Mer­ck’s $1B cash gam­ble pays off with a sur­pris­ing PhI­II car­dio suc­cess for Bay­er’s heart drug veri­ciguat

More than 3 years af­ter Mer­ck stepped up and paid $1 bil­lion in cold, hard cash to gain the US com­mer­cial rights to Bay­er’s high-risk heart drug veri­ciguat in a broad-rang­ing car­dio al­liance, the part­ners say their Phase III study has come through with promis­ing da­ta and a date with reg­u­la­tors.

We don’t have the da­ta, and won’t un­til they put it out at an up­com­ing sci­en­tif­ic ses­sion, but Mer­ck tout­ed the re­sults, say­ing that their big Phase III VIC­TO­RIA study hit the pri­ma­ry end­point  — with veri­ciguat com­bined with avail­able ther­a­pies re­duc­ing “the risk of the com­pos­ite end­point of heart fail­ure hos­pi­tal­iza­tion or car­dio­vas­cu­lar death in pa­tients with wors­en­ing chron­ic heart fail­ure with re­duced ejec­tion frac­tion (HFrEF) com­pared to place­bo when giv­en in com­bi­na­tion with avail­able heart fail­ure ther­a­pies.”

De­pend­ing on the hard da­ta, and how it breaks out with the com­bi­na­tions used, this drug could pose a threat to No­var­tis’ block­buster drug En­tresto, cur­rent­ly at $1.6 bil­lion while an­a­lysts ex­pect peak sales to hit $4 bil­lion.

The drug is a sol­u­ble guany­late cy­clase (sGC) stim­u­la­tor, which Bay­er and Mer­ck have had high hopes for. Ev­i­dent­ly, so did car­di­ol­o­gists. Cowen’s last analy­sis set po­ten­tial sales at $400 mil­lion in 2024, but that num­ber could go up sig­nif­i­cant­ly now.

Cowen’s Steve Scala not­ed this morn­ing:

Veri­ciguat could be a lu­cra­tive prod­uct for Mer­ck, and one with po­ten­tial­ly un­der-ap­pre­ci­at­ed val­ue. At Cowen’s Ther­a­peu­tics Con­fer­ence in Sep­tem­ber 2019, 80% of spe­cial­ists an­tic­i­pat­ed a pos­i­tive re­sult from VIC­TO­RIA where­as on­ly 51% of in­vestors shared this op­ti­mism.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­cruit­ed more than 5,000 pa­tients at more than 600 cen­ters in 42 coun­tries for this study — one of the most ex­pen­sive propo­si­tions in R&D. Mil­lions of peo­ple in the US suf­fer from heart fail­ure with re­duced ejec­tion frac­tion when the fail­ing heart fails to con­tract prop­er­ly to eject blood in­to the sys­tem. Bay­er holds ex-US rights to the drug and al­so stands to earn cash from the $1.1 bil­lion in mile­stones Mer­ck agreed on for their col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Re­mark­ably, the drug was pushed in­to Phase III de­spite fail­ing the mid-stage tri­al — though in­ves­ti­ga­tors flagged a suc­cess at the high dose of 10 mg. In VIC­TO­RIA, re­searchers start­ed pa­tients at 2.5 mg and then titrat­ed up to 5 and then 10 mg.

The suc­cess here marks the lat­est in a se­ries of col­lab­o­ra­tive wins for Mer­ck, which en­joys these oc­ca­sion­al splurges. One of their biggest suc­cess­es has been tied to As­traZeneca’s Lyn­parza, where they’ve been pur­su­ing an ac­tive sched­ule of new tri­als aimed at ex­pand­ing use.

“VIC­TO­RIA is the first large con­tem­po­rary out­comes study to fo­cus ex­clu­sive­ly on a pop­u­la­tion with wors­en­ing chron­ic heart fail­ure who have a high risk for car­dio­vas­cu­lar mor­tal­i­ty and re­peat­ed heart fail­ure hos­pi­tal­iza­tions. We are pleased veri­ciguat met this pri­ma­ry end­point and look for­ward to shar­ing the de­tailed find­ings of the study,” said Mer­ck CMO Roy Baynes in a state­ment.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, oncology R&D, at EUBIO22 (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca jumps deep­er in­to cell ther­a­py 2.0 space with $320M biotech M&A

Right from the start, the execs at Neogene had some lofty goals in mind when they decided to try their hand at a cell therapy that could tackle solid tumors.

Its founders have helped hone a new approach that would pack in multiple neoantigen targets to create a personalized TCR treatment that would not just make the leap from blood to solid tumors, but do it with durability. And they managed to make their way rapidly to the clinic, unveiling their first Phase I program for advanced tumors just last May.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Ei­sai’s ex­pand­ed Alzheimer’s da­ta leave open ques­tions about safe­ty and clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Researchers still have key questions about Eisai’s investigational Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab following the publication of more Phase III data in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday night.

In the paper, which was released in conjunction with presentations at an Alzheimer’s conference, trial investigators write that a definition of clinical meaningfulness “has not been established.” And the relative lack of new information, following topline data unveiled in September, left experts asking for more — setting up a potential showdown to precisely define how big a difference the drug makes in patients’ lives.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

iECURE CEO Joe Truitt and founder Jim Wilson

Jim Wil­son biotech iECURE gets fresh $65M to push pe­di­atric liv­er dis­ease gene ther­a­py in­to the clin­ic

Jim Wilson-founded biotech iECURE has wrapped a $65M Series A extension round to get its lead candidate — a gene replacement therapy for a rare inherited liver disease known as ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, or OTC — into the clinic.

This round was co-led by Novo Holdings and LYFE Capital, followed by initial investors Versant and OrbiMed as well. In September 2021, iECURE raised a $50 million Series A led by the latter two. The new cash infusion will get iECURE through an initial in-human trial, which CEO Joe Truitt told Endpoints News iECURE hopes to read out in 2024.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 153,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

Twit­ter dis­ar­ray con­tin­ues as phar­ma ad­ver­tis­ers ex­tend paus­es and look around for op­tions, but keep tweet­ing

Pharma advertisers on Twitter are done — at least for now. Ad spending among the previous top spenders flattened even further last week, according to the latest data from ad tracker Pathmatics, amid ongoing turmoil after billionaire boss Elon Musk’s takeover now one month ago.

Among 18 top advertisers tracked for Endpoints News, only two are spending: GSK and Bayer. GSK spending for the full week through Sunday was minimal at just under $1,900. Meanwhile, German drugmaker Bayer remains the industry outlier upping its spending to $499,000 last week from $480,000 the previous week. Bayer’s spending also marks a big increase from a month ago and before the Musk takeover, when it spent $16,000 per week.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Vi­a­tris with­draws ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for top­i­cal an­timi­cro­bial 24 years lat­er

After 24 years without confirming clinical benefit, the FDA announced Tuesday morning that Viatris (formed via Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn) has decided to withdraw a topical antimicrobial agent, Sulfamylon (mafenide acetate), after the company said conducting a confirmatory study was not feasible.

Sulfamylon first won FDA’s accelerated nod in 1998 as a topical burn treatment, with the FDA noting that last December, Mylan told the agency that it wasn’t running the trial.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 153,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Catal­ent to cut about 200 jobs in Mary­land and Texas

Contract manufacturing company Catalent is cutting about 200 jobs in Maryland and Texas, according to WARN notices, trimming back some of its pandemic-era expansion.

The company will cut 77 jobs by Jan. 15 of next year at a cell therapy facility in Webster, TX, just outside of Houston. In Maryland, the company is reducing staff at two locations, with 82 jobs being eliminated at Catalent’s facility in Gaithersburg, and 53 in Rockville. The layoffs go into effect at those locations on Jan. 14.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 153,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

John Carroll with David Chang, Allogene CEO (Credit: Jeff Rumans Photography)

Al­lo­gene takes the stage in New York to go deep on its off-the-shelf cell ther­a­pies — de­clar­ing a first for sol­id tu­mors

NEW YORK — In most cases, a biotech like Allogene would wait until the next big science conference to offer its latest series of snapshots of its data. But most biotechs aren’t like Allogene, where the veteran leaders from Kite garnered a substantial number of kudos over the years for their in-depth reviews of the company’s progress.

So on Tuesday, the leaders at Allogene converged on Manhattan once again to give a detailed breakdown of their latest steps forward, looking to stay out front in the busy off-the-shelf cell therapy arena, keep a clean bill of health on the safety front and prove that they can not only match the autologous pioneers they helped create but make the all-important leap into solid tumors. It’s another step forward in a journey that has a long way to go before even the first big regulatory finish lines appear on the track. But for CEO David Chang, who spent some time with me running through the data ahead of the Tuesday session, it all amounts to forward momentum toward the desired goal.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

UK reg­u­la­tor warns of se­vere eye re­ac­tions fol­low­ing use of Sanofi and Re­gen­eron's Dupix­ent

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on Tuesday warned of some new and serious eye-related side effects following the use of Sanofi and Regeneron’s atopic dermatitis and asthma treatment Dupixent (dupilumab).

While Dupixent is already associated with cases of conjunctivitis and allergic conjunctivitis, dry eye and with infrequent cases of keratitis and ulcerative keratitis, the MHRA is calling on health professionals to be on the lookout for any of these eye-related side effects as “it is not currently possible to predict who may experience the rarer and most severe ocular adverse reactions, such as ulcerative keratitis.”

Jeb Keiper, Nimbus Therapeutics CEO

PhI­Ib win puts Nim­bus one step clos­er to chal­leng­ing Bris­tol My­ers in TYK2

Bristol Myers Squibb might be the first to clinch an FDA approval for a TYK2 inhibitor, but Nimbus Therapeutics is out to prove that it has the best drug in the class. The biotech says it now has positive mid-stage data to back up those claims — although it’s saving the hard numbers for now.

Topline results from a Phase IIb study involving 259 patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis showed that Nimbus’ drug, NDI-034858, hit the primary endpoint of helping more patients achieve PASI-75 than placebo at 12 weeks.