My­lan at­tacks Al­ler­gan over its Mo­hawk-al­lied patent strat­e­gy — but the CEO is stick­ing to his guns

Brent Saun­ders (cen­ter, with mi­cro­phone) speaks at an End­points News event at the JP Mor­gan con­fer­ence ear­li­er this year End­points News


My­lan didn’t wait long be­fore chal­leng­ing Al­ler­gan’s bid to safe­guard its patents for its block­buster eye drug Resta­sis by flip­ping the rights to the drug to a Mo­hawk In­di­an tribe and then li­cens­ing them back.

Last week’s le­gal gam­bit, My­lan said in a court fil­ing, is a sim­ple at­tempt to “mis­use Na­tive Amer­i­can sov­er­eign­ty to shield in­valid patents from can­cel­la­tion.”

But don’t look for Al­ler­gan — or its lawyers — to cave in now or any­time. No mat­ter what re­ac­tion they get, they plan to fight this one out.

The move by Al­ler­gan trig­gered a num­ber of crit­i­cal re­views, in­clud­ing one of my own late last week that un­der­scored my thoughts that Al­ler­gan had squan­dered what­ev­er moral ad­van­tage it had gained by show­ing re­straint on drug pric­ing last fall with a bit of le­gal trick­ery that would on­ly reignite the pub­lic’s scorn for un­scrupu­lous phar­ma com­pa­nies and their lawyers.

Al­ler­gan CEO Brent Saun­ders and chief le­gal of­fi­cer Bob Bai­ley took a few min­utes on Mon­day to ex­plain their po­si­tion. (They can re­ply to My­lan in court.)

“We can cer­tain­ly agree to dis­agree,” Saun­ders told me, adding adamant­ly that “every­thing we have done here is com­plete­ly con­sis­tent with our so­cial con­tract.”

The CEO and chief le­gal of­fi­cer at Al­ler­gan say what’s un­fair is be­ing forced to square off si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly on two sep­a­rate le­gal fronts as it fights to keep con­trol of its big fran­chise ther­a­py. The IRP chal­lenge, adds Saun­ders, is a flawed process that hedge funds and oth­ers have grabbed on to in search of an Achilles heel they can tar­get. Patent chal­lenges should be re­strict­ed to the fed­er­al court.

Be­sides, they add, state uni­ver­si­ties have the same pro­tect­ed patent sta­tus as the tribes achieve with sov­er­eign im­mu­ni­ty, and no one makes a fuss about that. Pay­ing the Saint Reg­is Mo­hawk tribe — look­ing to di­ver­si­fy be­yond its casi­no op­er­a­tion — $13.75 mil­lion for this, they ar­gue, al­so is an op­por­tu­ni­ty to help out an im­pov­er­ished peo­ple who can use the mon­ey for health­care and oth­er ser­vices.

“We are ab­solute­ly go­ing to stick with this,” adds the CEO, as a nec­es­sary strat­e­gy for bal­anc­ing the needs of the mar­ket and in­vestors against the un­cer­tain world of drug R&D, where the risk of fail­ure runs deep.

To in­vest in R&D, they add, “we need the full pro­tec­tion of the courts.” If any­thing, the fo­cus should be on patent re­form.

To me, it all just looks like an “any­thing goes” ap­proach that land­ed the in­dus­try in a tub of boil­ing hot pub­lic dis­gust on mar­ket­ing prac­tices — which con­tin­ues to taint the in­dus­try. And there are plen­ty of ways they can help im­pov­er­ished peo­ple with­out get­ting patent at­tor­neys in­volved.

But I’m not chang­ing any­one’s mind at Al­ler­gan ei­ther. The con­tro­ver­sy over the ma­neu­ver, though, will on­ly grow. Reuters re­ports to­day that a tech group has al­so trans­ferred patents to the tribe, and an at­tor­ney in­volved says that you can ex­pect plen­ty more such cas­es to fol­low.

The deals an­nounced so far “are just the tip of the ice­berg,” said David Prid­ham, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Dal­las-based Do­min­ion Har­bor Group. “There are dozens and dozens of tribes talk­ing to law firms about this struc­ture.”

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

Two days after a fairly benign review from FDA staff, an independent panel of experts largely endorsed the efficacy and safety of Aimmune’s peanut allergy therapy, laying the groundwork for approval with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS).

Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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Tal Zaks. Moderna

The mR­NA uni­corn Mod­er­na has more ear­ly-stage hu­man da­ta it wants to show off — reach­ing new peaks in prov­ing the po­ten­tial

The whole messenger RNA field has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investor cash gambled on the prospect of getting in on the ground floor. And this morning Boston-based Moderna, one of the leaders in the field, wants to show off a few more of the cards it has to play to prove to you that they’re really in the game.

The whole hand, of course, has yet to be dealt. And there’s no telling who gets to walk with a share of the pot. But any cards on display at this point — especially after being accused of keeping its deck under lock and key — will attract plenty of attention from some very wary, and wired, observers.

“In terms of the complexity and unmet need,” says Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer, “this is peak for what we’ve accomplished.”

Moderna has two Phase I studies it wants to talk about now.

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Sanofi takes a $260M hit to ex­tri­cate it­self from a dis­as­trous al­liance with Lex­i­con

Sanofi spent $300 million in cash to get into a $1.7 billion alliance with Lexicon on their SGLT1/2 diabetes drug sotagliflozin. And now that the drug has been spurned by the FDA after burning through a program that provided mixed late-stage data and a late shot at a last-place finish, the French pharma giant is forking over another $260 million to get out of the deal.

Sanofi’s unhappiness was already apparent when the company — now under new CEO Paul Hudson — posted a statement back in July that they were dropping the deal. But it wasn’t that simple. 

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Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

Ear­ly snap­shot of Ad­verum's eye gene ther­a­py sparks con­cern about vi­sion loss

An early-stage update on Adverum Biotechnologies’ intravitreal gene therapy has triggered investor concern, after patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) saw their vision deteriorate, despite signs that the treatment is improving retinal anatomy.

Adverum, on Wednesday, unveiled 24-week data from the OPTIC trial of its experimental therapy, ADVM-022, in six patients who have been administered with one dose of the therapy. On average, patients in the trial had severe disease with an average of 6.2 anti-VEGF injections in the eight months prior to screening and an average annualized injection frequency of 9.3 injections.

Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.