Top Cel­gene ex­ec pins the blame for ozan­i­mod fi­as­co on the Re­cep­tos team — ac­quired 3 years ago

Cel­gene’s top ex­ecs have been reel­ing for months, stag­gered by the FDA’s de­ci­sion to kick back their ap­pli­ca­tion on ozan­i­mod, the big drug in the late-stage pipeline that is bad­ly need­ed as the com­pa­ny looks to build new rev­enue and lessen its de­pen­dence on Revlim­id price hikes. And now one of the lead­ers in­volved in the em­bar­rass­ing refuse-to-file set­back with ozan­i­mod isn’t just agree­ing that their ap­pli­ca­tion was in­ad­e­quate, he’s point­ing fin­gers di­rect­ly at the team they brought in when they ac­quired the drug with their $7.2 bil­lion Re­cep­tos buy­out.

Nadim Ahmed

“I think that 99% of folk at Cel­gene wouldn’t have sub­mit­ted, but we had Re­cep­tos out on the West Coast and, for what­ev­er rea­son, the de­ci­sion was made to sub­mit,” Cel­gene’s head of hema­tol­ogy and on­col­o­gy Nadim Ahmed told David Crow at the Fi­nan­cial Times. “We learned a les­son of hu­mil­i­ty and that when you do an ac­qui­si­tion it’s bet­ter to be more in­te­grat­ed rather than be com­plete­ly away from the moth­er ship.”

Cel­gene — helmed by a cur­rent ex-Ma­rine, who got the job from an­oth­er ex-Ma­rine — has been known for a for­ward-think­ing, can-do ap­proach to bio­phar­ma. Pre­sum­ably that ex­tends to the way it in­te­grates the com­pa­nies it buys. The Re­cep­tos team, though, ev­i­dent­ly nev­er mea­sured up to Cel­gene stan­dards, and reg­u­la­tors ex­pressed amaze­ment that the Cel­gene NDA was un­ac­cept­able.

Said Ahmed:

[The FDA] kin­da said ‘what hap­pened guys, this isn’t what we usu­al­ly ex­pect from Cel­gene?’ And we had to say, you know, ‘mea cul­pa it’s on us’.

Or them.

Ron­ny Gal

Com­plet­ing the blame-it-on-Re­cep­tos ap­proach, Ron­ny Gal at Bern­stein not­ed that lit­tle biotechs may cut cor­ners that a big cap com­pa­ny like Cel­gene wouldn’t dream of. And he cau­tioned that any ac­quir­er has to keep that in mind dur­ing the M&A process.

Of course, Cel­gene has had three years to fix any­thing that was wrong at Re­cep­tos. So some­body on the in­side al­so fell short. But we’re not hear­ing about that to­day.

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.

NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

No, sci­en­tists are not any clos­er to pig-to-hu­man trans­plants than they were last week

Steve Holtzman was awoken by a 1 a.m. call from a doctor at Duke University asking if he could put some pigs on a plane and fly them from Ohio to North Carolina that day. A motorcyclist had gotten into a horrific crash, the doctor explained. He believed the pigs’ livers, sutured onto the patient’s skin like an external filter, might be able to tide the young man over until a donor liver became available.

UP­DAT­ED: Agenus calls out FDA for play­ing fa­vorites with Mer­ck, pulls cer­vi­cal can­cer BLA at agen­cy's re­quest

While criticizing the FDA for what may be some favoritism towards Merck, Agenus on Friday officially pulled its accelerated BLA for its anti-PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab as a potential second-line treatment for cervical cancer because of the recent full approval for Merck’s Keytruda in the same indication.

The company said the BLA, which was due for an FDA decision by Dec. 16, was withdrawn “when the window for accelerated approval of balstilimab closed,” thanks to the conversion of Keytruda’s accelerated approval to a full approval four months prior to its PDUFA date.

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How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data are messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data are exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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Marty Duvall, Oncopeptides CEO

On­copep­tides stock craters as it pulls can­cer drug Pepax­to from the mar­ket

Shares of Oncopeptides crashed more than 70% in early Friday trading after the company said it’s pulling its multiple myeloma drug Pepaxto (melphalan flufenamide) from the US market after failing a confirmatory trial. The move will force the company to close its US and EU business units and enact significant layoffs.

The FDA had scheduled an adcomm meeting next Thursday to discuss Pepaxto, which first won accelerated approval in February and costs about $19,000 per course of treatment. The committee was to weigh in on whether the confirmatory trial demonstrated a worse overall survival in the treatment arm compared to the control arm.

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Pfiz­er pitch­es its Covid-19 vac­cine for younger chil­dren ahead of ad­comm next week

Pfizer will present its case to the FDA’s vaccine adcomm next week, seeking authorization for a lower-dose version of its Covid-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 through 12, which the Biden administration said will likely begin rolling out early next month.

Two primary doses of the 10 µg vaccine (the dose for those ages 12 and up is 30 μg) given 3 weeks apart in this group of children “have shown a favorable safety and tolerability profile, robust immune responses against all variants of concern including Delta, and vaccine efficacy of 90.7% against laboratory-confirmed symptomatic COVID-19,” the company said in briefing documents ahead of next Tuesday’s meeting of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.

David Lockhart, ReCode Therapeutics CEO

Pfiz­er throws its weight be­hind LNP play­er eye­ing mR­NA treat­ments for CF, PCD

David Lockhart did not see the meteoric rise of messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles coming.

Thanks to the worldwide fight against Covid-19, mRNA — the genetic code that can be engineered to turn the body into a mini protein factory — and LNPs, those tiny bubbles of fat carrying those instructions, have found their way into hundreds of millions of people. Within the biotech world, pioneers like Alnylam and Intellia have demonstrated just how versatile LNPs can be as a delivery vehicle for anything from siRNA to CRISPR/Cas9.

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Bris­tol My­ers pledges to sell its Ac­celeron shares as ac­tivist in­vestors cir­cle Mer­ck­'s $11.5B buy­out — re­port

Just as Avoro Capital’s campaign to derail Merck’s proposed $11.5 billion buyout of Acceleron gains steam, Bristol Myers Squibb is leaning in with some hefty counterweight.

The pharma giant is planning to tender its Acceleron shares, Bloomberg reported, which add up to a sizable 11.5% stake. Based on the offer price, the sale would net Bristol Myers around $1.3 billion.

To complete its deal, Merck needs a majority of shareholders to agree to sell their shares.

David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.