FierceBiotech’s #JPM18 live blog: Pricing, Axovant's nightmare, and more

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Our daily report from San Francisco includes news from Celgene, Alnylam and Axovant.

SAN FRANCISCO—Welcome to our third day of rolling J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference coverage.

We're updating throughout the conference, with the latest news at the top. Just scroll down to see all the JPM news we've collected. All update times PST.

Top stories out of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference from Wednesday are:

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Wednesday, 2:43 a.m. PST: Hung out to dry? Axovant’s terrible JPM week

During Axovant’s very brief JPM session, a subdued David Hung gave a postmortem of intepirdine’s failure in clear-cut, although rather monotone, terms. He said next steps include “working with Roivant to expand our pipeline and find attractive candidates, while also conducting a portfolio review over our assets, and prioritizing our candidates.” He said he would provide an update of that review to the Street by the end of the quarter.

Wednesday, 4:43 a.m. PST: Lilly CEO: With pharma friends in high places, it's 'time for action' to ease drug costs

Merck & Co.'s top executive said Monday that pricing pressure isn't likely to get worse. But Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks begs to differ. The industry needs to address the pricing criticism directly or it will face consequences, Ricks argues. 

Wednesday, 5:35 a.m. PST: Is bigger better? Highlights from FierceBiotech's Executive Breakfast at JPM

The question of money, as it so often does, provoked spirited discussion among our six speakers, who represent the three pillars of the life sciences: biotech, pharma and venture capitalists. A discussion on whether bigger is indeed better—big ideas, big capital, big hype—led into a debate on how money, and more of it, affects a company’s behavior.

The top stories from Tuesday are:

Tuesday, 4:17 a.m. PST: Biotech stocks fail to lift on so-so J.P. Morgan conference's first day

Investors and observers always want more from this conference, but Bio Twitter was not abuzz with energy over #JPMHC18, and this also showed up in stocks: The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index was down 1.3% Monday, while S&P Biotech was off nearly 2%.

Tuesday, 5:04 a.m. PST: Wondering how Teva found room to cut $3B? Look at its past mistakes, CEO says

Since new CEO Kåre Schultz rolled out Teva’s $3 billion cost-cutting plan a few weeks back, “some have asked me, ‘how on earth is this possible?’” he said Monday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. One word: Structure.

Tuesday, 6:13 a.m. PST: Moderna again uses J.P. Morgan as stage for pipeline update, including for vaccines

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel offered the first glimpse into the mRNA biotech’s pipeline at 2016’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, updated the public at 2017’s event, and did it again this year around. Moderna now has 19 mRNA drug candidates spanning infectious diseases, immuno-oncology, rare diseases and cardiovascular disorders, according to the company

Tuesday, 6:30 a.m. PST: Drug pricing pressure isn't likely to get worse: Merck CEO

Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier said during his company’s session: “While we are going to continue to see incremental pressure on pricing, I don't see anything from the public agencies or through the private payers, any kind of significant jump in that pressure.”

Tuesday, 7:20 a.m. PST In it for the long haul: A chat with Barry Greene

Barry Greene, Alnylam president, tells FierceBiotech: “This is always where we intended to be. Our desire is to be as innovative in the commercial space as we have been in the R&D space.”

Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. PST: After $270M round, BioNTech pens TCR pact with Scancell

BioNTech has followed up on its $270 million megaround by striking a deal with Scancell. The alliance gives BioNTech, which is presenting at JPM this week, the chance to work with Scancell to discover and characterize T cell receptors and an option to form a license agreement covering the resulting therapeutics.

Monday’s big J.P. Morgan stories include:

Monday, 12:42 a.m. PST: J.P. Morgan kicks off with a deal as Celgene pays $1.1B for Impact Biomedicines

Celgene says it will spend $1.1 billion upfront for Impact Biomedicines, a tiny startup that got a $22 million series A just two months ago, and potentially billions more in biobucks and sales receipts—all for JAK2 inhibitor fedratinib, a Sanofi castoff.

Monday, 3:52 a.m. PST: Alnylam retools Sanofi deal to take full control of patisiran

Alnylam has stepped up its commitment to pioneering RNAi drug patisiran by retooling its agreement with Sanofi. The revised deal returns full global control of the ATTR amyloidosis drug to Alnylam and sees Sanofi obtain worldwide rights to hemophilia candidate fitusiran.

Monday, 3:55 a.m. PSTAxovant slumps as it dumps lead drug intepirdine

Axovant’s run of bad news shows no signs of letting up, with negative results in a phase 2b trial in Lewy body dementia spelling the end for lead candidate intepirdine. This comes just a few months after the Roivant subsidiary announced a failed Alzheimer’s trial for the same therapy.

Monday, 7:14 a.m. PST: Pfizer program seeks closer ties with top universities

Pfizer has set up a new partnering network to try to foster collaborations with top-tier universities, shortly after stripping out a chunk of its in-house R&D effort.

And our JPM news of note:

The $1.1 billion market capped Acorda, which is apparently looking for a sale according to a recent WSJ report, said near the end of a JPM update that data from its phase 2 proof-of-concept study for SYN120 (gathered up in its $363 million buyout of Finland's Biotie two years ago), flopped, as neither the primary nor key secondary endpoints achieved statistical significance.

“The company continues to review the data, which will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting,” it noted in its update.

Regeneron and long-term partner Sanofi will “accelerate and expand investment” to develop PD-1 cemiplimab in oncology, as well as the IL-4/IL-13 pathway-blocking antibody dupilumab in type 2 allergic diseases.

“This strategic investment will enable the companies to evaluate cemiplimab and dupilumab in broader clinical development programs,” the pair said in a statement. The investment in cemiplimab will be increased to a minimum of $1.64 billion, a boost of around $1 billion over the two companies’ original 2015 pact.

Incyte and Syros Pharmaceuticals have penned a new target discovery, research collaboration and option deal. Syros will use its gene control platform to seek out new targets with a focus on myeloproliferative neoplasms, while Incyte gains options for exclusive worldwide rights to IP from the collaboration for up to seven targets.

Under the deal, Incyte will pay Syros $10 million upfront and purchase $10 million in Syros common stock; Syros could also get up to $54 million from Incyte in “target selection and option exercise fees,” as well as $115 million in other biobucks milestone payments.

Revance Therapeutics saw its phase 2a drug RT002 (daxibotulinumtoxinA for injection) fail to hit statistical significance against a dummy treatment in treating plantar fasciitis. In the intent-to-treat population, a mean reduction in a key score (VAS) for the condition was 54.2% from baseline with RT002, with a 42.6% reduction in the placebo group.

The biotech blamed a “strong placebo response in the control group at two of the five study sites” for these results, adding: “RT002 did outperform placebo, providing patients with considerable pain relief. Similar numeric trends were seen in the secondary and exploratory endpoints.”

Immunomedics will sell tiered, sales-based royalty rights on global net sales of sacituzumab govitecan to Royalty Pharma for $175 million, with the company also buying up $75 million in common stock of Immunomedics.

“This $250 million funding provides Immunomedics the resources to support the company’s next phase of growth as it focuses on developing sacituzumab govitecan in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, advanced urothelial cancer and other indications of high medical need and on further building its clinical, medical affairs, commercial and manufacturing infrastructure,” it said in a statement.

Back in August, Shire said it was having a bit of a rethink over some of its units, including its neuroscience business; today, it says it’s decided that its neuroscience business “warrants additional focus and investment” and will now create two distinct business divisions within Shire: a Rare Disease Division and a Neuroscience Division.

It has within these a late-stage pipeline including SHP643 for hereditary angioedema, SHP620 for CMV infection in transplant patients, SHP607 for the prevention of respiratory morbidity in premature infants, and SHP621 for eosinophilic esophagitis. The split should be done by the first quarter. The second stage of its rethink will include “continuing to evaluate all strategic alternatives, including the merits of an independent listing for each of the two divisions.” Expect a decision on this by the second quarter.