News of Note—Nektar’s sweet data; Zymeworks bonus; Alzheimer’s pipeline

> Nearly four years ago, shares of Nektar Therapeutics took a nasty plunge when its pain drug NKTR-181 flopped in a phase 2 study. The mu-opioid agonist, which is designed to avoid abuse by patients, looked like it was on the cusp of being canned, but Nektar’s management kept the faith and continued to remain positive on its future.

They were rewarded in March of this year when it did hit its endpoint in a key phase 3 test, and today this was boosted further by data showing it can be effective, but without the risks of abuse inherent in marketed pain meds. The drug has a fast-track status from the FDA, and comes at a time when the agency’s new commissioner is taking direct action against the opioid epidemic sweeping across the U.S. An NDA should come before the end of the decade, with blockbuster sales predicted. Shares were up 2.2% mid-morning for the $3.28 billion market cap biopharma. Release

> In-demand and collaboration favorite Zymeworks is to get a $1 million biobucks bonus from Japanese pharma Daiichi Sankyo for its early-stage R&D work on an immuno-oncology bispecific antibody candidate. “We are very excited by the rapid progress we have made in our collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo, which further demonstrates the versatility and biophysical robustness of the Azymetric platform, and we continue to work closely with Daiichi towards advancing this potential immuno-oncology therapeutic towards the clinic,” said Ali Tehrani, president and CEO of Zymeworks. Statement

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> Not for lack of trying, Alzheimer’s R&D has proved to be a barren wasteland for biopharma for the past decade with multiple failures, setbacks and growing questions over approaches to treating the disease and its causes. Some have pulled out of researching the memory-wasting disease altogether in the face of billions lost with no ROI, but D.C.-based charity UsAgainstAlzheimer’s dug through the pipeline of biopharma, and says in an updated report that there are 27 phase 3 and eight phase 2 Alzheimer’s drugs “on track to launch in next five years.”

“The Alzheimer’s disease pipeline, marred by decades of failures and underinvestment, is due for big victories,” says George Vradenburg, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s co-founder and chairman. “Thanks to growing investment from industry leaders, we remain cautiously optimistic that the current crop of late-stage Alzheimer’s innovations will bring much-needed solutions to families in the near future.” Report