Novartis partnered with Pear Therapeutics to develop digital therapies

Novartis partnered with US-based firm Pear Therapeutics for the development of new prescription software applications ‘digital therapeutics’ to help patients with schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.

The new solutions are meant to address the complete disease burden and deliver treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy through mobile and desktop applications.

For the development of the digital therapeutics, Novartis’ biomedical research and clinical development expertise will be combined with Pear’s knowledge on digital therapeutics design and implementation.

GSK agreed to acquire Novartis’ stake in healthcare JV for $13bn

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) signed an agreement to acquire the 36.5% stake held by Novartis in their Consumer Healthcare joint venture (JV) for $13bn.

Launched in 2015, the JV included a three-part inter-conditional transaction between the companies. Under the deal, Novartis has the right to require GSK to buy its stake.

The divestiture is expected to help Novartis to develop and advance its core businesses, and will provide GSK with 100% ownership to the JV.

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Virtual tumour model to improve targeted cancer treatment

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in the UK developed a computerised cell model of tumours to predict the treatment response to a new tumour-heating technology against cancer.

The technology uses a combination of high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and radiotherapy to send targeted sound waves for heating and killing the cancer.

HIFU is a non-invasive heating technique being developed at the institute to provide ‘precise targeted’ treatment without impacting the surrounding healthy tissue.

Lundbeck agreed to buy Netherlands’ Prexton Therapeutics for €905m

Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck agreed to purchase Netherlands-based Prexton Therapeutics for up to €905m.

Under the deal, Lundbeck will make an upfront payment of €100m, followed by €805m on achieving development and sales milestones.

The acquisition will add Prexton’s drug candidate, foliglurax, to Lundbeck’s pipeline of treatments for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers discovered ‘addiction gene’ to beat triple-negative cancer

Researchers discovered a promising approach for treating triple-negative breast cancer by blocking an ‘addiction gene’ KIFC1.

In a study funded by Breast Cancer Now and conducted by researchers from King’s College London and The Institute of Cancer Research, it was found that triple-negative tumours depend on a gene called KIFC1 to survive. They found that blocking this gene could slow tumour growth but did not affect healthy cells.

Researchers performed a genome analysis of 182 patient breast cancer samples to identify the genes either most overactive or present in the greatest numbers that triple negative breast cancers are particularly dependent on.

Controversial ‘right-to-try’ bill failed to gain House approval

The ‘right-to-try’ bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients greater access to unapproved drugs was not passed by the US House of Representatives.

The bill was considered under fast-track procedures so required a two-thirds majority to be passed, and was subsequently supported by 259 members and opposed by 140. Two Republicans voted against the bill and 32 Democrats voted for it. The Senate unanimously passed a ‘right-to-try’ bill last year.

The ‘right-to try’ bill would have given terminally ill patients the right to access experimental treatments before they had been granted approval by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

Biogen bought Pfizer’s schizophrenia candidate for up to $590m

Biogen announced it has acquired a drug candidate designed to improve cognitive function in schizophrenia patients from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

It will acquire PF-04958242, a first-in-class, Phase 2b-ready AMPA receptor potentiator for cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia (CIAS).

The American biotech will pay Pfizer $75m upfront plus potential milestones of up to $515m and tiered royalties.

Cigna to acquire Express Scripts in $67bn deal

US health insurance company Cigna entered a deal with Express Scripts to buy the pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) for $67bn.

The deal will consist of a cash and stock transaction, including Cigna’s assumption of approximately $15bn in Express Scripts debt. The transaction was approved by the board of directors of both companies.

The largest PBM in the US, Express Scripts is a third-party administrator of prescription drug programmes for health insurance companies. PBMs act as intermediaries between insurers and the drug suppliers.

NIH trial found short-term tuberculosis therapy effective

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported positive outcomes from a Phase III clinical trial (ACTG 5279) comparing a one-month antibiotic regimen to standard nine-month therapy in preventing active tuberculosis (TB) in HIV patients.

Results indicated that the safety and efficacy of the short-term regimen of rifapentine and isoniazid were similar to that of the nine-month treatment with isoniazid alone.

This short course is intended to improve patient adherence and reduce risk of side-effects.

Canadian study found daily ibuprofen can prevent Alzheimer’s

A new study carried out by Canadian researchers suggested that a daily dose of ibuprofen can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Led by neuroscientist and Aurin Biotech president and CEO Dr Patrick McGeer, the team concluded that if started early enough, the non-prescription drug can ‘ward off’ the neurodegenerative disease.

The findings were based on a saliva test developed by McGeer and his team in 2016 to measure the peptide amyloid-beta protein 42 (Abeta 42) levels to diagnose and predict Alzheimer’s.