Trump blasts Big Phar­ma again — “some­body’s get­ting very rich” — and promis­es drug price leg­is­la­tion

David Ricks, Lil­ly

On Mon­day Eli Lil­ly CEO Dave Ricks out­lined his com­pa­ny’s case that their drug prices are not spin­ning out of con­trol. In a lengthy re­port he as­sert­ed that dis­counts on drug prices to phar­ma ben­e­fit man­agers has grown from 28% in 2012 to an av­er­age of 50% last year. And while list prices grew 14% last year, net prices ac­tu­al­ly grew by on­ly 2.4%.

That po­si­tion re­flect­ed a grow­ing ef­fort on Big Phar­ma’s part — a de­fen­sive re­ac­tion that al­so in­cludes two oth­er US-based phar­ma gi­ants, Mer­ck and J&J — to de­fend it­self against grow­ing pres­sure from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to rein in drug prices.

But it all looks like too lit­tle, too late to blunt Trump’s po­lit­i­cal jug­ger­naut aimed at the re­tail cost of med­i­cine.

On Mon­day night, Pres­i­dent Trump ral­lied a crowd in Louisville, Ken­tucy by re­peat­ing a pop­ulist pledge to roll back drug prices. And he added that his ad­min­is­tra­tion was work­ing to add pric­ing leg­is­la­tion to the cur­rent health­care bill, or one com­ing up “right af­ter.”

Once health­care re­form is done and Oba­macare has been re­pealed, he told the crowd, it will be time to get to work on med­i­cine, “bring­ing down the cost of med­i­cine by hav­ing a fair and com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process. Some peo­ple think that’s just as im­por­tant as health­care.”

“The cost of med­i­cine in this coun­try is out­ra­geous, many times high­er than in some coun­tries in Eu­rope and else­where. Why?”

“Same pill, same man­u­fac­tur­er, iden­ti­cal and it’s many times high­er in the Unit­ed States.”

“You know why? Cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. Who knows. But some­body’s get­ting very rich.”

“Med­i­cine prices will be com­ing way down. Way, way, way down.”

The crowd of Trump sup­port­ers sig­naled their sup­port through­out the ral­ly, cheer­ing the pres­i­dent as he roast­ed Oba­macare and phar­ma com­pa­nies in what is now fa­mil­iar lan­guage. Wall Street has be­gun to tune out, less ready to trig­ger a rout on phar­ma stocks every time Trump blasts the in­dus­try. But to­day both the XBI and the IBB are in the red, of­fer­ing fresh ev­i­dence of the pres­i­dent’s con­tin­ued abil­i­ty to send a chill­ing mes­sage.

Now every­one’s wait­ing for the ac­tu­al leg­is­la­tion to see how Trump plans to de­liv­er on his promise re­gard­ing drug prices in the US. And that’s some­thing no one will ig­nore.

Watch the speech here:

In a sec­ond big set­back for Covid-19 an­ti­body treat­ment hopes, Re­gen­eron halts en­roll­ment for more se­vere pa­tients

Regeneron has just delivered more bad news for the hope that neutralizing antibodies could be used to treat patients with more severe forms of Covid-19.

The New York biotech said today that an independent monitoring committee recommended halting enrollment of patients who need high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation in one of the trials on their antibody cocktail, after finding “a potential safety signal” and “an unfavorable risk/benefit profile.” The news comes a week after the NIH scrapped a trial of Eli Lilly’s Covid-19 antibody after finding it was having little effect on an initial cohort of hospitalized patients.

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Daphne Koller, Getty

Bris­tol My­er­s' Richard Har­g­reaves pays $70M to launch a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion al­liance with a star play­er in the ma­chine learn­ing world

Bristol Myers Squibb is turning to one of the star upstarts in the machine learning world to go back to the drawing board and come up with the disease models needed to find drugs that can work against two of the toughest targets in the neuro world.

Daphne Koller’s well-funded insitro is getting $70 million in cash and near-term milestones to use their machine learning platform to create induced pluripotent stem cell-derived disease models for ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

No­vo Nordisk qui­et­ly nabs a rare 'break­through' sta­tus in NASH for its cash cow

Earlier this month, the small French biotech Inventiva touted themselves as having won the first FDA breakthrough designation in NASH since Intercept grabbed the first one back in 2015, before the disease had become one of biotech’s hottest areas. Unbeknownst to them, though, a much larger European rival had already landed the status months prior.

Novo Nordisk, the Danish metabolic giant, disclosed in their Q3 report Friday that back in August, the FDA gave them breakthrough status for semaglutide, their blockbuster diabetes drug, in NASH, or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. The designation sets Novo up as a leading contender in a new wave of companies developing treatments for a silent and widespread disease that, despite a series of setbacks, is still viewed by many as a huge potential market.

George Golumbeski (L) and Faheem Hasnain

George Golumbes­ki and Fa­heem Has­nain team up with Ver­tex Ven­tures HC in man­ag­ing $320M of biotech cash

Two longtime biotech veterans are joining a multibillion dollar VC firm in order to help steer its latest fund.

George Golumbeski and Faheem Hasnain have signed on to Vertex Ventures HC as executive advisors, the company announced Thursday, and will assist with their depth of experience in managing $320 million of capital. Both have had previous working relationships with managing partners Carolyn Ng and Lori Hu, which evolved “organically” to get to this point, Ng said.

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Patrick Soon-Shiong at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jan. 13, 2020 (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers, dissed by some ex­perts, biotech show­man Patrick Soon-Sh­iong fi­nal­ly gets his Covid-19 vac­cine ready for a tri­al. But can it live up to the hype?

In January, when dozens of scientists rushed to start making a vaccine for the then-novel coronavirus, they were joined by an unlikely compatriot: Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor most famous for making big, controversial promises on cancer research.

Soon-Shiong had spent the last 4 years on his “Cancer Moonshot,” but part of his project meant buying a small Seattle biotech that specialized in making common-cold vectors, called adenoviruses, to train the immune system. The billionaire had been using those vectors for oncology, but the company had also developed vaccine candidates for H1N1, Lassa fever and other viruses. When the outbreak began, he pivoted.

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As­traZeneca sells off heart fail­ure and hy­per­ten­sion drugs to Chep­lapharm for $400M

Out with the old and in with the new: AstraZeneca is selling off two heart failure and hypertension drugs to Germany-based Cheplapharm, bagging $400 million and making way for development in other areas.

Cheplapharm paid $200 million for the European rights to Atacand (candesartan cilexetil) and Atacand Plus (candesartan cilexetil and hydrochlorothiazide) back in 2018. They’re now doubling that amount for commercial control in more than 70 countries.

News brief­ing: Ax­o­vant faces months of de­lay on lead Parkin­son's gene ther­a­py; Chi­nese CAR-T biotech nabs $100M

One of Axovant’s top gene therapy prospects for its second act is hitting a roadblock that could push its clinical timelines back by almost a year.

In an update, the biotech said it was informed about delays in CMC data and third-part fill-finish issues around mid-October by its manufacturing partner, Oxford Biomedica. Axovant has been developing a suspension-based process for the Parkinson’s drug; with that taking longer than expected, it now believes “it is unlikely that its planned randomized, sham-controlled trial of AXO-Lenti-PD will enroll patients by the end of calendar year 2021.”

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Andreas Arnold/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Flush with $486M con­tract, As­traZeneca signs Lon­za up to man­u­fac­ture an­ti­bod­ies; BioN­Tech's Ugur Sahin ex­pects vac­cine da­ta 'in a fort­night'

Days after scoring a $486 million BARDA contract to develop and manufacture its long-acting antibody combo for Covid-19, AstraZeneca has tapped Lonza to produce the drug substance at its mid-scale facility in Portsmouth, NH.

The drug, dubbed AZD7442, puts together two antibodies, first discovered by scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, derived from convalescent patients who recovered from a SARS-CoV-2 infection. AstraZeneca licensed them in June and has since further engineered them with half-life extension and reduced Fc receptor binding.

CEO Kenji Yasukawa (Astellas)

In ear­ly blow to Ken­ji Ya­sukawa's R&D re­vamp, Astel­las drops out of the TIG­IT race, cit­ing PhI fail­ure

Just after AstraZeneca jumped into the TIGIT race, Astellas quietly disclosed that it was leaving, dropping out of a hunt for an immunotherapy approach that has shown tantalizing promise but remains largely unproven.

Astellas revealed in their second quarter earnings today that they’ve ended development of the anti-TIGIT antibody they acquired in their up to $400 million buyout of Potenza in 2018. The Japanese pharma had been testing it in combination with Keytruda in a 300-person Phase I study on patients with advanced solid tumors. A smaller study testing the antibody alone was completed, 2 years ahead of schedule, in July.

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