RIP amy­loid be­ta the­o­ry? Nope. Bio­gen part­ner launch­es a new PhI­II be­fore ad­u­canum­ab's corpse turned cold

A day af­ter Bio­gen rat­tled the bio­phar­ma world with the news that its lead late-stage ther­a­py ad­u­canum­ab proved worth­less in treat­ing Alzheimer’s — a dis­as­ter that may dri­ve a stake through the heart of the amy­loid be­ta the­o­ry once and for all — the big biotech’s part­ners at Ei­sai have come up with their next big move.


Right in the wake of a 35% plunge in their stock val­ue, Ei­sai $ESALY is start­ing a Phase III study in­volv­ing 1,566 Alzheimer’s pa­tients with mild cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment for the con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer’s drug BAN2401. The an­ti-amy­loid an­ti­body was the cen­ter of a firestorm of crit­i­cism over a tardy re­veal that re­searchers had pulled high-risk pa­tients out of their last study, po­ten­tial­ly warp­ing the pos­i­tive re­sults that were claimed, leav­ing that drug un­der a dark cloud.

“We still be­lieve that amy­loid be­ta hy­poth­e­sis is po­ten­tial­ly the right ap­proach for the treat­ment of Alzheimer’s dis­ease,” an Ei­sai spokesman told Reuters.

That’s a po­si­tion that Bio­gen ex­ecs will find tough to jus­ti­fy to­day. A whole slate of ma­jor de­vel­op­ers — Eli Lil­ly and As­traZeneca, Mer­ck and Roche — have re­port­ed out de­ci­sive late-stage fail­ures over the last year that all point to one con­clu­sion: Tar­get­ing amy­loid be­ta alone in symp­to­matic pa­tients may hit your bio­mark­ers on ef­fect, but it doesn’t de­lay the ruth­less march of the dis­ease.

Ei­sai and Bio­gen may not have re­ceived the memo, but a whole host of an­a­lysts have writ­ten off BAN2401 as a los­er. As for this new move, don’t ex­pect any sup­port from Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges, who es­sen­tial­ly be­lieves any new work like this is dam­ag­ing to in­vestors and pa­tients. He not­ed this morn­ing:

We as­sume that the com­pa­ny (Bio­gen) takes the re­spon­si­ble de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate all fur­ther in­vest­ments in be­ta amy­loid-di­rect­ed med­i­cines (which has not oc­curred), and saves their in­vestors the cash and saves pa­tients and in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the bur­den of such stud­ies. If Bio­gen does not make this de­ci­sion, then our ad­just­ed ex­pense fore­cast could be too low, with fur­ther neg­a­tive ef­fects on our val­u­a­tion even com­pared to our new PT.

What will be ahead for Bio­gen? Porges is tak­ing a hard line. It’s worth quot­ing him at length.

In our view, Bio­gen finds it­self in the un­en­vi­able po­si­tion of be­ing a wound­ed cash cow (which we are sur­prised man­age­ment and the board did not con­sid­er as a po­ten­tial out­come and pre­pare for). The next few months are like­ly to con­sist of a mix­ture of re­crim­i­na­tions, ex­pla­na­tions, ne­go­ti­a­tions, and pos­si­bly ter­mi­na­tions and lit­i­ga­tion. We ex­pect the com­pa­ny to be dis­tract­ed and ham­pered by those over­hangs for a cou­ple of quar­ters at least. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief we don’t be­lieve that their board or man­age­ment will have the lat­i­tude to im­me­di­ate­ly piv­ot to ma­jor ac­qui­si­tions that would al­ter the com­pa­ny’s out­look ma­te­ri­al­ly (de­spite our sug­ges­tions in the past that such in­vest­ments were ad­vis­able). To­ward the end of this year, af­ter the dust of this dis­ap­point­ment has like­ly set­tled, we ex­pect Bio­gen to ex­plore both as­set sales and as­set pur­chas­es (af­ter oth­er changes have been made, or im­posed by in­vestors). We be­lieve that the case for re­struc­tur­ing and di­vesti­tures will be as com­pelling as the case for ac­qui­si­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the con­text of such poor re­turns from the com­pa­ny’s re­cent cap­i­tal al­lo­ca­tion de­ci­sions.

Bio­gen shares $BI­IB tum­bled 29% on Thurs­day, wip­ing out $18 bil­lion in mar­ket cap. They won’t get any of that back based on the launch of the BAN2401 tri­al. To the con­trary. At a time they need to re­build con­fi­dence, there’s no sign that the part­ners learned any­thing this week.

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck pulls Keytru­da in SCLC af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed nod. Is the FDA get­ting tough on drug­mak­ers that don't hit their marks?

In what could be an early shot in the battle against drugmakers that whiff on confirmatory studies to support accelerated approvals, the FDA ordered Bristol Myers Squibb late last year to give up Opdivo’s approval in SCLC. Now, Merck is next on the firing line — are we seeing the FDA buckling down on post-marketing offenders?

Merck has withdrawn its marketing approval for PD-(L)1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of what it describes as an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based, the company said Monday.

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Michael Shpigelmacher

Khosla joins bet on un­con­ven­tion­al start­up look­ing to send drug de­liv­er­ing ro­bots in­to the brain

When Michael Shpigelmacher started the project, he knew he’d have to fund it himself. Every other effort of its kind was academic, rejected as too risky by investors.

Shpigelmacher, a robotics geek and entrepeneur who had drifted into consulting for pharma, wanted to build the real-life equivalent of technology from the 1960s film Fantastic Voyage, the one where a submarine crew is shrunk to “about the size of a microbe” and sent on a mission to repair a scientist’s brain. He scanned the literature, found the lab that was working on the most advanced project — at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, it turned out — and started funding them with money from his own account, along with some seed cash from friends and family.

Bob Nelsen (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

With stars aligned and cash in re­serve, Bob Nelsen's Re­silience plans a makeover at 2 new fa­cil­i­ty ad­di­tions to its drug man­u­fac­tur­ing up­start

Bob Nelsen’s new, state-of-the-art drug manufacturing initiative is taking shape.

Just 3 months after gathering $800 million of launch money, a dream team board and a plan to shake up a field where he found too many bottlenecks and inefficiencies for the era of Covid-19, Resilience has snapped up a pair of facilities now in line for a retooling.

The company has acquired a 310,000-square-foot plant in Boston from Sanofi along with a 136,000-square-foot plant in Ontario to add to a network which CEO Rahul Singhvi says is just getting started on building his company’s operations up. The Sanofi deal comes with a contract to continue manufacturing one of its drugs.

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Af­ter bail­ing on Covid-19 vac­cines, Mer­ck will team up with J&J to pro­duce its shot as part of un­usu­al Big Phar­ma pact

Merck took a big gamble when it opted to jump into the Covid-19 vaccine race late, and made an equally momentous decision to back out in late January. Now, looking to chip in on the effort, Merck reportedly agreed to team up with one of the companies that has already crossed the finish line.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to announce a partnership between drugmakers Merck and Johnson & Johnson to jointly produce J&J’s recombinant protein Covid-19 vaccine that received the FDA’s emergency use authorization Saturday, the Washington Post reported.

Ab­b­Vie tees up a biotech buy­out af­ter siz­ing up their Parkin­son's drug spun out of Ke­van Shokat's lab

AbbVie has teed up a small but intriguing biotech buyout after looking over the preclinical work it’s been doing in Parkinson’s disease.

The company is called Mitokinin, a Bay Area biotech spun out of the lab of UCSF’s Kevan Shokat, whose scientific explorations have formed the academic basis of a slew of startups in the biotech hub. One of Shokat’s PhD students in the lab, Nicholas Hertz, co-founded Mitokinin using their lab work on PINK1 suggesting that amping up its activity could play an important role in regulating the mitochondrial dysfunction contributing to Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis and progression.

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Paul Sekhri

The next big biotech su­per­star? Paul Sekhri has some thoughts on that

It occasionally occurs to Paul Sekhri that if they pull this off, his company will be on the front page of the New York Times and a lead story in just about every major news outlet on the planet. He tries not to dwell on it, though.

“I just want to be laser-focused on getting to that point,” Sekhri says, before acknowledging, “Yes, it absolutely crossed my mind.”

Sekhri, a longtime biopharma executive with tenures at Sanofi and Novartis, is now entering year three as CEO of eGenesis, the biotech that George Church protégé Luhan Yang founded to genetically alter pigs so that they can be used for organ transplants. He led them through one megaround and has just closed another, raising $125 million from 17 different investors to push the first-ever (humanized) pig to human transplants into the clinic.

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Fi­bro­Gen shares skid low­er as a sur­prise ad­comm rais­es risks on roxa OK

FibroGen will likely have to delay its US rollout for roxadustat once again.

In an unexpected move, the FDA is convening its Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee to review the NDA in an advisory committee meeting. The date is yet to be confirmed.

Just a few weeks ago, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges predicted that the roxa approval could come ahead of the PDUFA date on March 20 — effusive despite already being let down once by the FDA’s extension of its review back in December. AstraZeneca, which is partnered with FibroGen on the chronic kidney disease-related anemia drug, disclosed regulators had requested further clarifying analyses of clinical data.

In­tro­duc­ing End­pointsF­DA+, our new pre­mi­um week­ly reg­u­la­to­ry news re­port led by Zachary Bren­nan

CRLs. 483s. CBER, CDER and RWE. For biopharma professionals, these acronyms command attention because of the fundamental role FDA plays in drug development. Now Endpoints is doubling down on regulatory coverage, and launching a weekly report focusing on developments out of White Oak, with analysis and insight into what it all means.

Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan. He joins Endpoints from POLITICO, where he covered pharma. Prior to that he was the managing editor for Regulatory Focus, a news publication from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

UP­DAT­ED: Feds clear the road for J&J to start de­liv­er­ing mil­lions of dos­es of their Covid-19 vac­cine — but frets linger about run­ner-up sta­tus

All the pieces needed to trigger a third wave of Covid-19 vaccine supply to start washing over the US fell neatly into place over the weekend.

After providing for a brief mime of regulatory judiciousness, the FDA stamped their emergency approval on J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine Saturday, adding to the Biden administration’s plan aimed at ending the pandemic in the near term — at least in the US. The CDC came through on Sunday with its stamp of approval and J&J is reportedly expected to start delivering vaccine sometime in the next few days.

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