News brief­ing: Amar­in's pan­el could put Vas­cepa patents in jeop­ardy; San­thera nabs a Duchenne drug

Amarin’s fish oil em­pire may be slip­ping out of its grasp.

On Wednes­day, in the lat­est twist in a long le­gal bat­tle, the ap­peal pan­el of judges was an­nounced for the patent dis­pute be­tween Amarin with two gener­ic drug­mak­ers that are look­ing to make off-brand de­ci­sion. No rul­ing has yet been made — the hear­ing starts at 10:30 this morn­ing — but an­a­lysts be­lieved that the de­ci­sion could come down to which judges were cho­sen, and that these judges may be un­like­ly to de­cide in Amarin’s fa­vor. The stock fell 17% pre-mar­ket.

In a note, Stifel’s Derek Archi­la said the judges’ view on Amarin was mixed, but giv­en that a low per­cent­age of such dis­putes are re­versed on ap­peal, the se­lec­tion did not bode well. “Giv­en the low rates of suc­cess for a re­ver­sal in these types of cas­es (10-20%), we think this doesn’t im­prove the odds,” he wrote.

SVB Leerink’s Ami Fa­dia struck a sim­i­lar tone. “Bot­tom line: Over­all, we don’t be­lieve this 3-judge pan­el im­proves Amarin’s chances at win­ning the Vas­cepa patent lit­i­ga­tion ap­peal.” And Jef­feries’ Michael Yee may have been the bluntest: “Judge pan­el looks mixed at best,” he wrote.

Last De­cem­ber, the FDA opened a path for Amarin’s fish oil drug Vas­cepa to be­come a block­buster, ex­pand­ing its ap­proval to in­clude pre­ven­tion of heart at­tacks and stroke. But just four months lat­er a fed­er­al judge ruled that Amarin’s patents on the drug were in­valid, set­ting up Hik­ma Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Dr. Red­dy’s to mar­ket gener­ic al­ter­na­tives. Amarin ap­pealed, lead­ing to to­day’s hear­ing. — Ja­son Mast

San­thera wheels and deals its way to glob­al Duchenne rights

In a three-way deal, San­thera has picked up glob­al rights to the Duchenne drug it signed on­to two years ago.

The drug, known as va­morolone, is a steroid that is de­signed to have the same ef­fects as the cor­ti­cos­teroids Duchenne pa­tients now take to slow dis­ease progress but with­out the sys­tem­at­ic side ef­fects those steroids cause. Rever­a­Gen de­vel­oped the com­pounds and signed an op­tion agree­ment with Actel­lion in 2016. Two years lat­er, Actel­lion — now known as Idor­sia — sold the op­tion to San­thera.

So far, on­ly Phase IIa da­ta com­par­ing pa­tients on the drug to nat­ur­al his­to­ry com­para­tors have come out. San­thera’s op­tion al­lowed them to wait un­til Phase IIb da­ta emerged, but they chose to act ear­ly, giv­ing Idor­sia 366,667 shares and an ex­change­able note for 10 mil­lion CHF ($11 mil­lion) to re­struc­ture the deal. Rever­a­gen, in turn, will re­ceive $7 mil­lion — giv­en in month­ly in­stall­ments of $500,000 to con­tin­ue de­vel­op­ment.

With San­thera trad­ing at $7.35, Idor­sia’s new shares are worth about $2.7 mil­lion.  — Ja­son Mast

Small Is­raeli pain biotech finds scant pur­chase for IPO

As the biotech boom surged in the US, the Is­raeli biotech PainRe­form sought to get in on the ac­tion and raise $25 mil­lion to ad­vance their top­i­cal post-op pain drug. The com­pa­ny, though, has strug­gled to find buy­ers. They of­fi­cial­ly filed to raise $23 mil­lion by sell­ing shares be­tween $8 and $10, but yes­ter­day an­nounced they priced on the low end, ul­ti­mate­ly net­ting $20 mil­lion.

That should still be enough, though, to cov­er the cost of clin­i­cal tri­als. In their F-1, the cit­ed $16 mil­lion as the es­ti­mat­ed cost of two piv­otal tri­als for their lead drug, ropi­va­caine. — Ja­son Mast

Clene NanoMed­i­cine SPACs its way to pub­lic mar­kets

Clene Nanomed­i­cine, a com­pa­ny re­search­ing the use of gold nanocrys­tals for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, has an­nounced plans to go pub­lic. The com­pa­ny is go­ing the SPAC route, earn­ing a $542.5 mil­lion val­u­a­tion and net­ting a $25 mil­lion pay­ment from Tot­ten­ham Ac­qui­si­tion I Lim­it­ed in the process.

Wednes­day’s news comes on the heels of a $42.5 mil­lion Se­ries D round last week. Thus far, ALS has been Clene’s lead in­di­ca­tion, as the com­pa­ny was re­cent­ly se­lect­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the first-ever plat­form tri­al for the dis­ease. Pit­ting its CNM-Au8 against two oth­er ALS can­di­dates and place­bo, the Phase III study be­gan en­rolling pa­tients last month. Clene has al­so seen signs that the same can­di­date could po­ten­tial­ly treat pa­tients with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and Parkin­son’s dis­ease. It is run­ning con­cur­rent Phase II tri­als in those in­di­ca­tions, as well as ALS.  — Max Gel­man

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

FDA ad­comm to de­cide on mol­nupi­ravir EUA; Can­cer at­las un­veils new po­ten­tial drug tar­get

The FDA has another adcomm coming down the pipeline — this time on Covid-19 oral antiviral molnupiravir.

The federal agency’s advisory committee will meet on November 30th to go over Merck and Ridgeback’s EUA request for their investigational antiviral drug, and discuss the available data supporting its use in Covid-19 patients.

This comes two weeks after Merck claimed that their antiviral pill reduced the chance that newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients would be hospitalized or die by 50%. The pharma made the announcement after interim data on 775 patients in their clinical trial showed the antiviral’s potential.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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