Nine block­buster drugs to watch are mak­ing their de­but, aim­ing at a $16B prize in 2021

The bio­phar­ma in­dus­try is front-load­ing block­buster drug ap­provals this year.

Clar­i­vate An­a­lyt­ics list­ed the 9 block­busters their an­a­lysts ex­pect to see ap­proved by the FDA this year, and on­ly 4 of them have yet to get the green light in ear­ly Q2, in­clud­ing No­vo Nordisk’s semaglu­tide, their GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes, and As­traZeneca’s PD-L1 check­point dur­val­um­ab.

It’s a new world in the pay­er com­mu­ni­ty, and the con­sen­sus peak sales pro­jec­tions seem to be fur­ther off the mark than ever as the com­mer­cial kick­back grows steadi­ly worse. But it is al­ways in­ter­est­ing to see what an­a­lysts be­lieve the big new drugs of the year are go­ing to be worth 5 years down the road.

In this case, as out­lined in the Drugs to Watch re­port, the to­tal is $16 bil­lion in an­nu­al rev­enue.


Top of the mark: Ocre­vus, the new MS drug from Roche with an es­ti­mat­ed rev­enue stream of $3.3 bil­lion in 2021. Right be­hind comes Dupix­ent, the stel­lar eczema break­through from Re­gen­eron and Sanofi, which is ex­pect­ed to hit $2.8 bil­lion.

Mer­ck KGaA makes the list — prob­a­bly for the first le­git­i­mate block­buster thumbs up in more than a decade — for their check­point avelum­ab, part­nered with Pfiz­er and now ap­proved to be sold as Baven­cio. They have the num­ber 4 check­point on the mar­ket, with As­traZeneca now poised to get 5th place.

But Clar­i­vate has As­traZeneca beat­ing out the more ad­vanced ri­val, pre­sum­ably cred­it­ing their shot at a com­bo ap­proach with the in-house CT­LA-4 check­point treme­li­mum­ab. In­creas­ing­ly, though, an­a­lysts are won­der­ing if PD-L1 and CT­LA-4 are such a good match, con­sid­er­ing the tox pro­file.

So re­mem­ber, these are just es­ti­mates. And 2021 is a long, long way away.

As usu­al, the phar­ma gi­ants dom­i­nate the list, but biotech is clear­ly play­ing a big role in the lead-up to com­mer­cial­iza­tion. Tesaro — the new PARP play­er — makes the list along with Re­gen­eron’s stand­out an­ti­body team. And this year In­cyte gets in­to the block­buster lane, with Eli Lil­ly, on the im­pres­sive baric­i­tinib, which is look­ing at a loom­ing PDU­FA date. Kite just bare­ly falls short of block­buster sta­tus on this list with its pi­o­neer­ing and new­ly filed CAR-T, but some­thing tells me they’ll give this one an ex­tra push to see if they can break the mark ear­li­er.

Lists rarely repli­cate each oth­er. Eval­u­atePhar­ma put to­geth­er their list of top drugs in the pipeline, and came up with 15 prospec­tive block­busters. Ei­ther way you look at it, though, it’s go­ing to be a bet­ter year than 2016, when the FDA record­ed OKs on on­ly 22 new drugs.

Check out their re­port, which al­so looks at the way sales are pro­ject­ed to build over the next 5 years. We’ll be keep­ing score.


Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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Roche and Genen­tech re­searchers plot $53M dis­cov­ery quest aimed at spark­ing a 'Holy moly' piv­ot in neu­ro R&D

Roche and Genentech have committed $53 million to back a 10-year quest aimed at going back to the drawing board to use new technology and fresh scientific insights to generate a pipeline of drugs for neurological diseases.

Researchers from both Roche and its big South San Francisco hub — mixing teams from gRED and pRED this time — will mix it up with the scientists drawn together for the Weill Neurohub — formed in 2019 as a joint research partnership involving UCSF, Berkeley and the University of Washington — in an exploration of the field to develop new therapies for some of the toughest diseases in drug R&D: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS and autism.

Am­gen, As­traZeneca speed to­ward fil­ing next-gen an­ti­body for asth­ma af­ter un­cork­ing full late-stage da­ta

On the hunt for a novel competitor to Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent in severe asthma, Amgen and AstraZeneca posted “exciting” results from their next-gen antibody late last year. Now, the partners are showing their hands, and the results look good enough for approval.

Amgen and AstraZeneca’s tezepelumab plus standard of care cut the rate of severe asthma attacks by 56% at the one-year mark compared with SOC alone, according to full data from the Phase III NAVIGATOR study presented Friday at the virtual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting. And those significant results were consistent regardless of patients’ baseline eosinophil counts.

S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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