Watch out Ab­b­Vie and J&J, As­traZeneca just took an­oth­er big swing at one of your star can­cer drug fran­chis­es

As­traZeneca re­port­ed Tues­day that its BTK con­tender Calquence (acal­abru­ti­nib) aced a Phase III tri­al as a sec­ond-line ther­a­py for chron­ic lym­pho­cyt­ic leukemia pa­tients, al­low­ing re­searchers to call it ear­ly as they po­si­tion this drug for green­er pas­tures. 

José Basel­ga

We won’t get the da­ta un­til lat­er in the year, but the UK phar­ma gi­ant $AZN says they nailed sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant re­sults on pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival com­pared to a con­trol group get­ting a com­bo of rit­ux­imab plus physi­cian’s choice of ide­lal­is­ib or ben­damus­tine. And José Basel­ga, the com­pa­ny’s on­col­o­gy re­search chief, says this is the first time a monother­a­py has proven su­pe­ri­or to a stan­dard of care in this seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion.

Lat­er this year we’ll get the Phase III da­ta for front­line CLL as As­traZeneca pa­tient­ly builds its case for a ri­val fran­chise op­er­a­tion. The com­pa­ny won its first OK for Calquence in late 2017 for man­tle cell lym­phoma, which marked their first en­try for this drug. And if As­traZeneca CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot gets his way, they’ll soon be go­ing head-to-head on CLL with J&J $JNJ and Ab­b­Vie’s $AB­BV Im­bru­vi­ca, the pi­o­neer­ing BTK on the mar­ket.

Im­bru­vi­ca earned $3.6 bil­lion for J&J and Ab­bie last year, up 40% over the year be­fore.

The Phase III win is the lat­est score for As­traZeneca since it bought this drug in the $7 bil­lion Ac­er­ta Phar­ma ac­qui­si­tion back in 2015. 

Ex­pand­ing the mar­ket for Calquence has been part of So­ri­ot’s on­col­o­gy game plan for some time. Just as he built Lyn­parza and Tagris­so in­to ma­jor new rev­enue streams for the com­pa­ny, the R&D group has been steadi­ly plug­ging away at new can­cer in­di­ca­tions for its oth­er big play­ers.

As is typ­i­cal­ly true for all can­cer drug fran­chis­es, As­traZeneca and the Ab­b­Vie/J&J op­er­a­tion aren’t work­ing in a vac­u­um. BeiGene $BGNE, the Chi­na-based biotech which is an­gling to prove that it can make bet­ter can­cer drugs than the ones al­ready on the mar­ket, has its own BTK drug — zanubru­ti­nib — which it is lin­ing up in ear­ly-stage stud­ies for CLL and more. Much more. Here’s BeiGene’s break­down of the stud­ies:

Phase 3 clin­i­cal tri­al in pa­tients with Walden­ström macroglob­u­line­mia (WM) com­par­ing zanubru­ti­nib to ibru­ti­nib,  cur­rent­ly the on­ly ap­proved BTK in­hibitor for WM; a glob­al Phase 3 clin­i­cal tri­al in pa­tients with pre­vi­ous­ly un­treat­ed chron­ic lym­pho­cyt­ic leukemia (CLL)/small lym­pho­cyt­ic lym­phoma (SLL); a piv­otal Phase 2 tri­al in pa­tients with re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry (R/R) fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma in com­bi­na­tion with Gazy­va (obin­u­tuzum­ab); glob­al Phase 2 tri­al in pa­tients with R/R mar­gin­al zone lym­phoma (MZL), a Phase 3 tri­al com­par­ing zanubru­ti­nib to ibru­ti­nib in pa­tients with R/R CLL/SLL; and a glob­al Phase 1 tri­al. In Chi­na, BeiGene has com­plet­ed two piv­otal Phase 2 clin­i­cal tri­als of zanubru­ti­nib in pa­tients with MCL and CLL/SLL and the en­roll­ment in the piv­otal Phase 2 clin­i­cal tri­als in pa­tients with WM.

As­traZeneca trum­pets the good da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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The Advance Clinical leadership team: CEO Yvonne Lungershausen, Sandrien Louwaars - Director Business Development Operations, Gabriel Kremmidiotis - Chief Scientific Officer, Ben Edwards - Chief Strategy Officer

How Aus­tralia De­liv­ers Rapid Start-up and 43.5% Re­bate for Ear­ly Phase On­col­o­gy Tri­als

About Avance Clinical

Avance Clinical is an Australian owned Contract Research Organisation that has been providing high-quality clinical research services to the local and international drug development industry for 20 years. They specialise in working with biotech companies to execute Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials to deliver high-quality outcomes fit for global regulatory standards.

As oncology sponsors look internationally to speed-up trials after unprecedented COVID-19 suspensions and delays, Australia, which has led the world in minimizing the pandemic’s impact, stands out as an attractive destination for early phase trials. This in combination with the streamlined regulatory system and the financial benefits including a very favourable exchange rate and the R & D cash rebate makes Australia the perfect location for accelerating biotech clinical programs.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Bryan Roberts, Venrock

Ven­rock sur­vey shows grow­ing recog­ni­tion of coro­n­avirus toll, wan­ing con­fi­dence in ar­rival of vac­cines and treat­ments

When Venrock partner Bryan Roberts went to check the results from their annual survey of healthcare leaders, what he found was an imprint of the pandemic’s slow arrival in America.

The venture firm had sent their form out to hundreds of insurance and health tech executives, investors, officials and academics on February 24 and gave them two weeks to fill it out. No Americans had died at that point but the coronavirus had become enough of a global crisis that they included two questions about the virus, including “Total U.S. deaths in 2020 from the novel coronavirus will be:”.

Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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David Hoey (Vaxxas)

In for the long vac­cine game, Mer­ck buys in­to patch de­liv­ery tech with pan­dem­ic po­ten­tial

When Merck dived into the R&D fray for a Covid-19 vaccine earlier this week, execs made it clear that they’re not necessarily looking to be first — with CEO Ken Frazier throwing cold water on the hotly-discussed 12- to 18-month timelines. But when it does emerge from behind, the pharma giant clearly expects to play a significant part.

Part of that will depend on next-generation delivery technology that reshapes the world’s imagination of a vaccine.

No­var­tis jumps in­to Covid-19 vac­cine hunt, as Big Phar­ma and big biotech com­mit to bil­lions of dos­es

After spending most of the pandemic on the sidelines, Novartis is offering its aid in the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

AveXis, the Swiss pharma’s gene therapy subsidiary, has agreed to manufacture the vaccine being developed by Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. The biotech will begin manufacturing this month, while the vaccine undergoes further preclinical testing. They’ve agreed to provide the vaccine for free for clinical trials beginning in the second half of 2020, but have not disclosed financials for after.

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