No­var­tis wants to be a leader in a new gen­er­a­tion of pre­scrip­tion dig­i­tal med pro­grams, pairs with Pear

The new­ly emerg­ing field of pre­scrip­tion dig­i­tal med­i­cine is tak­ing a big step for­ward to­day.

Phar­ma gi­ant No­var­tis $NVS is pair­ing up with Pear Ther­a­peu­tics, one of the lead­ing pi­o­neers in the are­na, to de­vel­op new mo­bile apps for pa­tients with schiz­o­phre­nia and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

Joris van Dam

You may re­call that Pear broke new ground a few months ago by gain­ing an FDA ap­proval for an app de­signed to help pa­tients with sub­stance abuse dis­or­der. Now the Boston/Bay Area-based biotech will work with Joris van Dam, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics at the No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­Med­ical Re­search, on in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal pro­grams for schiz­o­phre­nia and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

Get­ting a heavy­weight play­er in the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try to col­lab­o­rate with 5-year-old Pear is a big plus for dig­i­tal med­i­cine, where cog­ni­tive be­hav­ioral pro­grams are be­ing de­vel­oped to help pa­tients with chron­ic dis­or­ders. And the FDA is play­ing a key as­sist in the field, with new guide­lines in the works on how these pro­grams can prove them­selves to of­fer proof of ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty.

These aren’t the av­er­age kind of apps you may be fa­mil­iar with on your phone.

“These are ther­a­peu­tic treat­ments pre­scribed by doc­tors and used by pa­tients,” says van Dam. “You should treat it like a drug ther­a­py, ex­cept it’s be­ing pre­scribed and ful­filled by the cloud and not by the phar­ma­cy.”

No­var­tis and Pear are plan­ning on set­ting up clin­i­cal tri­als that can, for ex­am­ple, test how these in­ter­ac­tive pro­grams work on con­trol­ling the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive symp­toms as­so­ci­at­ed with schiz­o­phre­nia — in­clud­ing how you re­spond to hear­ing voic­es.

And No­var­tis sees some ready ben­e­fits in keep­ing a cog­ni­tive be­hav­ioral pro­gram in your pock­et. Un­like a ther­a­pist, says v

an Dam, you can run through a 15-minute pro­gram at your con­ve­nience, with­out jour­ney­ing to a ses­sion. And they’ll have clin­i­cians gath­er the da­ta need­ed to meet the re­quired end­points, stan­dards which are cur­rent­ly un­der re­view in a pi­lot pro­gram that in­cludes Pear.

So how long will this process take?

Van Dam says that’s un­cer­tain, but he feels that there’s a lot of po­ten­tial for a full slate of these dig­i­tal meds.

There’s no word on the ex­act terms, but No­var­tis is of­fer­ing a fa­mil­iar slate of up­front, re­search sup­port, mile­stones and roy­al­ties.

In starved an­tibi­ot­ic field, Melin­ta soars as FDA grants speedy drug re­view

Such is the state of af­fairs in an­tibi­ot­ic land that the FDA agree­ing to pri­or­i­ty re­view an ap­pli­ca­tion to ex­pand the use of an an­tibi­ot­ic can rock­et up a stock more than two-fold.

On Wednes­day, Melin­ta Ther­a­peu­tics said its ap­proved an­tibi­ot­ic Baxdela had been grant­ed pri­or­i­ty re­view for use in com­mu­ni­ty-ac­quired bac­te­r­i­al pneu­mo­nia (CAPB). The FDA is ex­pect­ed to make its de­ci­sion by Oc­to­ber 24. Shares of the Con­necti­cut drug­mak­er $ML­NT cat­a­pult­ed, clos­ing up near­ly 224% at $6.41.

John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.
Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

Robert Forrester, Verastem

Ve­rastem CEO For­rester steps to the ex­it as the board hunts com­mer­cial-savvy ex­ec for the be­lea­guered biotech

Robert For­rester is step­ping down as CEO of Ve­rastem On­col­o­gy $VSTM just 8 months af­ter the com­pa­ny nabbed an ap­proval for du­velis­ib, a PI3K drug with a sto­ried past — and what ap­pears as not much of a fu­ture.

The biotech put out word this morn­ing that For­rester will take an ad­vi­so­ry role with Ve­rastem while COO Dan Pa­ter­son steps up to take charge of the lead­er­ship team and the board looks around for a new CEO.

Brent Saunders at an Endpoints News event in 2017 — File photo

An­a­lyst call with Al­ler­gan ex­ecs stokes an­tic­i­pa­tion of a plan to split the com­pa­ny in ‘a month or two’

So what’s up at Al­ler­gan?

Ear­li­er this week the ubiq­ui­tous Ever­core ISI an­a­lyst Umer Raf­fat was on the line with com­pa­ny ex­ec­u­tives to probe in­to the lat­est on the num­bers as well as CEO Brent Saun­ders’ re­cent de­c­la­ra­tion that he’d be do­ing some­thing de­fin­i­tive to help long-suf­fer­ing in­vestors who have watched their shares dwin­dle in val­ue.

He came away with the im­pres­sion that a sig­nif­i­cant com­pa­ny split is on the way. And not on some dis­tant time hori­zon.

Ken Frazier appears before the Senate Committee on Finance for a hearing on prescription drug pricing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 26, 2019. Chris Kleponis for CNP via AP Images

Who’s next in line to suc­ceed Ken Fra­zier as CEO of the Keytru­da-blessed Mer­ck?

When Merck waved off a looming forced retirement for Ken Frazier last September, the board cited flexibility in CEO transition as a key factor in the decision. Having Frazier — who’s also chairman of the company — around beyond his 65th birthday in 2019 would ensure they install the best person at the best time, they said.

The board has evidently begun that process with a clear preference for internal candidates, sources told Bloomberg. CFO Robert Davis, chief marketing officer Michael Nally, and chief commercial officer Frank Clyburn are all in the running, according to an insider.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Chica­go biotech ar­gues blue­bird, Third Rock 'killed' its ri­val, pi­o­neer­ing tha­lassemia gene ther­a­py in law­suit

Blue­bird bio $BLUE chief Nick Leschly court­ed con­tro­ver­sy last week when he re­vealed the com­pa­ny’s be­ta tha­lassemia treat­ment will car­ry a jaw-drop­ping $1.8 mil­lion price tag over a 5-year pe­ri­od in Eu­rope — mak­ing it the plan­et’s sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py be­hind No­var­tis’ $NVS fresh­ly ap­proved spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy ther­a­py, Zol­gens­ma, at $2.1 mil­lion. A Chica­go biotech, mean­while, has been fum­ing at the side­lines. In a law­suit filed ear­li­er this month, Er­rant Gene Ther­a­peu­tics al­leged that blue­bird and ven­ture cap­i­tal group Third Rock un­law­ful­ly prised a vi­ral vec­tor, de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter (MSK), from its grasp, and thwart­ed the de­vel­op­ment of its sem­i­nal gene ther­a­py.

A new num­ber 1 drug? Keytru­da tapped to top the 10 biggest block­busters on the world stage by 2024

Analysts may be fretting about Keytruda’s longterm prospects as a host of rival therapies elbow their way to the market. But the folks at Evaluate Pharma are confident that last year’s $7 billion earner is headed for glory, tapping it to beat out the current #1 therapy Humira as AbbVie watches that franchise swoon over the next 5 years.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.