Megablock­buster day for Roche too as MS game-chang­er Ocre­vus gets a green light at the FDA

Sev­erin Schwan, Roche CEO

Tues­day turned out to be the day for a game of megablock­busters. Re­gen­eron and Sanofi snagged an FDA OK for Dupix­ent, a land­mark new eczema ther­a­py, and now Roche came through with a thumbs up for ocre­lizum­ab, which promis­es to remap the land­scape for the mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis drug mar­ket.

Ocre­lizum­ab — which will now be sold as Ocre­vus — could be used to treat most MS pa­tients, a com­bi­na­tion of re­laps­ing/re­mit­ting and pri­ma­ry pro­gres­sive pa­tients. That’s a unique dis­tinc­tion that is like­ly to make this a key fo­cus among doc­tors who spe­cial­ize in treat­ing MS. And that could be a game change for every­one in the field.

Roche priced this drug for mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion at $65,000 a year, a 25% dis­count to Rebif.

“Ac­cord­ing to the NMSS, MS med­i­cines on av­er­age cost al­most 4 times more to­day than they did 12 years ago,” notes a spokesper­son for Roche. “In fact, Rebif – the 14 year-old stan­dard of care that OCRE­VUS was shown to be clin­i­cal­ly su­pe­ri­or in two RMS tri­als – now costs about $86,000. We feel that the in­dus­try needs to start to re­verse this trend, and be­lieve that pric­ing Ocre­vus 25% less than the com­para­tor in our tri­als is an im­por­tant first step.”

Eval­u­atePhar­ma has pegged con­sen­sus fore­casts of rev­enue for 2022 at $4 bil­lion for this ther­a­py, about a bil­lion dol­lars be­hind where Dupix­ent is ex­pect­ed to land. Its pres­ence in the pipeline, com­bined with a re­cent ap­proval of its check­point Tecen­triq and a few oth­er top prospects, has al­lowed Roche CEO Sev­erin Schwan to large­ly stay out of an M&A mar­ket he has long viewed as over­priced and way too risky.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say they were able to de­ter­mine the drug in­creased the pro­por­tion of re­laps­ing/re­mit­ting MS pa­tients see­ing the elim­i­na­tion of dis­ease ac­tiv­i­ty by 75% over 96 weeks com­pared to Rebif. Most achieved that sta­tus at the end of 24 weeks of treat­ment with the ther­a­py. And the com­pa­ny al­so out­lined new pos­i­tive da­ta on the elim­i­na­tion of dis­ease pro­gres­sion among pri­ma­ry pro­gres­sive MS pa­tients com­pared to a place­bo.

Bri­an Sko­r­ney, Baird an­a­lyst

The da­ta paves the way for a new con­tender that is en­ter­ing a fast-chang­ing and fu­ri­ous­ly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. A 40mg gener­ic ver­sion of Te­va’s Co­pax­one may be on the way soon as Bio­gen’s flag­ship drug Tec­fidera con­tin­ues to see its mar­ket de­te­ri­o­rate. That ero­sion has left Bio­gen in­cred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble to grow­ing crit­i­cism of its busi­ness mod­el.

“Re­call, we’ve ad­vo­cat­ed that Tysabri should be an ob­vi­ous tar­get for Ocre­vus in RMS giv­en the as­so­ci­at­ed safe­ty risks, sim­i­lar­i­ties in ad­min­is­tra­tion, etc,” not­ed Baird’s Bri­an Sko­r­ney. “Docs in­di­cat­ed that about 50% of Ocre­vus pa­tients would like­ly be PPMS pa­tients, with 11% com­ing from Tysabri and an­oth­er 11% switch­es from Tec­fidera. This im­plies an al­most 20% hit to over­all Tysabri de­mand. How­ev­er, when asked about long-term trends, gener­ic 40mg Co­pax­one, and oth­er com­pet­i­tive threats, docs still be­lieve Tec­fidera could see a 20%+ de­cline in scripts by YE18.”

San­dra Horn­ing

“The FDA’s ap­proval of OCRE­VUS is the be­gin­ning of a new era for the MS com­mu­ni­ty and rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant sci­en­tif­ic ad­vance with this first-in-class B cell tar­get­ed ther­a­py,” said San­dra Horn­ing, chief med­ical of­fi­cer and head of Glob­al Prod­uct De­vel­op­ment. “Un­til now, no FDA-ap­proved treat­ment has been avail­able to the pri­ma­ry pro­gres­sive MS com­mu­ni­ty, and some peo­ple with re­laps­ing forms of MS con­tin­ue to ex­pe­ri­ence dis­ease ac­tiv­i­ty and dis­abil­i­ty pro­gres­sion de­spite avail­able ther­a­pies. We be­lieve OCRE­VUS, giv­en every six months, has the po­ten­tial to change the dis­ease course for peo­ple with MS, and we are com­mit­ted to help­ing those who can ben­e­fit gain ac­cess to our med­i­cine.”

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

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Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.