Dawn O’Connell, HHS' assistant secretary for preparedness and response (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

US ex­pects to soon run out of gov­ern­ment Covid-19 funds for vac­cines, treat­ments

The US gov­ern­ment is sound­ing the alarm that com­ing up lat­er this year and in 2023, it won’t be able to pay for Covid-19 vac­cines, treat­ments and pro­phy­lac­tics mov­ing for­ward, and these prod­ucts will tran­si­tion to the com­mer­cial mar­ket.

While the US will dole out about 170 mil­lion of the up­com­ing bi­va­lent boost­ers for free this fall and win­ter, start­ing as ear­ly as Jan­u­ary 2023, the Biden ad­min­is­tra­tion an­tic­i­pates “no longer hav­ing fed­er­al funds to pur­chase or dis­trib­ute vac­cines and will need to tran­si­tion these ac­tiv­i­ties to the com­mer­cial mar­ket,” Dawn O’Con­nell, HHS’ as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for pre­pared­ness and re­sponse, wrote in a blog post yes­ter­day.

The drop-off in pay­ments comes as Con­gress couldn’t get its act to­geth­er to pass ad­di­tion­al fund­ing re­lat­ed to Covid-19, as Re­pub­li­cans pre­vi­ous­ly called on HHS to re­pur­pose mon­ey that it al­ready re­ceived in pri­or spend­ing pack­ages. But Sen­ate Dems late last month pro­posed $22 bil­lion in 2023 emer­gency sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing for the next phase of the pan­dem­ic, in­clud­ing $16 bil­lion to sup­port the R&D, man­u­fac­tur­ing, pur­chase and dis­tri­b­u­tion of vac­cines, ther­a­peu­tics, di­ag­nos­tics and oth­er med­ical coun­ter­mea­sures.

As far as when these tran­si­tions to the com­mer­cial mar­ket may oc­cur, on the ther­a­peu­tic side, where Eli Lil­ly’s bebtelovimab al­ready tran­si­tioned ear­li­er this month, the re­main­ing fed­er­al sup­ply of As­traZeneca’s pre­ven­ta­tive treat­ment Evusheld (about 750,000 cours­es of the 1.5 mil­lion or­dered re­main) as soon as ear­ly 2023, fol­lowed by Mer­ck’s oral an­tivi­ral Lagevrio (about 2.5 mil­lion cours­es re­main) some­time in Q1 or Q2 of next year, and Pfiz­er’s Paxlovid (7.3 mil­lion cours­es or­dered by states of the to­tal US or­der for 20 mil­lion cours­es) in mid-2023.

HHS yes­ter­day con­vened a meet­ing of more than 100 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, health care providers, in­sur­ers, phar­ma com­pa­nies, pa­tient ad­vo­cates, and more, to dis­cuss the path­way to com­mer­cial­iza­tion for both vac­cines and ther­a­peu­tics.

“Dur­ing the meet­ing, we dis­cussed our shared goals of tran­si­tion­ing these prod­ucts in a way that en­sures con­tin­ued eq­ui­table ac­cess for all Amer­i­cans and pre­pares us for what­ev­er may come next with this virus that has been any­thing but pre­dictable,” O’Con­nell said.

But all hope isn’t lost that Con­gress may find some agree­ment on ad­di­tion­al funds for Covid vac­cines and ther­a­peu­tics. Two top Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors this week urged the Biden ad­min­is­tra­tion to put to­geth­er a plan for the next wave of vac­cine R&D.

Sens. Richard Burr of North Car­oli­na, who’s re­tir­ing this year, and James In­hofe of Ok­la­homa asked Biden to sub­mit to Con­gress a “con­crete pro­pos­al” to es­tab­lish an Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed 2.0 by the end of the year

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Take­da to pull key hy­poparathy­roidism drug from the mar­ket en­tire­ly by end of 2024 af­ter years of man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

Takeda on Tuesday morning made an announcement that almost 3,000 people with the rare disease known as hypoparathyroidism were fearing.

Due to unresolved supply issues and manufacturing woes, Takeda said it will cut its losses and discontinue its hypoparathyroidism drug, known as Natpara (parathyroid hormone), halting all manufacturing of the drug by the end of 2024.

The decision to not re-commercialize Natpara will be a blow to not only the 2,400 people who were awaiting supplies of their reliable injection since 2019, but also the additional nearly 400 people who were accessing the drugs via the company’s Special Use Program as Takeda sought to resolve these manufacturing issues over the past five years.

Astel­las, Pan­th­er­na add or­gan to mR­NA tie-up; Rock­et launch­es sale of six fig­ures worth of stock

Astellas and Pantherna have expanded their November 2021 pact surrounding the latter’s mRNA platform to include a new target organ, the duo announced Tuesday morning, though they did not specify what that target is.

German biotech Pantherna is home to two platform technologies — one that designs mRNAs for non-vaccine therapies and another that designs LNPs. Astellas and Pantherna’s deal appears to mainly revolve around the first platform, which Astellas said it is using to research direct reprogramming, or turning cells from one kind into another without an intermediate stem cell phase.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Andrew Crockett, KalVista CEO

KalVista ends a PhII study ear­ly af­ter pa­tients suf­fer se­vere and life-threat­en­ing side ef­fects

KalVista took a beating Tuesday after announcing it would scrap a Phase II trial for one of its experimental drugs.

The biotech said in an early morning press release that it is terminating the study for KVD824 after multiple patients in every treatment group saw unsafe, elevated levels of certain liver enzymes. By ending the trial now, KalVista hopes to save some money and funnel it toward another study for its lead program, CEO Andrew Crockett said in a statement.

Pen­ny stock play­er to re­view all op­tions to try stay­ing afloat af­ter clin­i­cal tri­al fail

Adamis Pharmaceuticals is slowly tumbling down, and the biotech is looking at all its options.

After a Phase II/III trial failure last month that sent the penny stock player down an additional 50% to just 15 cents a share, the company said Monday that it is examining options to get the best value for its investors. A statement from Adamis indicates that alternatives include anything from a partnership to a sale of Adamis’ two commercial products, Zimhi and Symjepi.