Press review


MorphoSys wins €1 billion licence agreement from Novartis

BERLIN, 20 July (APM) - German biotech MorphoSys and its Belgium partner Galapagos have secured a €1 billion licensing agreement from Novartis to develop MOR106 in severe to moderate eczema, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports on Friday (p21).
Novartis is paying the two companies €95 million upfront to take control of the experimental drug, with additional payments, royalties and fees pending achievement of agreed milestones potentially totalling €850 million (APMHE 58978).
Novartis wants to develop the compound beyond the current focus on atopic dermatitis, the paper said. With MOR106, Novartis will compete against Sanofi and Regeneron, which launched the anti-eczema therapy Dupixent (dupilumab) in 2016 and are testing that drug in steroid-dependent asthma and inflammatory diseases including eosinophilic oesophagitis, nasal polyps, paediatric atopic dermatitis and food allergy (APMHE 55395).
MorphoSys' share price rose 5.3%, reaching its highest value in 18 years, the paper said.

Evotec/Bayer partnership prospering

German biotech Evotec has received a €4 million milestone payment from its partner Bayer following the start of a Phase II trial for a drug candidate in chronic coughing, FAZ also reports on Friday (p21).
The 2012 partnership was established to develop three clinical drug candidates with a focus on cancer (APMHE 42633). Since then, six preclinical drug candidates have been developed, three of which are currently in Phase I, the paper said.
Evotec's share price rose nearly 2.4% on Thursday, the day of the announcement.

Health minister supports data access via PIN code

German health minister Jens Spahn (CDU) has said insured people should be able to access their healthcare data with the same ease they access their bank account information with the use of a personal identification number (PIN), FAZ reported on Monday (p17).
Currently, the patients' health insurance card and a doctor's certification are required for the release of medical records in Germany. Spahn wants to change that and allow the patient alone to be "master" of their healthcare data, the paper said.
The minister is also speeding up the conversion to digital healthcare files. The coalition agreement stipulates that electronic patient files must be in place in the statutory healthcare system by 2021. But Spahn has introduced the legal framework necessary for individual insurers to create and offer their own digital system sooner, the paper said.

J&J ordered to pay €4 billion for concealing health risks

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered by a U.S. court to pay about €4 billion for concealing cancer risks of its talc body powder, FAZ reported on Saturday (p25) (APMHE 58912).
A Missouri jury made its decision after a six-week trial and eight hours of deliberation. The plantiffs argue that the company has "covered up" carcinogenic asbestos in talcum for more than 40 years.

Combination therapies are the future

Combination therapies are the future of medicine, FAZ reported in an interview with Daniel Cohen, CEO of French biotech Pharnext, on Wednesday (pN2).
The decoding of the human genome in the 1980s and 90s has not led to any breakthrough monotherapies but it has revealed the multifunctional nature of genes. A target - or attack molecule for drugs - seldom comes alone and is part of a larger network of genes and proteins. This lends itself to a combination therapy approach, the paper said.
Researcher Nassos Typas and his colleagues at the European Molecular Biology Lab (EMBL) are for the first time testing combinations of antibiotics on a large scale. Out of almost 3,000 possible combinations, 500 have been found that can improve the antibiotic effect against resistant bacteria, the paper said.
Big data from genome research and algorithms in artificial intelligence research are leading to faster R&D of new combinations of existing therapies in everything from cancer to Alzheimer's disease. This approach could also lead to faster approvals than the traditional approach of targeted therapy, it concluded.

Use of 'neuro-enhancers' in Germany triples in two years

The off-label use of 'neuro-enhancers' or 'smart drugs' - including Novartis's ADHD treatment Ritalin (mehtylphenidate) and its generics and stimulants such as dexamphetamine and modafinil - tripled in Germany between 2015 and 2017, Die Welt reported on Wednesday (p20).
The data come from a study published in the June issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy, the paper said. Compiled by the UK's Global Drug Survey (GDS), an independent research company, the global study shows the biggest increase in this trend in drug usage has been in Europe. In France, usage rose from 3% in 2015 to 16% in 2017; and from 5% to 23% in the UK, the paper said.

'Breakthrough-therapy' designation light on evidence of benefit

A new study from researchers at Yale University shows that between 2012 and 2017 evidence for drugs given a break-through therapy designation by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is quite thin, Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reports on Wednesday (p14).
Drugs given this designation are provided with an accelerated approval procedure and given faster market access, the paper said. However, the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that a single study was often sufficient and it usually lacked control groups and double-blind design.
Moreover, because the number of study participants in the studies submitted is often low and substitute parameters are used to measure the success of a treatment instead of patient-relevant criteria, the quality of the studies is only moderate at best - and the benefit for the patients is questionable.



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