Merck to Invest $1 Billion in Virginia Facility, Add 100 Jobs

biospace | May 09, 2019

Merck & Company is planning a $1 billion expansion to its manufacturing facility in Elkton, Va. over the course of the next three years that will include the addition of approximately 100 new jobs, the office of the governor of Virginia announced Wednesday. Merck will add 120,000 square feet to its existing 1.1 million-square-foot operation in Elkton in order to increase the production of its Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. For Merck, the expanded focus on the HPV vaccine comes about a month after the company announced a collaboration with Tessa Therapeutics. The companies will pair Tessa's armored human papillomavirus-specific T cell (HPVST) therapy with Merck’s vaunted checkpoint inhibitor, Keytruda as a potential treatment for patients with recurrent or metastatic HPV 16 and 18-positive cervical cancer.

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VIEWS AND ANALYSIS, PHARMACY MARKET

Soligenix Initiates Phase 2 Clinical Trial of SGX302 (synthetic hypericin) for the Treatment of Mild-to-Moderate Psoriasis

Soligenix, Inc. | December 20, 2022

Soligenix, Inc. a late-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing products to treat rare diseases where there is an unmet medical need, announced today that patient enrollment has been opened for its Phase 2a study evaluating SGX302 in the treatment of mild-to-moderate psoriasis. Psoriasis is an ongoing unmet medical need, with as many as 7.5 million people in the U.S. and 60-125 million people worldwide affected by this incurable disease. "We are excited to expand synthetic hypericin's development into different cutaneous T-cell diseases such as psoriasis, as a component of our long-term strategy to enhance the value of this unique compound. Given our promising published results with hypericin to date, including a small Phase 1/2 proof of concept clinical trial in mild-to-moderate psoriasis, and the Phase 3 FLASH study in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, where we filed a New Drug Application this month, we are hopeful synthetic hypericin will have a role to play in helping patients suffering from this difficult to treat and chronic disease." Christopher J. Schaber, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Soligenix The Phase 2a clinical trial will target enrollment of up to 42 patients ages 18 years or older with mild to moderate, stable psoriasis covering 2 to 30% of their body. In both Parts A and B, all patients will apply the study drug twice per week and will activate the drug with visible light 24 ± 6 hours later using the supplied visible light devices and according to the manufacturer's instructions. Patients will undergo treatments for a total of 18 weeks and, on completion, will be followed for a 4-week follow-up period in which patients will not receive other psoriasis treatments. In Part A, 5-10 patients will be assigned open-label SGX302 at the time of enrollment. Once the tolerability and response to SGX302 has been established, Part B of the protocol will commence. In Part B, patients will be randomized to double-blind treatment groups at a ratio 1:1 of active drug to placebo ointment. Active dermatologic assessment of treated lesions for adverse events will be performed immediately before and during light treatments. Patients will be assessed for overall disease status through 4 weeks of follow-up. Efficacy endpoints will include the extent of lesion clearance and patient reported quality of life indices. Routine safety laboratories also will be collected. About Synthetic Hypericin Visible light-activated synthetic hypericin is a novel, first-in-class, photodynamic therapy that is expected to avoid much of the long-term risks associated with other PDT treatments. Synthetic hypericin is a potent photosensitizer that is topically applied to skin lesions and taken up by cutaneous T-cells. With subsequent activation by safe, visible light, T-cell apoptosis is induced, addressing the root cause of psoriasis lesions. Other PDTs have shown efficacy in psoriasis with a similar apoptotic mechanism, albeit using ultraviolet light associated with more severe potential long-term safety concerns. The use of visible light in the red-yellow spectrum has the advantage of deeper penetration into the skin potentially treating deeper skin disease and thicker plaques and lesions, similar to what was observed in the positive Phase 3 FLASH study in CTCL. Synthetic hypericin or HyBryte™ was demonstrated in this study to be equally effective in treating both plaque and patch lesions in this orphan disease caused by malignant T-cells. In a published Phase 1/2 proof of concept clinical study using synthetic hypericin, efficacy was demonstrated in patients with CTCL. This treatment approach avoids the risk of secondary malignancies (including melanoma) inherent with both the frequently used DNA-damaging drugs and other phototherapies that are dependent on UV A or B exposure. The use of synthetic hypericin coupled with safe, visible light also avoids the risk of serious infections and cancer associated with the systemic immunosuppressive treatments used in psoriasis. The Phase 3 FLASH trial enrolled a total of 169 patients with Stage IA, IB or IIA CTCL. The trial consisted of three treatment cycles. Treatments were administered twice weekly in 6-week cycles. In the first double-blind treatment cycle, 116 patients received HyBryte™ treatment and 50 received placebo treatment of their index lesions. A total of 16% of the patients receiving HyBryte™ achieved at least a 50% reduction in their lesions (using the standard Composite Assessment of Index Lesions Severity [CAILS] score) compared to only 4% of patients in the placebo group after just 6 weeks of treatment (p=0.04). Further treatment with HyBryte™ increased the number of treatment successes to 40% and 49% after 12 and 18 weeks, respectively (p<0.0001 for both). Additional analyses also indicated that HyBryte™ is equally effective in treating both plaque (42% treatment response rate after 12 weeks treatment, p<0.0001 relative to placebo treatment in Cycle 1) and patch (37%, p=0.0009) lesions of CTCL, a particularly relevant finding given the historical difficulty in treating plaque lesions. This is also relevant to psoriasis where the lesions can be thicker than the patches observed in CTCL. In a subset of patients evaluated during their third treatment cycle, it was demonstrated that HyBryte™ is not systemically available, consistent with the general safety of this topical product observed to date. At the end of Cycle 3, HyBryte™ continued to be well tolerated despite extended and increased use of the product to treat multiple lesions. About Psoriasis Psoriasis is a chronic, non-communicable, itchy and often painful inflammatory skin condition for which there is no cure. Psoriasis has a significantly detrimental impact on patients' quality of life, and is associated with cardiovascular, arthritic, and metabolic diseases, as well as psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression and suicide. Many factors contribute to development of psoriasis including both genetic and environmental factors. The lesions develop because of rapidly proliferating skin cells, driven by autoimmune T-cell mediated inflammation. Of the various types of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis is the most common and is characterized by dry, red raised plaques that are covered by silvery-white scales occurring most commonly on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. Approximately 80% of patients have mild-to-moderate disease. Mild psoriasis is generally characterized by the involvement of less than 3% of the body surface area (BSA), while moderate psoriasis will typically involve 3-10% BSA and severe psoriasis greater than 10% BSA. Between 20% and 30% of individuals with psoriasis will go on to develop chronic, inflammatory arthritis (psoriatic arthritis) that can lead to joint deformations and disability. Studies have also associated psoriasis, and particularly severe psoriasis, with an increased relative risk of lymphoma, particularly CTCL. Although psoriasis can occur at any age, most patients present with the condition before age 35. Treatment of psoriasis is based on its severity at the time of presentation with the goal of controlling symptoms. It varies from topical options including PDT to reduce pain and itching, and potentially reduce the inflammation driving plaque formation, to systemic treatments for more severe disease. Most common systemic treatments and even current topical photo/photodynamic therapy such as UV A and B, carry a risk of increased skin cancer. Psoriasis is the most common immune-mediated inflammatory skin disease. According to the World Health Organization Global Report on Psoriasis 2016, the prevalence of psoriasis is between 1.5% and 5% in most developed countries, with some suggestions of incidence increasing with time. It is estimated, based upon review of historic published studies and reports and an interpolation of data that psoriasis affects 3% of the U.S. population or more than 7.5 million people. Current estimates have as many as 60-125 million people worldwide living with the condition. The global psoriasis treatment market was valued at approximately $15 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach as much as $40 billion by 2027. About Soligenix, Inc. Soligenix is a late-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing products to treat rare diseases where there is an unmet medical need. Our Specialized BioTherapeutics business segment is developing and moving toward potential commercialization of HyBryte™ as a novel photodynamic therapy utilizing safe visible light for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. With a successful Phase 3 study completed, regulatory approval is being sought and commercialization activities for this product candidate are being advanced initially in the U.S. Development programs in this business segment also include expansion of synthetic hypericin into psoriasis, our first-in-class innate defense regulator technology, dusquetide for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, including oral mucositis in head and neck cancer, and proprietary formulations of oral beclomethasone 17,21-dipropionate for the prevention/treatment of gastrointestinal disorders characterized by severe inflammation including pediatric Crohn's disease.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS, PHARMACY MARKET

Annogen Announces Research Project with Pfizer to Test Non-coding Genetic Sequences

Annogen | December 14, 2022

Annogen, the Amsterdam based biotech company behind the SuRE™ technology for the functional annotation of the non-coding part of the genome, today announced it has begun a research project with Pfizer to functionally test tens of thousands of disease-related non-coding sequence variants for their effect on gene regulation. The results may contribute to drug discovery by identifying functionally relevant non-coding variants that play a central role in diseases. More than 95 percent of disease- and trait-related variants are found in the non-coding genome. However, identifying the important causal variants amongst the thousands of non-functional ones is a major challenge, as non-coding variant functionality cannot be deduced from sequence alone. Using its SuRE™ methodology, Annogen can obtain a functional read-out for up to millions of non-coding variants in parallel. “We are very proud of this research project with Pfizer. We believe the non-coding part of the genome represents a huge opportunity for drug discovery that has been largely overlooked. We are now working with several top-tier biopharma companies on a broad array of projects, which demonstrates the interest in the SuRE™ platform and the AIM™ service for gene & cell therapy, drug discovery, and recombinant protein production”. Joris van Arensbergen, Annogen’s founder and CEO, is pleased to establish another project in this field About Annogen At Annogen we use our SuRE™ technology to identify regulatory DNA elements to be used for controlled gene expression valuable for gene & cell therapy, as well as for recombinant protein production. In addition, we offer the AIM™ service to identify favorable gene insertions and their expression levels for more than 100,000 integrations in parallel. These approaches enable researchers to qualitatively interpret the non-coding genome in humans, animals and plants.

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PHARMA TECH

Three iA Employees Honored with Top Women in Health Awards

iA | November 18, 2022

iA, a provider of software-enabled pharmacy fulfillment and automation solutions, celebrated three of its employees being recognized at Drug Store News’ Fourth Annual Top Women in Health, Wellness & Beauty Awards held in Chicago, Illinois. Rachael Clark, Vice President of Commercial Sales, received a Rising Star award. As Vice President of Commercial Sales, Rachael works with large-scale retail chain grocery stores, mainstream pharmacies, and digital pharmacies, as well as independent mom-and-pop operations. Rachael is responsible for a team of account executives that work to promote iA’s technology across North America and globally by developing long-term strategies, while also organizing and maintaining sales operations. Bobbi Jamriska, Senior Vice President, Product Management, received an award for Business Excellence. Bobbi leads the Product Management team at iA that is responsible for the iA portfolio of solutions, where she manages the strategy, development, and go-to-market planning. She has been a pharmacy tech for 12 years, and has led global product management initiatives as well as new product development experiences. Stacey Weber, Senior Director of Customer Operations, received an award for Business Excellence. Stacey oversees the customer support division, where she manages a team of 35 remote technicians who assist customers in using iA’s Rx fulfillment solutions, which include automated prescription filling robots and innovative warehouse management systems. In addition to ensuring customers receive timely and helpful assistance, she also oversees standardization and process improvement for iA’s call center and for the customers that use iA solutions. “We are incredibly proud of our team members. Rachael, Bobbi, and Stacey all represent the best of iA, and we are very lucky to be able to work with them every day.” Tom Utech, President and Chief Operating Officer About iA iA is a leading-edge provider of software-enabled pharmacy fulfillment solutions. With over 30 years in pharmacy fulfillment, iA has invented and developed a suite of software-driven pharmacy automation solutions. From NEXiA software to automated modular hardware and sophisticated counting and collation devices, iA pharmacy automation solutions and technology empower pharmacists. iA can run the prescription fulfillment process from end to end, helping pharmacies manage fulfillment and inventory to help lower costs, improve efficiency and provide comprehensive Rx tracking and real-time support.

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VIEWS AND ANALYSIS, PHARMA TECH

Novavax Announces Pricing of $150 Million Offering of Convertible Senior Notes

Novavax, Inc. | December 16, 2022

Novavax, Inc. a biotechnology company dedicated to developing and commercializing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, today announced the pricing of an offering of $150 million aggregate principal amount of its 5.00% convertible senior notes due 2027. The notes are being offered and sold only to persons reasonably believed to be qualified institutional buyers pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. In connection with the offering of the notes, Novavax has granted to the initial purchasers a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional $25.25 million aggregate principal amount of the notes. The offering of the notes is expected to close on December 20, 2022, subject to customary closing conditions. The notes will represent senior unsecured obligations of Novavax and will accrue interest payable semi-annually in arrears and will mature on December 15, 2027, unless earlier converted, redeemed or repurchased. Novavax will settle conversions by paying or delivering, as applicable, cash, shares of its common stock, par value $0.01 per share or a combination of cash and shares of its common stock, at Novavax' election. The notes will be redeemable, in whole or in part for cash at Novavax' option at any time, and from time to time, on or after December 22, 2025, if the last reported sale price of common stock has been at least 130% of the conversion price then in effect for at least 20 trading days during any 30 consecutive trading day period ending on and including the trading day immediately preceding the date on which Novavax provides notice of redemption at a redemption price equal to 100% of the principal amount of the notes to be redeemed, plus any accrued and unpaid interest to, but excluding, the redemption date. The notes will be convertible at an initial conversion rate of 80.0000 shares of common stock per $1,000 principal amount of notes. J.P. Morgan, Jefferies and Cowen are acting as joint book-running managers and representatives of the initial purchasers for the offering of the notes. J. Wood Capital Advisors served as financial advisor to the Company in relation to the offering of the notes. Concurrently with the offering of the notes, Novavax also announced today the pricing of its previously announced underwritten public offering to sell up to 6,500,000 shares of its common stock at a public offering price of $10.00 per share, or $65 million worth of shares of its common stock. In connection with the common stock offering, Novavax granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 975,000 shares of its common stock at the public offering price, less underwriting discounts and commissions. The offering of the notes is not contingent upon the consummation of the concurrent common stock offering, and the concurrent common stock offering is not contingent upon the consummation of the offering of the notes. The concurrent common stock offering is expected to close on December 20, 2022, subject to customary closing conditions. Novavax may use the net proceeds from the offering of the notes and, if consummated, the concurrent common stock offering, for general corporate purposes, including but not limited to the continued global commercial launch of Nuvaxovid, repayment or repurchase of a portion of the $325 million in outstanding principal amount of its 3.75% convertible senior unsecured notes due February 1, 2023, working capital, capital expenditures, research and development expenditures, clinical trial expenditures, repayments under its supply agreements, as well as acquisitions and other strategic purposes. Novavax estimates that the net proceeds from the offering of the notes will be approximately $142.2 million after deducting the initial purchasers' discounts and estimated offering expenses payable by Novavax. The offer and sale of the notes are not being registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended any state securities laws. The notes may not be offered or sold in the U.S. except pursuant to an exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act and any applicable state securities laws. The notes are being offered only to persons reasonably believed to be qualified institutional buyers pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act. The offer and sale of the notes and any shares of common stock issuable upon conversion of the notes have not been, and will not be, registered under the Securities Act or any other securities laws, and the notes and any such shares cannot be offered or sold absent registration or except pursuant to an applicable exemption from, or in a transaction not subject to, the registration requirements of the Securities Act and any other applicable securities laws. This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy the securities being offered, nor shall there be any sale of the securities being offered in any state or other jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state or other jurisdiction. About Novavax Novavax, Inc. is a biotechnology company that promotes improved health globally through the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative vaccines to prevent serious infectious diseases. The company's proprietary recombinant technology platform harnesses the power and speed of genetic engineering to efficiently produce highly immunogenic nanoparticles designed to address urgent global health needs. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine has received authorization from multiple regulatory authorities globally, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission, and the World Health Organization.

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Spotlight

The ideal care model for complex patients is a model
in which the entire health care team is made up of
experts in the specific disease state being treated.
Integrated health care systems and major academic
medical centers provide this level of expertise and
coordination.

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