Sanofi’s dengue vac­cine slams in­to a safe­ty is­sue, trig­ger­ing a $120M write-off and evis­cer­at­ing old block­buster pro­jec­tions

Sanofi spent $1.5 bil­lion over about 20 long years to de­vel­op its dengue vac­cine, be­liev­ing that it had a block­buster prod­uct head­ed to a mas­sive glob­al mar­ket.

But their in-house de­vel­op­ment team missed some­thing im­por­tant.

On Wednes­day, Sanofi $SNY said that their in­ves­ti­ga­tors had de­ter­mined that Deng­vax­ia pre­sent­ed a re­al threat to pa­tients who were vac­ci­nat­ed against dengue with­out hav­ing first been ex­posed to it. As a re­sult, these sub­jects could ex­pe­ri­ence a sig­nif­i­cant­ly worse re­ac­tion when ex­posed to a new in­fec­tion — with their body re­act­ing to the first ex­po­sure as if it were the sec­ond, due to the vac­ci­na­tion.

Sanofi said in their state­ment:

There are many fac­tors that can lead to se­vere dengue in­fec­tion. How­ev­er, the high­est risk of get­ting more se­vere dis­ease has been ob­served in peo­ple in­fect­ed for the sec­ond time by a dif­fer­ent dengue virus.

And now Sanofi — which has Take­da nip­ping at its heels with a Phase III ri­val — wants to lim­it its use to pro­tect peo­ple who have had a pri­or in­fec­tion.

Sanofi is tak­ing a $120 mil­lion write-off on the set­back, which dwarfs the amount the phar­ma gi­ant has earned in its first ane­mic rounds of rev­enue — which fell far be­hind its own pro­jec­tions as well as the an­a­lysts who had been cheer­ing them on.

The jar­ring re­ver­sal on Deng­vax­ia un­der­scores yet again the deep-seat­ing prob­lems that the phar­ma gi­ant has ex­pe­ri­enced in de­vel­op­ing and field­ing new ther­a­pies out of its own pipeline. While Sanofi has been bull­ish­ly mak­ing ad­vances in hand with its part­ner at Re­gen­eron, its R&D op­er­a­tions in Boston and France haven’t been able to gen­er­ate block­buster new med­i­cines for years.

Deng­vax­ia was sup­posed to help change that rep. Dengue af­fects 390 mil­lion peo­ple glob­al­ly each year, cost­ing bil­lions of dol­lars and claim­ing 20,000 lives. That was sup­posed to ig­nite a ma­jor new mar­ket for Sanofi, but sales start­ed at $60 mil­lion last year and then start­ed to dwin­dle.

Sanofi’s set­back, though, is Take­da’s gain. Just weeks ago Take­da post­ed new da­ta un­der­scor­ing TAK-003’s abil­i­ty to gen­er­ate an­ti­bod­ies to dengue. It’s now in Phase III be­ing test­ed among 20,000 sub­jects.

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ue of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine

By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?

Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.

Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

Avalon Ventures chief Jay Lichter has a well-known yen for drug development programs picked up in academia. And what he found in Haoxing Xu’s lab at the University of Michigan pricked his interest enough to launch one of his umbrella biotechs in San Diego.
Xu’s work laid the foundation for Avalon to launch Calporta, which has been working on finding small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for lysosomal storage disorders. And that pathway, they believe, points to new approaches on major market neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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In­vestors could emerge from Neil Wood­ford de­ba­cle with £1B loss, in­ter­nal analy­sis re­veals

When Link Fund Solutions announced that it is closing Woodford Equity Income Fund permanently and kicking out Neil Woodford, it was implied that investors probably won’t get back everything they entrusted to the fund manager. But nobody knew just how much they would lose.

An internal analysis commissioned by Link suggested that the collective loss could amount to £1 billion — out of a fund last valued at £3.1 billion — Citywire has revealed.

GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala scores in rare blood dis­or­der study

GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Nucala, which received a resounding FDA rejection for use in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) last year, has shown promise in a rare blood disorder.

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Spe­cial re­port: Twen­ty ex­tra­or­di­nary women in bio­phar­ma R&D who worked their way to the top

What differentiates a woman leader in biopharma R&D from a man?

Not much, except there are fewer of them in senior posts. Data suggest women are not more risk-averse, family-oriented or less confident than their male counterparts — indeed the differences between the two sexes are negligible. But a glance at the top R&D positions in Big Pharma leaves little doubt that upward migration in the executive ranks of biopharma R&D is tough.

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FDA Vas­cepa re­view spot­lights new safe­ty sig­nals, pos­si­ble min­er­al oil spoil­er as Amarin hunts a block­buster ap­proval

An in-house FDA review of Amarin’s Vascepa raises a set of hurdles the biotech will have to clear if the biotech expects to get the long-awaited FDA approval that could set it on a path to superstar status. But it appears that Amarin has survived another potential setback without introducing a major new threat to its prospects.

The stakes don’t get much higher, with analysts saying a win this week for Amarin could lead to billions in new sales — provided the agency stamps it with an OK. And investors liked what they say in the FDA review this morning, bumping the stock $AMRN 17%.

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FDA puts Sol­id Bio’s lead gene ther­a­py pro­gram on hold — again — af­ter an­oth­er pa­tient is hurt by SGT-001

Solid Biosciences continues to be plagued by safety issues.

Close to 18 months after the gene therapy biotech was able to quickly shed an FDA hold on their lead Duchenne muscular dystrophy program for SGT-001, regulators have stepped back in to force another halt after another patient was hit hard by a set of serious adverse events remarkably similar to the first set.

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FDA slaps a hold on an AML tri­al as Mark­er scraps a fail­ing ovar­i­an can­cer pro­gram, sink­ing shares

The FDA has placed a hold on a Phase II AML trial from the small immuno-oncology biotech Marker Therapeutics. Marker disclosed the issue two weeks after responding to FDA concerns, adding it to the Q3 release Tuesday. The company also announced it was scrapping a Phase II ovarian cancer program it determined was unlikely to succeed.

The agency’s concern centers around two reagents used in manufacturing for their trial for acute myeloid leukemia patients who have received a stem cell transplant. The reagents are from third parties and not present in the final product, Marker said.

Eli Lil­ly-backed biotech grabs $100M to dis­patch an­ti­body-oligonu­cleotide con­ju­gates af­ter mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy

Hold up your hand. Make a fist. Now open it. And again.

If you can do it fully and with ease, then the proteins in your hand are likely working properly. If you can’t then they may not be. In people with myotonic muscular dystrophy, something more atomic is going on.

In those folks, the problem is RNA. Certain base pairs repeat far beyond normal, up to 11,000 superfluous letters in some cases. The extended strands form “clumps.” Proteins misform and can’t function properly. They often allow one movement but not the reverse, a condition called myotonia that gives the dystrophy its name.