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The Readout Damian Garde

Gilead invests heavily in Galapagos

Gilead Sciences is dropping another $5.1 billion on Galapagos NV — increasing its stake in the Belgian biotech and getting rights outside of Europe to a slew of late-stage drug candidates. Galapagos’ lead drug, filgotinib, is in Phase 3 trials to treat inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

But given Gilead’s need to flesh out its own pipeline, why isn’t it buying Galapagos outright? The deal price is a mere 38 percent below the biotech’s current market cap — which suggests that an acquisition would certainly have been feasible.

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day, who worked at Genentech in the years before it was acquired by Roche, told STAT's Matt Herper "the value that independence can create" led him to structure the Galapagos deal in this manner, instead.

“Innovation, particularly in the early stages of our value chain, is about engaging people, motivating them correctly, getting the very best scientists and keeping a certain independence,” O’Day said. 

Read more.

Neoantigen vaccines: Promising, but no panacea

A new study of a "cancer vaccine" suggests that the experimental, personalized therapies, when combined with immunotherapies, may improve outcomes. But the benefits they confer still appear somewhat modest — adding just a few extra months of progression-free survival in some cancers. 

The small Phase 1b study, sponsored by Neon Therapeutics, tracked 21 patients with metastatic bladder cancer, 27 with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer, and 34 with metastatic melanoma. 

The melanoma patients taking these neoantigen therapies did best of all: After 13.4 months, less than half the patients experienced cancer growth or further metastasis. By comparison, the median progression-free survival for metastatic melanoma tends to be three to seven months when patients take checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies alone.

“So this is above the range,” Kristen Mueller of the Melanoma Research Alliance told STAT’s Sharon Begley. “Still, I’d want to know how durable the benefit is.” 

Read more.

AAIC: Moving past amyloid?

On the eve of this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, now in full swing in Los Angeles, Amgen and Novartis bowed out of a trial of their experimental BACE1 inhibitor drug after interim data showed that cognitive function worsened in patients. 

Biogen, meantime, has decided it not to present data at AAIC on aducanumab, its Alzheimer’s drug that also failed recently in clinical trials. 

So, in the absence of major data, what is coming out of AAIC? This year’s conference is looking to diversify its research offerings — spotlighting approaches including the infection hypothesis for neurodegenerative disease. 

STAT subscribers can check in with us Thursday, when STAT’s Matt Herper and Sharon Begley will have som eanalysis of the most important bits emerging out of the conference this year. It's at 11 a.m. ET.

Sign up here. 

Dems call for trade deal change, citing higher drug prices

More than a hundred congressional Democrats are battling with the Trump administration over semantics: A portion of the pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement would lock the U.S. into at least 10 years of marketing exclusivity for biologics. That, they argue, would hurt taxpayers and patients — because the exclusivity would prevent makers of biosimilars from providing lower-cost alternatives to patients.

The Democrats wrote a letter Thursday to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, asking him to change the yet-to-be-ratified language in the trade pact, arguing that the deal “would hinder Congress from taking action to increase competition and enhance patient access to more affordable medicines.”

Read more.

More reads

  • Compounding pharmacies need stricter federal oversight. (STAT)
  • Wu Jinzi: The challenges of taking on big pharma. (Financial Times)
  • Insurer relief could come at pharma's expense. (Wall Street Journal)

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Damian

Monday, July 15, 2019

STAT

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