It's the third day of the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference here in San Francisco (and the last day of the Biotech Showcase 2015), and BioPharma Dive has been busy following all of the action. If you're still catching up, read our recaps of the biggest news from day one and day two of the conferences.
On Wednesday, executives from AbbVie, bluebird bio, and MannKind all gave presentations to investors—and NIH director Dr. Francis Collins got in a few choice words, too. Here's what you need to know:
AbbVie has ambitious plans for Humira and hep C
AbbVie announced that it isn't quite finished with Humira, the best-selling drug in the world, and is actually aiming to expand the med's label with current phase III studies. With Humira patent expiration slated for 2016, an expanded indication could give the company a hefty boost right when it will need that break the most.
Furthermore, the company said that it may unveil phase IIb data for the investigational HCV compound ABT-493 at the AASLD meeting this year (or, at the very least, by the end of the year). And AbbVie has an ambitious goal for its next-gen hep C treatments: a once-daily regimen that covers all genotypes of the virus.
bluebird bio plans to present sickle cell data this year
It's one of the hottest biotechs in the world, and it's planning on presenting major clinical data by the end of the year. bluebird bio CEO Nick Leschly told JPM15 attendees that the company will unveil data for its ambitious sickle cell gene therapy platform LentiGlobin in 2015.
The company also took a moment to show off with this slide underscoring the multitude of therapeutic categories that it's tackling:
NIH director extremely concerned over plummeting research funding
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins didn't mince words: public life science and medical research funding in this country has fallen fast, and it doesn't bode well for the drug industry in the U.S. In fact, Collins is terrified that American researchers may wind up absconding to countries with more lucrative funding landscapes, such as China.
Collins told JPM15 that, compared to 2003, the NIH has lost 25% of its purchasing power thanks to a combination of funding cuts and inflation, and just one in six research pitches are funded by the agency now. “That means we’re leaving half the science on the table that we once would have funded,” said Collins. He elaborated that underwhelming funding increases in the range of 1%-3% are simply inadequate, especially when China is doling out 22% funding boosts for research.
Outgoing MannKind CEO on what the company needs to focus on in the near future
MannKind CEO Al Mann, who is retiring, received a standing ovation from the crowd at JPM15 on Wednesday. He also brushed aside the notion that his company needs to jockey for a buyout (potentially by inhaled insulin Afrezza partner Sanofi).
Instead, Mann says that the company which bears his name needs to focus on R&D and building a robust pipeline for its therapeutic platforms. But, as Mann himself said, that's going to be a problem for another chief executive.
Statement of the day: Invest away!
At the final lunch plenary session of the Biotech Showcase, Atlas Venture's Bruce Booth told the audience that biopharma is still a safe investment, proven by the fact that venture capital in biotech has a lower loss ratio than almost any other sector (especially Internet tech companies).