Ver­tex strikes agree­ment with Aus­tralia for cys­tic fi­bro­sis pill, end­ing high-pro­file stand­off

Ver­tex reached an agree­ment on Sun­day to sell its newest cys­tic fi­bro­sis drug in Aus­tralia, end­ing a high-pro­file stand­off over ac­cess to a life-al­ter­ing but ex­pen­sive rare dis­ease drug.

As with most agree­ments be­tween drug­mak­ers and na­tion­al pay­ment sys­tems, Ver­tex and the Aus­tralian Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Ben­e­fits Scheme didn’t say how much. But they said it will give 2,200 CF pa­tients in the coun­try ac­cess to Trikaf­ta, the pill shown to dra­mat­i­cal­ly im­prove lung func­tion in 90% of CF pa­tients, in­clud­ing 700 who weren’t el­i­gi­ble for pre­vi­ous Ver­tex drugs be­cause of their par­tic­u­lar ge­net­ic mu­ta­tions.

Ver­tex has clashed re­peat­ed­ly with na­tion­al gov­ern­ments over ac­cess to its CF drugs, in­clud­ing a news­pa­per ink-spilling clash with the UK in which for­mer CEO Jef­frey Lei­den ac­cused the NHS of  “lack[ing] of com­mit­ment to chil­dren and young peo­ple with this dev­as­tat­ing dis­ease.”

By the ad­vent of Trikaf­ta, in 2019, the stand­off with the UK and oth­er gov­ern­ments’ pay­ers — in­clud­ing in the US —  had been re­solved. Trikaf­ta was al­so sig­nif­i­cant­ly more ef­fec­tive for most CF pa­tients than pre­vi­ous Ver­tex drugs, help­ing mol­li­fy ob­jec­tions to the rough­ly $300,000 price tag the com­pa­ny has put on each of their drugs.

In Aus­tralia and oth­er coun­tries, though, the fight dragged on. Last year, Aus­tralian reg­u­la­tors ap­proved Trikaf­ta, but an in­de­pen­dent pric­ing com­mit­tee rec­om­mend­ed the gov­ern­ment hold off on cov­er­ing it, say­ing “cost-ef­fec­tive­ness … had not sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly been es­tab­lished.”

Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis Aus­tralia, a lead­ing lo­cal pa­tient group, ap­peared to slam both Ver­tex and the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment for the stand­off, ask­ing Aus­tralians to con­tact their rep­re­sen­ta­tives while ac­cus­ing Ver­tex of “craven com­mer­cial­ism.”

“Hav­ing seen the out­stand­ing clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta we can on­ly sur­mise that once again ‘mon­ey’ is the stum­bling block,” they wrote, urg­ing Ver­tex to give wise com­pas­sion­ate use ac­cess while ne­go­ti­a­tions played out.

The group wel­comed the new agree­ment, writ­ing on Twit­ter that they were “on Cloud 9.” Cov­er­age will be­gin on April 1.

Trikaf­ta, how­ev­er, re­mains in­ac­ces­si­ble in many oth­er coun­tries around the globe, in­clud­ing large swaths of Latin Amer­i­ca, Africa and Asia, where cys­tic fi­bro­sis is less com­mon but still present.

Re­searchers and ad­vo­cates have pushed the com­pa­ny to vol­un­tar­i­ly al­low gener­ic man­u­fac­ture and sell the drug to low and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, as Pfiz­er and Mer­ck have done for their Covid-19 pills and Gilead did for its he­pati­tis C cure.

Tim Van Hauwermeiren, argenx CEO

Ar­genx pur­chas­es $100M+ FDA pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er from blue­bird bio

Argenx’s Vyvgart is due for a speedy review at the FDA, thanks to a $102 million priority review voucher (PRV).

The Netherland-based biotech picked up the PRV from bluebird bio, the companies announced on Wednesday. PRVs shorten a drug’s FDA review period from 10 months to 6 months, though they often sell on the open market for around $100 million each.

Argenx plans on using the express ticket on efgartigimod, its neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) blocker marketed as Vyvgart for adults with generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG). While Vyvgart won its first approval last December for the chronic neuromuscular disease — which is characterized by difficulties with facial expression, speech, swallowing and breathing — CEO Tim Van Hauwermeiren said in a news release that he plans to “be active in fifteen disease targets by 2025.”

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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Emily Leproust, Twist Bioscience CEO

Twist Bio­science’s 'fac­to­ry of the fu­ture' in Ore­gon could de­liv­er with com­pet­i­tive pric­ing, SVB Se­cu­ri­ties says

The synthetic DNA manufacturer Twist Bioscience has given a peek behind the curtain to several analysts into its “factory of the future” as well as insight into the cost structure, workflow and technology at the site.

The 110,000-square-foot manufacturing site in the city of Wilsonville, OR, just south of Portland, which was announced back in 2020, will double Twist’s production capacity and bring around 400 jobs to the area.

Lil­ly's Covid-19 mAb no longer au­tho­rized due to Omi­cron sub­vari­ants, FDA says

The FDA on Wednesday announced that Eli Lilly’s Covid-19 drug bebtelovimab is no longer authorized to treat Covid-19 because of the rising numbers of two new subvariants that the drug does not work against.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week published new estimates that the combined proportion of Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are greater than 57% nationally, and already above 50% in all individual regions but one.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi and DN­Di aim to elim­i­nate sleep­ing sick­ness in Africa with promis­ing Ph II/III re­sults for new drug

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Sanofi today said that their potential sleeping sickness treatment saw success rates of up to 95% from a Phase II/III study investigating the safety and efficacy of single-dose acoziborole.

The potentially transformative treatment for sleeping sickness would mainly be targeted at African countries, according to data published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal. The clinical trial was led by DNDi and its partners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guinea, with the authors noting:

Digital render of CPI's Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Glasgow, Scotland (Image: uk-cpi.com)

CPI opens the doors to a new $100M+ man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Scot­land

A manufacturing site that has received interest and investments from large pharma companies and the UK government is opening its doors in Scotland.

The manufacturer CPI (Centre for Process Innovation) has opened a new £88 million ($105 million) “Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre” in Glasgow, Scotland, to accelerate the development of manufacturing tech and solve longstanding challenges in medicine development and manufacturing.