More than 2 years af­ter the ug­ly ro­ci de­ba­cle, Clo­vis says that the SEC is prep­ping civ­il charges

The hot wa­ter that Clo­vis $CLVS has been in with the SEC for the past two years is be­gin­ning to boil.

Clo­vis CEO Patrick Ma­haffy

The biotech to­day alert­ed in­vestors that the SEC has filed a Wells No­tice, sig­nal­ing its in­ten­tion to bring civ­il ac­tions against cur­rent and for­mer ex­ecs at the can­cer drug biotech. The SEC fil­ing did not spec­i­fy what ac­tions it will face, but Clo­vis did say it plans to con­test any charges.

Clo­vis’ 10-K has spot­light­ed an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the SEC and the Jus­tice De­part­ment in­to an ug­ly in­ci­dent in late 2015 cen­tered on their now de­funct lung can­cer drug rocile­tinib, say­ing it was co­op­er­at­ing with the feds on their probe.

Here’s what hap­pened:

With shares pumped to about $100, Clo­vis stunned in­vestors in late 2015 when it sud­den­ly slashed the re­sponse rate on rocile­tinib for non-small cell lung can­cer to 34% for the 625-mg dose arm, and 28% for the 500-mg dose arm, a plunge of more than 20 points. The news put the drug—un­til then po­si­tioned as a promis­ing ri­val to Tagris­so (AZD9291) backed with peak sales pro­jec­tions of $3 bil­lion—at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage, and the sub­se­quent rout evis­cer­at­ed the biotech’s share price.

Set­backs hap­pen in biotech. But some of the ex­perts who watched this drug say this was not the usu­al kind of clin­i­cal re­ver­sal that can eas­i­ly oc­cur in a risky field like drug de­vel­op­ment.

Clo­vis, run by well-known CEO Patrick Ma­haffy, had been pur­pose­ly mis­lead­ing in­vestors with a false por­trait of the da­ta, they claimed. 

“I feel that the ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta have, con­sis­tent­ly and re­peat­ed­ly, over many years, been mis­rep­re­sent­ed,” R&D ex­pert Kapil Dhin­gra told me months lat­er af­ter he wrote an analy­sis of the da­ta for An­nals of On­col­o­gy. “This is not sim­ply a case of gray zones, this is black and white un­true pre­sen­ta­tion of the da­ta. And it is not just a mi­nor mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion (such as pho­to­shop­ping a west­ern blot im­age etc that can get a ba­sic sci­en­tist in trou­ble); the true ef­fi­ca­cy is about half of what they rep­re­sent­ed.”

The FDA made short work of Clo­vis’ ap­pli­ca­tion, re­ject­ing the mar­ket­ing bid af­ter a pan­el of ex­perts shook their heads over a risky safe­ty pro­file and a poor­ly de­fined pro­file of ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta. Clo­vis then dumped the drug rather than try to mount a new study, and turned their at­ten­tion to a late-stage PARP ther­a­py, win­ning an OK for Rubra­ca. Just yes­ter­day it won an ex­pand­ed OK to sell the drug as a main­te­nance ther­a­py.

Reg­u­la­tors, though, have a rep for be­ing slow and steady on the en­force­ment front. And they’ve ev­i­dent­ly stayed fo­cused on Clo­vis.

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others.

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

UP­DAT­ED: Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 84,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

New stan­dard of care? FDA hands Pfiz­er, Mer­ck KGaA an OK for Baven­cio in blad­der can­cer

The breakthrough therapy designation Pfizer and Merck KGaA notched for Bavencio in bladder cancer has quickly paved way for a full approval.

The PD-L1 drug is now sanctioned as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, applicable in cases where cancer hasn’t progressed after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Petros Grivas, the principal investigator of the supporting Phase III JAVELIN Bladder 100, called the approval “one of the most significant advances in the treatment paradigm in this setting in 30 years.”

On a roll, Mer­ck blazes through a new seg­ment of the bio­mark­er trail

Merck has notched an approval for using Keytruda to treat a biomarker-based subset of first-line colorectal cancer patients with unresectable or metastatic tumors, as the pharma giant continues to find new niches for its blockbuster PD-1 star.

The OK is significant in a number of ways. Not only does it build on an accelerated approval for all tumors characterized as microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR); it also marks the first single treatment for colorectal cancer that doesn’t contain chemotherapy.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Patrick Straub/​EPA-EFE/​Shutterstock)

No­var­tis pays $678M for kick­back scheme as Vas Narasimhan tries to dis­tance phar­ma gi­ant from shady be­hav­ior

Novartis has reached another large settlement to resolve misconduct allegations, agreeing to pay more than $678 million to settle claims that it had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lavish dinners, so-called speaking fees and expensive alcohol “that were nothing more than bribes” to get doctors to prescribe Novartis medications.

The top-shelf alcohol and lavish meals included a $3,250 per person night at Nobu in Dallas, a $672-per person dinner at Washington DC’s Smith & Wollensky and a $314 per person meal at Sushi Roku in Pasadena, according to the Justice Department complaint. There were at least 7 trips to Hooters and fishing trips in Alaska and off the Florida coast. Each of these events were supposed to be “speaker programs” where doctors educated other doctors on a drug, but the DOJ alleged many were “bogus” wine-and-dine events where the drug was barely mentioned, if at all.  (“Nobody presented slides on the fishing trips,” the complaint says.)

No­var­tis los­es biosim­i­lar ap­peal as court up­holds a 31-year mo­nop­oly by Am­gen's En­brel

A new court ruling has strengthened Amgen’s grip on the IP estate around Enbrel, keeping biosimilars of the autoimmune and inflammatory drug at bay until 2029.

Novartis, the patent challenger, isn’t throwing in the towel yet. In a statement noting the failed appeal, its generics division Sandoz noted its reviewing options, “including potential appeal to US Supreme Court.”

It’s been almost four years since the FDA approved Erelzi, Sandoz’s copycat version of Enbrel. While sales of the Pfizer-partnered drug in the US — the market Amgen is in charge of — have dipped slightly during that time, it remains a solid megablockbuster with 2019 revenue slightly above $5 billion.