Roche sells off its strug­gling IL-13 drug le­brik­izum­ab in $1.4B Der­mi­ra deal

Af­ter watch­ing its late-stage asth­ma pro­gram for its IL-13 drug le­brik­izum­ab floun­der with mixed and marked­ly unim­pres­sive re­sults, Roche is out­li­cens­ing the bulk of the de­vel­op­ment rights to Der­mi­ra $DERM in a $1.4 bil­lion deal — which starts off with $135 mil­lion in near-term cash.

Der­mi­ra is plan­ning to hus­tle its new drug di­rect­ly in­to a Phase IIb study for atopic der­mati­tis so it can line up a dose as quick­ly as pos­si­ble that re­searchers can take in­to Phase III.

The phar­ma gi­ant, which once count­ed le­brik­izum­ab as one of its top late-stage ef­forts, is set­tling for $80 mil­lion up­front, $55 mil­lion next year, $40 mil­lion on the Phase III launch and an­oth­er $1.24 bil­lion in mile­stones. It’s al­so keep­ing de­vel­op­ment rights to in­ter­sti­tial lung dis­eases, such as id­io­path­ic pul­monary fi­bro­sis.

The bloom came off the rose on le­brik­izum­ab in ear­ly 2016, when it scored one win and one loss in iden­ti­cal Phase III stud­ies for asth­ma. The set­back came as Re­gen­eron/Sanofi were rack­ing up stel­lar da­ta from a slate of tri­als for Dupix­ent — ap­proved for atopic der­mati­tis in late March — as ri­vals from As­traZeneca, Te­va and GSK were ei­ther en­ter­ing the mar­ket or in late-stage de­vel­op­ment.

Eu­gene Bauer

The re­sults were pub­lished in The Lancet Res­pi­ra­to­ry Med­i­cine, which al­so con­clud­ed that Roche’s two Phase III stud­ies for le­brik­izum­ab fell far short of the bar on ef­fi­ca­cy. A sum­ma­ry con­demns the drug with slight crit­i­cism:

The find­ings sug­gest that the drug, which blocks IL-13, may not be suf­fi­cient to pro­vide clin­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful im­prove­ments in re­duc­ing asth­ma ex­ac­er­ba­tions.

Ever­core ISI’s Umer Raf­fat says he was in­trigued by the Phase II atopic der­mati­tis da­ta on this drug, which looks com­pa­ra­ble to Dupix­ent but may not stand up for the land haul.

He adds that “this could be a po­ten­tial $1B+ op­por­tu­ni­ty (amidst a po­ten­tial ~$5B atopic der­mati­tis class for bi­o­log­ics as per con­sen­sus),” but if so, why would Roche sell off rights to a block­buster?

That ques­tion seemed to weigh on in­vestors to­day, as Der­mi­ra’s shares grad­u­al­ly buck­led, drop­ping 15% by late af­ter­noon.

Find­ing out what this drug can do in atopic der­mati­tis won’t come cheap. Af­ter you add in the ear­ly pay­ments to Roche, Der­mi­ra says it will spend about $200 mil­lion on land­ing the Phase IIb da­ta. At that point, it will have a much bet­ter idea of where it stands.

“Le­brik­izum­ab is a po­tent and spe­cif­ic in­hibitor of IL-13 with a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed mech­a­nism of ac­tion and at­trac­tive phar­ma­co­ki­net­ic prop­er­ties,” said Eu­gene Bauer, chief med­ical of­fi­cer of Der­mi­ra. “Da­ta from pre­clin­i­cal and clin­i­cal stud­ies, in­clud­ing phar­ma­co­ki­net­ic and phar­ma­co­dy­nam­ic re­sults from ear­ly clin­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence in atopic der­mati­tis, are en­cour­ag­ing and sug­gest high­er dos­es of le­brik­izum­ab could lead to greater ef­fi­ca­cy in atopic der­mati­tis, while po­ten­tial­ly of­fer­ing a less fre­quent and there­fore more con­ve­nient dos­ing reg­i­men rel­a­tive to ex­ist­ing ther­a­pies. If suc­cess­ful­ly de­vel­oped, we be­lieve that le­brik­izum­ab could be a best-in-class IL-13 in­hibitor and could have a best-in-dis­ease pro­file.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; 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.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Jacob Van Naarden, Senior VP, CEO of Loxo Oncology at Lilly; President, Lilly Oncology

Eli Lil­ly bags FDA nod for Verzenio in ear­ly breast can­cer, but a con­tro­ver­sial di­ag­nos­tic could dog its roll­out

As Eli Lilly works to consolidate its internal and Loxo teams into an oncology powerhouse, the drug giant is putting high hopes on CDK 4/6 inhibitor Verzenio to help drive the portfolio into the future. Now, the drug has scored a paradigm-altering win in early breast cancer — but will a controversial companion diagnostic hamstring Lilly’s market plans?

The FDA on Wednesday approved CDK 4/6 inhibitor Verzenio in combination with physician’s-choice endocrine therapy to cut the risk of relapse in patients with high-risk HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer, Lilly said in a release.

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FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

FDA ad­comm to de­cide on mol­nupi­ravir EUA; Can­cer at­las un­veils new po­ten­tial drug tar­get

The FDA has another adcomm coming down the pipeline — this time on Covid-19 oral antiviral molnupiravir.

The federal agency’s advisory committee will meet on November 30th to go over Merck and Ridgeback’s EUA request for their investigational antiviral drug, and discuss the available data supporting its use in Covid-19 patients.

This comes two weeks after Merck claimed that their antiviral pill reduced the chance that newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients would be hospitalized or die by 50%. The pharma made the announcement after interim data on 775 patients in their clinical trial showed the antiviral’s potential.