Real women talk about their triple negative breast cancer experiences in Merck's ongoing campaign.

Mer­ck con­tin­ues rare breast can­cer cam­paign fo­cused on chal­lenges for Black women

Oc­to­ber may be over, but Mer­ck is con­tin­u­ing to dri­ve its aware­ness ef­forts around breast can­cer — es­pe­cial­ly fo­cused on the rare triple neg­a­tive sub­type and Black women who are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly af­fect­ed.

Ac­tress Yvonne Or­ji, who al­so holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic health, nar­rates the three-video do­cuseries at the cen­ter of “Un­cov­er­ing TNBC” with each one fea­tur­ing a dif­fer­ent Black woman who has triple neg­a­tive breast can­cer (TNBC). Or­ji in­ter­views each one, touch­ing on a range of phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al and fi­nan­cial chal­lenges in the dis­ease di­ag­no­sis, treat­ment and be­yond.

“I’m in­cred­i­bly aware of the chal­lenges and dis­par­i­ties Black women face in health­care. Symp­toms get ig­nored, risks go un­re­al­ized and dis­eases progress. This in­jus­tice has cre­at­ed a silent cri­sis — and we are here to give it a voice,” Or­ji says in the se­ries’ trail­er.

TNBC is an ag­gres­sive type of breast can­cer that ac­counts for about 10-15% of di­ag­noses. How­ev­er, Black women are around two times more like­ly than non-His­pan­ic white women to be di­ag­nosed with it and more like­ly to die from the sub­type.

Ali Kres­ge

Mer­ck launched the ef­fort in 2021, along with sev­er­al TNBC ad­vo­ca­cy group part­ners, with a con­cen­tra­tion on dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia. To date, the cam­paign has notched five mil­lion so­cial me­dia im­pres­sions, along with 800 mil­lion views across all me­dia, dig­i­tal and so­cial chan­nels, said Ali Kres­ge, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Mer­ck’s on­col­o­gy pa­tient strat­e­gy team. It’s al­so count­ed 78,000 vis­i­tors so far to the cam­paign web­site.

The ef­fort is in­tend­ed “to make sure peo­ple are not on­ly aware of the prob­lem and what we’re try­ing to ad­dress with this cam­paign, but al­so get­ting them that in-depth ed­u­ca­tion­al ef­fort in­for­ma­tion.”

Cen­ter­ing the re­al pa­tients was im­por­tant to Mer­ck’s ef­fort, Kres­ge said.

“Au­then­tic­i­ty is key. Peo­ple don’t want to be sold to — they want to be spo­ken to. And who do you trust more than a peer?” she said.

An­oth­er key part of the cam­paign is in the cam­paign ti­tle. As a rar­er sub­set, TNBC is some­times over­looked and even for­got­ten in the more typ­i­cal breast can­cer aware­ness month-re­lat­ed pro­grams.

“We found in our re­search that they’ve felt very iso­lat­ed and alone when it comes to the pink-rib­bon cam­paign ef­forts of the past,” Kres­ge said, adding the cam­paign is “geared to giv­ing them a voice.”

The cam­paign will con­tin­ue to evolve through next year, she said, with more con­tent in de­vel­op­ment, and an on­go­ing fo­cus on Black women pa­tients and “un­der­stand­ing and pro­vid­ing sup­port to help over­come the bar­ri­ers they face through­out their jour­ney.”

While the ef­fort is un­brand­ed, Mer­ck’s Keytru­da is FDA ap­proved for TNBC treat­ment in com­bi­na­tion with chemother­a­py as neoad­ju­vant treat­ment and then con­tin­ued as a sin­gle agent as ad­ju­vant treat­ment af­ter surgery for high-risk ear­ly-stage pa­tients.

Pfiz­er lays off em­ploy­ees at Cal­i­for­nia and Con­necti­cut sites

Pfizer has laid off employees at its La Jolla, CA, and Groton, CT sites, according to multiple LinkedIn posts from former employees.

The Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News it has let go of some employees, but a spokesperson declined to specify how many workers were impacted and the exact locations affected. Earlier this month, the drug developer had confirmed to Endpoints it was sharpening its focus and doing away with some early research on areas such as rare disease, oncology and gene therapies.

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Late Fri­day ap­proval; Trio of biotechs wind down; Stem cell pi­o­neer finds new fron­tier; Biotech icon to re­tire; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

I hope your weekend is off to a nice start, wherever you are reading this email. As for me, I’m trying to catch the tail of the Lunar New Year festivities.

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Jake Van Naarden, Loxo@Lilly CEO

Lil­ly en­ters ripe BTK field with quick FDA nod in man­tle cell lym­phoma

Eli Lilly has succeeded in its attempt to get the first non-covalent version of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, or BTK, inhibitors to market, pushing it past rival Merck.

The FDA gave an accelerated nod to Lilly’s daily oral med, to be sold as Jaypirca, for patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.

The agency’s green light, disclosed by the Indianapolis Big Pharma on Friday afternoon, catapults Lilly into a field dominated by covalent BTK inhibitors, which includes AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica, AstraZeneca’s Calquence and BeiGene’s Brukinsa.

Filip Dubovsky, Novavax CMO

No­vavax gets ready to take an­oth­er shot at Covid vac­cine mar­ket with next sea­son plans

While mRNA took center stage at yesterday’s FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting, Novavax announced its plans to deliver an updated protein-based vaccine based on new guidance.

Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) members voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all future vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

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CBER Director Peter Marks (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

FDA ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee votes unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of bi­va­lent Covid shots re­plac­ing pri­ma­ry se­ries

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all current vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

The vote marks an effort to clear up confusion around varying formulations and dosing schedules for current primary series and booster vaccines, as well as “get closer to the strains that are circulating,” according to committee member Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Healthcare professionals give pharma company engagements middle-of-the-road reviews in a new survey. (Image: Shutterstock)

UCB, No­vo Nordisk, Gilead rank high­est among phar­mas for HCP cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence — sur­vey

When it comes to customer service to healthcare professionals, pharma companies’ overall average rating is, well, average. Its industry customer experience score of 59 is at the lower end of “good” (rated as scores from 51-75) in DT Consulting’s annual assessment out now.

Topping the list of individual pharma companies was UCB with a 66 score on the consultant’s proprietary “Customer Experience Quotient” or CXQ scale. Novo Nordisk and Gilead Sciences followed, tied for second at 65, while Boehringer Ingelheim and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen tied for third with 64. Still, none of the top scores neared “excellent” territory of 76 or higher.

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Rodney Rietze, iVexSol CEO

Bris­tol My­ers, Charles Riv­er join Se­ries A fund­ing for iVex­Sol

Massachusetts-based iVexSol has secured funding to the tune of $23.8 million in its latest Series A round. The new investors include Bristol Myers Squibb, manufacturer Charles River Laboratories and Asahi Kasei Medical.

iVexSol is a manufacturer of lentiviral vectors (LVV), used in making gene therapies, and this latest round of fundraising brings its total Series A total over $39 million, which will be used to recruit more employees and bolster its technology.

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John Rim, Samsung Biologics CEO (Samsung/PR Newswire)

Sam­sung Bi­o­log­ics spells out ex­pan­sion plans in South Ko­rea and US

The CDMO arm of one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates has posted its year-end results and plans for 2023, which include new construction.

Samsung Biologics netted north of KRW 3 trillion ($2.4 billion) in 2022 revenue and an operating profit of KRW 983.6 billion ($799 million), which the company touted on Friday as “record-high earnings.” The revenue boost was 55% compared to 2021.

No­var­tis' ap­proved sick­le cell dis­ease drug fails to beat place­bo in PhI­II

Novartis’ sickle cell drug, approved in 2019 and branded as Adakveo, has failed an ongoing Phase III, according to preliminary results.

The Swiss pharma giant unveiled early data from the ongoing STAND Phase III study on Friday, saying that crizanlizumab showed no statistically significant difference between the drug at two different dose levels compared to placebo in annualized rates of vaso-occlusive crises that lead to a healthcare visit over the first year since being randomized into the trial.