Moncef Slaoui, Getty Images

When will it end? Big Phar­ma's top vac­cine ex­pert at OWS of­fers a speedy time­line for a Covid-19 vac­cine — ei­ther be­fore or right af­ter the elec­tion

Mon­cef Slaoui hasn’t start­ed mak­ing plans for his sum­mer va­ca­tion next year. But he of­fers high odds that all Amer­i­cans will be able to do that in the not too dis­tant fu­ture.

In an in­ter­view with a pair of sym­pa­thet­ic pod­cast­ers at the con­ser­v­a­tive Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, Slaoui pro­vides an ed­u­ca­tion to lis­ten­ers on how any drug or vac­cine can be sped through tri­als. And he leaves the door wide open to the no­tion that the lead­ing vac­cine de­vel­op­ers can demon­strate ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty in a com­pelling fash­ion as ear­ly as Oc­to­ber — or as late as the end of this year.

But Slaoui says he is quite con­fi­dent that based on what he knows now, there’s good rea­son to be hope­ful that vac­cines will be avail­able in suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ty to cov­er all the at-risk pop­u­la­tion in the US — up to 40 mil­lion peo­ple — by the end of Feb­ru­ary. And he’s look­ing for sev­er­al vac­cines to cross the fin­ish line, so that the ex­perts can choose which are the most like­ly to work based on de­mo­graph­ics and risk.

Slaoui’s po­si­tion on this will be close­ly fol­lowed. He end­ed a 30-year stint at GSK as chair­man of the vac­cines group, top­ping it off with the high­ly suc­cess­ful Shin­grix pro­gram. With his switch to OWS, Slaoui di­vest­ed his Mod­er­na shares — jump­ing from the board of one of the lead­ing vac­cine de­vel­op­ers to OWS — but kept his GSK stock, which trig­gered some crit­i­cism that he’s still clear­ly deeply re­sent­ful about.

For crit­ics, it’s all fod­der for dis­cus­sion as every­one fo­cus­es in on the high­ly po­tent top­ic of whether Pres­i­dent Trump will force through a vac­cine an­nounce­ment — herald­ing a suc­cess­ful piv­otal tri­al — in time to in­flu­ence the elec­tion. And like every ex­pert in the gov­ern­ment, from FDA com­mis­sion­er Stephen Hahn to NI­AID di­rec­tor An­tho­ny Fau­ci, Slaoui says the sci­ence will be all that mat­ters.

Draw­ing from a tran­script of the call, here’s Slaoui de­scrib­ing in de­tail how vac­cine de­vel­op­ment is done:

We’re run­ning very large tri­als be­cause they al­low us to reach ef­fi­ca­cy faster, not be­cause there’s an elec­tion, be­cause there’s thou­sands of peo­ple dy­ing every day. And the da­ta will be de­fined by the num­ber of cas­es. There is no date. It’s im­pos­si­ble to give you a date. I have been asked about dates, and I didn’t feel any pres­sure what­so­ev­er to say da­ta will de­fine the date. When we have the num­ber of cas­es re­quired and then we have an in­de­pen­dent da­ta safe­ty mon­i­tor­ing board in­de­pen­dent­ly look in­to the da­ta and says we need to con­tin­ue, we need to stop be­cause this is not work­ing, or we need to stop be­cause this is work­ing too well, it’s un­eth­i­cal to con­tin­ue, we now need to start to give the vac­cine to the place­bo arm in the tri­al and to oth­er peo­ple to con­sid­er, then that will be the end. So the end of the tri­als is com­plete­ly in­de­pen­dent of the op­er­a­tion or any­body in­volved in the op­er­a­tion. It’s ac­tu­al­ly great aca­d­e­m­ic ex­perts, whose names are un­known to the pub­lic who are look­ing in­to that da­ta. And this is how all clin­i­cal tri­als are al­ways done. That is how clin­i­cal tri­als are done.

So when will we know?

So the da­ta will dic­tate, the facts will dic­tate. We may have the end point in Oc­to­ber. We may have it in No­vem­ber 4th, who knows? We may have it in De­cem­ber 15th. That’s the an­swer, and to be hon­est, on a per­son­al ba­sis, I would re­sign in­stant­ly if I was forced to do some­thing that I thought would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

From the pod­cast­ers: What’s your time­line? Or what’s your thought on that?

I hope we will have enough dos­es of vac­cines in the first two months of 2021 to im­mu­nize the at risk pop­u­la­tions in the US, vac­cines that could have shown ef­fi­ca­cy and ap­proved in­de­pen­dent­ly by the FDA. And I’m talk­ing about maybe the 30 to 40 mil­lion most sus­cep­ti­ble peo­ple in the US across maybe De­cem­ber, Jan­u­ary, Feb­ru­ary.

And then and I think that should de­crease dra­mat­i­cal­ly the bur­den of this dis­ease on so­ci­ety in gen­er­al. Be­cause, as you know, most of the bur­den of the dis­ease is on a high risk pop­u­la­tion. Plus the sec­ondary ef­fect of over­whelm­ing the hos­pi­tal sys­tems, et cetera, which has an im­pact on oth­er pop­u­la­tions for oth­er rea­sons. And I think, from there on, it’s go­ing to be a grad­ual process that will be a bal­ance be­tween the ben­e­fits/risks that the vac­cines will have shown and the risk of par­tic­u­lar sub­pop­u­la­tion.

For in­stance, frankly, im­mu­niz­ing the pe­di­atric pop­u­la­tion, tod­dlers, et cetera, will be some­thing that should be re­al­ly far be­cause they have 70 or 80 years to live. And we need prob­a­bly there to use plat­form tech­nolo­gies that are well un­der­stood in the long range, such as pro­tein based vac­cines, et cetera. We are for­tu­nate that most­ly in that pop­u­la­tion the dis­ease bur­den is very, very low. And so, I think there will be a gra­di­ent of views. But prob­a­bly be­tween the first quar­ter and the sec­ond quar­ter of 2021, the most at risk pop­u­la­tions will have been, I hope, im­mu­nized. And life, I would ex­pect… I hope next sum­mer I can have a va­ca­tion, nor­mal va­ca­tion.

What­ev­er hap­pens to his va­ca­tion plans, one thing seems cer­tain. Mil­lions of peo­ple will be ar­gu­ing over the de­vel­op­ment time­line right un­til the elec­tion is de­cid­ed.

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

The DCT-OS: A Tech­nol­o­gy-first Op­er­at­ing Sys­tem - En­abling Clin­i­cal Tri­als

As technology-enabled clinical research becomes the new normal, an integrated decentralized clinical trial operating system can ensure quality, deliver consistency and improve the patient experience.

The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines has many of us looking forward to a time when everyday things return to a state of normal. Schools and teachers are returning to classrooms, offices and small businesses are reopening, and there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the often-awkward adjustments we’ve all made personally and professionally in the last year are behind us, never to return. In the world of clinical research, however, some pandemic-necessitated adjustments are proving to be more than emergency stopgap measures to ensure trial continuity — and numerous decentralized clinical trial (DCT) tools and methodologies employed within the last year are likely here to stay as part of biopharma’s new normal.

Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos CEO (Thierry Roge/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Gala­pa­gos chops in­to their pipeline, drop­ping core fields and re­or­ga­niz­ing R&D as the BD team hunts for some­thing 'trans­for­ma­tive'

Just 5 months after Gilead gutted its rich partnership with Galapagos following a bitter setback at the FDA, the Belgian biotech is hunkering down and chopping the pipeline in an effort to conserve cash while their BD team pursues a mission to find a “transformative” deal for the company.

The filgotinib disaster didn’t warrant a mention as Galapagos laid out its Darwinian restructuring plans. Forced to make choices, the company is ditching its IPF molecule ’1205, while moving ahead with a Phase II IPF study for its chitinase inhibitor ’4617.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 104,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Stéphane Bancel, Getty

Mod­er­na CEO brush­es off US sup­port for IP waiv­er, eyes more than $19B in Covid-19 vac­cine sales in 2021

Moderna is definitively more concerned with keeping pace with Pfizer in the race to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 than it is with Wednesday’s decision from the Biden administration to back an intellectual property waiver that aims to increase vaccine supplies worldwide.

In its first quarter earnings call on Thursday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel shrugged off any suggestion that the newly US-backed intellectual property waiver would impact his company’s vaccine or bottom line. Still, the company’s stock price fell by about 9% in early morning trading.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 104,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

'Chang­ing the whole game of drug dis­cov­ery': Leg­endary R&D vet Roger Perl­mut­ter leaps back in­to work as a biotech CEO

Roger Perlmutter needs no introduction to anyone remotely involved in biopharma. As the R&D chief first at Amgen and then Merck, he’s built a stellar reputation and a prolific career steering new drugs toward the market for everything from cancer to infectious diseases.

But for years, he’s also held a less known title: science partner at The Column Group, where he’s regularly consulted about the various ideas the VCs had for new startups.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 104,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ad­comm splits slight­ly in fa­vor of FDA ap­prov­ing Chemo­Cen­tryx’s rare dis­ease drug

The FDA’s Arthritis Advisory Committee on Thursday voted 10 for and 8 against the approval of ChemoCentryx’s $CCXI investigational drug avacopan as a treatment for adults with a rare and serious disease known as anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis.

The vote on whether the FDA should approve the drug was preceded by a split vote of 9 to 9 on whether the efficacy data support approval, and 10 to 8 that the safety profile of avacopan is adequate enough to support approval.

Paul Hastings, Nkarta CEO

With no up­front pay­ment or mile­stones on the line, Nkar­ta and CRISPR join forces on CAR-NK search

Most deals in biotech come with hefty upfront payments attached, and the promise of big biobucks if a program works out. Not this one.

Nkarta has struck what CEO Paul Hastings calls a “real collaboration” with CRISPR Therapeutics to co-develop and commercialize two CAR-NK therapies, in addition to an NK+T program. The duo will split all R&D costs — and any worldwide profits — 50/50, Hastings said.

Brent Saunders (Richard Drew, AP Images)

OcuWho? Star deal­mak­er turned aes­thet­ics czar Brent Saun­ders flips back in­to biotech. But who’s he team­ing up with now?

Brent Saunders went on a tear of headline-blazing deals building Allergan, merging and rearranging a variety of big companies into one before an M&A pact with Pfizer blew up and sent him on a bout of biotech drug deals. That didn’t work so well, so under pressure, he got his buyout at AbbVie — which needed a big franchise like Botox. And it was no big surprise to see him riding the SPAC wave into a recent $1 billion-plus deal that left him in the executive chairman’s seat at an aesthetics outfit — now redubbed The Beauty Health Company — holding a big chunk of the equity.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 104,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Drug pric­ing watch­dog joins the cho­rus of crit­ics on Bio­gen's ad­u­canum­ab: What about charg­ing $2,560 per year?

As if Biogen’s aducanumab isn’t controversial enough, the researchers at drug pricing watchdog ICER have drawn up the contours of a new debate: If the therapy does get approved for Alzheimer’s by June, what price should it command?

Their answer: At most $8,290 per year — and perhaps as little as $2,560.

Even at the top of the range, the proposed price is a fraction of the $50,000 that Wall Street has reportedly come to expect (although RBC analyst Brian Abrahams puts the consensus figure at $11.5K). With critics, including experts on the FDA’s advisory committee, making their fierce opposition to aducanumab’s approval loud and clear, the pricing pressure adds one extra wrinkle Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos doesn’t need as he orders full-steam preparation for a launch.

South Korean Olympic table tennis team player Lee Sang-su receiving the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Seoul (Chung Sung-Jun/Pool Photo via AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech do­nate their vac­cine to the Tokyo Olympics; No­vavax, Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech vac­cines ap­pear to be less ef­fec­tive against vari­ants

The long-delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will feature gymnast Simone Biles in what is likely her last Summer Games, and skateboarder Nyjah Huston in what will be his first. But the players with the most impact on the games could be Pfizer and BioNTech. After a meeting between Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, a plan has been outlined to donate doses of their Covid-19 vaccine for the Olympic Games.