Friday Five - The week in review

First past the post may count for little in BACE race

A class of drugs known as BACE inhibitors remain the subject of considerable hope for delivering a breakthrough in Alzheimer's disease, so it is no surprise that a full analysis of Merck & Co.'s failed EPOCH trial – which had studied the BACE inhibitor verubecestat in patients with mild-to-moderate disease – has been scrutinised for potential clues – KOL Views Results: Leading neurologist says verubecestat’s failure has clear read-throughs to other BACE inhibitors – not all of them bad.

Whether the EPOCH data provides read-across to ongoing BACE inhibitor trials is a matter of some debate, although Amgen and Novartis may claim that a decision to study their drug CNP520 in pre-onset patients – a bold but challenging approach – has been validated – Spotlight On: Novartis, Amgen's bold bid in Alzheimer's disease gains momentum on the back of Merck's setback.

GlaxoSmithKline's brilliantly bold move

How do you convince a sceptical market that you are committed to pharma R&D? – In GlaxoSmithKline's case by hiring Hal Barron as your new R&D chief; the former Roche and Genentech executive will leave a similar position at Google-backed Calico to take up his new post at the beginning of 2018.

ViewPoints: GlaxoSmithKline shows its pharma intentions

GlaxoSmithKline would appear to be making a firmer commitment to its future in oncology and may just have taken some inspiration from AstraZeneca, which has seen an upturn in its own R&D fortunes since sourcing both its CEO and head of R&D from Roche. The only caveat – for those looking to scrutinise GlaxoSmithKline's appointment – is Barron being based in San Francisco, which logistically could bring both advantages and disadvantages.

The deal that never Addyied up

As a coda to the good times at Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the $1-billion acquisition of Sprout Pharmaceuticals subsequently came to characterise everything wrong at the speciality drugmaker. Further ignominy was confirmed this week when Valeant announced it will divest Sprout to the company's former shareholders in exchange for a 6-percent royalty on global sales of Addyi. Worse still, Valeant will loan $25 million to support ongoing efforts to commercialise Addyi – frequently dubbed the 'female Viagra' – which has failed to make a meaningful dent in the market.

There is a silver lining for Valeant; the deal brings the curtain down on a lawsuit filed by former Sprout shareholders who accused the company of underinvesting in its commercial launch. Furthermore, the announcement did not precede a particularly ugly set of Q3 results a day later; yes sales slipped and guidance was lowered, but investors rewarded Valeant's continued debt pay down by sending shares up as much as 15 percent.

Are IO combos adding up?

The long-running Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) meeting has gained prominence in recent years, as interest gravitates around developments in immuno-oncology. Focus at this year's event – November 8 to 12 – looks set to sharpen specifically on the future of checkpoint inhibitor combinations.

Late-breaking abstracts released on Tuesday may dampen some of the enthusiasm towards these pairings, however, and at the very least will prime attendees to scrutinise full data presentations made this weekend – see ViewPoints: SITC abstracts offer reminder that 1+1 won't always equal 2 in I/O combinations.

OncoSec Medical – which saw its share price surge up to 81 percent on Wednesday – emerged the big winner as SITC kicked off.

Teva's troubles

Teva has decided to double down on generics, but in doing so has exposed itself – in the US at least – to what has become a wildly unpredictable market. Providing added consternation for shareholders is Mylan's aggressive generic Copaxone launch, which together have weighed heavily on the company's performance and share price – Teva: Q3 key product performance.

New CEO Kare Schultz inherits a company will little margin for error, wrote Bernstein's Ronny Gal, noting that initial focus should be on eliminating Teva's dividend to support cost cutting initiatives. Should available cost savings prove insufficient, Schultz may have to steer the company in other strategic redirection, adds Gal.   

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