Ver­tex CEO to UK Prime Min­is­ter: You’re de­valu­ing lives, pass­ing up a great of­fer and threat­en­ing the coun­try’s biotech in­dus­try

Ver­tex has scored big in the US with its new drugs for cys­tic fi­bro­sis, but the biotech still has to slug it out for every inch of mar­ket ter­ri­to­ry in Eu­rope — where its price for Orkam­bi is of­ten seen as way too high for the val­ue it of­fers. And af­ter get­ting snubbed in the UK last week — again — af­ter a long-run­ning cam­paign to win a re­im­burse­ment deal from the NHS, CEO Jef­frey Lei­den has de­cid­ed to pub­licly chas­tise British Prime Min­is­ter There­sa May for the stand­off.

This lat­est blast oc­curred af­ter UK health of­fi­cials de­cid­ed last week that the price Ver­tex is de­mand­ing for Orkam­bi is “un­sup­port­able,” de­spite a pro-re­im­burse­ment cam­paign backed by thou­sands of pa­tients with the dis­ease.

That de­ci­sion, Lei­den tells May, demon­strates how the gov­ern­ment puts “a low­er val­ue on the life of a CF pa­tient than oth­er coun­tries around the world.” He as­serts that the UK’s de­ci­sion amounts to “shut­ting the door” on a new gen­er­a­tion of pre­ci­sion med­i­cines. And the UK, he adds, is pass­ing up a great of­fer.

We have pro­vid­ed the most in­no­v­a­tive of­fer in the world to the NHS, yet have seen no re­cep­tiv­i­ty from NHS Eng­land. In one of the most pros­per­ous coun­tries in the world, NHS Eng­land’s lev­el of in­ter­est in our of­fer rep­re­sents a lack of com­mit­ment to chil­dren and young peo­ple with this dev­as­tat­ing dis­ease….

For the UK to de­vel­op its sci­ence and in­no­va­tion ecosys­tem post-Brex­it, these pol­i­cy state­ments and plans must trans­late to im­proved pa­tient ac­cess to in­no­v­a­tive ther­a­pies, such as the new gen­er­a­tion of pre­ci­sion med­i­cines which work on dif­fer­ent geno­types of rare dis­eases. This re­quires ap­praisal process­es to keep pace with the sci­ence; cur­rent process­es have sig­nif­i­cant lim­i­ta­tions in how they cap­ture and val­ue the full med­ical, so­ci­etal, eco­nom­ic and in­no­va­tion ben­e­fits of such pre­ci­sion med­i­cines. With­out this, any fu­ture biotech in­vest­ment in the UK is at sig­nif­i­cant risk.

Ver­tex took the gloves off with re­cal­ci­trant Eu­ro­pean sin­gle-pay­er groups long ago. In France, the biotech re­cent­ly goad­ed the lo­cal pa­tient pop­u­la­tion with its de­ci­sion to scrap any plans to re­cruit French pa­tients in­to a study, in light of the gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal to cov­er their drug at what they felt was an ap­pro­pri­ate amount. 

We’ll see if lec­tur­ing the British prime min­is­ter works any bet­ter.

Ver­tex Let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter 6 Ju­ly 2018 by Am­ber on Scribd


Im­age: Jef­frey Lei­den. VER­TEX

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, oncology R&D, at EUBIO22 (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca jumps deep­er in­to cell ther­a­py 2.0 space with $320M biotech M&A

Right from the start, the execs at Neogene had some lofty goals in mind when they decided to try their hand at a cell therapy that could tackle solid tumors.

Its founders have helped hone a new approach that would pack in multiple neoantigen targets to create a personalized TCR treatment that would not just make the leap from blood to solid tumors, but do it with durability. And they managed to make their way rapidly to the clinic, unveiling their first Phase I program for advanced tumors just last May.

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Ei­sai’s ex­pand­ed Alzheimer’s da­ta leave open ques­tions about safe­ty and clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Researchers still have key questions about Eisai’s investigational Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab following the publication of more Phase III data in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday night.

In the paper, which was released in conjunction with presentations at an Alzheimer’s conference, trial investigators write that a definition of clinical meaningfulness “has not been established.” And the relative lack of new information, following topline data unveiled in September, left experts asking for more — setting up a potential showdown to precisely define how big a difference the drug makes in patients’ lives.

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Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

Twit­ter dis­ar­ray con­tin­ues as phar­ma ad­ver­tis­ers ex­tend paus­es and look around for op­tions, but keep tweet­ing

Pharma advertisers on Twitter are done — at least for now. Ad spending among the previous top spenders flattened even further last week, according to the latest data from ad tracker Pathmatics, amid ongoing turmoil after billionaire boss Elon Musk’s takeover now one month ago.

Among 18 top advertisers tracked for Endpoints News, only two are spending: GSK and Bayer. GSK spending for the full week through Sunday was minimal at just under $1,900. Meanwhile, German drugmaker Bayer remains the industry outlier upping its spending to $499,000 last week from $480,000 the previous week. Bayer’s spending also marks a big increase from a month ago and before the Musk takeover, when it spent $16,000 per week.

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Vi­a­tris with­draws ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for top­i­cal an­timi­cro­bial 24 years lat­er

After 24 years without confirming clinical benefit, the FDA announced Tuesday morning that Viatris (formed via Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn) has decided to withdraw a topical antimicrobial agent, Sulfamylon (mafenide acetate), after the company said conducting a confirmatory study was not feasible.

Sulfamylon first won FDA’s accelerated nod in 1998 as a topical burn treatment, with the FDA noting that last December, Mylan told the agency that it wasn’t running the trial.

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Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (ddp images/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech bets on dif­fi­cult STING field via small mol­e­cule pact with a Pol­ish biotech

BioNTech is beefing up its relatively thin small molecule pipeline by adding weight to a clinically difficult corner of oncology R&D: STING agonists. To do so, BioNTech is teaming up with a 15-year-old Polish biotech and doling out €40 million, about $41.5 million, to start.

The deal is broken into two parts: First, BioNTech obtains an exclusive global license to develop and market Ryvu Therapeutics’ STING agonist portfolio as small molecules, whether alone or in combination with other agents.

Catal­ent to cut about 200 jobs in Mary­land and Texas

Contract manufacturing company Catalent is cutting about 200 jobs in Maryland and Texas, according to WARN notices, trimming back some of its pandemic-era expansion.

The company will cut 77 jobs by Jan. 15 of next year at a cell therapy facility in Webster, TX, just outside of Houston. In Maryland, the company is reducing staff at two locations, with 82 jobs being eliminated at Catalent’s facility in Gaithersburg, and 53 in Rockville. The layoffs go into effect at those locations on Jan. 14.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Pfiz­er, BioN­Tech re-up iHeartRa­dio hol­i­day spon­sor­ship; WHO re­names mon­key­pox to 'm­pox'

It’s that time of year again for pop music fans with the return of the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball tour — and Pfizer and BioNTech’s sponsorship. For the second year, the Covid-19 vaccine collaborators are the pharma national sponsors among consumer brand partners, including ESPN, Dunkin, M&Ms, Mercedes and Pepsi.

Pfizer and BioNTech are also sponsoring the official Jingle Ball Radio streaming station on iHeart’s network, programmed with music from past and present concert performers. This year they include Lizzo, Dua Lipa, Dove Cameron and Charlie Puth. Pfizer-sponsored radio ads and online video and digital banner ads encourage listeners to get updated Covid-19 booster shots.

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Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO (AP Images)

Nestlé re­con­sid­ers peanut al­ler­gy pro­gram two years af­ter $2.6B buy­out

It seems Nestlé is experiencing some buyer’s remorse two years after throwing down $2.6 billion for Aimmune Therapeutics and its peanut allergy pill Palforzia.

CEO Mark Schneider announced on Tuesday that Nestlé is “exploring strategic options” for Palforzia following lower-than-expected demand. A company spokesperson declined to confirm whether a potential sale is in consideration.

“The review is expected to be completed in the first half of 2023. Going forward, Nestlé Health Science will sharpen its focus on Consumer Care and Medical Nutrition,” the company said in a news release.

iECURE CEO Joe Truitt and founder Jim Wilson

Jim Wil­son biotech iECURE gets fresh $65M to push pe­di­atric liv­er dis­ease gene ther­a­py in­to the clin­ic

Jim Wilson-founded biotech iECURE has wrapped a $65M Series A extension round to get its lead candidate — a gene replacement therapy for a rare inherited liver disease known as ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, or OTC — into the clinic.

This round was co-led by Novo Holdings and LYFE Capital, followed by initial investors Versant and OrbiMed as well. In September 2021, iECURE raised a $50 million Series A led by the latter two. The new cash infusion will get iECURE through an initial in-human trial, which CEO Joe Truitt told Endpoints News iECURE hopes to read out in 2024.

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