FiercePharmaAsia—Daiichi’s new CEO and $6.9B AZ deal; Keytruda China market debate

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Daiichi Sankyo, Keytruda, Chi-Med made our news this week. (Google)

Daiichi Sankyo's plan to refocus on oncology paid off as AstraZeneca agreed to shell out $1.35 billion upfront for its lead antibody drug conjugate. But a new CEO, Sunao Manabe, will spearhead the Japanese pharma's next phase of growth. The Keytruda-Alimta-chemo combo nabbed a Chinese nod in newly diagnosed lung cancer patients, but blockbuster sales might be hard to reach, according to one analyst. Chi-Med's AstraZeneca-partnered MET inhibitor savolitinib helped Tagrisso-resistant EGFR lung cancer patients live longer in a phase 1b. And more.

1. AstraZeneca puts $6.9B on the table for a Daiichi Sankyo cancer drugBig day for Daiichi: Pharma taps new CEO just as it unveils a big tie-up with AstraZeneca

Daiichi Sankyo is licensing out its lead antibody drug conjugate, DS-8201, to AstraZeneca in a deal potentially worth nearly $7 billion. The drug, made up of Roche’s Herceptin and a topoisomerase I inhibitor payload, is in tests for HER2-expressing cancers and has turned up positive phase 1 data. The Japanese pharma also unveiled its CEO transition plan: Current president and chief operating officer Sunao Manabe will succeed George Nakayama to help the company shift from cardiovascular and metabolism toward oncology.

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2. Keytruda nabs key lung cancer nod in China. But are blockbuster sales really attainable?

Keytruda jumped ahead of Opdivo in China with a nod in newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer. However, analyst Tony Ren figures it might be difficult for the Merck & Co. drug to reach blockbuster sales there. The Chinese lung cancer market for PD-1/L1s is not as big as some have projected, and without head-to-head studies, Keytruda will have a hard time fighting off several cheaper domestic drugs, he argued in a note to investors.

3. AACR: Chi-Med, AstraZeneca's savolitinib helps some Tagrisso-resistant EGFR lung cancer patients

Chi-Med unveiled promising phase 1b results for MET inhibitor savolitinib, which it’s developing with help from AstraZeneca. In one cohort of patients treated with the Tagrisso-savolitinib combo after acquiring MET-driven resistance with a third-generation TKI, such as Tagrisso, 28% patients responded, with a median response lasting 9.7 months.

4. AACR: Astellas pads Xospata's AML lead with chemo-beating survival data | Daiichi's Xospata rival pushed back by FDA as it combs through new data

Looking to snap up share with newly approved Xospata, Astellas unveiled phase 3 data showing that the drug could significantly prolong the lives of relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia patients with an FLT3 mutation versus salvage chemo. And a direct rival from Daiichi Sankyo, quizartinib, will likely launch three months later than expected; the FDA pushed back its decision date to August 25 to allow more time for its assessment.

5. Novartis’ Cosentyx beats J&J, Lilly to land first-in-class Chinese psoriasis nod

Novartis’ psoriasis blockbuster Cosentyx beat out Eli Lilly’s Taltz and Johnson & Johnson’s Tremfya to land a Chinese approval, months after Chinese drug regulators put all three therapies among 48 “clinically urgently needed drugs.” In an ongoing phase 3 that comprises 441 Chinese patients, Cosentyx delivered clear or almost clear skin in 80.9% of patients in the first 12 weeks.

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