No­var­tis to pay near­ly $178M in law­suit over BRAF drug — and will be on the hook for roy­al­ty

Af­ter a four-year bat­tle over a can­cer drug patent, No­var­tis has been or­dered by a Cal­i­for­nia judge to pay a Dai­ichi Sankyo sub­sidiary $177.8 mil­lion.

Plexxikon filed a law­suit against the phar­ma gi­ant in 2017, alledg­ing that Tafin­lar, a ri­val to its melanoma drug Zelb­o­raf that was brought to mar­ket in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Roche, has stepped on its in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty. The ju­ry ruled in its fa­vor, adding that the in­fringe­ment is in fact will­ful.

On top of get­ting com­pen­sat­ed for the past in­fringe­ments, Plexxikon says it will re­ceive “ad­di­tion­al roy­al­ty pay­ments for fu­ture sales of Tafin­lar in the Unit­ed States through the life of the patents.”

Sales for Tafin­lar and Mekin­ist, the MEK in­hibitor it was ap­proved with, hit $672 mil­lion in 2016. Fast for­ward to 2020 and the duo gen­er­at­ed $1.5 bil­lion in rev­enue. In 2021, the com­bo has raked in $818 mil­lion in the first half of the year alone for No­var­tis, a num­ber that is al­ready up 11% from last year. Com­par­a­tive­ly, Roche re­port­ed $218 mil­lion in sales of Zelb­o­raf in 2016, and rev­enue was not re­port­ed in its most re­cent mid-year up­date.

The Plexxikon patents are for com­pounds that re­duce can­cer cell growth by block­ing V600E mu­tat­ed BRAF. Patents were filed as ear­ly as 2005.

No­var­tis and GSK car­ried out a swap of its vac­cine and can­cer drugs back in 2015. GSK paid $5.25 bil­lion to No­var­tis for its vac­cine busi­ness, and No­var­tis sent $16 bil­lion for GSK’s on­col­o­gy pro­grams. Tafin­lar and Mekin­ist had al­ready been grant­ed FDA ap­proval at the time of that deal, and as a part of that deal, No­var­tis agreed to di­vest its own BRAF and MEK in­hibitors to avoid cre­at­ing a mo­nop­oly.

Ac­cord­ing to Plexxikon, GSK sci­en­tists were on­ly able to make Tafin­lar af­ter talks with Plexxikon about a po­ten­tial part­ner­ship; al­though those talks nev­er turned in­to a li­cens­ing deal, GSK ap­par­ent­ly chan­neled that in­for­ma­tion and cre­at­ed a ri­val drug.

The suit says that while BRAF ki­nase in­hibitors ex­ist­ed pri­or to Plexxikon’s dis­cov­er­ies, they were not se­lec­tive, and Plexxikon’s have a core mol­e­c­u­lar struc­ture that al­lows them to bind se­lec­tive­ly to ki­nase cre­at­ed by the BRAF mu­ta­tion. That al­lows for high­er dos­es to be ad­min­is­tered.

“The ju­ry was care­ful and award­ed us what we’d asked for down to the pen­ny,” Plexxikon’s lawyer Dar­a­lyn Durie told Bloomberg af­ter the ver­dict came down.

The ju­ry unan­i­mous­ly ruled in Plexxikon’s fa­vor on all sev­en ques­tions, in­clud­ing that No­var­tis has not proved the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the patent was full and clear enough to en­able a per­son of “or­di­nary skill” to make and use the in­ven­tion.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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David Loew (Ipsen)

Ipsen snags an ap­proved can­cer drug in $247M M&A deal as an­oth­er bat­tered biotech sells cheap

You can add Paris-based Ipsen to the list of discount buyers patrolling the penny stock pack for a cheap M&A deal.

The French biotech, which has had plenty of its own problems to grapple with, has swooped in to buy Epizyme $EPZM for $247 million in cash and a CVR with milestones attached to it. Epizyme shareholders, who had to suffer through a painfully soft launch of their EZH2a inhibitor cancer drug Tazverik, will get $1.45 per share along with a $1 CVR tied to achieving $250 million in sales from the drug over four consecutive quarters as well as an OK for second-line follicular lymphoma by 1 Jan. 2028.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images)

Phar­ma-friend­ly sen­a­tor calls on FDA for a third time to show patent pro­tec­tions should­n't be blamed for high drug prices

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis made a name for himself in the 2020 election cycle as the darling of the pharma industry, accepting hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions, even from the likes of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Those contributions have led Tillis to attempt to re-write patent laws in pharma’s favor, a move which failed to gain steam in 2019, and request for a third time since January that the FDA should help stop “the false narrative that patent protections are to blame for high drug prices.”

EMA signs off on 3 drugs re­cent­ly re­ject­ed by FDA, in­clud­ing Bio­Mar­in's new he­mo­phil­ia gene ther­a­py

The EMA’s human medicines committee on Friday recommended three new drugs for approval or conditional approval, even as their US counterparts have rejected these three for various reasons.

In a major move, CHMP offered a thumbs-up to a conditional marketing authorization for the first gene therapy to treat severe hemophilia A, although the agency cautioned that it’s so far unknown how long the effects of infusion will last.

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Joe Papa (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Joe Pa­pa re­signs as chair of Bausch Health as bil­lion­aire John Paul­son takes over

Joe Papa, chair of Bausch Health, officially resigned on Thursday and the board appointed billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson as the new chair, effective immediately.

The specialty pharma company sought to make clear that Papa’s abrupt departure “was not due to any dispute or disagreement with the Company, its management or the Board on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.”

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