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

Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly CSO

UP­DAT­ED: An­a­lysts are quick to pan Eli Lil­ly's puz­zling first cut of pos­i­tive clin­i­cal da­ta for its Covid-19 an­ti­body

Eli Lilly spotlighted a success for one of 3 doses of their closely-watched Covid-19 antibody drug Wednesday morning. But analysts quickly highlighted some obvious anomalies that could come back to haunt the pharma giant as it looks for an emergency use authorization to launch marketing efforts.

The pharma giant reported that LY-CoV555, developed in collaboration with AbCellera, significantly reduced the rate of hospitalization among patients who were treated with the antibody. The drug arm of the study had a 1.7% hospitalization rate, compared to 6% in the control group, marking a 72% drop in risk.

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#ES­MO20: Alk­er­mes of­fers their first snap­shot of a ben­e­fit for their next-gen IL-2 drug. But why did 1 pa­tient starve to death?

Everyone in the cancer R&D arena is looking to build new franchises around better drugs and combos. And one busy pocket of that space is centered entirely on creating an IL-2 drug that can be as effective as the original without the toxicity that damned it to the sidelines.

Alkermes $ALKS formally tossed its hat into the ring of contenders at virtual ESMO today, highlighting the first glimpse of efficacy for their candidate, ALKS 4230, as both a monotherapy as well as in combination with Merck’s Keytruda.

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Albert Bourla (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er match­es Mod­er­na with their full Covid-19 tri­al blue­print — As­traZeneca says it will un­veil its pro­to­col 'short­ly'

Yesterday, after sustained public pressure as Moderna released its Phase III Covid-19 trial blueprint, Pfizer released its own full trial design for their vaccine trials. The move was designed to boost transparency and shore up public trust in the vaccines, but it also revealed differences in how the two companies are approaching the much-watched studies while failing to satisfy the demands of the fiercest advocates for transparency.

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Stronger to­geth­er? Boehringer and Mi­rati team to put first KRAS-KRAS com­bo in the clin­ic

Researchers are still waiting to see how much any of the vaunted KRAS drugs now in the clinic can, after decades of preclinical research and some early human studies, help patients. But while they do, two of the leading developers will look to see whether a KRAS-KRAS combo might pose a better shot than any KRAS alone.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Mirati have signed a collaboration to combine Mirati’s closely-watched lead KRAS inhibitor, MRTX849, in a clinical trial with the pan-KRAS blocker that Boehringer has quietly developed with high expectations behind their flashier contenders.

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#ES­MO20: Re­gen­eron, Sanofi eye an­oth­er first for their PD-1 con­tender Lib­tayo with promis­ing da­ta for on­col­o­gy niche

Regeneron and Sanofi took another step forward in the long march towards a greatly expanded market for their late-bloomer PD-1 checkpoint Libtayo.

The two occasional allies posted an objective response rate of 31% for Libtayo among 84 patients suffering from advanced cases of basal cell carcinoma at virtual ESMO. That spotlights progress for 26 patients, 5 of whom had a complete response. The data also reflect a boost in the number of responses seen from the last cut of the numbers.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er ex­ecs con­fi­dent­ly tap their top 10 block­busters-to-be. But what are the chances of sur­viv­ing PhI­II, let alone hit­ting these big peak sales es­ti­mates?

Pfizer’s top executive team doesn’t lack for confidence.

Where many Big Pharmas would be reluctant to put a peak sales figure on their late-stage drugs, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has shrugged off the usual diffidence to outline where the pharma giant expects to get $15 billion-plus.

The list, outlined this week during their investor presentations, is topped by 3 drugs in the $3 billion-plus peak sales category. They are:

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Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (Autolus)

#ES­MO20: Au­to­lus pro­vides glimpse of next-gen­er­a­tion CAR-T pro­gram, show­ing ear­ly pos­i­tive safe­ty da­ta

CAR-T therapies were hailed as a breakthrough when Novartis received the first FDA approval for Kymriah back in 2017. Though highly effective at treating certain types of blood cancers, CAR-Ts are also associated with severe and potentially deadly side effects, including lethal instances of cytokine release syndrome.

With this in mind, Autolus Therapeutics is looking to take a crack at a safer CAR-T and presented Phase II cohort data for its AUTO3 program at virtual ESMO 2020. The data showed that, among the 35 patients in the cohort being treated for r/r diffuse large B cell lymphoma, there were no instances of Grade 3 or higher CRS. Eight individuals saw Grade 1 inflammation while another four patients reached Grade 2.

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Sean Bo­hen's break from bio­phar­ma is over. The ex-As­traZeneca CMO has re­tired his Big Phar­ma jer­sey and is now — hap­pi­ly — run­ning a lit­tle biotech

The last I had heard about Sean Bohen, he had stepped out of his high-profile job as chief medical officer at AstraZeneca at the beginning of 2019 as CEO Pascal Soriot triggered a broad-ranging R&D shakeup. And then, earlier this week, I got a chance to catch up.

It turns out that Bohen decided at the time that he would not just jump into a new job in the booming biopharma business. As an oncologist, he had worked on the big programs at AstraZeneca, and before that he was at Genentech. That was good for a ticket to just about anyplace in the big biopharma world. But he felt it was time to stop and think things through.

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Covid-19 roundup: UP­DAT­ED: Amid calls for trans­paren­cy, Mod­er­na re­leas­es full PhI­II pro­to­col; As­traZeneca tri­al halt thought to be 'con­firmed trans­verse myelitis,' per CNN

Prominent scientists, public health experts and industry critics have been calling for more transparency from vaccine makers, including the release of the companies’ Phase III trial protocols. On Thursday, Moderna became the first major developer to do so.

“It is usually not what industry does,” CEO Stéphane Bancel told Endpoints News in an interview in advance of their R&D day today. “But given the need there is for the scientific community and the medical community and the media to understand how the vaccine is being developed, to make sure people are confident in the safety of the process, in the governance with scientific independence in the medical world and the like, we’re dropping tomorrow the full protocol. It is unredacted.”

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