With No­var­tis clos­ing in, Re­gen­eron scraps Eylea com­bo drug in a ma­jor set­back

Just a few weeks af­ter No­var­tis $NVS spelled out ex­act­ly why it be­lieves RTH258 can carve out a block­buster chunk of Re­gen­eron’s AMD mar­ket for Eylea, its big ri­val says that a next-gen com­bo won’t be rid­ing to their res­cue.

Ear­ly Mon­day Re­gen­eron $REGN said both Phase II stud­ies of nes­vacum­ab — an an­giopoi­etin2 (Ang2) an­ti­body — in com­bi­na­tion with Eylea failed to beat a so­lo ver­sion of their flag­ship ther­a­py. And that’s forc­ing both Re­gen­eron and its al­lies at Bay­er — which paid $50 mil­lion up­front to part­ner here — to drop Phase III plans.

The com­bi­na­tion “did not pro­vide suf­fi­cient dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion to war­rant Phase III de­vel­op­ment,” Re­gen­eron not­ed in a short state­ment. The da­ta will have to wait for an up­com­ing sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ence.

Re­gen­eron shares dropped 2.5% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing on Mon­day.

The lat­est set­back at Re­gen­eron for their oph­thal­mol­o­gy group comes a lit­tle more than a year af­ter its an­ti-PDGF an­ti­body rin­u­cum­ab com­bined with its block­buster drug failed a Phase II for age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion. There was a slight im­prove­ment in vi­sion, but it wasn’t enough to make a com­mer­cial dif­fer­ence for Re­gen­eron.

Ear­li­er this month, No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief Vas Narasimhan spelled out a key suc­cess for RTH258 from their am­bi­tious late-stage de­vel­op­ment ef­fort. At week 16 the two RTH258 arms had 33% and 35% few­er pa­tients with dam­ag­ing reti­nal flu­id, and at 48 weeks one arm had 41% few­er pa­tients in the dan­ger zone, com­pared to the com­peti­tor. Ac­tive dis­ease was ob­served in 23.5% of brolu­cizum­ab 6 mg pa­tients ver­sus 33.5% of afliber­cept pa­tients in HAWK, and in 21.9% of brolu­cizum­ab pa­tients ver­sus 31.4% of afliber­cept pa­tients in HAR­RI­ER. And there’s a lot at stake, with Re­gen­eron tak­ing in $953 mil­lion in US Eylea sales in Q3.

No­var­tis is bet­ting that mov­ing pa­tients from once every 8 weeks for Re­gen­eron’s flag­ship ther­a­py to a 12-week reg­i­men will win over a big slice of the mar­ket. Re­gen­eron, mean­while, is left with their own pro­gram to demon­strate suc­cess with a quar­ter­ly in­jec­tion of Eylea.

Back-to-back set­backs like this are un­usu­al for Re­gen­eron, which has en­joyed a se­ries of de­vel­op­ment suc­cess­es. CSO and co-founder George Yan­copou­los, though, says it’s hard to im­prove on a drug like Eylea, adding that the com­pa­ny is still hard at it in oph­thal­mol­o­gy.

We ex­pect to re­port re­sults in the first half of 2018 from our EYLEA Phase III study in di­a­bet­ic retinopa­thy, which rep­re­sents a grow­ing pa­tient pop­u­la­tion with sig­nif­i­cant need. We al­so con­tin­ue to in­vest in ad­di­tion­al R&D ap­proach­es in oph­thal­mol­o­gy with the goal of pro­vid­ing new in­no­va­tions to pa­tients with se­ri­ous vi­sion-threat­en­ing dis­eases.

Im­age: Re­gen­eron R&D Chief George Yan­copou­los Get­ty

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

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FDA re­jects Ac­er's rare dis­ease drug, asks for new tri­al -- shares crater

Ac­er Ther­a­peu­tics’ bid to re­pur­pose celipro­lol — a be­ta-block­er on the mar­ket for hy­per­ten­sion — as a treat­ment for a rare, in­her­it­ed con­nec­tive tis­sue dis­or­der has hit a se­vere set­back. The New­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny on Tues­day said the FDA re­ject­ed the drug and has asked for an­oth­er clin­i­cal tri­al.

The com­pa­ny’s shares $AC­ER cratered near­ly 77% to $4.47 in Tues­day morn­ing trad­ing.

Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

Ab­b­Vie's $63B buy­out spot­lights the re­turn of ma­jor M&A deals — de­spite the back­lash

Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three ma­jor buy­outs an­nounced: Take­da/Shire; Bris­tol-My­ers/Cel­gene and now Ab­b­Vie/Al­ler­gan. And with this lat­est deal it’s in­creas­ing­ly clear that the sharp fall from grace suf­fered by high-pro­file play­ers which have seen their share prices blast­ed has cre­at­ed an open­ing for the growth play­ers in big phar­ma to up their game — in sharp con­trast to the pop­u­lar bolt-on deals that have been dri­ving the growth strat­e­gy at No­var­tis, Mer­ck, Roche and oth­ers.

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Tasly Bio­phar­ma pitch­es long-await­ed IPO — will it trig­ger an­oth­er $1B gold rush on HKEX?

In the run up to the Hong Kong stock ex­change’s an­tic­i­pat­ed rule change — open­ing the door for Chi­nese pre-rev­enue biotechs to go pub­lic clos­er to home — more than a year ago, Tasly Bio­phar­ma was one of the big play­ers whose ru­mored in­ter­est helped stoke en­thu­si­asm for the new list­ing venue. The com­pa­ny has since kept the drum­roll rum­bling in the back­ground, rais­ing a pre-IPO round and con­vinc­ing part­ner Trans­gene to swap own­er­ship in a joint ven­ture for eq­ui­ty. Now the oth­er shoe has fi­nal­ly dropped as ex­ecs out­line plans for a pipeline dom­i­nat­ed by car­dio­vas­cu­lar drugs.

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

With 4 more biotech IPOs due to wrap up Q2, how is the class of 2019 far­ing?

With 22 biotech IPOs on the books and four more set to price in the last week of June, in­vest­ment ad­vis­er Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal has tak­en the pulse of the re­cent rush.

By the IPO ex­perts’ count, 25 out of 32 health­care of­fer­ings this year have been from biotechs — dif­fer­ing slight­ly from Brad Lon­car’s tal­ly — and the over­all pic­ture is one of un­der­per­for­mance. While they av­er­aged a first-day re­turn of 9.0%, col­lec­tive­ly they have trad­ed down to a 5.9% re­turn. Turn­ing Point $TP­TX and Cor­texyme $CRTX emerged on top at the half-year mark, ris­ing 135% and 109% re­spec­tive­ly.

Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus grabs the ax and packs it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of set­backs

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.

Eye­ing a $500M peak sales pot, Almi­rall dou­bles down on le­brik­izum­ab as Der­mi­ra lines up PhI­II

With eyes on what it be­lieves is a $500 mil­lion peak rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ty in Eu­rope, Barcelona-based Almi­rall has stepped up with $50 mil­lion in cash to take up the op­tion on Der­mi­ra’s IL-13 an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry drug le­brik­izum­ab just ahead of the start of Phase III. And there’s an­oth­er $30 mil­lion due as the late-stage pro­gram gets geared up.

That shouldn’t be long from now, as Der­mi­ra ex­pects to be­gin the late-stage tri­al work for atopic der­mati­tis be­fore the end of this year as it fol­lows a trail that ex­ecs in­sist leads to block­buster re­turns. Along the way, they’ll need to take on the 600-pound go­ril­la in atopic der­mati­tis: the IL-13/IL-4 drug Dupix­ent, from Re­gen­eron and Sanofi. Ri­vals al­so in­clude Leo Phar­ma, in its piv­otal with tralok­izum­ab, and Anap­tys­Bio in the hunt with a mid-stage pro­gram for etokimab, pre­vi­ous­ly re­ferred to as ANB020.