Organon reinforces commitment to women’s health beyond reproductive health

The fact that women’s health has long been underprioritized is common knowledge. Organon, with roots going back to 1923 and having sharpened its focus on women’s health post its 2021 spinoff from Merck & Co., aims to address significant gaps in treatment and care. “Our commitment to women’s health is not just a part of our corporate strategy; it’s at the core of who we are as a company,” said Dr. Juan Camilo Arjona Ferreira, chief medical officer at the company, in a recent interview. 

Organon sees women’s health as encompassing more than just reproductive issues. “It’s a continuum that spans a woman’s entire life,” said Arjona, a gynecologist by training. “There’s plenty of opportunities across the board because women’s health has been understudied and underappreciated.”

Organon’s approach to women’s health challenges

Dr. Juan Camilo Arjo…

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AstraZeneca faces profitability dip in Q3 2023 despite revenue bump; bets big on obesity

Cambridge, UK–based AstraZeneca continued its strong growth trajectory in Q3 2023, expanding its cardiometabolic and obesity pipeline with a focus on GLP-1 receptor agonists. In particular, AstraZeneca has a licensing agreement with Eccogene for ECC5004, a potential oral GLP-1RA for obesity and cardiometabolic conditions, represents the company’s strategic focus on this emerging therapeutic area, which Lilly and Novo Nordisk currently dominate.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of the company noted he was “excited” about the acceleration of the company’s cardiometabolic and obesity pipeline with the licensing agreement for ECC5004, “a potential best-in-class oral GLP-1RA.”

ECC5004 has an oral formulation, in contrast to Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy (semaglutide) and the recently approved Lilly’s Zepbound (tirzepatide), which are injectables. This oral GLP-1 receptor agonist could potentially improve patient compliance and accessibility in treating obesity and type 2 diabetes. While …

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Is the new $15,900 postpartum depression pill worth it?

Zuranolone molecule image from PubChem

Sage Therapeutics has pegged the wholesale acquisition price of the oral postpartum depression (PPD) drug Zurzuvae (zuranolone) at $15,900 for a 14-day course of the therapy. The drug, co-developed by Biogen, won the FDA green light in August. The companies plan on launching the drug in December. The DEA has classified zuranolone as Schedule IV, which mostly includes benzodiazepines. That status could influence prescriber and patient perceptions concerning the drug’s safety profile and potential for abuse. The formulary review process for Zurzuvae, critical for insurance coverage, will occur throughout 2024.

Sage had initially aimed to price Zurzuvae under $10,000, but its failure to win approval earlier this year for zuranolone for major depressive disorder altered its pricing strategy.

Zurzuvae postpartum depression cost in context

The wholesale acquisiti…

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Quantum leaps in drug discovery? NobleAI joins forces with Microsoft while King’s College London aligns with Kvantify

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The word “revolutionize” gets thrown around a lot in describing the potential of emerging technologies. But quantum computing could make good on the promise to disrupt healthcare applications ranging from drug discovery to medical imaging. Theoretically, a quantum computer with 300 quantum bits (qubits) could crunch more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the visible universe. Because qubits can exist in multiple states at once, quantum computers can bring powerful parallel processing to fields where exploring a vast solution space is required, including drug discovery and material science.

It’s no wonder that the computing branch, which remains in its infancy, is attracting a growing amount of attention as it inches towards practical applicability. In May, Insilico Medicine said it was exploring the use of quantum computing and generative AI to help ide…

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A century after its synthesis, MDMA could be headed for FDA approval for PTSD

First synthesized in 1912 by Merck, the empathogenic drug 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is inching toward FDA approval following the positive results of a phase 3 study. The recently concluded phase 3 study, MAPP2, published in Nature Medicine, found that MDMA-assisted therapy significantly outperforms traditional talk therapy in reducing PTSD symptoms. Participants receiving MDMA-AT had an 86.5% response rate (≥10-point reduction in PTSD symptoms), compared to a 69.0% response rate among participants receiving therapy with placebo. Equally impressive, 71.2% of the MDMA-AT participants no longer met the PTSD criteria post-treatment, in contrast to the 47.6% in the placebo with therapy group. At the close of the trial, 46.2% of the MDMA-AT participants met the remission criteria in contrast to the 21.4% in the placebo with therapy group.

MDMA’s efficacy in PTSD treatment // Load the Visualization API and the corechart package. google.char…
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30 biotech startups making waves

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The biotech industry is facing a reckoning in 2023. To date, roughly 100 biopharmas have cut workers this year, matching the total number of layoffs in the sector in 2022. Many biotech startups have been hit hard. The wave of job cuts comes on the heels of a biotech boom following the COVID-19 pandemic, when new biopharmas proliferated.

Against this turbulent backdrop, a select group of biotech startups have managed to sustain growth. We’ve selected 30 firms that have collectively raised nearly $8 billion. A fair share of these companies are focused on AI techniques to accelerate drug discovery while others have homed in on niche areas like gene therapies, RNA modulation and epigenetic therapies.

1. Tempus Mission: Applying AI for cancer care and beyond. With a valuation ranging in billions and high-profile partnerships, Tempus has forged high-profile partnerships as it extends i…
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Sanofi puts AI ‘Plai’ app at the center of drug discovery and clinical trial operations

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The French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has unveiled a new AI-powered app called Plai, developed in partnership with AI platform Aily Labs. This move is part of Sanofi’s plan to become the pioneer in fully integrating AI into all operations, according to CEO Paul Hudson.

Plai, designed to compile and process Sanofi’s internal data from various departments, creates bespoke “what if” scenarios to guide decision-making. Sanofi aims to exploit Plai’s analytical capabilities to enhance strategic planning.

From ChatGPT and Google Maps to Plai

Sanofi’s AI aspirations are longstanding. In 2022, the company launched its inaugural digital accelerator, supporting the adoption of digital, data and AI across operations. That same year, Sanofi acquired Amunix Pharmaceuticals, tapping its AI technology to develop targeted cancer therapies that spare healthy tissue.…

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Pfizer drops one weight loss drug, bets on another

Pfizer has made a strategic decision in the battle against obesity and diabetes. The pharmaceutical giant has chosen to discontinue its GLP-1 RA candidate, lotiglipron, to focus resources on the development of another – danuglipron. This Pfizer weight loss drug is now the lead candidate in late-stage trials for the treatment of obesity and diabetes. The decision comes after the discovery of elevated liver enzyme levels in some early trial patients for lotiglipron. However, similar concerns have not arisen with danuglipron.

The shift comes as the company aims to tap full receptor agonism for potential robust efficacy, capitalizing on its small molecule design expertise. With more than 1,400 patients already enrolled, the clinical trial results could potentially expand the treatment options for adults with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Already, GLP drugs semaglutide and tirzapatide are beginning to reshape the way we treat obesity.

Novo Nordisk’s sema…

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UBS: Generative AI is no silver bullet for drug discovery

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Imagine a world where the process of developing life-saving drugs is as streamlined as a modern assembly line.

In such a reality, generative AI in drug discovery might churn out promising compounds with similar efficiency and precision as a factory robot assembling a car. Moreover, such technology could chip away at the steep cost and lengthy timelines typically associated with drug development, which can cost north of $2 billion and take more than a decade.

However, such a vision may be more hype than reality, according to a new UBS report. While it is true that AI is carving out a niche in life sciences, a recent Q-Series report from UBS titled “Will Generative AI deliver a generational transformation?” reaches mostly muted conclusions about the potential of generative AI in drug development. In essence, the investment bank projects that generative AI…

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