JPM: Day 2 round-up

While fewer deals were announced on the second day of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, a new slate of biotechs and pharmas made their pitch to the gathered investors and executives for what 2017 has in store. 

Kicking off Tuesday with an early morning presentation, closely-watched Sarepta Therapeutics signaled positive momentum for its Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment Exondys 51 (eteplirsen). Sales of Exondys totaled $5.4 million in the fourth quarter of last year, and 250 patients have begun the process to receive treatment since the controversial drug launched last September. 

Valeant Pharmaceuticals, after announcing the sale of its Dendreon unit for $820 million, picked up another $1.2 billion from divesting three skincare brands to L'oreal. More looks set to come, if the company's presentation is any guide. 

Several more pharmas reviewed their progress in the afternoon, packing the main ballrooms of the Westin St. Francis. Sanofi, for example, highlighted several of its recent drug launches and reiterated its intent to appeal Amgen's recent victory in patent litigation over the companies' competing high cholesterol drugs.

Notably, Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt said 85% of patients taking Praluent rely on the 75 mg dose, a lower dose than either of the options offered by Amgen. Sanofi and its partner Regeneron argue removing Praluent hurts patients, especially when Praluent represents another dosing option.

And the French pharma expects to resubmit its experimental rheumatoid arthritis treatment for approval in the U.S. sometime this quarter, getting back on track after a response letter from the Food and Drug Administration derailed the drug. 

As expected, Bristol-Myers Squibb keyed in on its immuno-oncology brand. With the failure of Opdivo (nivolumab) opening the door for Merck, combinations of Opdivo with other drugs will likely take on more importance and Bristol-Meyers has several read-outs set for 2017 and 2018. 

Elsewhere, speakers at the Diagnostic Outlook Panel discussed (among other things) Illumina's ambitious aim to bring the cost of a genome test down to $100. Interpretation and analysis of those test results is likely to cost much more, said both John Black, director of the Personalized Genomic Laboratory at the Mayo Clinic, and Suzanne Belinson, ‎a director at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Despite the steady soaking rain lingering over San Francisco, a cautious optimism seems to have taken root over the industry's prospects in 2017. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index has risen a little over 2% since the conference began — a welcome departure from the tone-setting declines seen a year ago at JPM 2016. 

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