3 Things In Biotech You Should Learn Today:

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02/08/2017

Summary

AstraZeneca and Merck join forces in PARP inhibition.

Grifols files for approval in bronchiectasis.

Bayer and Janssen quietly kill rivaroxaban development in one indication.

AstraZeneca and Merck join forces in PARP inhibition

Ever since the disappointing top-line data from the MYSTIC study were made public, AstraZeneca (AZN) has been moving quickly to provide positive updates. As we covered yesterday, top-line data from the FLAURA study show that osimertinib is an effective first-line treatment option for EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer.

That's a positive development, to be sure, but it's only relevant in a subset of lung cancers, so I'm not too surprised that this has not corrected for the MYSTIC disappointment.

The other news from AZN was the inking of a major deal with Merck (MRK) to co-develop their inhibitor of poly(ADP)ribosyl polymerase (PARP), olaparib, which has made huge strides in the management of both ovarian cancer and breast cancer harboring BRCA mutations.

The deal is worth up to $8.5 billion for AZN, with $1.6 billion coming upfront. MRK gains access to olaparib, notably in combination with their PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, pembrolizumab.

Looking forward: This news is both a shot in the arm for AZN, which needed as much positive news as they could get, as well as a favorable signal of where the companies might be headed with checkpoint inhibition. I personally have been curious for some time what role the immune checkpoint inhibitors might play in tumors with homologous recombination deficiency, as this creates unstable DNA. Pembrolizumab is already approved for patients who test positive for mismatch repair deficiency, so what happens when you attack both DNA repair and use the immune system for these tumors?


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