US gov­ern­ment does not own any remde­sivir patents, GAO re­port finds

The US fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s con­tri­bu­tions to re­search on Gilead’s Covid-19 an­tivi­ral drug remde­sivir did not re­sult in any patent rights be­cause the re­search did not cre­ate new in­ven­tions, the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­i­ty Of­fice said in a re­port on Wednes­day af­ter­noon.

The re­port set­tles a long­stand­ing dis­pute over whether the gov­ern­ment might be co-in­ven­tors of remde­sivir, which has lin­gered since be­fore for­mer Cal­i­for­nia at­tor­ney gen­er­al Xavier Be­cer­ra (who’s now Biden’s HHS sec­re­tary) led a group of oth­er AGs last sum­mer in call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to in­ter­vene and low­er the more than $3,000 price tag for remde­sivir be­cause of the gov­ern­ment’s sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to remde­sivir.

The GAO re­port ac­knowl­edges that be­tween 2013 and 2020, the gov­ern­ment pumped $162 mil­lion in­to the de­vel­op­ment of remde­sivir, with the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC), the De­part­ment of De­fense (DOD), and the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health (NIH) con­duct­ing and fund­ing pre­clin­i­cal re­search. In ad­di­tion, NIH fund­ed three remde­sivir clin­i­cal tri­als, in­clud­ing the one show­ing that the an­tivi­ral short­ened the re­cov­ery time for hos­pi­tal­ized pa­tients with se­vere Covid-19.

Gilead, how­ev­er, al­so con­duct­ed its own re­search that led to the in­ven­tion of remde­sivir and the com­pa­ny said it in­vest­ed $786 mil­lion in remde­sivir R&D from 2000 through De­cem­ber 2020, GAO says. Gilead added in a state­ment that its in­vest­ment in remde­sivir ex­ceed­ed $1 bil­lion in 2020 alone and that cur­rent­ly about half of all hos­pi­tal­ized pa­tients with Covid-19 in the US are treat­ed with the drug.

DOD, NIH and oth­er sci­en­tists at Van­der­bilt and the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill ac­knowl­edged to GAO that their sci­en­tists were not co-in­ven­tors of patent­ed remde­sivir dis­cov­er­ies. For in­stance, NIH of­fi­cials told the GAO that Gilead be­gan patent­ing meth­ods of us­ing remde­sivir to treat coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions in 2015, while NIH sci­en­tists be­gan their remde­sivir re­search fo­cus­ing on coro­n­avirus­es in 2016.

“The prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tors of NIH-fund­ed coro­n­avirus re­search projects told us that they did not con­sid­er fil­ing in­ven­tion dis­clo­sures be­cause their re­search did not in­volve mak­ing any mod­i­fi­ca­tions to remde­sivir or its par­ent com­pounds. The prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tors stat­ed that they viewed such mod­i­fi­ca­tions as the thresh­old for fil­ing such dis­clo­sures,” GAO said.

And even if the gov­ern­ment had filed for a remde­sivir method-of-use patent, DOD and NIH of­fi­cials said that would be of low eco­nom­ic val­ue be­cause the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment did not own the com­pound patents and would have had to li­cense those patents from Gilead if it want­ed to com­mer­cial­ize the method of use or li­cense it to an­oth­er com­pa­ny.

Ac­cord­ing to CDC of­fi­cials, as of last month, they said it was “un­like­ly that CDC would con­duct an in­ven­tor­ship analy­sis or pur­sue in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights giv­en Gilead’s back­ground in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty and the lim­it­ed po­ten­tial for CDC to li­cense any such rights.”

Chris Morten, a lawyer who cur­rent­ly teach­es at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law, not­ed that the re­port did not clar­i­fy if a CDC sci­en­tist, Michael Lo, co-in­vent­ed Gilead’s remde­sivir com­pound patents, and if so, “CDC would, un­der the de­fault rules of patent law, have a claim to co-own­er­ship. But CDC ap­pears un­in­ter­est­ed in pur­su­ing its le­gal rights.”

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Sanofi, GSK tout 72% Omi­cron ef­fi­ca­cy in PhI­II tri­al of next-gen, bi­va­lent shot — with an eye to year-end roll­out

Sometimes, being late can give you an advantage.

That’s what Sanofi and GSK are trying to say as the Big Pharma partners report positive results from a late-stage trial of their next-gen bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which was designed to protect against both the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Beta variant. Specifically, against Omicron, they note, the vaccine delivered 72% efficacy in all adults and 93.2% in those previously infected.

GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Matt Kapusta, uniQure CEO

In trou­bled Hunt­ing­ton’s space, uniQure’s gene ther­a­py shows ear­ly promise

In randomized clinical trial data from a small number of patients, Dutch biotech uniQure shared that its gene therapy for Huntington’s disease seems to reduce the amount of the mutant protein responsible for the disease over the course of a year.

In seven patients with early-stage Huntington’s — four who got the treatment and three who got a placebo — mutant huntingtin protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid decreased by an average of just over 50% in patients who got the gene therapy compared to around a 17% drop in patients who got the placebo after a year.

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Rwanda president Paul Kagame and BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin (via BioNTech)

BioN­Tech breaks ground on first mR­NA vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Africa

Covid vaccine access to lower- and middle-income nations has been a concern during the length of the pandemic, but BioNTech is now pushing forward with plans to increase vaccine access for Africa.

Construction work has kicked off for an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kigali, Rwanda. According to BioNTech, the facility, dubbed the African modular mRNA manufacturing facility, has a target for the first set of manufacturing tools to be delivered to the site by the end of this year.