Snippet roundup: The eyes have it for Allergan but not Novartis


Welcome to your weekly roundup of EP Vantage’s snippets – short takes on smaller news items.

This week, November 21-25, 2016, we had thoughts on the following: Allergan attains a state of Xen; Chasing down a takeover by Allergan; Novartis and Verily go fuzzy on autofocusing contact lens; Astra and Aduro celebrate parallel US clinical resumptions.

Allergan attains a state of Xen

November 23, 2016

Glaucoma patients in the US now have a third option for minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (Migs) after 510(k) clearance of Allergan’s Xen45 gel stent. The device, which Allergan obtained through its acquisition of Aquesys in September 2015, may be used in patients with refractory glaucoma, including those in whom previous surgical treatment has failed or in patients with specific types of glaucoma who are unresponsive to drug therapy. This is a different indication to the two Migs products already on the US market: Glaukos’s iStent and Alcon’s CyPass are both indicated for use in conjunction with cataract surgery for the reduction of intraocular pressure in patients with mild to moderate primary open-angle glaucoma. Analysts at Mizuho forecast sales of $280m for Xen45 in 2020.

Chasing down a takeover by Allergan

November 23, 2016

Owners of private biotechs desperate for a big pharma buyout will today admire Chase Pharmaceuticals’ winning strategy: find a likely acquirer, appoint some of its execs to your own C suite, and sit back and wait for the takeout. The prelude to yesterday’s $125m acquisition of Chase by Allergan came six months earlier, when Chase named Scott Giacobello and Gary Charbonneau, formerly of Allergan, chief financial officer and head of regulatory affairs respectively; back in December 2015 Allergan’s former president Douglas Ingram became Chase’s chief executive. On a more serious point, the takeover, while small, suggests that big company interest in Alzheimer’s disease is not going to wane any time soon, the obvious risks of failure notwithstanding. However, even if any of Chase’s pipeline assets succeed they seem unlikely to shake up this space – since they are all reformulations of existing drugs, some of them generically available, they are at best capable of providing an incremental benefit in symptom relief.

Novartis and Verily go fuzzy on autofocusing contact lens

November 22, 2016

The development timeline for the autofocusing contact lens under investigation by Novartis’s Alcon and Google’s life sciences unit Verily has gone a little hazy. The companies had planned to get the lens into the clinic before the end of this year, but now say they cannot meet this deadline – and have not given a new date for human trials. This raises questions over the blood glucose-sensing contact lens the two groups are working on, since that technology was covered under the same licensing deal, signed in July 2014. There was a great deal of excitement when the development of this device was announced, but the failure of products such as Google Glass has tempered expectations for wearable technologies, as has the suggestion that blood sugar cannot be reliably extrapolated from glucose levels in tears. Even so, the delay will be a disappointment for Alcon, which is performing poorly compared with Novartis as a whole, and which could soon be cut loose by the Swiss giant.

Astra and Aduro celebrate parallel US clinical resumptions

November 22, 2016

In late October Aduro and Astrazeneca were hit by US clinical trial halts but now, almost in parallel, both have been lifted. Astra investors might have guessed that a resolution was near when, at the group’s third-quarter call, timeline expectations for readout of the Kestrel and Eagle studies of durvalumab plus tremelimumab in head and neck cancer were left unchanged despite both having been put on hold over bleeding concerns. That hold was lifted today after 26 days, one day after the FDA rescinded a hold covering Aduro’s LADD technology that had stood for four weeks. It seems that both companies convinced the agency that the alarming signs seen were nothing to do with active treatment: Astra had argued that bleeding was a known complication of head and neck cancer, while Aduro said listeriosis might have been related to formation of a biofilm on an indwelling port. Advaxis, another company active in therapeutic applications of listeria, had had its US clinical hold lifted last December. While Aduro is having to modify protocols to extend patient surveillance and exclude subjects with hard-to-remove prosthetic devices, Astra’s trials can resume unaltered.

These snippets were previously published daily via twitter.

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