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BioMarin, Merck, and Sanofi: The biggest news so far from 'JPM15' and 'BTS15'

BioPharma Dive is in San Francisco this week attending the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference and the Biotech Showcase 2015. Between the two events, the Bay is overrun with thousands of investors, analysts, biotech and pharma execs, and life science industry professionals looking to network, partner, set expectations for 2015 and beyond, and make the occasional major announcement.

Monday's events included presentations from BioMarin CEO Jean-Jacques Bienaime, Merck CEO Ken Frazier (with some news about the historic Keytruda), and the chiefs of Sanofi and MannKind. Here's what you need to know:

BioMarin calls out Sarepta on Duchenne drug

​BioMarin CEO Jean-Jacques Bienaime took the unusual step on Monday of directly calling out rival biotech Sarepta Therapeutics over its Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) candidate eteplirsen during his presentation at JPM15. BioMarin has a competing candidate for the same indication, drisapersen.

What was unique about the presentation is that Bienaime showed actual data slides comparing the efficacy of the two companies' drugs and ostensibly demonstrating drisapersen​'s comparative superiority. That's despite the fact that both products are still very much in the experimental stage and have never been put in a head-to-head trial. Look out for aggressive moves from BioMarin in this space.

Merck announces new Keytruda filings

It's not surprising, but now it's official: Merck CEO Ken Frazier announced at JPM15 that the company would be filing its historic, first-to-market PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda for non-small cell lung cancer by the end of Q2 2015. Keytruda is already approved for melanoma and is being studied in dozens of other cancers.

Frazier also said that the success of Keytruda so far—​it's reportedly reaching 90% of patients who don't respond to BMS's fellow melanoma drug Yervoy—is a vindication of Merck's strategy to spin off arms such as consumer health in order to focus on novel therapies in fields like oncology.

Sanofi still doesn't seem overly-enthusiastic about MannKind's inhaled insulin

Although Sanofi R&D president Elias Zerhouni spent a lot of time talking up the company's next-gen basal insulin product, Toujeo, during his JPM presentation, he barely even mentioned Afrezza, the inhaled insulin product from MannKind.

Afrezza has yet to receive an official commercial launch date, and that didn't change on Monday. It's still expected to come to market relatively early in 2015.

The experts agree—biotech is a bubble 

During a wide-ranging panel at the Biotech Showcase, a group of experts including Merck SVP Iain Dukes and Canaan Partners' Stephen Bloch generally seemed to agree that current sky-high biotech valuations indicate a bubble. The panelists still pointed out that other industries, such as Internet companies, are in a far worse bubble, but that investors and biopharma watchers should brace for it to pop at some point down the road. BioPharma Dive will have a more in-depth piece about the BTS15 lunch panel soon, including an exclusive interview with Michael Griffith, EVP at CRO and CCO (Contract Commercial Organization) mega-firm inVentiv Health.

You can follow @BioPharmaDive on Twitter to stay up-to-date on what's happening at the conferences this week. We'll be sending out updates under the hashtags #JPM15 and #BTS15. And there's sure to be plenty more news to come.

Filed Under: Clinical Trials Marketing