Vas Narasimhan (Credit: AP)

No­var­tis nabs FDA ap­proval for hyped Eylea ri­val

As Re­gen­eron’s Eylea stares down po­ten­tial slow-death-by-gener­ics, No­var­tis has nabbed a wide­ly ex­pect­ed FDA ap­proval for its own wet mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion in­jec­tion, Beovu (brolu­cizum­ab).

No­var­tis has been eye­ing Re­gen­eron patent ex­pi­ra­tion with the leer­ing in­ten­si­ty of a prowl­ing tiger. Be­fore be­com­ing CEO in 2017, Vas Narasimhan iden­ti­fied brolu­cizum­ab as one of four big late-stage drugs to watch, and in 2018 he named it one of the “core 5” in his list of 25 block­busters.

The chunk the Swiss gi­ant may carve out of Eylea’s $5 bil­lion rev­enue shrank short­ly af­ter that 2018 pro­jec­tion as Re­gen­eron stum­bled its way in­to a sur­prise FDA ap­proval to ad­min­is­ter over 12 weeks.

To­day’s FDA ap­proval is al­so for a 12-week dose. It was won off two head-to-head, ran­dom­ized phase III clin­i­cal tri­als that found “non-in­fe­ri­or­i­ty” for brolu­cizum­ab against Eylea (afliber­cept) af­ter year one. In HAWK, pa­tients re­ceiv­ing brolu­cizum­ab im­proved on eye tests by 6.6 let­ters for a 6 mg dose and 6.1 let­ters for a 3 mg dose com­pared with 6.9 mg.  In the HAR­RI­ER study, pa­tients re­ceiv­ing 6 mg of brolu­cizum­ab im­proved by 6.9 let­ters com­pared with 7.6 let­ters for afliber­cept. The two tri­als cov­ered a com­bined 1817 pa­tients.

No­var­tis tout­ed the drug as the first to of­fer both greater flu­id res­o­lu­tion than afliber­cept and that can be pre­scribed with a three-month dos­ing in­ter­val im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter a three-month load­ing phase.

Baird an­a­lyst Bri­an Sko­r­ney, though, wrote the an­nounce­ment looked “meh,” He ar­gued Beovu was un­like­ly to make a huge im­pact on Eylea giv­en sim­i­lar ef­fi­ca­cy and dosage, and what ap­pears to mar­gin­al­ly worse safe­ty da­ta.

“Al­though the in­tro­duc­tion of a com­pet­i­tive prod­uct should re­sult in some mar­ket share loss, we be­lieve con­cerns that it is lead­ing Eylea sales over a cliff are over­done, es­pe­cial­ly in light of this la­bel,” Sko­r­ney wrote.

Eylea’s patents will be­gin to ex­pire in 2023 in the US and 2025 in Eu­rope, al­though the US in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty es­tate will re­main in­to 2032.

Wet mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, al­so known as age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, is the lead­ing cause of vi­sion loss and blind­ness in peo­ple over 65 in North Amer­i­ca, Eu­rope, Aus­tralia and Asia.

Re­gen­eron, cog­nizant of Eylea’s long-loom­ing patent ex­pi­ra­tion, signed a bil­lion-dol­lar R&D part­ner­ship with Al­ny­lam this year to ex­plore RNAi ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing for wet AMD. In­flam­ma­some, a new Boehringer In­gel­heim part­ner, is de­vel­op­ing mol­e­cules for wet AMD treat­ment.

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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No­var­tis los­es biosim­i­lar ap­peal as court up­holds a 31-year mo­nop­oly by Am­gen's En­brel

A new court ruling has strengthened Amgen’s grip on the IP estate around Enbrel, keeping biosimilars of the autoimmune and inflammatory drug at bay until 2029.

Novartis, the patent challenger, isn’t throwing in the towel yet. In a statement noting the failed appeal, its generics division Sandoz noted its reviewing options, “including potential appeal to US Supreme Court.”

It’s been almost four years since the FDA approved Erelzi, Sandoz’s copycat version of Enbrel. While sales of the Pfizer-partnered drug in the US — the market Amgen is in charge of — have dipped slightly during that time, it remains a solid megablockbuster with 2019 revenue slightly above $5 billion.

Douglas Love, Annexon CEO (Annexon)

IPO bound? A Bay Area biotech grabs a mega-round on the road to a piv­otal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion pro­gram

South San Francisco-based Annexon has added $100 million to its cash reserves, along with a new roster of marquee investors backing their play on the classical complement pathway involved in neurodegeneration. And that may well fit the profile for an IPO — though right now everything seems to be working on that score.

Eighteen months after Bain and their syndicate partners put up $75 million to fuel clinical work, Annexon is back at the trough. And this time they’re adding Redmile Group for the lead role, with supporting investments from these new arrivals: BlackRock, Deerfield Management Company, Eventide Asset Management, Farallon Capital Management, Janus Henderson Investors and Logos Capital.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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Joseph Kim, Inovio CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

Pos­i­tive Covid-19 vac­cine da­ta? New mouse study? OWS in­clu­sion? Yep, but some­how, the usu­al tid­bits from In­ovio back­fire

You don’t go more than 40 years in biotech without ever getting a product to market unless you can learn the art of writing a promotional press release. And Inovio captures the prize in baiting the hook.

Tuesday morning Inovio, which has been struggling to get its Covid-19 vaccine lined up for mass manufacturing, put out a release that touched on virtually every hot button in pandemic PR.

There was, first and foremost, an interim snapshot of efficacy from their Phase I program for INO-4800.