No­var­tis teams up with Ox­ford re­searchers to crunch big da­ta in­to clin­i­cal in­sights

Since Vas Narasimhan’s Day 1 as CEO of No­var­tis, he has cham­pi­oned da­ta sci­ence and dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies as a key pri­or­i­ty at the phar­ma gi­ant. Al­most a year in­to his tenure, in a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion with the tech VC firm An­dreessen Horowitz, he high­light­ed the abil­i­ties to an­a­lyze pathol­o­gy im­ages and cen­tral­ize clin­i­cal tri­al plan­ning as two promis­ing ap­pli­ca­tions of ma­chine learn­ing.

But, he ad­mit­ted, there are ar­eas where it’s “sim­ply not met up”:

Vas­ant Narasimhan

The Holy Grail of hav­ing un­struc­tured ma­chine learn­ing go in­to big clin­i­cal da­ta lakes and then sud­den­ly find­ing new in­sights, we’ve not been able to crack, most­ly be­cause the da­ta… to link it up… We are spend­ing a lot of our en­er­gy just try­ing to get all of our da­ta har­mo­nized, so that some al­go­rithm could maybe find any­thing of use.

It ap­pears that No­var­tis is now ready to dive in­to that lake with the help of an es­teemed aca­d­e­m­ic part­ner.

The Swiss drug­mak­er has two projects in mind to kick off the 5-year re­search al­liance with the Big Da­ta In­sti­tute at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford. The first one will fo­cus on mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, lever­ag­ing clin­i­cal and mag­net­ic res­o­nance imag­ing, or MRI, da­ta of 35,000-plus pa­tients in hopes of un­der­stand­ing pat­terns and dis­ease pro­gres­sion. Ul­ti­mate­ly, the com­pa­ny says, the ex­er­cise should make clin­i­cal tri­als more ef­fi­cient and tar­get­ed.

For the sec­ond project, No­var­tis wants the BDI to de­ploy its deep learn­ing al­go­rithm across dif­fer­ent datasets — imag­ing, pro­teom­ic, ge­nom­ic, clin­i­cal — from more than 11,000 pa­tients who have tak­en its in­ter­leukin-17 in­hibitor, Cosen­tyx. The hope is to en­able quick­er di­ag­no­sis and ex­plore com­mon­al­i­ties be­tween dis­eases treat­ed by the drug, in­clud­ing pso­ri­a­sis, pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis, anky­los­ing spondyli­tis and rheuma­toid arthri­tis.

These in­di­vid­u­als, though, on­ly rep­re­sent a frac­tion of the pool of pa­tients No­var­tis and BDI are pulling da­ta from. With ac­cess to da­ta from UK Biobank, Ge­nomics Eng­land and Chi­na Kadoorie Biobank, the al­liance will draw on a to­tal of 5 mil­lion pa­tients — a num­ber re­flec­tive of No­var­tis’ am­bi­tion to adopt da­ta sci­ence in clin­i­cal re­search at scale, spokesper­son Er­ic Al­thoff tells End­points News in an email.

We asked what the op­er­a­tion will look like on the ground, and here’s their re­sponse:

Ox­ford is build­ing an IT en­vi­ron­ment for the col­lab­o­ra­tion – they will host the en­vi­ron­ment and NVS is sup­port­ing the build.

To­day we have ap­prox 20 peo­ple from Ox­ford and 20 peo­ple from NVS in­volved – this in­cludes da­ta wran­gling ex­perts, da­ta sci­en­tists, sta­tis­ti­cians, IT ex­perts and clin­i­cal ex­perts.

No­var­tis added that oth­er part­ners like the Med­ical Re­search Coun­cil Har­well In­sti­tute and Ox­ford’s De­part­ment of Sta­tis­tics will al­so play a role.


Fea­tured im­age: Ox­ford’s Big Da­ta In­sti­tute. OX­FORD via YOUTUBE

In a stun­ning set­back, Amarin los­es big patent fight over Vas­cepa IP. And its high-fly­ing stock crash­es to earth

Amarin’s shares $AMRN were blitzed Monday evening, losing billions in value as reports spread that the company had lost its high-profile effort to keep its Vascepa patents protected from generic drugmakers.

Amarin had been fighting to keep key patents under lock and key — and away from generic rivals — for another 10 years, but District Court Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas ruled against the biotech. She ruled that:
(A)ll the Asserted Claims are invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C.§ 103. Thus, the Court finds in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s remaining infringementclaim, and in their favor on their counterclaims asserting the invalidity of the AssertedClaims under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

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UP­DAT­ED: Have a new drug that promis­es to fight Covid-19? The FDA promis­es fast ac­tion but some de­vel­op­ers aren't hap­py

After providing an emergency approval to use malaria drugs against coronavirus with little actual evidence of their efficacy or safety in that setting, the FDA has already proven that it has set aside the gold standard when it comes to the pandemic. And now regulators have spelled out a new approach to speeding development that promises immediate responses in no uncertain terms — promising a program offering the ultimate high-speed pathway to Covid-19 drug approvals.

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The race to de­vel­op Covid-19 drugs and vac­cines is on — here’s what’s hap­pen­ing in the UK

Weeks away from the results of ongoing US and China trials testing its experimental antiviral remdesivir, Gilead is going to trial the failed Ebola drug in a small group of coronavirus patients in England and Scotland. The United Kingdom is also home to a range of other therapeutic efforts, as the pandemic rages on across the globe.

On Tuesday, Southampton, UK-based startup Synairgen kicked off a mid-stage placebo-controlled study testing its experimental drug, SNG001 — an inhaled formulation of interferon-beta-1a — that has previously shown to be safe and effective in improving lung function in asthma patients with a respiratory viral infection in a pair of Phase II trials.

‘There was a grow­ing weari­ness’: Rush­ing against a pan­dem­ic clock, As­pen Neu­ro­sciences se­cures $70M Se­ries A

Just before Christmastime, Howard Federoff got a tip from Washington: There was a new virus in China. And this one could be bad.

News report of the virus had not yet appeared. Federoff, a neuroscientist, was briefed because years before, he was vetted as part of a group — he didn’t give a name for the group — to consult for the US government on emerging scientific issues. His day job, though, was CEO of Aspen Neurosciences, a Parkinson’s cell therapy startup that days before had come out of stealth mode and gave word to investors they were hoping to raise $70 million. That, Federoff realized, would be difficult if a pandemic shut down the global economy.

Once fu­ri­ous over No­var­tis’ da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion scan­dal, the FDA now says it’s noth­ing they need to take ac­tion on

Back in the BP era — Before Pandemic — the FDA ripped Novartis for its decision to keep the agency in the dark about manipulated data used in its application for Zolgensma while its marketing application for the gene therapy was under review.

Civil and criminal sanctions were being discussed, the agency noted in a rare broadside at one of the world’s largest pharma companies. Notable lawmakers cheered the angry regulators on, urging the FDA to make an example of Novartis, which fielded Zolgensma at $2.1 million — the current record for a one-off therapy.

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Covid-19 roundup: GSK, Am­gen tai­lor R&D work to fit the coro­n­avirus age; Doud­na's ge­nomics crew launch­es di­ag­nos­tic lab

You can add Amgen and GSK to the list of deep-pocket drug R&D players who are tailoring their pipeline work to fit a new age of coronavirus.

Following in the footsteps of a lineup of big players like Eli Lilly — which has suspended patient recruitment for drug studies — Amgen and GSK have opted to take a more tailored approach. Amgen is intent on circling the wagons around key studies that are already fully enrolled, and GSK has the red light on new studies while the pandemic plays out.

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FDA puts pe­di­atric aGVHD drug on pri­or­i­ty re­view lane — will they go vir­tu­al with the ad­comm?

Despite worries about regulatory delays due to new work arrangements under Covid-19, the FDA appears intent to go full speed ahead with its everyday work, not only granting priority review to a stem cell therapy for acute graft versus host disease but also plotting an advisory committee meeting for it.

With a PDUFA date of September 30, the journey of the drug — remestemcel-L, or Ryoncil — could shed light on the agency’s capacity to facilitate drug development unrelated to Covid-19.

Covid-19 roundup: Trump push­es his new fa­vorite, untest­ed drug; CRISPR out­lines crip­pling im­pact of Covid-19

President Trump has a new favorite Covid-19 drug.

After a conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Politico reports, the president is pressuring the FDA to issue emergency use authorization for favipiravir, a flu drug that showed glimpses of success in China but remains unproven and carries a list of worrying side effects. The push comes after a week-plus in which the White House touted a potentially effective but unproven malaria medication despite the concerns of scientific advisors such as NIAID director Anthony Fauci. And Trump ally Rudy Giuliani has been talking up unproven cell therapy efforts on Twitter.

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ITeos nabs $125M as they prep Keytru­da com­bi­na­tion tri­al — if Covid-19 will let them

For iTeos, it turned out, $75 million could only last so long.

Two years after announcing their eye-catching Series B raise, the Belgian biotech is back with an even larger Series B-2: $125 million.

The now $175 million financing – $25 million of the first B round is considered part of the second – illustrates the vast capital available for those with promising new immuno-oncology compounds, particularly those that might be used in combination with existing therapies. In December, iTeos announced a collaboration with Merck to test its lead compound with Keytruda this year. The proceeds will push forward that trial and help fund the ongoing Phase I/II trials for that compound, EOS-850, and a second one, EOS-448.

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