My­lan CEO Bresch hopes to tame the mob with a 50% dis­count for the EpiPen

Buck­ling un­der a storm of protest over its move to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly raise the price of its life-sav­ing EpiPen by 500%, My­lan an­nounced this morn­ing that it will pro­duce a gener­ic of the au­to-in­jec­tor and sell it for $300, or half price to the brand­ed prod­uct.

CEO Heather Bresch, who has been the cen­ter of an in­tense pub­lic spot­light since the con­tro­ver­sy broke out, once again blamed the whole thing on the in­dus­try sup­ply chain. But that nev­er gar­nered much sym­pa­thy from an out­raged pub­lic, which saw the move as yet an­oth­er ex­am­ple of price goug­ing from an in­dus­try un­fet­tered by fed­er­al pric­ing re­stric­tions. One of the com­pa­ny’s few de­fend­ers was Mar­tin Shkre­li, the dis­graced biotech ex­ec oust­ed from two com­pa­nies and now await­ing tri­al on fraud charges. Hillary Clin­ton and a va­ri­ety of lead­ing politi­cians in Wash­ing­ton, DC, though, coun­tered by call­ing Bresch on the car­pet for prof­i­teer­ing, a hot top in drug in­dus­try cir­cles, which has been treat­ed to a steady se­ries of pric­ing scan­dals from Shkre­li, My­lan and Valeant.

At one point last week the con­tro­ver­sy dent­ed biotech stocks in gen­er­al as in­vestors once again were faced with the po­ten­tial for new fed­er­al pric­ing rules that could hold back reg­u­lar price hikes on ag­ing prod­ucts, an in­dus­try stan­dard in bio­phar­ma that is fol­lowed by a large num­ber of com­pa­nies.

My­lan had at­tempt­ed to quell the the furor with a more ag­gres­sive ef­fort to cov­er out-of-pock­et costs for pa­tients, but that wasn’t go­ing to help every­one who re­lies on the EpiPen to pre­vent a po­ten­tial­ly lethal al­ler­gic re­sponse. This dis­count­ed prod­uct will al­so help counter any oth­er gener­ic threat to the mar­ket.

Here’s what Bresch of­fered ear­ly Mon­day:

“Our de­ci­sion to launch a gener­ic al­ter­na­tive to EpiPen is an ex­tra­or­di­nary com­mer­cial re­sponse, which re­quired the co­op­er­a­tion of our part­ner. How­ev­er, be­cause of the com­plex­i­ty and opaque­ness of to­day’s brand­ed phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sup­ply chain and the in­creased shift­ing of costs to pa­tients as a re­sult of high de­ductible health plans, we de­ter­mined that by­pass­ing the brand sys­tem in this case and of­fer­ing an ad­di­tion­al al­ter­na­tive was the best op­tion. Gener­ic drugs have a long, proven track record of de­liv­er­ing sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings to both pa­tients and the over­all health­care sys­tem. The launch of a gener­ic EpiPen, which fol­lows the steps we took last week on the brand to im­me­di­ate­ly re­duce pa­tients’ out-of-pock­et costs, will of­fer a long-term so­lu­tion to fur­ther re­duce costs and ease the bur­den and com­plex­i­ty of the process on the pa­tient.”

The dis­count­ed gener­ic will like­ly be seen as lit­tle more than a face-sav­ing move by Bresch, who al­ways had the pow­er to drop the price of the brand­ed EpiPen back to a more ac­cept­able price.

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors. 

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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