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.

Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

UP­DAT­ED: With loom­ing ‘apoc­a­lypse of drug re­sis­tance,’ Mer­ck’s com­bi­na­tion an­tibi­ot­ic scores FDA ap­proval on two fronts

Merck — one of the last large biopharmaceuticals companies in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Wednesday said the FDA had sanctioned the approval of its combination antibacterial for the treatment of complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections.

To curb the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and maintain the efficacy of the therapy, Recarbrio (and other antibacterials) — the drug must be used to treat or prevent infections that are proven or strongly suspected to be caused by susceptible gram-negative bacteria, Merck $MRK said.

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John McHutchison in 2012. Getty Images

The $1.1M good­bye: Gilead CSO John McHutchi­son is out as Daniel O’Day shakes up the se­nior team

Just a little more than a year after John McHutchison grabbed a promotion to become CSO at Gilead in the wake of Norbert Bischofberger’s exit, he’s out amid a shakeup of the senior team that is also triggering the departure of two other top execs.

Gilead stated that McHutchison “has decided to step down” from the job as of August 2nd. And their SEC filing notes that he’ll be getting a $1.1 million check to settle up on his contract.

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