Sage shrugs off po­ten­tial com­pe­ti­tion in post­par­tum de­pres­sion, as­serts plan to re­main in­de­pen­dent

Post­par­tum de­pres­sion (PPD), a so-far un­tapped mar­ket, is large enough for mul­ti­ple play­ers with 1 in 7 women di­ag­nosed with the con­di­tion that has no spe­cif­ic ther­a­pies ap­proved by the FDA. But Sage $SAGE, which re­port­ed im­pres­sive late-stage da­ta on its pill in se­vere PPD pa­tients on Mon­day, is not wor­ried about po­ten­tial com­pe­ti­tion.

An­a­lysts have drawn cau­tious com­par­isons with Mar­i­nus $MRNS, whose drug ganax­olone is al­so un­der eval­u­a­tion for PPD. An IV for­mu­la­tion of ganax­olone is cur­rent­ly in a Phase II study in se­vere PPD pa­tients, while mid-stage da­ta from an oral for­mu­la­tion of ganax­olone in mod­er­ate PPD pa­tients is ex­pect­ed in the first half of this year.

Steve Kanes

Sage, mean­while, is clear­ly ahead. The FDA is ex­pect­ed to make a de­ci­sion on the ap­prov­abil­i­ty of its IV PPD drug, brex­anolone, by March 19, af­ter a set­back de­layed the de­ci­sion by three months. The com­pa­ny’s oral PPD drug — SAGE-217 — re­port­ed stel­lar Phase III da­ta on Mon­day, and Sage in­tends to wait for da­ta from a piv­otal study on the pill in pa­tients with ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der (ex­pect­ed in 2020) — be­fore it sub­mits a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion. The oral drug has se­cured the agency’s break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion.

“I think we’re in two very dif­fer­ent worlds, both sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly at this point and strate­gi­cal­ly as well,” Sage chief med­ical of­fi­cer Steve Kanes said in an in­ter­view with End­points News, when asked about the Mar­i­nus com­pound.

But Can­tor Fitzger­ald an­a­lysts pre­dict the two com­pa­nies may end up with equal mar­ket share con­sid­er­ing the size of the large­ly un­tapped mar­ket — if both man­age to take their re­spec­tive drugs across the fin­ish line.

“We mod­el ~572,000 women per year in the U.S. are af­fect­ed with PPD and be­lieve both Sage and Mar­i­nus (we mod­el 30% peak mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion) could have fair mar­ket share ver­sus ex­ist­ing ther­a­pies that take too long to work and are not ef­fi­ca­cious for a ma­jor­i­ty of pa­tients,” they wrote in a note.

Sage de­clined to pro­vide de­tail on their ex­pect­ed time­line to­ward ap­proval for SAGE-217 and sug­gest­ed it was too ear­ly to talk about pric­ing.

When asked about whether the com­pa­ny would be open to takeover dis­cus­sions, Kanes re­it­er­at­ed their plan was al­ways to grow and de­vel­op and in­de­pen­dent com­pa­ny — from dis­cov­ery all the way to com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

“The kinds of op­por­tu­ni­ties we look for are ones that ac­cel­er­ate treat­ment for pa­tients — a good ex­am­ple of that is our part­ner­ship Shino­gi in Japan,” Kanes said.

Japan’s Sh­iono­gi last June agreed to an up $575 mil­lion deal to bag lim­it­ed Asian rights to the SAGE-2017 — with $90 mil­lion in as cash up­front, a day af­ter the Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny se­cured break­through ther­a­py sta­tus from the reg­u­la­tor.

But when pressed on whether a takeover was off the ta­ble, Kanes did not di­rect­ly com­ment, elect­ing in­stead to say that op­er­at­ing as an in­de­pen­dent en­ti­ty has al­ways been their po­si­tion.

Sage’s SAGE-217 re­sults on Mon­day morn­ing cat­a­pult­ed the stock up about 44% to $140.66 in mid­day trad­ing.

“We had thought that a pos­i­tive study would fun­da­men­tal­ly add in the $15-20 range. How­ev­er, that fore­cast was way off giv­en the $50-55 pos­i­tive move this morn­ing, much of which we would at­tribute to ex­cite­ment re­gard­ing M&A in the biotech space, and since SAGE has been viewed as a po­ten­tial take out can­di­date,” Leerink an­a­lysts wrote in a note.

Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

As mon­ey pours in­to dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, in­sur­ance cov­er­age crawls



Talk therapy didn’t help Lily with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But a video game did.

As the 10-year-old zooms through icy waters and targets flying creatures on the snow-capped planet Frigidus, she builds attention skills, thanks to Akili Interactive Labs’ video game EndeavorRx. She’s now less anxious and scattered, allowing her to stay on a low dose of ADHD medication, according to her mom Violet Vu.

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Eli Lil­ly’s Alzheimer’s drug clears more amy­loid ear­ly than Aduhelm in first-ever head-to-head. Will it mat­ter?

Ahead of the FDA’s decision on Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug donanemab in February, the Big Pharma is dropping a first cut of data from one of the more interesting trials — but less important in a regulatory sense — at an Alzheimer’s conference in San Francisco.

In the unblinded 148-person study, Eli Lilly pitted its drug against Aduhelm, Biogen’s drug that won FDA approval but lost Medicare coverage outside of clinical trials. Notably, the study didn’t look at clinical outcomes, but rather the clearance of amyloid, a protein whose buildup is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in the brain.

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Matt Gline, Roivant Sciences CEO (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for GLG)

Pfiz­er and Roivant team up again for an­oth­er 'Van­t', set­ting up an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry show­down with Prometheus

Pfizer and Roivant are teaming up to launch a new ‘Vant’ aimed at bringing a mid-stage anti-inflammatory drug to market, the pair announced Thursday.

There’s no name for the startup yet, nor are there any employees. Thus far, the new company and Roivant can be considered “one and the same,” Roivant CEO Matt Gline tells Endpoints News. But Pfizer is so enthusiastic about the target that it elected to keep 25% of equity in the drug rather than take upfront cash from Roivant, Gline said.

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Roche HQ in Basel, Switzerland. (Image credit: Kyle LaHucik/Endpoints News)

As com­peti­tors near FDA goal­post, Roche spells out its re­peat Alzheimer's set­back

Before Roche can turn all eyes on a new version of its more-than-once-failed Alzheimer’s drug gantenerumab, the Big Pharma had to flesh out data on the November topline failure at an annual conference buzzier than in years past thanks to hotly watched rivals in the field: Eisai and Biogen’s lecanemab, and Eli Lilly’s donanemab.

There was less than a 10% difference between Roche’s drug and placebo at slowing cognitive decline across two Phase III trials, which combined enrolled nearly 2,000 Alzheimer’s patients. In its presentation at the conference Wednesday, Roche said it saw less sweeping away of toxic proteins than it had anticipated. For years, researchers and investors have put their resources behind the idea that more amyloid removal would equate to reduced cognitive decline.

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SQZ Biotech slash­es head­count by 60% as founder/CEO hits ex­it — while Syn­log­ic lays off 25%

It’s a tough time for early-stage companies developing highly promising, but largely unproven, new technologies.

Just ask SQZ Biotechnologies and Synlogic. The former is bidding farewell to its founder and CEO and slashing the headcount by 60% as it pivots from its original cell therapy platform to a next-gen approach; the latter — a synthetic biology play founded by MIT’s Jim Collins and Tim Lu — is similarly “optimizing” the company to focus on lead programs. The resulting realignment means 25% of the staffers will be laid off.

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Ei­sai’s ex­pand­ed Alzheimer’s da­ta leave open ques­tions about safe­ty and clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Researchers still have key questions about Eisai’s investigational Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab following the publication of more Phase III data in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday night.

In the paper, which was released in conjunction with presentations at an Alzheimer’s conference, trial investigators write that a definition of clinical meaningfulness “has not been established.” And the relative lack of new information, following topline data unveiled in September, left experts asking for more — setting up a potential showdown to precisely define how big a difference the drug makes in patients’ lives.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi and DN­Di aim to elim­i­nate sleep­ing sick­ness in Africa with promis­ing Ph II/III re­sults for new drug

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Sanofi today said that their potential sleeping sickness treatment saw success rates of up to 95% from a Phase II/III study investigating the safety and efficacy of single-dose acoziborole.

The potentially transformative treatment for sleeping sickness would mainly be targeted at African countries, according to data published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal. The clinical trial was led by DNDi and its partners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guinea, with the authors noting:

Lynn Baxter, Viiv Healthcare's head of North America

Vi­iV dri­ves new cor­po­rate coali­tion in­clud­ing Uber, Tin­der and Wal­mart, aimed at end­ing HIV

ViiV Healthcare is pulling together an eclectic coalition of consumer businesses in a new White House-endorsed effort to end HIV by the end of the decade.

The new US Business Action to End HIV includes pharma and health companies — Gilead Sciences, CVS Health and Walgreens — but extends to a wide range of consumer companies that includes Tinder, Uber and Walmart.

ViiV is the catalyst for the group, plunking down more than half a million dollars in seed money and taking on ringmaster duties for launch today on World AIDS Day, but co-creator Health Action Alliance will organize joint activities going forward. ViiV and the alliance want and expect more companies to not only join the effort, but also pitch in funding.

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