Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Genentech and Roche

The recent news that Roche are looking to purchase the remaining shares in Genentech has certainly caused a a big stir in the Pharma industry.

One of the main reasons the partnership blossomed was because Roche left Genentech largely alone and they had very clear marketing distinctions with Genentech responsible for the US and Roche handling the rest of the world.

The two cultures are very different with a conservative Swiss company versus a dynamic US biotech, so it will be interesting to see what happens. If the deal goes ahead, the big question is will Roche continue to leave them alone, or will it change the relationship?

This looks a good deal for Roche on paper, but if I were Genentech, I'd probably be a little nervous; will the creativity and dynamism go down the pan if it become more integrated with a big Pharma company?

Time will tell on both fronts.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Medicare Part D - new data available

Academy Health has published a useful report on Medicare Part D and what information is available as part of the CMS Medicare Part D claims data.

You can download the report here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Roche Helps Catch Tour de France Cheater

I loved this story posted in Pharmalot today.

The company's scientists cooperated with the doping authorities by cleverly adding an extra innocuous molecule in their long acting EPO product, Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator (CERA). This would then be traceable in the blood tests taken during the Tour de France.

Team CSC in the 2004 TTT.Image via WikipediaYou could see where the cyclists were going - if the drug was released more slowly into the body, they might escape detection while still gaining the benefits. Little did they know that effectively they were taking a marked product and the authorities would have incontrovertible proof of cheating.

Nice one!

What do you think? I'd love to see the makers of regular EPO (Amgen, Johnson and Johnson) and steroids follow suit - it's a simple but elegant solution that does not harm the users who do need benefit for legitimate means.

Is this an example of science and sport in perfect harmony, or not? Should we have more of it or is it an infringement on your rights?

News Sources:


Zemanta Pixie

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cross-wired politics in Pharma country?

Hillary fans switching over to McCain in NJ?

The differences between Hillary and Obama on policy were small, but the differences between either of them and McCain were much bigger.


New tools for finding well organised information on cancer and biotechnology

One of the things I hate most about traditional search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves is that they just return pages and pages of disorganised information on whatever topic you type in the search box.

There are some cool alternatives out there that organise the information by topic so that you can find what you want much more quickly and easily.

For example, I took two of these new search engines and did a search on 'biotechnology'. Here's what they produced compared to Google:




What a difference!

I've started using Kosmix for more organised searches on diseases and medical related items. Try typing in something like lung cancer or breast cancer and see how well they order the results. I'm not a big Wikipedia user because some of the science and technology pages aren't that accurate - they're only as good as the writer, but Kosmix allows you to search for a wider field for interesting and accurate information, right at your fingertips.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lilly to acquire SGX Pharmaceuticals

In a surprise announcement, Lilly declared today that they have signed a definitive merger agreement with SGX Pharmaceuticals in an all-cash transaction. Under the terms of the agreement, Lilly will acquire all of the outstanding shares of SGX common stock at a price of $3.00 per share, for a total value of approximately $64.0 million. Lilly were one of the existing companies who had partner deals with SGX.

SGX is a biotechnology company based in San Diego. It is focused on oncology drug discovery and development.

The acquisition will give Lilly an opportunity to integrate SGX's structure-guided drug discovery platform into its drug discovery efforts. It will also give them access to FAST™, SGX's fragment-based, protein structure guided drug discovery technology, and to a portfolio of pre-clinical oncology compounds focused on a number of high-value kinase targets.

One of the promising agents, SGX393, may be active in Gleevec resistant T315I mutations in CML, which are also resistant to other therapies currently available including Tasigna (nilotinib) and Sprycel (dasatinib).

The acquisition, if successful, will give Lilly a promising oncology pipeline for the future.



Monday, July 7, 2008

The other side of cancer vaccines...

Recently, there has been quite a surfeit of information in the news about various vaccines such as Oncophage, Gardasil and Cervarix.

In theory, they sound promising either as protection from cancer developing, as in the case with the HPV vaccines for cervical cancer or as maintenance therapy after initial treatment with other agents or surgery, as with other vaccines.

There are downsides though, as Merck are discovering this week. CBS, CNN and other news channels are running stories on Gardasil's side effects including paralysis and wart outbreaks. That's not good news for a company that has gone through the scandals associated with Vioxx and Vytorin, followed by an ongoing battle with the FDA over the approval of Cordaptive.

Meanwhile, the WSJ reported that Wall Street had become a little nervous with news of flattening sales and thus the stock price took a hit. The stories of serious adverse events may lead to further skittishness over the next few weeks until they are addressed with robust data.

This is a big headache all around for a pharma company and a PR nightmare. Once stories get out about serious adverse events, more often come out of the woodwork.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Panel urges stricter diabetes testing

Yesterday, a panel of FDA advisers voted 14-2 that the FDA should require drug makers to show that experimental diabetes drugs don’t increase cardiovascular risks.

If the FDA takes the panel’s advice, it could be more expensive for drug makers because it takes a much bigger, longer trial to prove heart safety than to prove blood-sugar control.

AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb could be on the short list of those affected by any changes; the companies are planning to submit their diabetes drug saxagliptin for FDA approval soon.

Merck could benefit from the changes because its diabetes drug Januvia has already been approved, and would compete with saxagliptin, which is in the same class.

GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia found itself at the center of a storm last year after an analysis suggested the drug raised the risk of heart attacks. The company claims the drug is safe, and it remains on the market, at least for now. Ironically, that debate may well have led to the FDA being pressured to reconsider how it approves diabetes medications.



Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Can the pathogenesis of pulmonary hypertension be reversed?

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is diagnosed by observing an elevation in mean pulmonary arterial (PA) pressure above 25 mmHg at rest or 30 mmHg with exercise. Patients usually present with much higher levels of PA pressure, but only vague and insidious symptoms of increasing fatigue and dyspnea. Some patients are diagnosed only after syncopal episodes.

Category I PH, also known as PA hypertension (PAH), includes idiopathic PAH (IPAH), familial PAH (FPAH), and acquired PAH (APAH).

Recent research has suggested that it might be possible to reverse the pathology of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a disorder that can be rapidly progressive and fatal despite current treatments including prostacyclin.

The role of chronic inflammation and autoimmunity will be important in the development of novel models of PAH. Emerging treatments for the disease are currently aimed at inducing apoptosis of abnormal vascular cells that obstruct blood flow and also at promoting regeneration of “lost” distal vasculature.


J. Clin. Investigation