Klick Health gath­ers biotech and phar­ma lu­mi­nar­ies to dis­cuss in­dus­try in­no­va­tions, in­vest­ments and fu­ture

At Klick Health’s first Ideas Ex­change con­fer­ence with biotech and phar­ma in­dus­try in­sid­ers since be­fore the pan­dem­ic be­gan, it was no sur­prise many con­ver­sa­tions in­clud­ed Covid top­ics. Yet while vac­cines and treat­ments were dis­cussed, so too were the ef­fects on drug de­vel­op­ment, fed­er­al re­spons­es, health in­equities — and what to do now and next.

George Yan­copou­los

George Yan­copou­los, chief sci­en­tist and co­founder of Re­gen­eron, opened the con­fer­ence re­spond­ing to a ques­tion from Acor­da CEO Ron Co­hen about the spot­light on the in­dus­try dur­ing Covid and some of the “flak” bio­phar­ma has tak­en in the past.

“I hope so­ci­ety rec­og­nizes that the im­pact that dis­ease can have, mea­sured as it was in the pan­dem­ic in the tril­lions, in terms of eco­nom­ics – and not even able to cal­cu­late the loss of life and suf­fer­ing as­so­ci­at­ed,” Yan­copou­los said. “I hope that makes so­ci­ety re­al­ize that per­haps shouldn’t we be in­vest­ing more than $30 mil­lion, for ex­am­ple, for NIH fund­ing, but al­so in­vest­ing a lot more in this great in­dus­try to pro­tect our­selves against these cat­a­stroph­ic loss­es. I think we’re not do­ing enough.”

He at­trib­uted Re­gen­eron’s speed in de­vel­op­ing its ear­ly mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body treat­ment RE­GEN-COV — along with work by Pfiz­er, Mod­er­na, As­traZeneca and Eli Lil­ly — build­ing on the com­pa­nies’ decades of sci­en­tif­ic de­vel­op­ment and in­vest­ing. With much more need­ed, he point­ed out.

“We have to rec­og­nize none of the ex­ist­ing so­lu­tions for dis­ease and none of the ex­ist­ing so­lu­tions for cli­mate change will save us. We need new so­lu­tions,” he said, which will on­ly come from sup­port­ing next gen­er­a­tions of tal­ent and with in­vest­ments “at much larg­er scales than we are to­day.”

Rick Bright

For­mer BAR­DA chief Rick Bright al­so talked about the need to in­vest and im­prove not on­ly the cur­rent Covid re­sponse as it be­comes en­dem­ic, but al­so the im­por­tance of trust and truth in those ef­forts. Bright head­ed BAR­DA un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, join­ing in 2016, but was re­moved and re­as­signed to a low­er lev­el NIH job by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in April 2020. Bright sub­se­quent­ly filed a whistle­blow­er com­plaint and tes­ti­fied be­fore Con­gress about the gov­ern­ment’s chaot­ic re­sponse to the pan­dem­ic.

“We hear a lot about the ero­sion of trust and to be trust­wor­thy we have to be hon­est,” he said. “… From the out­set of this pan­dem­ic, we didn’t have a lot of truth, hon­est­ly. So we need to make sure we’re not on­ly get­ting the truth out, but make sure we’re trans­lat­ing the truth to some­thing peo­ple can un­der­stand. When they see the de­vel­op­ment of a vac­cine or mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body ther­a­peu­tic, as George said they don’t re­al­ize that it’s been a decade worth of work. That was skipped over for a po­lit­i­cal rhetoric to say, ‘Hey, I made a vac­cine in a short pe­ri­od of time.’”

Tal Zaks

Al­so tak­ing the stage on a pan­el about per­son­al­ized med­i­cine was Tal Zaks, the for­mer chief med­ical of­fi­cer at Mod­er­na and Spike­vax Covid vac­cine de­vel­op­er, who is now a part­ner at Or­biMed.

While the ideas of per­son­al­ized med­i­cines and mass mar­ket vac­cines may seem in­con­gru­ent, Zaks not­ed that “all med­i­cine has al­ways been per­son­al­ized. We go to the doc­tor for treat­ment for our­selves, not our neigh­bor.”

In Covid-19 vac­cines and treat­ments, for ex­am­ple, per­son­al­iza­tion comes in­to play for im­muno­com­pro­mised peo­ple and some can­cer pa­tients who don’t re­spond as well and need spe­cif­ic, dif­fer­ent ther­a­pies. While costs, ben­e­fits and val­ue are fa­mil­iar top­ics in per­son­al­ized med­i­cine dis­cus­sions, Zaks said the po­ten­tial size of the pa­tient pool for per­son­al­ized med­i­cines is less im­por­tant to him than what they can de­liv­er.

“Rather than look at the rise of per­son­al­ized med­i­cine as some­thing that phar­ma went to be­cause they couldn’t make mon­ey else­where, I take a dif­fer­ent view. For me, the rea­son we’re talk­ing about per­son­al­ized med­i­cine is be­cause that’s what sci­ence has un­cov­ered,” he said. “… The world of sci­ence and the world of tech­nol­o­gy is open­ing up op­por­tu­ni­ties for us to un­der­stand pop­u­la­tions bet­ter — even in preva­lent dis­eases. If you talk to phar­ma to­day, they’re ac­tu­al­ly not shy­ing away from car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease or neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­ease or di­a­betes. What they’re bring­ing to the fore is a much more nu­anced way of un­der­stand­ing those pop­u­la­tions and an in­di­vid­ual’s risk fac­tor.”

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.