The U.S. Department of Justice gave the green light for six pharmaceutical companies to share manufacturing data in the quest for COVID-19 therapeutics. The companies may not, however, share pricing information and production costs. And changes are happening in the world of oncology from a new editor at the helm of the Journal of Clinical Oncology to a new cancer care center opening in Sebring, Florida. Read on for more in this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog.

Innovation Partners Weekly BioBlog August 2, 2020

AstraZeneca, Lilly, GSK and more will share COVID-19 antibody secrets to speed manufacturing scale-up

Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Roche’s Genentech unit, Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline and Lilly partner AbCellera are all working on COVID-19 therapies. The U.S. Justice Department has just approved the companies’ ability to share ‘need to know’ secrets so that they can work together to speed coronavirus antibody production. Each drugmaker is in different stages of production, but plan to share information with each other about manufacturing facilities, capacity, raw materials and other supplies needed to create successful monoclonal antibodies. The DOJ has, however, forbidden the companies from sharing production costs and pricing information.

Merus announces FDA Orphan Drug Designation of Zenocutuzumab for the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

Merus N.V. announced that the FDA) has granted Orphan Drug Designation to Zenocutuzumab (Zeno) for the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer. Zeno is a first in class bispecific antibody that potently binds to the HER2 and HER3 receptors, to potently block the interaction of HER3 with its ligand, neuregulin 1 (NRG1). Zeno has demonstrated promising early clinical responses in patients with previously treated pancreatic cancer harboring NRG1 gene fusions, as presented at the AACR/NCI/EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in October 2019. The NRG1 gene fusion is a rare, powerful driver of cancer cell growth found in pancreatic, lung and other types of solid tumors. Zeno is now being evaluated in a global phase 1/2 clinical trial called the eNRGy trial.

Jonathan W. Friedberg Named Next Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Clinical Oncology

Jonathan W. Friedberg, MD, MMSc, has been appointed as the next editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), the flagship journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Dr. Friedberg is currently director of the Wilmot Cancer Institute and Samuel Durand Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. He chairs the SWOG lymphoma committee and is a U.S. National Institutes of Health R01-funded lymphoma researcher. Dr. Friedberg serves as a JCO associate editor and has been processing JCO manuscripts on advances in hematologic cancers since assuming this role in 2011. He has also served as a reviewer and on editorial boards of other journals and has authored more than 250 journal articles and 26 books, making him well-versed in medical publishing. Dr. Friedberg has over 20 years of experience in hematologic oncology.

Trump revives war with payers and PBMs over future of Medicare Part D rebates

The Trump administration is trying to revive the controversial rule that removes the anti-kickback
safe harbor for Medicare Part D rebates. Trump asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revive the rule as part of a series of executive orders focused on drug prices. Insurance and PBM groups say that the orders won’t lead to lower drug prices for seniors. The controversial rule sparked pushback from PBMs and payers.

Hutch researchers share new data on mortality rates and racial disparities in treatment; launch statewide COVID-19 and cancer data repository

A study of cancer patients with COVID-19 found that those who otherwise were in relatively good health, with no comorbid conditions, had a mortality rate of about 4% from the coronavirus. This is slightly higher than the national average. Older patients, those with other conditions, and those with progressing cancer fared worse. Nearly half of the 2,186 cancer patients diagnosed with COVID-19 had mild cases, while 40% were deemed moderate and 12%, severe. Cancer patients in good health with no comorbidities — both in active treatment and remission — had a mortality rate of 4%, slightly higher than that of the U.S. general population, generally cited as between 2 and 3.4% (and notoriously difficult to pinpoint). People whose cancer was progressing despite treatment had a 26% mortality rate. Those 75 and older had a 27% rate, and those who were unable to work, confined to bed, or immobile had a 35% mortality rate.

Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute Expands Care With New Cancer Center Location In Sebring

Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute opened their new cancer center in Sebring. The 13,500 square foot clinic has nearly double the space of the former location and includes 16 private exam rooms and 40 infusion therapy chairs. The new location also includes some on-site laboratory testing, as well as PET and CT scanning services. The new building was designed with feedback and guidance from patients and incorporates colors, lighting, art and natural elements proven to help reduce stress and promote positive patient outcomes.