDA thumbs up.

The pair announced Monday that regulators have approved the drug in combination with azacitidine or low-dose cytarabine for newly-diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia in adults who are 75 or older or those who can’t undergo intensive chemotherapy. This follows the drug’s accelerated approval in 2018 and positive data from two Phase III confirmatory trials.