[via AP Images]

Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two up­dates on the law­suit against Pur­due Phar­ma over its role in fu­el­ing the opi­oid epi­dem­ic, as the Sack­ler fam­i­ly threat­ens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 bil­lion if a bank­rupt­cy judge does not stop out­stand­ing state law­suits against them. At the same time, the com­pa­ny has asked per­mis­sion to pay mil­lions in bonus­es to se­lect em­ploy­ees.

Pur­due filed for chap­ter 11 bank­rupt­cy this week as part of its signed res­o­lu­tion to over 2,000 law­suits. The deal would see the Sack­ler fam­i­ly that owns Pur­due give $3 bil­lion from their per­son­al wealth and the com­pa­ny turned in­to a trust com­mit­ted to curb­ing and re­vers­ing over­dos­es.

But the back­lash to the pro­posed set­tle­ment was al­most im­me­di­ate, with Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Josh Shapiro call­ing it a “slap in the face” to fam­i­lies of over­dose vic­tims. AGs from Mass­a­chu­setts, New York, New Jer­sey and Con­necti­cut al­so did not sign the set­tle­ment.

“It al­lows the Sack­ler fam­i­ly to walk away bil­lion­aires and ad­mit no wrong­do­ing,” Shapiro said in a state­ment.

The at­tor­ney gen­er­als asked the fam­i­ly to sell its British com­pa­ny Mundiphar­ma im­me­di­ate­ly, stop cre­at­ing drugs for in­ter­na­tion­al mar­kets and com­mit an­oth­er $1.5 bil­lion.

Now the fam­i­ly is say­ing that if a judge does not halt law­suits from those states for 270 days, they will pull their com­mit­ment.  Lawyers said the com­pa­ny is spend­ing $5 mil­lion per week in le­gal fees that could in­stead go to claimants and the pub­lic if lit­i­ga­tion is stopped.

On Tues­day, Pur­due re­quest­ed per­mis­sion to pay $34 mil­lion in bonus­es to se­lect em­ploy­ees, the Wash­ing­ton Post re­port­ed, say­ing they were vi­tal to keep­ing the com­pa­ny strong as it con­verts in­to a pub­lic trust.

But Con­necti­cut At­tor­ney Gen­er­al William Tong ob­ject­ed in court to the pro­pos­al, say­ing the mon­ey should go to vic­tims. And the re­quest drew larg­er con­dem­na­tion, in­clud­ing from Sen­a­tor Joe Manchin, whose home state of West Vir­ginia has by some mea­sures been the hit the hard­est by the opi­oid epi­dem­ic.

Al­though J&J has al­ready been found guilty and fined by an Ok­la­homa judge for its role in the cri­sis and oth­er com­pa­nies face law­suits, Pur­due is of­ten blamed for start­ing the epi­dem­ic in the 90s through its re­vival of oxy­codone in the form of Oxy­Con­tin and the ag­gres­sive and al­leged­ly mis­lead­ing sales tac­tics it used to mar­ket the drug to doc­tors, which in­clud­ed the claim that con­cerns about opi­oid ad­dic­tion were overblown.

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn at the White House (AP Images)

Un­der fire, FDA to is­sue stricter guid­ance for Covid-19 vac­cine EUA this week — re­port

The FDA has been insisting for months that a Covid-19 vaccine had to be at least 50% effective – a measure of transparency meant to shore public trust in the agency and in a vaccine that had been brought forward at record speed and record political pressure. But now, with concerns of a Trump-driven authorization arriving before the election, the agency may be raising the bar.

The FDA is set to release new guidance that would raise safety and efficacy requirements for a vaccine EUA above earlier guidance and above the criteria used for convalescent plasma or hydroxychloroquine, The Washington Post reported. Experts say this significantly lowers the odds of an approval before the election on November 3, which Trump has promised despite vocal concerns from public health officials, and could help shore up public trust in the agency and any eventual vaccine.

PhII Alzheimer's fail­ure deals new blow to Roche, AC Im­mune — but the tau hy­poth­e­sis is far from dead

The leading anti-tau antibody has failed its first Phase II testing, casting a shadow on a popular target (just trailing amyloid beta) for Alzheimer’s disease.

Roche and AC Immune are quick to acknowledge disappointment in the topline readout, which suggested that semorinemab did not reduce cognitive decline among patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, who are either just starting to have symptoms or have mild manifestations.

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Covid-19 roundup: J&J be­gins piv­otal Phase III tri­al for vac­cine; Con­tro­ver­sial hu­man chal­lenge tri­als to be­gin in Lon­don — re­port

Johnson & Johnson announced it’s beginning a pivotal Phase III trial for its Covid-19 candidate, JNJ-78436735 — the first single-dose vaccine in this stage.

The Phase III trial, dubbed ENSEMBLE, will enroll 60,000 patients worldwide, making it the largest Phase III study of a Covid-19 vaccine to date. J&J said the candidate achieved positive interim results in a Phase I/IIa study, which will be published “imminently.” There’s a possibility that the first batches will be ready for potential emergency use in early 2021, according to the biotech.

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Vas Narasimhan (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Still held down by clin­i­cal hold, No­var­tis' Zol­gens­ma falls fur­ther be­hind Bio­gen and Roche as FDA asks for a new piv­otal study

Last October, the FDA slowed down Novartis’ quest to extend its gene therapy to older spinal muscular atrophy patients by slapping a partial hold on intrathecal administration. Almost a year later, the hold is still there, and regulators are adding another hurdle required for regulatory submission: a new pivotal confirmatory study.

The new requirement — which departs significantly from Novartis’ prior expectations — will likely stretch the path to registration beyond 2021, when analysts were expecting a BLA submission. That could mean more time for Biogen to reap Spinraza revenues and Roche to ramp up sales of Evrysdi in the absence of a rival.

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Patrick Enright, Longitude co-founder (Longitude)

As its biotechs hit the pan­dem­ic ex­it, Lon­gi­tude rais­es $585M for new neu­ro, can­cer, ag­ing and or­phan-fo­cused fund

The years have been kind to Longitude Capital. This year, too.

A 2006 spinout of Pequot Capital, its founders started their new firm just four years before the parent company would go under amid insider trading allegations. Their first life sciences fund raised $325 million amid the financial crisis, they added a second for $385 million and then in, 2016, a third for $525 million. In the last few months, the pandemic biotech IPO boom netted several high-value exits from those funds, as Checkmate, Vaxcyte, Inozyme and Poseida all went public.

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Scoop: ARCH’s Bob Nelsen is back­ing an mR­NA up­start that promis­es to up­end the en­tire man­u­fac­tur­ing side of the glob­al busi­ness

For the past 2 years, serial entrepreneur Igor Khandros relied on a small network of friends and close insiders to supply the first millions he needed to fund a secretive project to master a new approach to manufacturing mRNA therapies.

Right now, he says, he has a working “GMP-in-a-box” prototype for a new company he’s building — after launching 3 public companies — which plans to spread this contained, precise manufacturing tech around the world with a set of partners. He’s raised $60 million, recruited some prominent experts. And not coincidentally, he’s going semi-public with this just as a small group of pioneers appears to be on the threshold of ushering in the world’s first mRNA vaccines to fight a worldwide pandemic.

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News brief­ing: PureTech plans Nas­daq de­but with sec­ondary list­ing; GoodRx prices $725M IPO

London Stock Exchange-listed PureTech Health announced Wednesday that it’s looking to extend to Nasdaq. But due to its “strong cash position,” the biotech says it isn’t issuing any new shares in the potential secondary listing.

The company’s shares closed at £256.50 Tuesday on the London Stock Exchange. Its candidate LYT-100 is currently in Phase I development for various indications, including lymphatic flow disorders and fibrotic and inflammatory disorders. PureTech is expecting a Phase Ib readout in lymphatic flow disorders later this year, and is also planning to launch a Phase II study for the drug to treat respiratory conditions experienced after Covid-19.