No­var­tis lays out block­buster launch­es for 2018-2020, with sur­pris­ing in­clu­sion of Kym­ri­ah

As No­var­tis shakes off its Al­con eye busi­ness and the loss of two high-pro­file ex­ec­u­tives, chief Vas Narasimhan has out­lined the Swiss drug­mak­er’s ros­ter of 14 block­buster launch­es, a bulk of which are ex­pect­ed to win ap­proval be­tween this year and 2020. The drugs in­clud­ed in the list are large­ly fa­mil­iar, but the in­clu­sion of the com­pa­ny’s pi­o­neer­ing CAR-T ther­a­py Kym­ri­ah, whose adop­tion has been wob­bly due to man­u­fac­tur­ing woes, will raise some eye­brows.

In 2017, No­var­tis spent a hefty $9 bil­lion on R&D, mak­ing it one of the top spenders in glob­al bio­phar­ma. In­vestors ex­pect to see the com­pa­ny to now get bang for its buck. Last No­vem­ber, the com­pa­ny used it R&D re­view to high­light 26 block­buster con­tenders in its ar­se­nal and of­fer a rosy pic­ture of things to come af­ter suf­fer­ing a few knocks — the FDA re­ject­ing its heart drug, and the com­pa­ny aban­don­ing its at­tempt at a Rit­ux­an copy­cat.

Since then, the com­pa­ny has seen good days and bad. On the pos­i­tive front, its gene ther­a­py for SMA se­cured the FDA’s pri­or­i­ty re­view, and its sick­le cell drug won break­through ther­a­py sta­tus. The drug­mak­er al­so swal­lowed a cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­er in an at­tempt to un­clog the com­mer­cial roll­out for Kym­ri­ah. In a first for a multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny, No­var­tis’ San­doz unit tied up with Cana­di­an med­ical cannabis pro­duc­er Tilray, a land­mark en­dorse­ment of the con­tro­ver­sial plant. On Wednes­day, as part of its full-year 2018 re­sults, the drug­mak­er said four new­er prod­ucts — in­clud­ing Cosen­tyx and En­tresto — in its ros­ter of med­i­cines achieved block­buster sta­tus in 2018.

On the oth­er end of the scale, No­var­tis has al­so suf­fered a num­ber of set­backs in the last quar­ter of 2018. For in­stance, its mi­graine drug Aimovig — billed as a block­buster and part­nered with Am­gen — was re­fused en­dorse­ment by the UK’s NICE, months af­ter the agency de­clined to give the nod for Kym­ri­ah. Two top ex­ec­u­tives — CAR-T chief David Leb­wohl and on­col­o­gy head Liz Bar­rett — al­so left the drug­mak­er to take top po­si­tions in small biotechs. And J&J dealt No­var­tis a blow when its pso­ri­a­sis drug Trem­fya beat the dom­i­nant Cosen­tyx in a head-to-head study.

2018

  • AIMOVIG — The mi­graine drug forms part of a new crop of bi­o­log­ics tar­get­ing the CGRP pro­tein that trans­mits pain sig­nals in­to the brain. The drug was the first to win ap­proval in 2018, and with­in months ri­val treat­ments from Lil­ly and Te­va were al­so giv­en reg­u­la­to­ry nods. All three have demon­strat­ed sim­i­lar ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty in tri­als. Like its ri­vals, the drug is priced at $575 per month and has been pegged as a po­ten­tial block­buster. Fol­low­ing the NICE set­back, re­ports sug­gest­ed Aimovig was ex­clud­ed from phar­ma­cy ben­e­fits man­ag­er CVS’ for­mu­la­ry in the Unit­ed States. This will be a blow, but there are oth­er PBMs on the block.
  • KYM­RI­AH — The pi­o­neer­ing CAR-T drug was FDA ap­proved amidst great fan­fare in 2017, and since then the FDA has ex­pand­ed its use in the Unit­ed States and the EC al­so ap­proved the drug last Au­gust. NICE re­fused to en­dorse the pricey drug. Mean­while, ri­vals such as Gilead’s Yescar­ta have emerged, and Kym­ri­ah sales have suf­fered due to man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues. In the fourth quar­ter, the drug gen­er­at­ed a pal­try $28 mil­lion. How­ev­er, No­var­tis is do­ing its best to shore up man­u­fac­tur­ing, hav­ing bought cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­er Cell­for­Cure.
  • LU­TATHERA — The can­cer drug, which came with No­var­tis’ $4 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Ad­vanced Ac­cel­er­a­tor Ap­pli­ca­tions in 2017, paid off hand­some­ly in ear­ly 2018 af­ter the FDA gave it a quick OK. No­var­tis re­port­ed an 11% jump in on­col­o­gy rev­enue in the fourth quar­ter, dri­ven part­ly by Lu­tathera sales of $81 mil­lion.

2019

  • BYL719 — Oth­er­wise known as alpelis­ib, the PI3K in­hibitor near­ly dou­bled pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival in a third of pa­tients with a hard-to treat form of breast can­cer last Oc­to­ber. Oth­er drugs in this class, in­clud­ing Roche’s taselis­ib, have large­ly crashed and burned due to safe­ty con­cerns.
  • MAYZENT — Ex­pect­ed to launch this year, the MS drug al­so known as sipon­i­mod is crit­i­cal for the com­pa­ny as one of its top sell­ers Gilenya has gener­ic com­pe­ti­tion loom­ing. Com­pa­ny of­fi­cials have pre­vi­ous­ly de­scribed the drug’s da­ta in glow­ing terms, and an­a­lysts have con­curred, of­fer­ing a $3 bil­lion peak sales pro­jec­tion for the treat­ment.
  • RTH258 — The eye drug has been built up as a ri­val to Re­gen­eron’s flag­ship block­buster in­jec­tion Eylea and CEO Narasimhan has gone so far as to say RTH258 is “con­sis­tent­ly su­pe­ri­or” to Eylea, af­ter con­duct­ing ret­ro­spec­tive analy­ses of late-stage da­ta last year. Eylea has been un­touch­able for more than a decade, so it is up to No­var­tis to prove oth­er­wise.
  • ZOL­GENS­MA — The gene ther­a­py is cur­rent­ly un­der FDA re­view and the agency is ex­pect­ed to an­nounce its de­ci­sion in May. In its re­view post­ed in De­cem­ber, ICER sug­gest­ed the Zol­gens­ma — with a list price of $2 mil­lion — would of­fer more cost-ef­fec­tive ben­e­fit in the long run ver­sus ri­val Bio­gen’s Spin­raza. How­ev­er, the Swiss drug­mak­er has sug­gest­ed a price of $4 mil­lion for the cu­ra­tive ther­a­py, which it ac­quired via a $8.7 bil­lion takeover of AveX­is, may be jus­ti­fied.

2020

  • COSEN­TYX — The pso­ri­a­sis drug that be­came a block­buster in 2016 is one of No­var­tis’ key drugs, and the drug­mak­er is work­ing on ex­pand­ing the IL-17A in­hibitor’s mar­ket by in­clud­ing pa­tients with pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis, anky­los­ing spondyli­tis and non-ra­di­ograph­ic ax­i­al spondy­larthri­tis (nrAxS­pA). Piv­otal da­ta are ex­pect­ed lat­er this year and, if pos­i­tive, will be fol­lowed by a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the end of this year.
  • EN­TRESTO — The med­i­cine is an­oth­er top sell­er for No­var­tis and is cur­rent­ly ap­proved for HFrEF (for­mer­ly known as sys­tolic heart fail­ure) — in these pa­tients the heart mus­cle does not con­tract ef­fec­tive­ly, re­duc­ing the lev­el of oxy­gen-rich blood pumped in­to to the body. Ini­tial­ly a slow mov­ing prod­uct ham­pered by physi­cians re­luc­tant to adopt a new ther­a­py and in­sur­ers who balked at its price, En­tresto is now com­fort­ably a block­buster prod­uct. The drug is now un­der eval­u­a­tion for HF­pEF (al­so re­ferred to as di­as­tolic heart fail­ure) — a now larg­er group of pa­tients whose heart mus­cle con­tract nor­mal­ly but ven­tri­cles do not re­lax as they should dur­ing ven­tric­u­lar fill­ing. Da­ta from the tri­al PARAGON-HF are ex­pect­ed in the third quar­ter of 2019.
  • INC280 — Oth­er­wise known as cap­ma­tinib, the MET in­hibitor was li­censed to No­var­tis from In­cyte in 2009. Mid-stage da­ta on the drug in cer­tain pa­tients with the most com­mon form of lung can­cer (NSCLC), pre­sent­ed last Oc­to­ber, showed INC280 in­duced an ORR of 72% in treat­ment-naive pa­tients and about 39% in pre­vi­ous­ly treat­ed pa­tients. No­var­tis is ex­pect­ed to sub­mit a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion lat­er this year.
  • OMB157 — Oth­er than the ap­proved Gilenya and Mayzent — which is cur­rent­ly un­der re­view — ofa­tu­mum­ab (OMB157) is an­oth­er drug No­var­tis is hop­ing to use in MS. The drug, al­ready sold as Arz­er­ra, has caused a num­ber of prob­lems for No­var­tis as a treat­ment for leukemia — the drug­mak­er was forced to pull it off the mar­ket out­side the US as com­pe­ti­tion heat­ed up. No­var­tis thinks it can re­pur­pose the drug for MS, an in­di­ca­tion for which it is cur­rent­ly be­ing in­ves­ti­gat­ed in two Phase III stud­ies.
  • PDR001 COM­BO — PDR001, al­so called spar­tal­izum­ab, is No­var­tis’ PD-1 in­hibitor and is be­ing test­ed in a num­ber of can­cers. A late-stage study test­ing the drug in com­bi­na­tion with No­var­tis’ ap­proved can­cer drugs — Tafin­lar and Mekin­ist — in pa­tients with metasta­t­ic melanoma is on­go­ing.
  • QVM149 — The asth­ma drug is cur­rent­ly be­ing test­ed against stan­dard triple com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py in a late-stage study in un­con­trolled asth­mat­ics — the tri­al is ex­pect­ed to be com­plet­ed this year.
  • SEG101 — Ex­pect­ed to launch in 2020, the sick­le cell dis­ease drug has se­cured the FDA’s break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion ear­li­er this month. Af­ter a de­lay in 2018, a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion for the drug is ex­pect­ed this year.

Im­age: NO­VAR­TIS

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

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Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Re­searchers move clos­er to de­ci­pher­ing blood clots from As­traZeneca, J&J's Covid-19 vac­cines

Researchers may be nearing an answer for the mysterious and life-threatening blood clots that appeared on very rare occasions in people who received the J&J or AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The new work builds on an early hypothesis researchers in Norway put forward last spring, when the cases first cropped up. They proposed the events were similar to blood clots that can occur in a small subset of patients who receive heparin, one of the most commonly used blood thinners.

Ed Kaye, Stoke Therapeutics CEO

Stoke touts ear­ly signs of ef­fi­ca­cy for Dravet syn­drome drug

Two and a half years after driving his antisense oligonucleotide platform to Wall Street, Stoke Therapeutics CEO Ed Kaye is painting a fuller picture of the company’s first clinical data. And though the trial wasn’t powered to detect statistical significance, Kaye says the readout shows early signs of efficacy in kids with a rare, drug-resistant form of epilepsy

STK-001 was well-tolerated in single and multiple doses in 22 Dravet syndrome patients between the ages of 2 and 18 years old, Stoke announced on Friday. What’s more, 12 of the 17 evaluable patients at the time (70.6%) saw reductions from baseline in convulsive seizure frequency, according to the company.