In a blow to Eli Lil­ly, No­vo Nordisk lands FDA OK for their next big en­try in the di­a­betes mar­ket: Ozem­pic

An en­er­gized FDA has come through with an ap­proval of No­vo Nordisk’s once-week­ly GLP-1 di­a­betes drug semaglu­tide, open­ing the door to a mar­ket many an­a­lysts are con­vinced is worth more than $2 bil­lion a year in peak sales. And it could spell big trou­ble for ri­val Eli Lil­ly.

Mads Krogs­gaard Thom­sen

Type 2 di­a­betes is a mas­sive and fast-grow­ing dis­ease, with a glob­al mar­ket that has re­ward­ed a hand­ful of key play­ers like No­vo Nordisk a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar mar­ket. And No­vo ran a typ­i­cal­ly thor­ough Phase III pro­gram.

In do­ing so, No­vo al­so came up with su­pe­ri­or da­ta to Eli Lil­ly’s Trulic­i­ty, set­ting up a head-to-head show­down that could cost Lil­ly dear­ly.

Re­searchers al­so came up with some trou­bling in­stances of di­a­bet­ic retinopa­thy, which can lead to blind­ness. But a near unan­i­mous vote by a group of out­side ex­perts at the FDA felt that was an is­sue that could be mon­i­tored, in light of the ben­e­fits in glycemic con­trol the drug of­fered.

No­vo al­so isn’t done with the de­vel­op­ment of this drug, now Ozem­pic, for the big US mar­ket. Re­searchers are busi­ly putting it through an­oth­er big test as an obe­si­ty ther­a­py af­ter trig­ger­ing some im­pres­sive weight loss among obese pa­tients. And they would be squar­ing off against some unim­pres­sive ri­vals now on the mar­ket.

In an R&D up­date dur­ing its Cap­i­tal Mar­kets Day at its HQ near Copen­hagen just days ago, in­ves­ti­ga­tors for the com­pa­ny said they will re­cruit 4,500 pa­tients for a Phase II­Ia obe­si­ty tri­al for semaglu­tide. And they plan to launch the 68-week study next year, along­side a “land­mark” car­dio­vas­cu­lar out­comes study with 12,500 peo­ple en­rolled.

“We are very ex­cit­ed about the first ap­proval of Ozem­pic and look for­ward to mak­ing this im­por­tant in­no­va­tion avail­able to peo­ple in the US with type 2 di­a­betes in the be­gin­ning of 2018,” said Mads Krogs­gaard Thom­sen, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief sci­ence of­fi­cer, in a state­ment. “Type 2 di­a­betes is a com­plex dis­ease, but with the unique clin­i­cal pro­file of Ozem­pic, we be­lieve it has the po­ten­tial to set a new stan­dard for the treat­ment of the dis­ease.”

The FDA is now just a few ap­provals from break­ing the 45 NDAs of­fered in 2015.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Two wild weeks for Grail end in $8B Il­lu­mi­na buy­out

Grail’s whirlwind two weeks have ended in the wealthy arms of its former founder and benefactors.

Illumina has shelled out $8 billion to reacquire the closely-watched liquid biopsy startup they spun out just 5 years ago and sold off much of its shares just 3 years ago. The deal comes nearly two weeks after the well-heeled startup filed for a potentially massive IPO — one that was disrupted just a week later when Bloomberg reported that Illumina was in talks to buy their former spinout for up to $8 billion.

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Roche vaults to the front of the NL­RP3 clin­i­cal race, pay­ing $448M up­front to bag In­fla­zome

Roche is going all in on NLRP3.

The pharma giant is putting down $448 million (€380 million) upfront to snatch Novartis-backed Inflazome, which makes it a clinical player in the space overnight.

Dublin and Cambridge, UK-based Inflazome is the second NLRP3-focused biotech Roche has acquired in less than two years, and although no numbers were disclosed in the Jecure buyout, this is almost certainly a much larger deal.

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As­traZeneca pub­lish­es Covid-19 vac­cine PhI­II pro­to­cols in lock­step with Mod­er­na and Pfiz­er. How are they dif­fer­ent?

Following in the steps of Moderna and Pfizer, the other two American drugmakers currently in Phase III trials for their Covid-19 vaccines, AstraZeneca posted its own study protocols over the weekend. The move is the latest in a series of rare peeks behind the curtain, as such blueprints are typically shared once such trials are completed.

“Given the unprecedented global impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need for public information, AstraZeneca has published the detailed protocol and design of our AZD1222 clinical trial. As with most clinical development, protocols are not typically shared publicly due to the importance of maintaining confidentiality and integrity of trials. AstraZeneca continues to work with industry peers to ensure a consistent approach to sharing timely clinical trial information,” the company said in a statement.

Donald Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, before boarding Marine One (Getty Images)

Pric­ing deal col­laps­es over Big Phar­ma's re­fusal to is­sue $100 'cash card­s' be­fore the elec­tion — re­port

Late in August, as negotiations on a pricing deal with President Trump reached a boiling point, PhRMA president Stephen Ubl sent an email update to the 34 biopharma chiefs that sit on his board. He wrote that if the industry did not agree to pay for a $100 “cash card” sent to seniors before November, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was going to tell the news media Big Pharma was refusing to “share the savings” with the elderly — and that all of the blame for failed drug pricing negotiations would lie squarely on the industry.

#ES­MO20: As­traZeneca aims to spur PRO­found shift in prostate can­cer treat­ment with Lyn­parza OS da­ta

AstraZeneca has unveiled the final, mature overall survival data that cemented Lynparza’s first approval in prostate cancer approval — touting its lead against rivals with the only PARP inhibitor to have demonstrated such benefit.

But getting the Merck-partnered drug to the right patients remains a challenge, something the companies are hoping to change with the new data cut.

The OS numbers on the subgroup with BRCA1/2 or ATM-mutated metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer are similar to the first look on offer when the FDA expanded the label in May: Lynparza reduced the risk of death by 31% versus Xtandi and Zytiga. Patients on Lynparza lived a median of 19.1 months, compared to 14.7 months for the anti-androgen therapies (p = 0.0175).

Eli Lilly CSO Dan Skovronsky (file photo)

UP­DAT­ED: #ES­MO20: Eli Lil­ly shows off the da­ta for its Verzenio suc­cess. Was it worth $18 bil­lion?

The press release alone, devoid of any number except for the size of the trial, added nearly $20 billion to Eli Lilly’s market cap back in June. Now investors and oncologists will get to see if the data live up to the hype.

On Sunday at ESMO, Eli Lilly announced the full results for its Phase III MonarchE trial of Verzenio, showing that across over 5,000 women who had had HR+, HER2- breast cancer, the drug reduced the odds of recurrence by 25%. That meant 7.8% of the patients on the drug arm saw their cancers return within 2 years, compared with 11.3% on the placebo arm.

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Sebastian Nijman (file photo)

Roche looks to ge­net­ic mod­i­fiers for new drug tar­gets, team­ing up with Dutch biotech in $375M deal

Roche is gambling on a new way of discovering drug targets and, ultimately, promising to infuse more than $375 million into a small biotech if all goes well.

A spinout of the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Oxford University, Scenic Biotech set out to pioneer a field that’s gaining some traction among top VCs in the US: to harness the natural protecting powers of genetic modifiers — specific genes that suppress a disease phenotype.

Greg Friberg (File photo)

#ES­MO20: Am­gen team nails down sol­id ear­ly ev­i­dence of AMG 510’s po­ten­tial for NSCLC, un­lock­ing the door to a wave of KRAS pro­grams

The first time I sat down with Amgen’s Greg Friberg to talk about the pharma giant’s KRAS G12C program for sotorasib (AMG 510) at ASCO a little more than a year ago, there was high excitement about the first glimpse of efficacy from their Phase I study, with 5 of 10 evaluable non-small cell lung cancer patients demonstrating a response to the drug.

After decades of failure targeting KRAS, sotorasib offered the first positive look at a new approach that promised to open a door to a whole new approach by targeting a particular mutation to a big target that had remained “undruggable” for decades.

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