'Site-less' tri­als in mind, No­var­tis launch­es an app for oph­thal­mol­o­gy re­search

In the lat­est com­pa­ny move to em­brace all things dig­i­tal, No­var­tis has launched an app that it hopes will boost par­tic­i­pa­tion in its oph­thal­mol­o­gy tri­als.

The phar­ma gi­ant is call­ing the tech Fo­calView, and it’ll be used by re­searchers to track dis­ease pro­gres­sion in pa­tients with oph­thalmic dis­ease re­al-time. Pa­tients will self-re­port da­ta through the app that will guide clin­i­cal re­search, start­ing by tak­ing as­sess­ments like vi­su­al acu­ity and con­trast sen­si­tiv­i­ty tests.

Right now, da­ta col­lect­ed for these tri­als most­ly comes from clin­ics, and its first gath­ered by physi­cians through in­ter­ac­tions with pa­tients. By bring­ing the clin­ic in­to peo­ple’s homes via the app, No­var­tis is bank­ing on the idea that mak­ing tri­al par­tic­i­pa­tion easy will boost its da­ta stash

“Op­ti­miz­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy in re­search and de­vel­op­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly in oph­thalmic dis­ease, could have a marked im­pact on the qual­i­ty of the da­ta we cap­ture,” said Bertrand Bod­son, No­var­tis Chief Dig­i­tal Of­fi­cer in a state­ment.

A No­var­tis spokesper­son tells me the app is be­ing test­ed in a prospec­tive, non-in­ter­ven­tion­al study to check on its ef­fi­ca­cy.

“Re­searchers will as­sess ease of use, lev­el of en­roll­ments and the abil­i­ty to ob­tain im­por­tant doc­u­men­ta­tion for fu­ture clin­i­cal tri­al re­search. In the next phase, the app will be val­i­dat­ed against tra­di­tion­al vi­su­al test­ing that takes place with­in con­ven­tion­al clin­i­cal set­tings.”

Fo­calView, which was built on Ap­ple’s soft­ware Re­searchK­it, is live on the App Store in the U.S. No­var­tis is plan­ning to launch in ad­di­tion­al mar­kets in the fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to a com­pa­ny state­ment.

This new app is the lat­est in No­var­tis’ push to mod­ern­ize the phar­ma gi­ant by em­brac­ing tech where ever it can, the com­pa­ny said. The spokesper­son went as far as to say No­var­tis imag­ines it­self a “med­i­cines and da­ta sci­ence com­pa­ny” now.

“Dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and da­ta sci­ence have in­cred­i­ble po­ten­tial to un­lock the next chap­ter of med­ical in­no­va­tion and at No­var­tis we think that go­ing big on da­ta and dig­i­tal are key to No­var­tis’ fu­ture. No­var­tis is unique­ly po­si­tioned to lead the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion in phar­ma by in­te­grat­ing tech­nolo­gies in­to every as­pect of No­var­tis’ ap­proach across R&D, reimag­in­ing No­var­tis as a ‘med­i­cines and da­ta sci­ence’ com­pa­ny.”

The lat­est ex­am­ple of the ef­fort is the com­pa­ny’s new part­ner­ship with Pear Ther­a­peu­tics, one of the pi­o­neers in dig­i­tal med­i­cine, to de­vel­op new mo­bile apps for pa­tients with schiz­o­phre­nia and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. No­var­tis al­so re­cent­ly an­nounced an ex­pand­ed part­ner­ship with Sci­ence 37 to launch up to 10 col­lab­o­ra­tive re­search stud­ies over the next three years that blend vir­tu­al and tra­di­tion­al mod­els. The idea is to em­brace more “site-less” tri­als in the fu­ture.

The com­pa­ny says its al­so gone live with a da­ta sci­ence pro­gram it calls Nerve, which us­es pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics to de­sign, mon­i­tor, and cull in­sights from the com­pa­ny’s hun­dreds of clin­i­cal tri­als around the world. That pro­gram is al­ready de­liv­er­ing a 10-15% re­duc­tion in pa­tient en­roll­ment times in pi­lot tri­als, a No­var­tis spokesper­son said.

Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

UP­DAT­ED: A small, ob­scure biotech just won big with their IPO. In this mar­ket. Are you kid­ding me?

How could a small, largely unknown biotech that emerged from stealth mode just months ago with early-stage cancer programs jump onto Wall Street in the middle of a Category 6 financial hurricane and sail through with a $165 million IPO?

And what does that mean for the rest of the industry waiting to see just how much damage global lockdowns will wreak on clinical development?

The biotech is a company called Zentalis. The crew there nabbed an $85 million crossover round late last year — notably waiting 5 years before waving the numbers around to attract attention, according to my read of a FierceBiotech story. Perceptive joined in, but the syndicate was not in general the kind of marquee affair that gets tongues wagging.

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Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day attends a meeting with the President and other biopharma leaders at the White House on March 2, 2020 (AP Photo)

Ramp­ing up glob­al pro­duc­tion of remde­sivir, Gilead CEO Dan O’Day de­tails plans to dis­trib­ute 1.5M dos­es to fight Covid-19 — for free

Gilead is still some days away from turning the card on its first round of data on remdesivir’s ability to fight severe cases of Covid-19, but the big biotech is ramping up an emergency supply of a million courses of therapy as it starts free distribution of the drug to tens of thousands of patients under their compassionate use and expanded access program as well as clinical trials.

In his latest open letter posted over the weekend, Gilead CEO Dan O’Day outlined how the company has been successful in cutting production time on remdesivir while repurposing some of their own facilities and turning to contract manufacturers to build a near-term supply of 1.5 million doses. They are still working on efficacy and dosing, but that supply could cover 140,000 courses of treatment. That supply, he added, would be more widely available following a potential approval.

Bob Nelsen at the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH chief Bob Nelsen has $1.5B to prove 2 sim­ple points: ‘We’re in the most in­no­v­a­tive time ever’ and in­vestors are stay­ing

ARCH co-founder and managing director Bob Nelsen has a well known yen for the home run swing, betting big on potentially transformative meds and tech and the biotech teams he helps bring together. He thrives and bleeds on the cutting edge. And now Nelsen and the ARCH group have debuted 2 big funds to prove that this is the time for the best of biotech to shine — deadly pandemic be damned.

Two new funds, ARCH Venture Fund X and ARCH Venture Fund X Overage, gathered a combined $1.46 billion. And that’s a record. ARCH Venture Fund IX and ARCH Venture Fund IX Overage closed in 2016 with a combined $1.1 billion. ARCH Venture Fund VIII and ARCH Venture Fund VIII Overage closed in 2014 with a combined $560 million.

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Have a new drug that promis­es to fight Covid-19? The FDA promis­es fast ac­tion but some de­vel­op­ers aren't hap­py

After providing an emergency approval to use malaria drugs against coronavirus with little actual evidence of their efficacy or safety in that setting, the FDA has already proven that it has set aside the gold standard when it comes to the pandemic. And now regulators have spelled out a new approach to speeding development that promises immediate responses in no uncertain terms — promising a program offering the ultimate high-speed pathway to Covid-19 drug approvals.

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Once fu­ri­ous over No­var­tis’ da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion scan­dal, the FDA now says it’s noth­ing they need to take ac­tion on

Back in the BP era — Before Pandemic — the FDA ripped Novartis for its decision to keep the agency in the dark about manipulated data used in its application for Zolgensma while its marketing application for the gene therapy was under review.

Civil and criminal sanctions were being discussed, the agency noted in a rare broadside at one of the world’s largest pharma companies. Notable lawmakers cheered the angry regulators on, urging the FDA to make an example of Novartis, which fielded Zolgensma at $2.1 million — the current record for a one-off therapy.

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Covid-19 roundup: GSK, Am­gen tai­lor R&D work to fit the coro­n­avirus age; Doud­na's ge­nomics crew launch­es di­ag­nos­tic lab

You can add Amgen and GSK to the list of deep-pocket drug R&D players who are tailoring their pipeline work to fit a new age of coronavirus.

Following in the footsteps of a lineup of big players like Eli Lilly — which has suspended patient recruitment for drug studies — Amgen and GSK have opted to take a more tailored approach. Amgen is intent on circling the wagons around key studies that are already fully enrolled, and GSK has the red light on new studies while the pandemic plays out.

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In a stun­ning set­back, Amarin los­es big patent fight over Vas­cepa IP. And its high-fly­ing stock crash­es to earth

Amarin’s shares $AMRN were blitzed Monday evening, losing billions in value as reports spread that the company had lost its high-profile effort to keep its Vascepa patents protected from generic drugmakers.

Amarin had been fighting to keep key patents under lock and key — and away from generic rivals — for another 10 years, but District Court Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas ruled against the biotech. She ruled that:
(A)ll the Asserted Claims are invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C.§ 103. Thus, the Court finds in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s remaining infringementclaim, and in their favor on their counterclaims asserting the invalidity of the AssertedClaims under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

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Aaron Royston, venBio

In­vest­ing in the time of coro­n­avirus: the good, the bad and the hope­ful, as biotech VC firms close funds worth $3B

Apart from disrupting biopharma R&D and regulatory timelines, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably ravaged financial markets and eroded investor risk appetite. Investing in the time of coronavirus feels reckless, but if biotech venture funds are any indication, the time is ripe.

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Drug dis­cov­ery in the age of coro­n­avirus

Developing new drugs is incredibly hard. That’s why, despite superhuman efforts from the industry, we’re still looking at 12-18 months minimum before we can realistically hope for a vaccine for Covid-19, and probably months before there’s a proven viable drug treatment.

But our increasing ability to begin to industrialize the drug discovery and development process through an engineering approach means that we have more hope for speeding up this process than ever before — and not just to defeat coronavirus, but to benefit the development of all new medicines in the future.