Trump nukes bio­phar­ma, and the fall­out is ra­dioac­tive

End­points as­sess­es the big bio­phar­ma sto­ries of the week, with a lit­tle added com­men­tary on what they mean for the in­dus­try.

The cheap shot heard around the bio­phar­ma world

Make no mis­take, Don­ald Trump dropped a nuke on JP Mor­gan in more ways than one when he sud­den­ly went off on an un­script­ed tan­gent in his press con­fer­ence and slimed the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try for its mur­der­ous pric­ing prac­tices.

We’ve heard some snip­pets be­fore from Trump as he stoked pop­ulist anger over drug prices. There were sug­ges­tions about Medicare ne­go­ti­a­tions and he clear­ly promised Time that as pres­i­dent he will rein in prices. Es­sen­tial­ly promis­ing to use the full force of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to ac­com­plish that, though, was the night­mare sce­nario that the in­dus­try feared was com­ing.

Can nasty tweets di­rect­ed at in­di­vid­ual drug prices be far be­hind?

And JP Mor­gan was go­ing so well…

I’ve been a reg­u­lar at JP Mor­gan long enough to know the drill. It’s a great way to start the year with a lift — no mat­ter what. If trends are aw­ful, you’ll get plen­ty of hype of bet­ter times to come. If they’re great, the news flow will con­vince you that good times will not be end­ing soon.

Sure, there are plen­ty of com­plaints. But Amer­i­cans com­plain the most when we’re win­ning. And few an­a­lysts would de­ny that most of the ba­sics in bio­phar­ma have been great — nu­mer­ous caveats and in­di­vid­ual de­feats aside.

This year was dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent, and that was ap­par­ent even be­fore Trump dumped all over the in­dus­try.

Busi­ness as usu­al is over in bio­phar­ma, and we all know it. I had a chance to dis­cuss this with a pan­el that in­clud­ed Brent Saun­ders, Richard Pops, Joaquin Du­a­to, Steven Pear­son and Stephen Ubl. I even snagged Bob Hug­in at the West­in for a few min­utes. And the pri­ma­ry top­ic was about change and how to man­age it.

The in­dus­try has a nar­row open­ing left to reg­u­late it­self in ways that will pro­tect the need for ag­gres­sive pric­ing on new drugs. I think we would all be hap­py to see the price gougers (Tur­ing, Valeant, My­lan) lined up against a wall and fig­u­ra­tive­ly shot for in­cit­ing on­line ri­ot­ing over drug prices. Port­fo­lio price hikes on patent­ed ther­a­pies will now be reined in, with much thanks to Saun­ders for lay­ing out the guide­lines.

Look over the price hikes you’ve seen over the past two weeks and you’ll see that Saun­ders’ pledge push has proven enor­mous­ly in­flu­en­tial.

Now the in­dus­try has to fol­low up with an un­apolo­getic, please-look-at-the-da­ta ap­proach on new drug prices. If there’s a land­mark event in drug de­vel­op­ment, you can and should ex­pect a steep price. That’s pay­ing for the in­dus­try’s R&D bill. The in­dus­try, though, has to do a much, much bet­ter job of ex­plain­ing why re­al ad­vances are worth pay­ing for. Gilead pro­vid­ed a clas­sic ex­am­ple of how not to do that when it rolled out So­val­di with its Death Star PR team at the fore­front.

The hid­den side to all of this is that once you strip away the re­mark­able an­nu­al port­fo­lio price hikes, the in­dus­try will be left to re­ly on in­no­va­tion for its fu­ture suc­cess. And can any­one doubt that some of the biggest com­pa­nies are the least pre­pared for what’s to come?

JPM kicks off with plen­ty of deals, prim­ing the pump for 2017

This time a year ago we all ex­pect­ed that 2016 would be a great year for M&A. I know I did. That proved to be flat wrong, but the con­sen­sus now is that 2017 has to be big for M&A. And the first round of deals an­nounced in and around JP Mor­gan in­di­cates that pre­mi­ums are still over the top.

Like a num­ber of play­ers, Ipsen has a new CEO in­ter­est­ed in mak­ing a rep for the com­pa­ny. So he start­ed by buy­ing out a Mer­ri­mack drug that has un­der­per­formed since launch. That $1 bil­lion deal sets the stage for what will be a busy year in ac­qui­si­tions, as Take­da proved with Ari­ad (pay­ing a 74% pre­mi­um). And we all know that Pfiz­er plans to be ac­tive.

Sanofi, Gilead, Bio­gen and many oth­ers are all but re­quired to per­form this year, if they want to get a pack of un­hap­py an­a­lysts off their backs.

Mer­ck sur­pris­es us all once again, in a good way

Once again the amaz­ing im­muno-on­col­o­gy team at Mer­ck is break­ing new ground and com­plete­ly wreck­ing all the ex­pec­ta­tions of their ri­vals and an­a­lysts. This week the wreck­ing ball came in the form of a swift FDA em­brace of their ap­pli­ca­tion for Mer­ck’s com­bo ther­a­py for lung can­cer.

Mer­ck has con­sis­tent­ly been shoved in­to sec­ond place with Keytru­da, and Roger Perl­mut­ter’s crew has con­sis­tent­ly proven that they won’t ac­cept that.

Up­set­ting ex­pec­ta­tions in R&D has be­come a habit for a Big Phar­ma out­fit that was once so mori­bund that it could nev­er fig­ure out how to jump off the tracks ahead of a fast-ap­proach­ing train. They’re on a roll now, and this time no one will un­der­es­ti­mate what the Keytru­da group can ac­com­plish.

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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Serhat Gumrukçu, Enochian BioSciences co-founder (Seraph Research Institute)

LA biotech founder ar­rest­ed, charged in mur­der-for-hire scheme be­hind 2018 death

A biotech founder has been arrested and charged for his role in a murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in the death of a man in Vermont back in 2018.

Serhat Gumrukçu, the co-founder of Enochian BioSciences, was arrested in Los Angeles, where the company is based, according to the Department of Justice. He was charged alongside Berk Eratay of Las Vegas, and a third person, Jerry Banks of Colorado, was previously arrested for kidnapping and allegedly murdering the victim, Gregory Davis.

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Adam Russell, ARPA-H's incoming acting deputy director

NI­H's new, in­de­pen­dent break­through drug ac­cel­er­a­tor ARPA-H gets its first em­ploy­ee

Despite the controversy of housing it in NIH, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday afternoon formally announced the establishment of the Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H) as an independent entity within the NIH, as HHS had previously stipulated that “NIH may not subject ARPA-H to NIH policies.”

Becerra also announced the appointment of ARPA-H’s inaugural employee, Adam Russell, who will serve as acting deputy director.

ProFound Therapeutics founding team

Flag­ship's lat­est biotech could turn some of the thou­sands of new pro­teins it dis­cov­ered in­to ther­a­pies — and it has $75M to start

Flagship Pioneering, the incubator of Moderna and dozens of other biotechs, says it has landed upon tens of thousands of previously undiscovered human proteins. The VC shop wants to potentially turn them into therapeutics.

Like other drug developers that have turned proteins into therapeutics (think insulin for diabetes), Flagship’s latest creation, ProFound Therapeutics, wants to tap into this new trove of proteins as part of its mission to treat indications ranging from rare diseases to cancer to immunological diseases.

Richard Silverman, Akava Therapeutics founder and Northwestern professor

This time around, Lyri­ca's in­ven­tor is de­vel­op­ing his North­west­ern dis­cov­er­ies at his own biotech

Richard Silverman was left in the dark for the last five years of clinical development of the drug he discovered. The Northwestern University professor found out about the first approval of Lyrica, in the last few days of 2004, like most other people: in the newspaper.

What became one of Pfizer’s top-selling meds, at $5 billion in 2017 global sales before losing patent protection in 2019, started slipping out of his hands when Northwestern licensed it out to Parke-Davis, one of two biotechs that showed interest in developing the drug in the pre-email days, when the university’s two-person tech transfer team had to ship out letters to garner industry appetite.

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David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

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Up­dat­ed: US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

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FDA spells out the rules and re­stric­tions for states seek­ing to im­port drugs from Cana­da

The FDA is offering more of an explanation of the guardrails around its program that may soon allow states to import prescription drugs in some select circumstances from Canada, but only if such imports will result in significant cost reductions for consumers.

While the agency has yet to sign off on any of the 5 state plans in the works so far, and PhRMA’s suit to block the Trump-era rule allowing such imports is stalled, the new Q&A guidance spells out the various restrictions that states will have to abide by, potentially signaling that a state approval is coming.